How to Keep Cupcakes Fresh

Cupcakes are the ultimate dessert; they’re soft like cakes but small like muffins. If you love cupcakes as much as I do (and I really love cupcakes), you probably make or buy them semi-regularly. However, keeping them fresh is a struggle sometimes. How do you keep cupcakes from getting stale?

How to Keep Cupcakes Fresh Overnight

Cupcakes are delicious but seem to go stale extremely quickly. If you’re just trying to keep your cupcakes fresh for a party within the next day or two, don’t worry! There are a few ways to keep your cupcakes fresh for longer.

The key to keeping cupcakes fresh is to limit the amount of air that gets to them. Because the cupcake is so moist, the air around it dries the cake out. Instead of absorbing the moisture in the air, the cupcake adds to it, making the air wetter and the cake drier. You can avoid this by ensuring that your cupcakes don’t get exposed to air overnight. If you made a mistake and your cupcakes ended up dry, here’s a more detailed article on how to fix dry cupcakes.

Let Cupcakes Cool Completely

Before you store your cupcakes, they have to be entirely cool. If there is even a little heat left after baking, the cupcakes will get soggy in storage. The heat of the oven has dried out all the moisture from the batter–you don’t want to undo this!

One of the easiest ways to cool your cupcakes completely is on a wire cooling rack. The bottoms won’t get soggy, and they will cool more quickly than on a plate. If you leave your cupcakes in the pans to cool, they will continue to bake and probably become overdone!

Store Cupcakes in an Airtight Container

You can tell that your cupcakes are cool when they’re not warm to the touch. Once this is the case, find a container with a sealing lid. The more airtight the container is, the better it will be for cupcake storage.

Place the cupcakes inside your container (don’t stack them, or they will get squish together). You can put a sheet of wax paper at the bottom, but you don’t have to. The most important thing is that the lid will close and seal without smashing the cupcakes.

Store Cupcakes at Room Temperature

If you’re only storing cupcakes for a few days, DON’T put the container in the fridge or freezer. Unless it’s extremely hot and humid, room temperature is the perfect place to store cupcakes.

With an airtight (or close to airtight) container stored at room temperature, your cupcakes can stay fresh and soft for up to two days. Any longer than that, however, and they’ll start to go stale. To keep them fresh longer, jump to the next method of cupcake storage!

You may also want to read our detailed article on how to store cupcakes (whether they are frosted or unfrosted or when they are just taken out of the oven.)

Other Considerations

Once you’ve read through the process for storing cupcakes, you might have some unanswered questions! Here are some tips, tricks, and commonly asked questions about the short-term storage of cupcakes for maximum freshness.

How Long do Room Temperature Cupcakes Last?

Cupcakes stored at room temperature can last up to two days. However, this is only if they are in an airtight container or sealed from the air. If your cupcakes are sitting on the countertop, they’re very likely to be stale after a night or even a few hours.

Storing Frosted or Filled Cupcakes

Frosted cupcakes can be stored the same way as unfrosted cupcakes! The only thing to watch out for is the height of your storage container–it’s vital to pick a container that won’t smash the cupcake or the frosting. A filled cupcake will also be fine at room temperature.

Important note: if the cupcake filling or frosting has fresh fruit, dairy, eggs, or custard, you’ll need to store the cupcakes in the fridge for health reasons. Go to the “When to Refrigerate Cupcakes” section for more detailed information!

Specialty Cupcake Containers: Are They Necessary?

Don’t worry: you don’t need an expensive or tiered cupcake container to keep your cupcakes from smashing! You can buy a tall plastic container or Tupperware to store up to a dozen cupcakes in.

However, if you are making several batches and want to store them all, a tiered box might be worth the investment. There are several options to save space while storing or transporting cupcakes.

What About Store-Bought Cupcakes?

Store-bought cupcakes can be stored the same way as homemade cupcakes. However, many store-bought cupcakes last perfectly well in their original boxes.

If the cakes are in a cardboard bakery box, make sure that the tabs are taped down for overnight storage. These boxes might let in a bit more air. A plastic box from the grocery store will last just as long as an airtight container, though, so no need to move the cupcakes!

How to Keep Cupcakes Fresh For Longer Than a Few Days

An airtight container at room temperature works perfectly well for a day or two, but if you need to keep cupcakes fresh for longer, it can be hard. How can you store excess cupcakes for longer periods without them losing their freshness?

However, there’s a simple solution for this conundrum: the freezer. If they’re stored properly, cupcakes can last for several months frozen. With this method, you can bake cupcakes weeks or months before your event and not worry about them becoming hard and stale.

Let Cupcakes Cool Completely

As always, it’s vital to let your cupcakes cool completely before storing them. This step is essential for the same reasons that it’s necessary for overnight storage: too much moisture in the cupcake itself.

While extra moisture won’t affect the cupcakes while they’re frozen, it will thaw with them, and you’ll end up with soggy, too-soft cupcakes after defrosting. Don’t rush to store your cupcakes, and they’ll have a much better outcome for you!

Wrap Cupcakes in Plastic Wrap

Once the cupcakes are completely cool, wrap them in plastic wrap. Try to get as much air out of the wrap as you can. Once you’ve wrapped each cupcake individually, you can begin the process of freezing them.

The plastic wrap will retain the proper amount of moisture in the cupcakes, ensuring they will thaw without completely drying out. It also helps prevent freezer burn. This is a boon, especially if you’re planning on storing them for a more extended period.

Put Wrapped Cupcakes in an Airtight Container or Ziplock Bag

Once each of your cupcakes is wrapped tightly, store them in an airtight container. You can use the same kind you would use at room temperature, as long as the cupcakes aren’t packed too tightly.

However, because these cakes are individually wrapped, you don’t have to worry about them getting soggy by touching each other. If it’s easier, you can store your wrapped cupcakes in a plastic bag. As long as the container or bag is airtight and doesn’t smash them, it will work in the freezer.

Freeze Cupcakes

Cupcakes don’t take very long to freeze – if you store them properly, they’ll freeze overnight. Once they’re in the freezer, you don’t have to worry about them getting stale until you’re ready to pull them out and defrost them. Because they’re individually wrapped, you can pull out one (or a few) to snack on and make the batch last!

Important note: if your freezer runs especially cold or has a top shelf that’s colder, don’t put the cupcakes in that area. Once the cupcake thaws, you might be able to taste the freezer burn (and nobody wants that).

Other Considerations

Keeping cupcakes fresh-tasting and soft is vital, especially when you’ve decided to freeze cupcakes for extended periods. Here are some frequently asked questions and helpful tips for freezing your cupcakes.

Freezing Cupcakes with Fillings or Frosting

Cupcakes with fillings can be frozen in the same way as plain cupcakes. All you have to do is make sure that the filling isn’t oozing out the top of the cupcake when you wrap it in plastic wrap!

Frosting cupcakes can also be wrapped and frozen. Freezing a cake with frosting on it can help keep the moisture in the cake longer. Because frostings have sugar and fat, they will prevent the air from drying out the cupcake itself.

To freeze a frosted cupcake without smashing the frosting, put it on a plate in the freezer for an hour before wrapping it. Once the frosting is completely frozen, you can wrap the cupcake and bag it for the freezer.

How Long Do Frozen Cupcakes Last?

Suppose they’re stored correctly, cupcakes last in the freezer for up to three months. Once they’ve reached the three-month mark, most cupcakes will not taste fresh once they’re thawed. They’ll taste like they’ve been in the freezer for a while and won’t be as soft or moist.

Ideally, however, cupcakes are only in the freezer for a month or two. A defrosted cupcake tastes fresh and moist if it’s been in the freezer for less time. However, freezing cupcakes works well if you want to bake them in advance!

How to Defrost Frozen Cupcakes

Once you’re ready to frost, eat, or serve your frozen cupcakes, it’s a simple process to get them back to room temperature. All you have to do is take them out of the freezer, peel the tops of the plastic wrap off, and let the cupcakes thaw at room temperature.

Don’t put them in the microwave or the oven to heat up, as this will add extra moisture and create issues with the texture of the cupcakes. Also, if the cupcakes are too moist once you’ve thawed them, you can leave them uncovered for fifteen minutes. This will take away the sticky texture on top.

What About Store-Bought Cupcakes?

Store-bought cupcakes can be frozen in much the same way as homemade cupcakes. However, it’s important to follow any instructions from the bakery, especially if they’re specialty cupcakes.

Also, if store-bought cupcakes have fresh fruit or other garnishes, take them off before you freeze them. The fruit won’t thaw well and is best eaten fresh!

When to Refrigerate Cupcakes

We’ve talked about storing cupcakes in the freezer and on the counter, but we haven’t mentioned the refrigerator. When is it okay to store cupcakes in the fridge? What about fresh ingredients in fillings or frostings? Will cupcakes spoil on the counter?

The short answer is that you should almost always avoid putting cupcakes in the fridge. The cold air will dry them out completely, even if they’re in an airtight container. The fridge isn’t a great option for cupcakes because it gets the cupcakes cold without freezing them.

However, there are some instances where you should store cupcakes in a refrigerator. This only applies to filled or frosted cupcakes with certain ingredients. While the cupcake itself is baked, the frosting isn’t. So if your filling or frosting has dairy, eggs, or custard in it, it is best to store it in the refrigerator.

A fruit jam or filling should also be stored in the refrigerator. If fruit, especially cooked fruit, is left at room temperature for too long, it risks developing mold. To prevent your fruit filling from getting moldy, put your filled cupcakes in the fridge.

Unfortunately, even filled and frosted cupcakes won’t last very long in the fridge. If you want to preserve your cupcakes for as long as possible, don’t fill or frost them until you’re ready to eat them. Store the filling and frosting in the refrigerator and your cupcakes on the counter.

When To Throw Out Cupcakes

No matter how well you preserve your cupcakes, they’re eventually going to go bad. Unfortunately, that’s a part of the natural decomposition process for baked goods. If you’re unsure how to tell when cupcakes are still good, here are some warning signs to look for:

  • Excessively crumbly
  • Mold growing
  • They’ve been out for several days
  • They start to smell
  • The frosting or filling is sour
  • They taste stale

Final Thoughts

There you have it! Whether you want your cupcakes to stay fresh for a few more hours, a day, or a month, there are ways to preserve the flavor and prevent staleness.

Use the counter for a few days of freshness, the freezer for the longest preservation, and the fridge only if the ingredients require it. Either way, enjoy fresher cupcakes for longer!

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