Buttercream icing is a beloved topping for cakes, cupcakes, and other baked goods. With its sweet flavor and creamy texture, it's no wonder bakers want to save leftover buttercream for later use.
Knowing how to properly store buttercream is key to keeping it fresh and preventing waste. Follow these tips on refrigerating, freezing, and reviving buttercream icing.
Understand the Different Types of Buttercream
There are several varieties of buttercream, each with its own ideal storage methods.
American buttercream is the most common type. It's made with creaming butter and powdered sugar and includes milk or cream and extracts for flavor. Due to its high sugar content, it can be left at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Swiss and Italian meringue buttercreams also keep well at room temperature because they are stabilized by egg whites.
However, German and French buttercreams contain egg yolks and should be refrigerated immediately since they are not as shelf-stable.
Knowing which type of buttercream you have will guide you in proper storage. When in doubt, refrigerate.
Store Buttercream at Room Temperature
If you'll be using buttercream within 2-3 days, an airtight container at room temperature is perfectly fine. Choose a container with a tight seal to prevent drying out.
For optimal freshness, store buttercream in the coolest area of your kitchen away from heat sources like the oven or direct sunlight.
Avoid leaving buttercream in hot environments as heat can cause melting, texture changes, and bacterial growth.
Room temperature storage works best for American, Swiss, and Italian buttercreams. Refrigerate any buttercream containing egg yolks like German or French versions promptly.
Refrigerate Buttercream for 1-2 Weeks of Storage
Got leftover buttercream you want to save for later? Refrigeration extends the shelf life of buttercream icing to 1-2 weeks.
Place buttercream in an airtight container before refrigerating. This prevents the absorption of fridge odors and keeps the icing from drying out.
Store buttercream away from foods with strong smells like garlic, fish, and cheeses. The smell can transfer!
When ready to use, allow the buttercream to come to room temperature before whipping again. Cold buttercream won't pipe or spread properly.
Letting it sit out for about an hour usually does the trick. Then beat with a mixer until smooth.
Freeze Buttercream for Months of Storage
For long-term storage, you can freeze buttercream icing for 2-3 months.
Place it in a freezer-safe container or double wrap in plastic wrap before freezing. This prevents freezer burn.
Thaw frozen buttercream overnight in the fridge before bringing it to room temp and re-beating. This avoids condensation.
Allow at least 24 hours of thaw time for large amounts of buttercream. Smaller amounts may only need a couple of hours.
Whip thawed buttercream with a mixer until creamy and lump free. It will look separated at first.
Revive Buttercream after Storage
No matter how you store buttercream, it will likely need some TLC before decorating. Follow these tips for reviving refrigerated or frozen buttercream.
Let it come to room temperature. This may take 1-2 hours. Don't skip this step!
Whip with a stand mixer for several minutes until smooth. This adds air back.
If it's still too firm, beat in a spoonful of milk, cream, or melted butter.
Add more milk or cream a teaspoon at a time until reaching the perfect consistency.
Avoid over-softening the buttercream. Too much liquid will make it runny.
Add confectioners' sugar a tablespoon at a time if your buttercream becomes too thin after thinning with milk or cream.
Decorate Cakes and Cupcakes with Stored Buttercream
Once your stored buttercream is revived and ready to use, go ahead and decorate to your heart's content!
Frost cakes or pipe designs onto cupcakes. The options are endless.
Use buttercream to make borders, write messages, or glue on decorations. It adheres well.
Consider adding extracts or cocoa powder to change up the flavors of stored icing.
Add gel food coloring if desired to create your own custom colors.
Refrigerate any frosted treats not being served immediately. Enjoy your delicious creations!
Know When to Toss Buttercream
Buttercream isn't good forever, so pay attention for signs it's past its prime.
Check for changes in texture, especially graininess or curdling. Toss if the texture seems off.
Discard any buttercream that smells odd or sour. Even a small smell means it's bad.
Watch for mold growth, which can happen if it's been contaminated. Moldy buttercream is unsafe to eat.
If you're unsure how old it is, it's best to be safe and throw it out. Making new icing is better than risking illness!
How long can a buttercream-frosted cake sit out?
A cake frosted with buttercream can safely sit at room temperature for 2-3 days. The buttercream acts as an insulator to keep the cake moist. After 3 days, refrigerate the cake lightly covered with plastic wrap or a cake dome.
Can you reuse old buttercream frosting?
You can reuse leftover buttercream frosting if it has been stored properly and hasn't gone bad. Buttercream kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or freezer for 2-3 months can be revived by bringing it to room temperature and re-whipping until smooth.
Is it safe to eat buttercream frosting that wasn't refrigerated?
It's generally safe to eat buttercream left at room temperature for up to 2 days. The high sugar content prevents bacterial growth. After that time, it's best to discard buttercream left out too long at warm temperatures.
Can you freeze buttercream in piping bags?
Yes, it's fine to freeze buttercream frosting in piping bags for storage. Allow the icing to thaw in the fridge overnight before bringing it to room temperature and re-piping designs or decorations.
With proper storage techniques, you can keep leftover buttercream icing fresh for weeks or months! Refrigerate it for short-term storage, or freeze it for the long term. Allow the buttercream to come to room temperature before re-beating to revive it.
And don't be afraid to toss buttercream that seems off—it's always better to be safe than sorry. Follow these guidelines, and you'll never have to waste delicious buttercream again.