Food Safety of Heavy Whipped Cream on Cake

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Heavy whipped cream makes a tasty topping to your cake but doesn't have the same shelf life as other nondairy toppings. You'll need to refrigerate cakes or cupcakes covered in whipped cream to prevent it from spoiling. Without proper storage, your cake topping will not only go sour, but it may also cause foodborne illness if ingested.

Whipped Cream and Cold Temperatures

  • To prevent spoilage microorganisms from ruining your cake topped with whipped heavy cream, you'll need to keep the cake in the refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Without refrigeration, your cream-topped cake will become a health risk if it's eaten after two or more hours of sitting out at room temperature. Even with refrigeration, cakes topped with stabilized whipped cream frosting only last about three days before you'll need to discard them. You can also store your unused whipped cream frosting, stabilized with gelatin or powdered milk to prevent it from liquefying, in an airtight container for around the same amount of time. Freezing the frosting at 0 F will extend its shelf life but will negatively affect its texture when thawed.

Unpasteurized Cream Is Undesirable

  • Pasteurization kills off any harmful microorganisms in heavy whipping cream through the use of heat. During the pasteurization process, the cream is heated to temperatures of 145 F or higher for anywhere from less than a second to 30 minutes, depending on how high of a temperature is used. You can pasteurize your raw cream before use by heating it to 145 F for 30 minutes and cooling it before use. The heat ensures that the cream is free from bad bugs including bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria, all of which can make you very sick if eaten. Cakes topped with unpasteurized whipped cream frosting are especially dangerous for those who are pregnant or who have a compromised immune system.

Keep 'Em Separated

  • To prevent any spoilage issues with your cake, never keep it out for more than one hour in temperatures above 90 F, or two hours between 40 F and 90 F. Although the whipped cream frosting may still look and taste okay after this amount of time, it could be spoiled and dangerous to eat. Because refrigeration can quickly dry out your freshly baked cake, leave your unfrosted cake out at room temperature in your pantry. Whip up your cream-based frosting two hours before frosting and serving your cake on the day of your event. You can also make up the frosting the night before and store it in the refrigerator.

When in Doubt, Throw It Out

  • To help determine whether or not your whipped cream frosting has spoiled, give it a whiff and a visual inspection. The cream will smell sour and unpleasant. It may appear curdled and lumpy as well. You might also notice visible signs of mold, which is a sure sign that it's gone bad and needs to go. Never taste your cake or cream if you suspect the cream has become rancid because the spoilage microorganisms can make you very sick if you eat them. Regardless of appearance or smell, always discard cream that's been sitting out in temperatures between 40 and 90 F for more than two hours or above 90 F for one hour.

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