Girl spreading frosting on cupcakes
Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images

Package dates can be confusing when deciding whether or not to eat a product that is past the printed date. Cake icing packaging may have an expiration date. That is the date after which the maker says the icing shouldn't be used. There might be a packaging date, saying when it was packed, or a best-used-by date, which is when it should be used by for peak quality. After that, flavor and texture may begin to deteriorate, although it can still be safe to use, according to the United States Department of Agriculture's food safety and inspection service.

Open and Spread Icing

Prepared and sold in plastic cans, this type of cake icing is stored on a shelf or in a cabinet until it is used. This can be used for about three months after the date on the package, which is typically a date by which it should be either sold, or used. After this type of icing or frosting is opened, it should be refrigerated. It can be used for two or three weeks after opening, when stored correctly. Avoid contaminating it with cake crumbs to ensure safe storage.

Prepare From Mix

Dry cake icings to be prepared from a mix are typically sold in boxes or pouches. These can be kept for about eight months, according to Lesley Fisher and Lydia Medeiros, writing for the Ohio State University Extension website. The important thing about obtaining the maximum shelf life for icing and frosting mixes is storing them in a cool, dark and dry place. Moisture can make the powdered mix form clumps, and can encourage spoilage. Storing the mix on a shelf that the sun hits part of the day can cause condensation inside of the package due to the temperature changes. Leftover icing prepared from the mix should be refrigerated promptly.

Squeeze From Tube

There are two primary types of cake icing sold in easy-squeeze tubes, standard decorating icing and a gel style. Both of these can last an indefinite amount of time, according to When the standard type of cake decorating icing goes bad, it will get hard and not function correctly. The gel doesn't work correctly when it spoils either. It gets too runny to hold its shape. When using this type of icing, it is best to test it on a paper towel or saucer before using directly on your cake.

Correct Handling Is Key

How frosting is handled makes a difference in its shelf life, according to Fisher and Medeiros. Pantry and cabinet temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit and below make it more likely that cake icing will reach its full shelf life potential. If there is a window in the pantry, cover it to help temperature and moisture levels remain consistent. Always use clean utensils and put away leftover icing in a clean, tightly covered container. If it looks, smells or tastes off, discard it.