Does buttercream frosting need to be refrigerated?

Do you need to refrigerate buttercream frosting?

No, buttercream frosting does not need to be refrigerated. If properly made and stored, it can stay out of the fridge for at least a week.

Buttercream is primarily fat (butter) and sugar mixed together with very small amounts of milk/liquid and/or egg whites to moisten the fat and sugar particles, plus a pinch of salt to boost the flavors.

Aside from making our tongues go “yummy,” in theory what is in buttercream should remain stable enough at room temperature to last a week or more, but in practice, it really isn’t worth taking the risk.

In terms of bacteria growth, you’re not going to have a problem for a week’s time, but in the real world, buttercream has a tendency to attract insects and also might not be protected from dust or smoke particles that can settle on it.

For these reasons alone it’s best to err on the side of caution and refrigerate your buttercream if you’re going to leave it out for more than a day.

How do I store homemade buttercream frosting?

Cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

Buttercream can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container, but it’s best if it’s refrigerated instead of sitting out in the open where it might attract insects or dust particles.

To store the buttercream, cover it with plastic wrap (cling film) gently pressing the wrap against the surface of the buttercream to prevent skin from forming. Then place the buttercream in a sealed airtight container and refrigerate it for up to a week.

You can also store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Although I personally know people who’ve stored a decorated cake made with buttercream icing in the freezer for a year.

However, it was stored in an air-tight container shortly only a couple of hours after it was baked.

What are the different types of buttercream frosting and why does it matter?

There are actually numerous different types of buttercream and they have various ways of being stored.

  • Canned or packaged frosting is the most stable kind and will last for up to three months in the freezer, up to two weeks in the refrigerator (even if loosely covered), and up to one week in room temperature.
  • Buttercream frosting with cream cheese must be refrigerated within two hours of being put on the cake.
  • Royal icing is a type of icing that is usually used to decorate cakes. It is made with powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water. It needs to be refrigerated within 2 hours of frosting.
  • French Buttercream and German Buttercream Frosting both use a recipe that uses egg yolks. It must be refrigerated within 2 hours of being frosted.
  • Italian and Swiss Buttercreams add pasteurized egg whites to the recipe. They must be refrigerated within 2 hours of frosting.

How long does it last at room temperature?

If the buttercream is stored correctly, it has a shelf life of about a week at room temperature. You can tell that your buttercream is starting to go bad if you notice any discoloration in the icing, or if there are any signs of mold growth.

It can probably be at room temperature for up to three days with no kind of storage whatsoever.

Anything more than that would probably require refrigeration.

Choose the best buttercream for your baked goods

American buttercream is the most popular choice because it is very creamy and delightful. It has a fluffy and smooth texture. The combination of butter, sugar, milk and vanilla extract creates this texture. American buttercream can be stored in a cool, dry area because of the high amount of sugar.

German and French buttercreams are made by adding hot sugar syrup to egg yolks, beating until cool, then adding softened (room temperature) butter. It cannot be stored at room temperature for very long because bacteria can grow in the raw egg.

Swiss and Italian buttercreams both utilize a cooked meringue made from egg whites and stiffly beaten egg yolks to achieve their smooth silky texture. They are both stable at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Also, both recipes should only be made using pasteurized eggs to prevent the risk of salmonella poisoning.

Can you refrigerate buttercream?

Yes, buttercream can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Buttercream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, but it is best if you store it in the freezer because of its high-fat content. Butter thaws quickly, so if you accidentally leave your buttercream out too long at room temperature, simply pop it into the fridge and let it chill for about an hour before using.

How do I tell if Buttercream Frosting has gone bad?

If it’s prepackaged buttercream frosting, then just check the date on the container.

If you made your own buttercream frosting from scratch or if you’ve thrown away the container and aren’t sure of the date, the best thing to do is examine it for any signs of mold or discoloration. If these appear, then throw it out.

When you refrigerate whipped cream frosting or when you have chilled buttercream frosting, it’s common for uncovered cakes to have their frosting hardens slightly.

That doesn’t mean it’s bad, just that it’s lost some moisture due to the refrigerator.

Storing buttercream in the freezer

If you want to store your buttercream in the freezer, then pop it into an airtight container and move it to the coldest part of your freezer.

You can expect your leftover frosting and whipped cream cake to lose its fluffy consistency when you pull it back out of the freezer.

However, you can thaw it by leaving it in the refrigerator unwrapped for a few hours and although your leftover buttercream won’t regain its initial consistency, it’ll still be delicious.


Below are some of the most commonly asked questions related to buttercream!

Does frosting go bad if not refrigerated?

That depends on the ingredients!

If your buttercream frosting contains raw egg, it’ll only last about two weeks because bacteria can’t be killed without heat.

If your frosting is made with cooked meringue, then it’s safe for up to two weeks because of the high sugar content.

Does buttercream icing harden in the fridge?

Having the buttercream frosting in an airtight container will help prevent it from drying out.

If you want to speed up this process, place your refrigerated buttercream frosting into a freezer bag with all of the excess air squeezed out.

Does cake with buttercream frosting need to be refrigerated?

If you’re talking about homemade cake with American buttercream canned frosting, then yes.

American buttercream is made with powdered sugar so it’s high in sugar.

Sugar attracts humidity and moisture, so the shelf life of an unfrosted cake topped with American buttercream frosting can be no more than three days at room temperature.

Is cream cheese frosting the same as buttercream frosting?

No! Cream cheese frosting is a variant of buttercream and it’s made by altering the ratios of ingredients in American Buttercream.

American Buttercream is made by whipping hot sugar syrup into stiffly beaten egg whites.

Cream cheese frosting substitutes half of the powdered sugar for cream cheese, so it’s less sweet than American buttercream, but it still has that smooth velvety texture.

Is royal icing the same as buttercream?

No! Royal icing is made by whipping hot sugar syrup into stiffly beaten egg whites. It’s then carefully poured out onto a surface to dry.

American Buttercream Frosting can be used as piping gel because it hardens when it dries, but royal icing always remains soft.

Final thoughts

Buttercream frosting is a delightfully fluffy frosting that can be piped onto cakes or cookies and sprinkled with sugar.

Buttercream is amazingly delicious on cakes and cookies alike.

You can also use it to decorate cupcakes, donuts, and more.

However, you should always remember to store your leftovers in the refrigerator!

We hope you enjoyed this article and that we’ve added a little bit of value to your baking knowledge!

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1 thought on “Does buttercream frosting need to be refrigerated?”

  1. The info is all wrong. Buttercream has a lot of cream in it. It must be refrigerated after being out up to 2 hours on a cake. And you wouldn’t leave it sitting about while waiting for a cake to cool, you’d refrigerate it. Entire article contradicts itself, and is written by someone with two problems: 1 – doesn’t know food safety 2- doesn’t know cooking or baking and actually a third problem: lack of ability to write logically.


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