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Buttercream is easily the most versatile frosting for cakes and cupcakes.
You can whip up some buttercream at home and enjoy the deliciously soft homemade frosting, or you can fill your piping bag with store-bought buttercream. But how long does buttercream last? Quick answer: buttercream can last in the fridge for up to a month.
Bakers often encounter the problem of leftover buttercream because the frosting works well if produced in big batches.
So, is there a foolproof way to store buttercream so that it will last? Yes, there are a few, but before that, we will discuss the types of buttercream because you cannot store all the kinds of buttercream the same way.
Types of buttercream
Buttercream has five primary types depending upon how it is prepared. All these buttercream types use slightly different ingredients than each other.
That's why you cannot generalize the storage of every type of buttercream. Some of them may work well at room temperature, and some might not be suitable to stay out of the fridge.
Most home chefs are familiar with this type of buttercream only because it's easy to whip and works well for frosting any kind of cake.
The other name for American buttercream is simple buttercream, and it is made by creaming together butter, icing sugar, and some milk or cream. You should expect it to be too sweet because the general ratio of sugar to butter in this type of buttercream is 2:1.
If left uncovered, American buttercream could form a crust on the top. That's why it is also called 'crusting buttercream.' Although not always a good thing, sometimes the crusting can be a prerequisite of cake decor.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
The Swiss buttercream gets its name because its base is Swiss meringue. This type of buttercream is the most stable of all the buttercream types as it uses cooked egg whites.
Used in professional pastry kitchens, Swiss meringue buttercream is not as sweet as American buttercream. Its making process is quite cumbersome where you need to first make a meringue by mixing egg whites and sugar and then double boiling them. After that, you add butter in batches.
Unlike American buttercream, the Swiss Meringue buttercream doesn't crust.
Italian Meringue Buttercream
Italian buttercream is the most stable of all the buttercream types, but it is the most difficult to master.
Hot sugar syrup is added to egg whites to get this type of buttercream. Going wrong with the sugar syrup temperature is pretty easy, so most pastry chefs use a thermometer to achieve the right temperature.
French buttercream is not a widely used type of buttercream because it has a natural yellow color which may be hard to dye.
Unlike the Swiss and Italian buttercreams, French buttercream uses egg yolks, sugar, and butter. The egg yolks impart their natural yellow color to the end product.
The French buttercream is not a stable product since it uses raw egg yolks, so its storage is different from other types. We will discuss that later.
German buttercream is quite different from the other types. It uses custard as the base of the frosting.
Cooked pastry cream is a mixture of egg yolks, corn starch, and sugar with some milk. First, cook to a thick consistency and then add to the creamed butter.
This type of buttercream uses the least sugar, so it has a subtle sweet flavor. On the storage part, this equals the French buttercream.
How long does buttercream last out of the refrigerator?
While using American, Swiss, or Italian buttercream, you don't need to worry if a batch stays out of the refrigerator.
All these types will last for three days out of the fridge. However, French and German buttercream need to be immediately placed in the refrigerator because they have egg yolks in them, which can go bad if kept at room temperature.
If you're leaving any stable buttercream at room temperature, make sure that you place it in a dry place that is not too hot. An air-tight container is a must for every type of buttercream placed out of the refrigerator.
Furthermore, if the room temperature is too high, don't risk leaving the buttercream at room temperature. The heat will melt the butter in the buttercream, and it will be tough to handle that frosting.
How long does it last in the refrigerator?
If done right, a large amount of buttercream frosting can last in the fridge for up to a month and three months in a freezer.
While the American, Swiss, and Italian buttercream frosting can stay well for these periods, don't take a risk with French and German buttercream frosting.
They only stay fine in the fridge for a week or two.
The key is to store the buttercream with proper care. We will discuss the appropriate storage method in later sections.
How long does buttercream last on cake?
A buttercream frosted cake with the same filling without any perishable ingredient will stay fine in the refrigerator for about a week.
The key to keeping the frosting intact is to cover the cake adequately and no perishable ingredients mixed with the frosting. These perishable ingredients include fruits or heavy cream.
The American buttercream frosted cakes can last outside the fridge at room temperature for three days if covered properly. In fact, layer cakes taste better if kept at room temperature, but make sure to stick them in the fridge once you cross the three-day line.
Can you make buttercream ahead of time?
You can whip up a batch of any type of buttercream frosting in advance. Most bakers prefer making their frosting and baking their cake sheets ahead of time. It gives them peace of mind when decorating their cakes on the final day.
You can make a batch of buttercream ahead of time and use airtight containers for popping them up in the refrigerator. When you need to work on the cakes, take out the buttercream and leave it to loosen up for a couple of hours. Make sure to keep it covered at this step too.
If the frosting feels too tight, mix a few drops of milk to loosen it. If it gets runny, add more icing sugar to stabilize it.
How to store buttercream frosting
When making buttercream ahead of time or with leftover frosting, store it in an airtight container. Make sure there's no moisture in the container. Else your buttercream may get bad early.
Weighing and making portions per cake can work better since you will not need to thaw an entire batch and put it back in the fridge.
One of the essential points to keep in mind when storing your buttercream in the refrigerator is to keep it separate from other foods.
The fat in buttercream absorbs odors from the nearby foods, and you cannot use that smelling buttercream to decorate your cakes.
Storing buttercream in the freezer
You can freeze buttercream frosting for up to three months. Both air-tight containers and freezer bags work fine when you're freezing it.
When you need to use the buttercream, take it out and pop it in the fridge overnight to let it thaw.
Once thawed, you can re-whip your batch by using a stand mixer.
There are also other ways to thaw a frozen batch of buttercream frosting. You can use a warm bath to soften the container or corn syrup to loosen the buttercream. Moreover, you can put the buttercream in a piping bag and then use the heat from your hands to thaw the frosting.
How to know when buttercream goes bad
Bad buttercream leaves hints. If they go bad, you can sniff a bad smell, usually from French or German buttercream. The reason is the oxidation of the egg yolks in the frosting that create a bad smell.
Furthermore, if you want to know that if your buttercream frosted cake is fine or not, check its bottom. It catches mold pretty quickly, so discard it if the cake is green from any part.
Sometimes the buttercream separates water or feels lumpy. When water separates, you can re-whip and check the buttercream (only when using American Buttercream). If you added milk to the batch, your buttercream has probably gone bad, and it's better to discard.
Lumpy buttercream is a sign of not whipping it well enough, so re-whip it to smooth out the texture.
Buttercream has five types. Not all of them are safe to put at room temperature.
However, the most commonly used American buttercream is safe to keep at room temperature for three days.
The rest of the buttercream types should be properly stored in airtight containers and go inside the fridge to keep them from going bad.