Does Buttercream Need To Be Refrigerated? How Long It Sits Out?

Sarah Owens

By Sarah Owens

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Seemingly familiar as it is, buttercream frosting still leaves a lot of room for discussion – particularly regarding its maintenance methods. Many have shared they never refrigerate their buttercream – since bacteria usually take weeks or even months to develop a nest within these frostings.

Does this assumption have any scientific backing, though? This article will help you address this question and determine how long buttercream can sit out at room temperature. Keep scrolling. 

Does Buttercream Need To Be Refrigerated?

No. American/Italian/Swiss buttercream doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can sit out for 2 days. But French/German buttercream must be put in the fridge right away due to their perishable ingredients like eggs and cream cheese. 

The following section will briefly sum up some popular buttercream types:

American Buttercream

American buttercream has been the crowd’s favorite for years; all my family members fall head over heels for its insanely delightful, creamy, and smooth texture. 

American Buttercream

Its major ingredients are vanilla extract, milk, butter, and sugar. The high sugar amount is critical in inhibiting bacteria growth and similar microorganisms, meaning storing American buttercream frostings in a cool, dry area is enough. There is no need for refrigeration.

Italian Buttercream/Swiss Buttercream

Italian Buttercream

At first glance, many thought they were similar to American buttercream. However, a further look reveals they also contain egg whites. Hence, these creams can last for 2-3 days before being put into a refrigerator for the optimal quality.

On a side note: for people concerned about the eggs’ salmonella, I suggest purchasing pasteurized eggs. And, of course, following the recipes closely is a must.

French/ German Buttercream

Unlike the other versions, French and German buttercreams are much trickier to make. Their formulas use egg yolks (or custard in German versions). And you know what egg yolks mean: they must be stored and refrigerated immediately to prevent premature spoilage.

German Buttercream

I usually make German/French buttercream right before serving to retain its optimum texture and taste. A whole week of refrigeration before usage might rob these delicious buttercreams of their original flavor, which none of my children appreciate. 

How Long Does Buttercream Last In The Fridge? 

Refrigerated buttercream frostings have quite an admirable shelf life: seven days or more, as cool temperatures hinder bacterial growth. Remember to put the buttercream in a securely sealed container and away from strong-smelling food, such as seafood. 

The seafood odors permeate my frostings once, and trust me, that is not a nice sight to see.

How Long Is Butter Good For At Room Temperature?

Buttercream lasts 1-2 days at room temperature. With 80% fat content and much less water than similar dairy products, they have quite a strong resistance against bacterial development. After this period, a sour flavor and color changing are to be expected.

Sure, like any other food, the buttercream will grow rancid at a certain point. But as long as you avoid these deadly mistakes, it will not happen as fast as you think: 

How Long Is Butter Good For At Room Temperature

Mistake #1. Let The Wrong Butter Type Sit Out

If you want to leave any buttercream other than American, Swiss, or Italian versions out at room temperature, the least you can do is salt them. These extra salt layers will give your butter much better protection against bacterial growth, keeping its shelf life longer.

Otherwise, unsalted butter being put outside the refrigerator can only survive for several hours. I left my buttercream in the kitchen for almost a whole afternoon and totally forgot about that; the taste was horrible on my tongue. 

Mistake #2. Using Wrong Containers

Too much exposure to air and light is the main reason behind spoiled or rancid butter frosting. Hence, you must be extremely selective when it comes to buttercream containers at room temperature! 

Leaving the frosting on wax paper wrappers or plastic wraps on a dish is out of the question. Instead, I strongly suggest butter dishes to keep air and light out of the way. 

My husband also asks me to consider butter crocks (or butter bells/ butter keepers), which store the buttercream in small pots immersed in deep water to create airtight seals. And I am glad I listened to him: the buttercream is spreadable and soft at steady temperatures, ready for use whenever needed! 

Mistake #3. Leaving The Buttercream in Very Warm Kitchens

My family lives in warm climate regions, so you can imagine what it would be like when summer peaks: our kitchen simply gets too warm/hot to store any buttercream. 

Whenever the temperature in the kitchen hovers above 70°F, remember to keep your butter in the refrigerator instead.

Mistake #4. Storing Too Much At Once

Unless you can guarantee all the above conditions, do not try to cram too much buttercream in one container; they can only stay good for one or two days that way! 

Some are still unsure whether their stored buttercream is still edible/usable, so my tip is to simply smell it. Rancid buttercream gives off a weird aroma – and when you taste it, it will be unpleasantly sour (been there, done that!).

How Long Does Buttercream Last In The Freezer? 

Provided that you store the buttercream before its due date (on the packaging), it can last 3 months in a freezer, given that it’s stored in an airtight container. Consuming it after this time is safe but with a degraded flavor.

How Long Does Buttercream Last In The Fridge

Note that four months is the furthest stretch allowed. Freezing them longer than four months is not a great idea – because, at that point, the frostings have already absorbed too much odor and flavors from their surrounding environment. 

Thus, always remind yourself to pull the buttercream out before four months. And once it has already been removed from my freezer, my family will use the cream within one month (30 days) after the removal to enjoy the best of its texture and taste. 

How to Store Buttercream Frosting Properly

Though different buttercream types require varied storing adjustments, they all need sealed containers and plastic wraps to ensure the texture and flavor. 

How to Store Buttercream Frosting Properly

More specifically:

American buttercream:

Simply keeping it at room temp without extra wrappings or containers is enough to last American buttercream for two days. And if you use a refrigerator, the number would rise to at least a month.

However, my family wishes to extend that period of time to three months, so I wrapped its portions in airtight plastic wraps and put all of them in freezer bags. Works every time!

Other buttercream containing whipped cream, heavy cream cheese, or eggs:

Never store them at warm temperatures. The best bet is to keep them in a fridge or freezer with tight plastic wraps to avoid odor absorption. 

Buttercream cakes/ Cakes with buttercream frosting

For those storing an entire cake instead of just the cream cheese frostings, I suggest freezing the cake (uncovered) for 4 hours first. Then wrap the whole cake with aluminum foil and plastic layers, and put it into the freezer.

That way, your delicious decorated cake can last for one month. Remember to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before eating.

Why Did My Buttercream Get Hard In The Fridge? 

Cold temperatures in the refrigerator chill and solidify the fat content in your cream frostings, which makes them hardened and much less spreadable. 

There is nothing to worry about, though; that phenomenon happens for all types of buttercreams when stored in the freezer or fridge. 

How to Soften Your Refrigerated Buttercream Frostings?

Adding warm syrup or water is the fastest way to soften cold buttercream frostings. You may also put the frosting in the microwave – though extra caution is needed to prevent overheating. 

Even if no syrup or microwave is available, all hope is not lost: I simply have to put the leftover buttercream frostings in my room and wait for them to soften at room temperature. How convenient! 

Conclusion

Some buttercream can be left out at room temperature, like the American or Italian type; still, freezer and refrigerator storing is a must to ensure they can last for weeks or even months. Follow my guidance closely, and write to me if you still need help.

For more: Does Powdered Sugar Go Bad?


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Sarah Owens
Baker & Owner At BK17 Bakery

Sarah Owens is a professional baker with an insatiable curiosity for global food traditions. As the owner of BK17 Bakery, an artisan microbakery specializing in sourdough that serves both NYC and Louisville, Sarah believes strongly in the power of baking to foster community, social change, and stone milling can bring good bread back to the table.


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