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How To Store Cupcakes: Keep Them Fresh For Long

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Everybody knows and loves cupcakes. These sweet little treats come in all kinds of flavors, as well as different shapes, sizes, and colors. It's a good idea to learn how to store cupcakes so they will stay fresh until you have eaten every delicious one of them.

A cupcake on a white plate.
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There are different storage methods for frosted and unfrosted cupcakes, as well as for different kinds, so read on and discover the best way to store them.

A lot of people enjoy cooking a batch of cupcakes and most recipes are designed to make a batch of a dozen or so since it's not really worth making them individually - another reason why it's important to know the best storage methods for these delicious little treats.

A fresh cupcake is always amazing, and most will still be as fresh the next day. After that, they will begin to dry out, so ensure you either have enough time to enjoy them all, or learn how to freeze cupcakes.

I love making cupcakes for the family and I especially love finding new recipes to try out. My current favorites are bacon maple cupcakes and peach cupcakes. However, I'm fairly sure I never met a cupcake I didn't like! Knowing the best storage method is key to enjoying every last one of these delicious sweet treats.

What are Cupcakes?

Cupcakes are individual-sized cakes, so rather than enjoying a slice of a large cake, you have a complete miniature cake to yourself. They usually come in a paper or foil container and typically have some kind of icing or frosting, such as cream cheese frosting. Fruit, candy, and nuts are often used to decorate cupcakes. 

Known as fairy cakes in the UK, cupcakes date back to 1796, when a recipe for them featured in Amelia Simmons' "American Cookery" book, although the word "cupcake" wasn't coined until 1828 in Eliza Leslie's "Receipts" book. These little cakes would have been baked in small molds, ramekins, or pottery cups, hence their name.

Butter, eggs, sugar, and flour, are the main components of many cupcake recipes, and just about any recipe for layer cake can be used to make cupcakes. They bake quicker than large cakes since they are smaller.

How to Buy Cupcakes

When purchasing any kind of baked goods, you will want to choose the freshest possible, not only because they will last longer but also because the flavor will be best. Cupcakes from a bakery should already be fresh if they're for sale. 

If you're making your own, then it's even more important to know how to store them, so they will stay fresh for longer. When choosing commercially made cupcakes, they should be refrigerated if they are freshly made and have some kind of dairy-based frosting on them. 

Cupcakes in a glass container.

How to Store Cupcakes

​If you're making homemade cupcakes, it's a good idea to know how to safely store them and how long they will keep. Whether you're making cherry cupcakesapple cider cupcakes, or another type, the following tips will help you decide how and where to keep them.

  • Give your cupcakes time to completely cool if you've just taken them out of the oven. It will take about an hour before you have cold cupcakes. Storing them in an airtight container while still warm, means you will get condensation in the container and this makes them soggy. Using a wire rack is the right way to cool them, as the cool air can get all around them and stop the bottoms from getting soggy, which would happen if you cooled them on a board or plate.
  • You might or might not want to frost the cupcakes right away, choosing from a buttercream frosting or some other kind. Although it's best to apply the frosting as close to serving the cupcakes as you can, this isn't always possible. But bear in mind that dairy-based frostings must be refrigerated, so if you are frosting them now, you're going to have to keep them refrigerated afterward. Either way, frost them within a couple of days of baking them, or else they will become stale before you get to frost them.
  • If you are storing filled cupcakes, bear in mind the filling can go bad, especially with dairy product-based ingredients or if you've added a fruity filling, so it's best to eat these within a couple of days.
  • Put a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper on the bottom of a big, airtight container, making sure it will be tall enough to hold the cupcakes without ruining the frosting.
  • Add your cupcakes to the container, not letting them touch one another. Gently add another sheet of parchment paper or wax paper on top for extra protection, then keep them at room temperature for up to 4 days, unless you've used dairy products in the frosting, in which case keep them refrigerated for up to the same amount of time.
  • You can also freeze plain cupcakes if you know they won't all be eaten within a few days. If you already frosted the cooled cupcakes, freeze them uncovered on a cookie sheet or baking tray for an hour to set the frosting. Let them stay on the cookie sheet until touching the frosting doesn't leave an indentation. You might have to do this pre-freezing step in batches if you don't have much freezer space.
  • Next, wrap each cupcake tightly in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. Put all the plastic-wrapped cupcakes into an airtight container or freezer bag.
  • Thaw and eat them within 2 or 3 months for the best results. Remove the plastic wrap, so they won't get a messy, sticky top, and leave the cupcakes on the countertop for an hour or until thawed. If any frosting does come off the thawing cupcakes you can use a butter knife to push it back into place.

So, to sum up, most cupcakes will last a couple of days on the counter, 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator, or a couple of months in the freezer. This also depends on how fresh they were to start with (homemade or purchased from the grocery store) as well as whether or not they are filled, whether or not they are frosted, as well as whether the frosting is dairy-based. 

Because there are so many types of cupcakes, these storage options do vary, so use your own judgment, if you don't plan to eat them all within a few days, your best option is to freeze some. 

How to Identify Spoiled Cupcakes

So are those leftover cupcakes still good, or shouldn't you eat them? Well, the first clue that your cupcakes are spoiled is a hard, dry, and crumbly texture. If the cupcake has a fruit filling, that might have gone slimy and wet.

Also, you might see mold on the cupcake. A dry, crumbly cupcake is probably safe to eat, but won't be very enjoyable, while anything slimy or moldy should definitely be thrown out.

Common Questions

What's the shelf life of cupcakes stored in the fridge?

Refrigeration can dry out cupcakes quickly. Unless you have filled them or used a dairy-based frosting, it's actually best to keep them in an airtight storage container at room temperature. The alternative is refrigeration but it's still best to use the cupcakes within 2 days. Some might keep for 3 or 4 days, but once they've started to dry out and turn stale, they're no longer going to taste as good. So, while you don't have to make a batch of cupcakes on the day of the party or big event, the fresher cupcakes are the better this sweet treat is going to taste.

What's the secret to making the best quality cupcakes every time?

There are so many things that can go wrong when baking, and this applies to delicious cupcakes as well as other kinds of cake, bread, and so on. If you want to ensure your cupcakes come out perfect every time, it's important to understand exactly how to prepare these tasty little treats. First of all, it's important to cream the butter with the sugar, which means about 3 minutes with an electric mixer. If it isn't fluffy and light, it needs to be beaten some more.

You will need to whisk some of the ingredients together, which means using a whisk, a whisk attachment on an electric mixer, or even a fork if that's all you have. The goal of whisking is to get as much air as possible into the wet ingredients. If you don't do this, your warm cupcakes might taste good but they aren't going to rise properly. Cupcake recipes that state "mix until just combined" mean just that. If you mix the batter anymore, your cupcakes are going to turn out rubbery.

Use an ice cream scoop, if you have one, to add cupcake batter to your cupcake liners. If not, use a large metal spoon. Bake them without opening the oven door and then, when they look golden and fully cooked, insert a toothpick into the center of one. If it comes out with no crumbs or moisture stuck to it, your cupcakes are done. If you don't have a toothpick, press the cupcake to check it's springy. If so, it's done. Don't forget to let your homemade cupcakes cool completely before storing them!

What's the best way to make sure homemade cupcakes rise and dome?

A good cupcake will rise for a light, airy and domed result. But there are factors that can cause this not to happen, the most common of which can be the ingredients you're using. Expired baking powder (anything that's been open for more than a year) won't work. Mix a little hot water with your baking powder and, if it doesn't bubble, it should be replaced. Expired baking soda should be fine for 6 months after opening. Test it by mixing it with water and vinegar (because, unlike baking powder, it's activated by acid and not just water) and checking for bubbles.

Cupcakes on a tray for freezing.

Fun Cupcake Facts

  • The phrase "cupcake recipes" is one of the most commonly searched keyword terms on Google.
  • Cupcakes with whipped cream frosting don't freeze well, so either freeze them without the frosting or eat them before they spoil.
  • The largest cupcake ever made weighed 2,594 pounds. There wouldn't be a fridge or freezer big enough to store that cupcake!

Now you know exactly how to store cupcakes, you might want to try some brand-new cupcake recipes. The sky is the limit when it comes to the cake itself, the filling (if used), and the frosting, but baking is fun, so you should experiment often. And don't forget you can always eat any mistakes!

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