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Do Cakes Need to Be Refrigerated?

Photo: Jamie Vespa

When the weather is warmer, produce will spoil at a faster rate than in a cooler environment. But what about homemade goodies, like a cake? Should all cakes be refrigerated?

A simple snack cake (like these Whole-Grain Pecan Blondies) or a quick bread (like our Banana-Chocolate-Walnut Bread) doesn’t require refrigeration and will last 4 to 5 days at room temperature. However, if the cake has icing, it depends on the type of icing whether the cake should be refrigerated or allowed to sit at room temperature.

Icing made with butter, whipped cream, or cream cheese (for example, our Carrot-Apple Spice Cake with Browned Butter Glaze) should be covered and refrigerated. If these types of cakes are stored at room temperature and the room happens to be warm, the icing will get too soft and the layers will slip and slide around or the icing will melt and droop down the sides of the cake.

Cakes iced with Italian meringue (like this Coconut Cake with Raspberry Filling) should be loosely covered and stored at room temperature. Refrigeration would cause the meringue to weep and separate. However, if the cake sticks around longer than a couple of days, go ahead and pop it in the refrigerator just to be safe.

Cakes glazed with powdered sugar mixed with milk or other liquids will be fine at room temperature for 3-4 days. Same goes for a high sugar content cooked icing, like the brown sugar icing on a traditional caramel cake.