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Does Cake Mix Go Bad? Food Safety FAQ + Tips

When searching your pantry for a handy box of cake mix, are you wondering: Does cake mix go bad?

Can we all agree that cake is one of the world’s most delectable foods?

While the traditional method of making a cake can be time-consuming, messy, or expensive, there’s a way to make your favorite dessert even more luscious: by simply using a mixture of ready ingredients.

That’s right—cake mix.

Cake mix is one of the most uncomplicated ways to bring a homemade dessert into your life without any hassles.

You usually only need to add eggs, some oil or butter, and water then bake as directed on the box.

What’s better than cake? A cake you don’t have to make completely from scratch.

It’s that simple.

Plus, with wide varieties available, there’s sure to be one that fits your taste and needs perfectly.

But what if you have a box of cake mix in the back of your pantry that has gone way past its “best by” date?

Would it still be safe to eat?

Should you toss it out, or is it still okay to bake it?

Keep reading to find out.

Table Of Contents

Does cake mix go bad?

Yes and no. The freshness, taste, and texture will change and degrade the further the cake mix gets from its best-by date. So, while it’s not “good” it’s not necessarily “bad” as in it’s inedible or will make you sick if you eat it. 

A lot of people have a box of cake mix in their pantries.

It’s one of those products that seemingly everyone has in their homes, and it looks like it will never go out of style.

But the truth is, many of us are not regularly baking cakes from scratch.

They’re just buying the pre-made mix because it’s convenient and easy. 

And when no special occasion comes around, the boxed mix just sits on the pantry shelf for months without being touched.

So, does cake mix go bad?

The answer is yes, but only if it’s been sitting there for months or years after the “best by” or “best if used by” date.

And according to this Food Shelf Life Guide, it can be kept safely for about 12 months at room temperature.

Remember that cake mixes should be stored in clean, dry, and cool kitchen cabinets, preferably away from heat and sunlight. 

Cake mixes are made with flour, sugar, leavening, etc., and are added to egg, water, or milk and baked to make a cake.

These ingredients are fairly shelf stable even after they’ve been opened.

Still, they’re not exempted from spoiling.

But that’s okay because eating an old cake mix has both upsides and downsides.

And even though eating this highly processed food probably won’t send you to the hospital, it’s still important to know what happens to it after it expires and if it’s still safe to consume.

How to tell if a cake mix has gone bad

Cake mixes don’t go bad as quickly as dairy products, so you have more time to use them.

But once it does, you’ll know because your senses will tell you, and you shouldn’t ignore those signs.

And since cake mixes are mostly flour, it’ll be easy to know if it’s okay to use them. 

Here’s how to tell if a cake mix has gone bad:

Appearance

Look carefully at your cake mix.

Do you think the color or texture has changed?

Is there evidence of mold?

If so, throw out the cake mix and buy a new one.

Mold would grow inside the package if moisture reached inside.

And if that is the case, toss it all away.

In addition, cake mix contains a leavening agent (for example, baking soda, baking powder, or yeast), which is a food additive that helps to raise the dough.

So, if you bake the cake, but it stays flat and your batter doesn’t rise like you expected, the cake mix has likely “gone bad.”

Smell

Another way to tell if a cake mix has gone bad is to smell it.

A cake mix that is still good should smell like the main components: butter, vanilla, sugar or chocolate, or spice or some other flavor that is listed on the box.

If a cake mix smells funny, old, or sour, or has no smell at all, it’s probably gone bad, and you shouldn’t bake it.

Besides, the cake won’t taste good, and it might even make you sick.

We always encourage our readers to use fresh ingredients, and if there’s any doubt, throw it out.

Pests Or Insects

If you see holes in the box or dead bugs inside, discard the package.

Check the foods next to each other for insects and get rid of them before they reach the other side of the cabinet.

Taste

Indeed, telling if a cake mix has gone bad is quite tricky.

So, if you decided to try baking with the cake mix you weren’t sure about, 
do a taste test.

Does your sweet treat taste the way it should? 

If it’s far from what it should be, that means you may have used a cake mix that was too old; throw it out.

How long does a cake mix last?

According to a report from Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, a cake mix will stay good for about 9 to 12 months after the date of purchase unless specified on its “best if used by” date.

However, the manufacturer of Duncan Hines’ cake mix products discourages using the product if it’s passed the “best if used by” date.

“Best if used by” date features a series of letters and numbers showing the best date that the product should be used or, in short, until its most effective or freshest date. 

If you haven’t seen “best if used by date” codes before, here’s a good example: 13 AUG 2022, which indicates that the product would have the best quality before August 13th, 2022.

Duncan Hines added that once a cake mix has lapsed this certain date, they can “no longer ensure that the overall experience of the product will be what is needed.

This is also similar to cake mix products from Betty Crocker; most of these cake mixes have “best if used by” dates printed on top of their boxes. 

But the shelf life also depends on the ingredients put in the cake mix.

Again, it’s important to know that cake mix usually has all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in it, sometimes dairy products like milk powder, sugar substitute like Splenda, and flavorings and extracts.

When one of the combined ingredients goes bad, the whole mix could also go bad because you can’t separate them.

A pack of flour, baking powder, and baking soda that’s been opened will stay fresh in your pantry for 6 to 8 months, but if you put it in the refrigerator, it’ll keep for a year.

Sugar, on the other hand, never goes bad, but it does lose its flavor and texture over time. 

If you store it in a pantry after opening, it will last—up to 2 years.

So, if you want your cake to turn out really great, you should use the opened cake mix within 8 months for the best results.

Still, it can last longer, depending on how you keep it.

That means letting your cake mix sit in bad conditions will make it go bad much faster.

And keeping the cake mix in its suitable storage place at a steady temperature will help it stay fresh longer.

It’s also good to remember that most baking mixes have a “best by” date instead of an “expiration” date.

Because of this difference, you can use a package that has passed its expiration date, but be prepared for lesser freshness, different texture, or not as optimal a taste that you may be used to.

Can you freeze a cake mix?

Yes, you can freeze a cake mix, but it can affect the texture of the baked cake, and not in a good way.

The freezer can help you keep a lot of foods fresh for longer.

But can you freeze a cake mix? Technically, yes.

However, this storage process isn’t necessary. 

Well, first of all, you ought to know that cake mixes are made in a way that will keep them good for long periods.

So, you need not worry much about how to store it.

That means there’s no reason to freeze them as well.

Also, cake mixes contain leavening agents such as baking powder and baking soda.

And once frozen and then thawed, it may not rise perfectly, may be more crumbly than usual, or may be less pleasant-tasting.

Instead, you should bake the cake and then put the finished product in the freezer if you don’t plan to eat it for at least a month.

The frozen cake will last longer in the freezer than in a box of cake mix.

But make sure to write down the “best by” date on the storage container and eat the cake before that date.

How to store cake mix

Cake mix is one of the most versatile items in the kitchen.

It’s easy to make, and it’s easy to keep around, which means you can have freshly baked cake anytime you want.

But if you’re holding it in your kitchen for a long time, there are some things you should know about how to store cake mix properly.

As a starter, cake mix doesn’t have many storage requirements.

It only needs a cool, dry place.

And by cool, that means that room temperature is fine, as long as it’s not near any heat sources.

Instructions to store cake mix

Supplies to gather

  • Cake mix
  • Airtight container

Instructions on how to store opened cake mix the best way:

  1. Put your dry cake mix in an airtight container.
  2. Store the cake mix container at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.

Tip #1: Keep the cake mix away from damp areas.

Tip #2: If you don’t want to store things in the pantry, you can also put them in the fridge, but make sure to put them in an airtight container too for maximum protection.

Can I use expired cake mix?

While it’s a valid concern, Betty Crocker reports back that yes, you can usually use an expired cake mix.

In fact, the USDA says that shelf-stable foods and packaged products (like dry mixes, cereal, etc.) last for a long time and with an indefinite end date. 

However, cake mixes usually have a “best-before” or “best if used by” date instead of an “expiration” date.

That means you can use them up to 8 months after their “best by” or “best if used by” date label.

This is because, after the “best by” date, the cake mix ingredients will no longer work as they should.

So, if you have a cake mix that’s more than 8 months past its “best by” date, it’s best not to eat it but to throw it away.

For instance, baking soda or powder will become less elastic, resulting in a cake that is less fluffy and tastes less good than it normally would.

And even if you add baking powder to that mixture, the flavor may still be off.

Moreover, some of the additional additives included in the cake mix could cause digestive problems, which you definitely want to avoid.

So, if you have a cake mix that’s more than 8 months past its “best by” date, it’s best not to eat it but to throw it away.

Important Note: I used to think that the reason we aren’t supposed to lick the spatula, bowl, or beaters was because of the raw eggs. It turns out that it’s ALSO the raw flour in the dough, which hasn’t been treated to kill illness-causing germs. So if you are eating or tasting any cake mix before it’s cooked, expired or not, call me a fun-ruiner, but it can make you sick with E.Coli. It’s a hard habit to break, but it’s time to stop licking the beaters, guys. Don’t eat raw batter or dough.

How to use cake mix in baking

Cake mixes are designed to mix easily, rise readily, and taste reasonably good when baked according to the package directions.

They’re made with ingredients that are specifically selected to be able to withstand amateur bakers, uneven heating, and economical ingredients, like one egg instead of three, for example.

The flour and other dry ingredients, the leavening agents—they’re all there for a reason.

And if you’re looking for something that’s going to rise when it bakes and create a cakey base for whatever frosting, filling, or topping you want to add, then you’ve got it.

So, try out one of these recipes using your favorite cake mix, and you’ll be glad you did:

These cake mix donuts have that sweet, sugary perfection—a thin layer of icing that coats your lips and teeth as you eat each bite.

Chess squares are a dessert that’s so gooey and cheesy that it’ll be your next go-to recipe.

These pumpkin cake mix cinnamon rolls are drizzled in a luscious brown sugar maple glaze, and just the way they smell will make you want to eat them all yourself.

This lemon blueberry dump cake is so good. 

It tastes just like a fruity and tart homemade cobbler.

This is not your ordinary red velvet cake that uses a cake mix. 

It’s the kind that you can bake in almost no time and tastes so wonderful that you’ll feel like you’re eating something straight out of your childhood.

This recipe has some twists that make it really fun and special.

The cream cheese whipped topping is really light and fluffy, and the pineapple adds a tropical flavor to your standard cake mix.

More Cake Mix Recipes (Our Tried & Tested Delights)

The bottom line

Ultimately, whether your cake mix goes bad or not all depends on how you intend to use it. 

If you’re going to bake with it immediately, you don’t have to worry at all—you’ll be good to go.

However, if you have a cake mix just sitting around in your pantry for an extended period, then there are a few signs that might tell you whether or not it has gone bad.

So, happy birthday

I always recommend that you indulge in the freshest ingredients when pampering yourself or the ones you love with good food, but sometimes you just want to use up what you have on hand. 

But like I always say: when in doubt, throw it out. 

How To Store Cake Mix

How To Store Cake Mix

Learn the best and easiest way to store your cake mix at home.

Ingredients

  • Cake mix
  • Airtight container

Instructions

  1. Transfer your dry cake mix into an airtight container.
  2. Store the cake mix container in a cool, dry place at room temperature.
  3. Before using, check to make sure your cake mix hasn’t attracted bugs or gotten damp.

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