How to Store Icing

Storing icing correctly ensures that it maintains its quality and flavor for future use, whether you’re a professional baker or whipping up treats at home. Homemade icing can be a delicious addition to various desserts, but its perishable nature requires proper storage techniques. By transferring your frosting to an airtight container, you can prevent it from absorbing odors and developing an unsightly crust, which is key to preserving its smooth texture and taste.

Different types of icing have varying storage requirements. For example, buttercream icing is best kept in the refrigerator if not used within a couple of days, while royal icing made with meringue powder can last at room temperature for up to two weeks. It’s important to be aware of these differences to prevent spoilage. When it’s time to reuse refrigerated icing, bringing it to room temperature and re-whipping can restore its original consistency, ready for your next baking project.

Types of Icing

Types Of Frosting For Cakes

When you’re selecting icing for your baked goods, consider both flavor and function. Different icings serve various purposes, whether it’s for decorating precision, rich flavor, or simply a velvety cover for your cakes and cupcakes.

Buttercream Icing

Buttercream is versatile and easy to prepare, making it a favorite for both covering and decorating cakes. Key ingredients include butter and powdered sugar, whipped to a creamy consistency. You can flavor buttercream with a variety of extracts, chocolate, or pureed fruits.

Royal Icing

Royal icing is ideal for detailed decorations such as piping, flooding, and creating firm-edged designs. Its basic components are powdered sugar and egg whites or meringue powder, which dry to a smooth, hard finish perfect for stacking and transporting.

Cream Cheese Icing

Cream Cheese Icing offers a tangy flavor profile and is typically softer than buttercream. It’s made with cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and sometimes a touch of vanilla. Because of its dairy content, it’s important to consider storage conditions carefully.

Fondant Icing

Fondant can be rolled out into a sheet and draped over a cake for a sleek, smooth look. Fondant icing consists of sugar, water, and corn syrup, and it often requires gelatin or glycerin to keep it pliable. Though less flavorful than other options, it provides a professional finish.

Remember, the icing you choose can dramatically alter the appearance and taste of your desserts. Each type of icing has specific ingredients and recipes tailored for different decorative effects and sensory experiences.

Preparation for Storage

Proper preparation is essential to ensure your frosting stays fresh and retains its quality when stored. The process involves cooling your icing adequately and preparing defrosting ingredients for an optimal state before long-term storage.

Cooling Before Storage

Ensure your icing reaches room temperature before storage. This prevents condensation inside the container, which could lead to spoilage. If you’ve just prepared or used the icing, let it sit uncovered at room temperature until it cools completely.

Defrosting Ingredients

For icings made with ingredients that require refrigeration, such as butter-based frostings, it’s important to allow them to thaw properly before use. After removing the frosting from the freezer, place it in the refrigerator for several hours, preferably overnight, to ensure an even temperature transition. This gradual thaw maintains consistency and quality.

Containers and Wrapping

Securing your icing properly is crucial to maintaining its freshness and consistency. Proper containers and wrapping methods can significantly extend the shelf life of your icing and safeguard its quality.

Choosing the Right Containers

When selecting containers for your icing, airtight containers are the optimal choice. Opt for plastic containers with secure lids to prevent air exposure, which can lead to drying out and spoilage. This method helps preserve the moisture and texture of your icing. Ensure the container sizes match the quantity of icing to limit the air volume inside.

  • Airtight plastic containers: Seal in freshness and maintain moisture.
  • Glass containers with airtight lids: Offer a non-reactive storage option.

Plastic Wrap and Aluminum Foil

For additional protection or when dealing with smaller quantities of icing, plastic wrap and aluminum foil provide a good secondary barrier. Press the plastic wrap directly against the surface of the icing to prevent a skin from forming and wrap it firmly.

  • Plastic wrap: Offers a tight, direct cover to prevent drying.
  • Aluminum foil: A suitable alternative for wrapping icing, especially if it needs to be frozen.

When using foil, ensure that it’s wrapped tightly around the icing or the top of the container to provide an additional layer of protection against freezer burn or absorbing odors when stored in the fridge or freezer.

Short-Term Storage

When you need to keep your icing fresh for a use that’s just around the corner, short-term storage methods are essential. Maintaining the quality of your icing for cakes, cupcakes, or cookies means controlling exposure to moisture, odors, and other flavors.


For Refrigerating Leftover Icing:

  • Duration: Store in the fridge for up to two days.
  • Containers: Use airtight containers to prevent absorption of odors.
  • Consistency: Before reuse, bring the icing to room temperature to ensure it spreads easily.


  • If your icing is buttercream or cream cheese based, refrigeration is imperative to prevent spoilage.
  • Always label the container with the storage date.

Counter Storage

For Storing Icing at Room Temperature:

  • Duration: Keep on the counter for a period not exceeding two days.
  • Protection: Ensure the icing is in a sealed container away from direct sunlight and heat sources.


  • Royal icing made with meringue powder can be safely stored at room temperature.
  • Icings on finished products like cookies can usually remain outside the fridge without issue.

Remember: Proper storage in either environment requires that the icing be sealed off from external contaminants that can affect its freshness and flavor.

Long-Term Storage

For preserving your icing over extended periods, the freezer becomes a crucial ally. This method can effectively maintain the taste and consistency of your icing for future use.


  • Buttercream Frosting: For best results, store buttercream frosting in the freezer for a maximum of three months.
  • Cream Cheese Icing: Similar to buttercream, cream cheese icing can be stored frozen for up to three months.
  • Royal Icing: This type can remain of good quality when frozen for about two months.
  • General Freezing Tips:
    • Use a freezer-safe container with an airtight seal.
    • Label containers with the date to track the storage time.

Maximizing Freshness

  • Avoiding Freezer Burn: Wrap the container in a plastic bag or cling film before placing it in the freezer to protect the icing from freezer burn which can affect both flavor and texture.
  • Thawing:
    • Frosting: Thaw in the refrigerator until it reaches a spreadable consistency. If in a hurry, leave it out at room temperature but monitor closely to prevent it from becoming too soft.
    • Timing: Allow several hours for thawing, ideally overnight to ensure the frozen icing returns to its original state.
  • After Thawing: Stir the icing to rejuvenate its texture and freshness before use.

Maintaining Quality

To ensure your icing remains as intended, attention to preventing spoilage and avoiding texture changes is essential. Proper storage techniques can maintain both the flavor and texture of your icing, preventing common issues such as drying out or separation.

Preventing Spoilage

To prevent spoilage, you must mitigate factors that contribute to the growth of mold and other forms of bacterial contamination:

  • Keep it Covered: Always use airtight containers to store your icing. Exposure to air not only dries it out but also increases the risk of airborne contaminants.
  • Temperature Control: Refrigerate icing when not in use. For short-term storage, temperatures around 3-5°C (37-41°F) are suitable. For a longer shelf life, store icing in the freezer at temperatures below -18°C (0°F).
  • Sanitation: Use clean utensils to avoid cross-contamination, which could introduce spoilage agents.

Avoiding Texture Changes

Maintaining the right texture is as much about avoiding water loss as it is about keeping the icing from getting too moist:

  • Moisture Levels: Keep your icing at a consistent moisture level to prevent separation. If it appears too dry, mixing in a small amount of milk or water can help. However, add liquids sparingly to avoid making your icing too runny.
  • Freshness versus Fresh Batch: If your icing has separated or the texture has been compromised, sometimes making a fresh batch is the best option.
  • Mixing Before Use: If your icing has been refrigerated or frozen, bring it to room temperature and re-whip it if necessary to restore the texture.
  • Sugar Quality: Use powdered sugar, which includes cornstarch, to help stabilize icing and reduce the risk of separation.

Usage and Handling

Properly handling icing after storage is crucial for maintaining its quality. Knowing how to thaw and re-whip icing will ensure it’s ready for use, and understanding the best practices for decorating after storage can make a significant difference in the final appearance of your cake.

Thawing and Re-whipping

To thaw icing, particularly types like buttercream or cream cheese that have been frozen, remove it from the freezer and allow it to come to room temperature. This process should be done gradually to prevent any condensation which might affect the texture. Once thawed, icing may separate or appear less smooth. You can remedy this by re-whipping it in a stand mixer on medium speed until it regains its original consistency. If the icing seems too runny, you can gradually add powdered sugar to thicken it to the desired texture.

Decorating After Storage

After you’ve brought your icing back to the desired consistency, it’s time to decorate. Transfer the icing to piping bags with an appropriate tip. When using fondant, ensure it hasn’t dried out; if it’s a bit stiff, kneading it can make it pliable again for extruding or rolling. Always avoid decorating in direct sunlight as heat can cause the icing to soften and decorations to wilt. When you’re ready to frost cakes or pipe designs onto already-decorated cakes, the icing should be easy to work with and not overly stiff. If it’s too thick, it might not extrude smoothly through the piping bag and can damage delicate designs.

Safety and Sanitation

Ensuring the safety and sanitation of your homemade icing is crucial to prevent bacterial growth and contamination. This section will guide you through the necessary food safety precautions and sanitary storage practices.

Food Safety Precautions

You must prioritize food safety when storing icing, especially if your recipe includes milk or fresh fruit, which are prone to bacterial growth. Keep these points in mind:

  • Storage Duration: Do not store icing containing dairy or fresh ingredients for more than two days in the refrigerator.
  • Clean Utensils: Always use clean utensils when handling icing to minimize the risk of contamination.

Sanitary Storage Practices

To maximize the shelf life of your icing and maintain its quality, follow these sanitary storage tips and methods:

  • Airtight Containers: Store your icing in airtight containers to guard against contaminants.
  • Storage Methods: Refrigeration is ideal for short-term storage, while the freezer can be used to extend the shelf life for several weeks. Ensure you label the container with the date of storage.


Common Royal Icing Mistakes - how to troubleshoot common problems with royal icing

When storing icing, it’s essential to maintain its consistency and quality. Proper troubleshooting techniques can prevent common storage issues such as air bubbles and separation.

Preventing Air Bubbles

Air bubbles can form in your icing if it’s not stored correctly, leading to an uneven texture when you apply it. To prevent bubbles:

  • After mixing your icing, gently tap the container on your countertop to bring any trapped air to the surface.
  • Before sealing, smooth the surface of the icing with a spatula to eliminate air pockets.
  • Store icing at a consistent temperature to prevent condensation, which can also introduce air bubbles.

Handling Separation

Icing can separate due to factors like temperature fluctuations or prolonged storage. If your icing separates:

  • Stir gently but thoroughly to recombine the ingredients before you use it.
  • Be cautious not to incorporate additional air while stirring.
  • For serious separation, using a mixer on low speed can help to re-emulsify the separated components.

Keep in mind that extreme weather conditions, such as high humidity, can affect your icing’s stability. If you anticipate humid conditions, adjust the thickness of your icing and store it in an airtight container to reduce exposure. If crusting occurs during storage, you can usually repair the icing with gentle agitation to restore its smooth texture.

Labeling and Organization

How To Make Store Bought Frosting Pipeable

Proper labeling and organization ensures that your icing maintains its quality and is easily identifiable, especially when dealing with multiple types or colors.

Labeling Stored Icing

When you store your icing, label each container clearly with the contents and the date of storage. Use a water-resistant marker to write directly on storage containers or apply a label that won’t smudge or peel off in cold environments. Your label should indicate the type of icing and any color changes or intricate designs previously made if the icing was used for specific decorations.

  1. Label Content: Type of icing (e.g., buttercream, royal)
  2. Date: Month, Day, Year (e.g., 01/13/2024)
  3. Shelf Life: Expected freshness duration
  4. Special Notes: Any specific color or design notes

Organizing Different Icings

Maintain an organized space by strategically placing icings according to their shelf life, with those made most recently at the back, ensuring the rotation of stock. Store your icings in tightly sealed containers to prevent them from absorbing odors and drying out. If possible, categorize the icings by type or usage frequency to streamline your decorating process.

  • Frequency of Use: Place icings used frequently in accessible areas.
  • Type Categorization:
    • Buttercream
    • Royal
    • Fondant
  • Color Coding: Coordinate container colors to icing types or use colored labels for quick identification.

By adhering to these practices, your icing remains fresh and ready for your next culinary creation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Storing icing properly is key to maintaining its quality. Whether you need to keep it overnight or for an extended period, these guidelines will ensure your icing remains usable and tasty.

What is the best way to keep icing fresh overnight?

To keep icing fresh overnight, place it in an airtight container to prevent drying out and store it in the refrigerator. This method helps maintain the icing’s moisture and consistency until you’re ready to use it.

Can you freeze already prepared icing for later use?

Yes, you can freeze prepared icing. Store it in a freezer-safe airtight container or resealable freezer bag. When ready to use, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and then rewhip if necessary to restore its texture.

Is refrigeration necessary for homemade frosting?

Homemade frosting, especially if it contains dairy or eggs, should be refrigerated. An airtight container will prevent it from absorbing odors and protect its texture. Non-dairy icings may be kept at room temperature if used within the same day.

What are the guidelines for refrigerating icing before using it for piping?

Before piping, refrigerate your icing in a covered container. If the icing has become too firm, let it reach a spreadable consistency at room temperature. Stirring before use can also help regain the proper texture for smooth piping.

How do you preserve the freshness of icing in a piping bag?

To preserve icing in a piping bag, squeeze out as much air as possible and tightly close the bag. If not using immediately, store the bag in the refrigerator, and before use, allow the icing to come to room temperature to ensure easy piping.

Up to how long can homemade frosting be stored in the fridge?

Homemade frosting can typically be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week when placed in an airtight container. Always check for signs of spoilage before using and bring to room temperature if necessary for easier application.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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