Does Cake Mix Go Bad?

Got a half-open container of cake mix that’s past its date and wondering if it’s still good enough to use? Does cake mix ever go bad?

Or maybe you’ve bought a package meaning to try out this lemon cake recipe you found online, but somehow you never got to it. Now, a year later, that cake mix still sits in storage, and you’re not sure if it’s safe to use that old mix.

That’s where this short guide comes in. In it, we tackle storage, shelf life, and spoilage of cake mixes. If that’s what you’re looking for, read on.

Layered cake
(credit: Annie Spratt)

How To Store Cake Mix

Cake mix (or cake base, as some bakeries call it) doesn’t require much in terms of storage, similar to a pancake mix. All it needs in a cool and dry place (DH). And by cool I mean that room temperature is good enough, as long as it doesn’t sit near any sources of heat. In short, a cabinet in the pantry or kitchen is perfectly fine.

Once you open the package, store the leftovers well sealed. Protecting the dry mix from moisture will prevent mold growth, and result in it staying okay to use as long as possible.

Tip

If you plan on storing the leftover cake mix for a prolonged period, pour it into an airtight container to make sure it stays dry.

Birthday cake
(credit: Aneta Pawlik)

How Long Does Cake Mix Last

All cake mixes (or muffin mixes, etc.) come with a best-by date. It usually falls somewhere between 6 months (LB) and maybe a year from the production date. And opening the package doesn’t shorten that period by any means (DH).

That date is by no means an expiration date, but rather an estimate of how long the cake base will retain peak quality. Here’s how Duncan Hines puts it in their FAQ (DH):

Once this time period has lapsed, we can no longer ensure that the overall experience of the product will be what is needed.

That means the mix won’t go off, but the taste and texture of the cake you bake might not be the best.

How long past its date you can use a cake mix? In almost all cases, it will help you make fabulous cakes for at least a couple of months past its date, but that’s about it. The dry mix usually contains baking powder or some other leavening agents, and these gradually lose potency. So while an ancient one might be perfectly safe to use, the cake will most likely turn out flat.

Pantry
Cake mix (unopened or opened)Best-by date + 3 – 4 months

Please note the period above is only an estimate.

Warning

If your cake mix is more than 2 – 3 months past its date, don’t use it for a baking project that most turn out perfectly, e.g., a birthday cake. Instead, use it in a recipe you wanted to test out during the weekend, so if things go south, it’s not a big deal.

Cupcakes with frosting
(credit: Deva Williamson)

How To Tell If Cake Mix Is Bad?

Cake mix doesn’t spoil the way dairy does. It often can sit in the cabinet for months or even years on end without changing much. Nevertheless, some things to look out for are:

  • Mold or other changes in appearance. If moisture got inside the package, there would be mold. If that’s the case, discard the whole thing. Same thing if there are other visible changes.
  • Off or sour smell. Either is a good indicator that you should discard the mix.

If the dry mix looks and smells perfectly fine, chances are it’s safe to use. Now, if the mix is old, the worse that can happen is a cake that turns out flat or tastes not as good as it used to. That’s why I already said that it’s best to use old cake mix only when the stakes are low and discarding the baked cake won’t be a huge issue.

Sources