Can you keep a cake with cream cheese frosting out all day?



chef O. August 22, 2012
ChefOno August 22, 2012

At least you're erring on the side of safety, I'll give you that. I'm not sure who or what U.S. Food Safety is, however, if you kept reading, they go on to say this:

"Although having [cream cheese] mixed with sugar can stabilize it because bacteria do not like high sugar. That being said, I don't know the exact proportion of sugar to cream cheese that changes the chemistry of the product."

Here is a recipe that has been tested by a USDA accredited laboratory and certified as a Non-Potentially Hazardous Food (one that does not require refrigeration):

Note the ratio of sugar to cream cheese.

Here are the 4-H food safety rules for exhibition (relevant information is on page 4)

This recipe won a ribbon at the 2011 New York County Fair:

Would it help you wrap your head around the issue to compare cream cheese frosting to strawberry jam, maple syrup or chocolate fudge? The same principles are involved -- sugar, at sufficiently high concentrations, acting as a preservative.

chef O. August 21, 2012
Here's what US Food Safety web site has to say on this topic. This web site has a food safety professional answering questions :

According to the Food Code, Potentially Hazardous Food such as cream cheese should not be in the temperature danger zone for 4 hours. The temperature danger zone is 41-135 degrees, it is where bacteria likes to grow. The warmer the product becomes the faster bacteria will grow given the right conditions. Bacteria like moisture, low acidity, oxygen. It does not like high sugar which I am assuming you will add a fair amount of to the cream cheese. I would keep it refrigerated until a half hour before you serve it then refrigerate when everyone is done. Depending how warm you home is I wouldn't have it sit out for any longer than 2 hours.

Eat what you like when you like it and via con Dios.

chef O. August 20, 2012
Just because someone says its "science" doesn't make it true. And as far as I know country fair judges are very rarely noted as scientific experts and I doubt if the food storage methods used at most fairs are all perfect to emulate at home. Dairy and cheese products being stored at 100 degree temps for days at a time sounds unappetizing and unsafe and adding sugar doesn't make it sound any better. Good luck.
ChefOno August 20, 2012

It's good to be skeptical of information that goes contrary to your instincts and training -- but that doesn't make it false. Please note I'm not citing county fair judges, I am referencing rules developed by food safety experts for county fairs. Big difference. And the science is thoroughly tested. Not only at countless food exhibitions, I ran my own experiment just for fun (see last post in the thread for details). While I didn't quite hit 90F, the test sample was exposed to well over 80F during the 7-day procedure which was designed to test beyond the timeframe of a fair and explore what might happen to leftover cake in a home environment. Not that there's often leftover cake around here but the bottom line is dead bacteria can't replicate no matter what the temperature.

chef O. August 18, 2012
Also depends on the temperature. If its 90 degrees it isn't going to last no matter how much sugar. Also be prepared for the icing to get really hard by the end of he day.
ChefOno August 18, 2012

It gets a lot warmer than 90F at county fairs across the country. The science is explained at the link above.

darksideofthespoon August 18, 2012
ChefOno is right, took the words straight from my mouth.

Voted the Best Reply!

ChefOno August 18, 2012

You can if the frosting has enough sugar. Discussion here:

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