There is nothing worse than starting to bake a cake – preheating the oven and gathering all the ingredients – only to discover that the cake mix expired 6 months ago.
While this may raise alarm bells in your head, you shouldn’t throw the box away too quickly. In fact, you may not need to throw away the cake mix at all.
In this guide, we will discuss the finer details of a cake mix’s expiration date, and work out whether a box of expired cake mix is safe to use or not.
The Shelf Life Of Cake Mix
As all food products do, a packet of cake mix will have a clearly stated expiration date printed on the box. This date will, of course, vary depending on when you bought it.
Typically, a brand-new box of cake mix will have an expiration date which will occur 6 months after it has been manufactured.
By the time you pick it up from the supermarket, this date may be a lot closer to today’s date.
The good news here is that all cake mixes containing dry ingredients will have a ‘best by’ date, rather than a ‘use by’ date. This means that, technically, you do not have to use the mix by that exact date.
When the cake mix has passed its best by date, it will still likely be perfectly edible, depending on how you stored the box.
A quick examination of the ingredients will let you know if the cake mix is safe to use (more on that later).
The cake mix’s best by date does not indicate how long the food will be safe to eat. Instead, it indicates around which date the food will begin to deteriorate in flavor and texture.
In other words, you can still use a cake mix after its best by date, but the cake itself probably won’t taste as good as it would have if you’d baked it beforehand. The cake will still be completely safe to eat, though.
The Difference Between ‘Best By’ And ‘Use By’ Dates
All food has an expiration date printed on the packaging, and it will always be one of two types of dates:
- A ‘best by’ date
- A ‘use by’ date
If food has a ‘use by’ date, it should not be consumed after that time. This is often printed on fresh products, such as meat and dairy products.
Once that time is up, you should not attempt to eat or use these foods, as you may end up becoming ill.
However, if food has a ‘best by’ date, that means that the quality of the food in question will begin to decline following that date. It should still be safe to eat, but it probably won’t taste as good.
What Happens If I Use Expired Cake Mix?
If you have started baking a cake, but realized too late that the mix that you used actually expired four months ago, there is no need to panic.
The only thing you need to worry about in this situation is whether or not the cake will rise in the oven.
It is highly likely that the leavening agents in the mix (baking powder, baking soda, etc.) will not activate as they would have if the mix had been used prior to its ‘best before’ date.
In other words, the cake mixture may not rise as it bakes. While it will still be edible, the cake itself will not be as fluffy and airy as it appears in the image on the cake mix box.
There is a slight possibility that the cake mix ingredients may have gone bad, and if so, consuming the cake might cause you to become sick.
It is likely that you would’ve noticed if the ingredients had gone bad, however, as there would’ve been obvious signs.
So, overall, you should be fine to eat a cake made from an expired cake mix. The biggest issue will be that the cake won’t taste as good as you’d expect… but, if you ask us, any cake is better than no cake at all.
How To Identify If The Cake Mix Has Gone Bad
So, as we mentioned in the previous section, there is a slight possibility that a cake mix can go bad if it passes its expiration date.
If the mix is used after it has gone bad, it may cause everyone who has eaten the cake to become sick.
Fortunately, it is almost always possible to identify whether a packet of cake mix has gone bad or not. As long as you know what to look out for, you should be okay when baking with an out-of-date cake mix.
Here are some things that you should look out for when using a pack of expired cake mix.
When food has gone bad, there are usually two very clear indications that it is not safe to eat: it will look bad, and it will smell bad.
One of the best ways to tell if cake mix has gone bad is to give it a sniff, and work out if it smells funny or not. Cake mix that has gone bad will have a sour scent, and will be instantly detectable.
If you forgot to smell the cake mix while baking, and now you’re worried whether the cake will be safe to eat, you would also be able to sniff the cake to identify any odd odors.
If the cake itself smells funny – or it tastes strange – that’s a big indicator that it is probably not safe to eat. If this is the case, you’d be better off throwing the cake in the trash, as it’s not worth it to risk it.
If you’ve failed to store the cake mix box in a suitable place, e.g., a damp area, the cake mix itself may have become moldy. In this case, you should throw the box away immediately, and not attempt to make the cake.
Mold can be really dangerous if consumed, so it’s best not to risk it at all. Some kinds of mold can even cause food poisoning, so there will be a high chance of you becoming ill if you eat mold-infested cake.
Luckily, detecting mold in cake mix is pretty simple. If the box has become moldy, then that is enough proof that the mix itself has been contaminated – even if the cake mix is in a separate plastic bag inside the box.
If you detect even a slight amount of mold, you should throw it away immediately.
Pests Inside The Mix
This final point should go without saying, but if you find any insects or pests inside the cake mix, you should absolutely not use it.
Bugs can, and will, make their way into any kind of food product if they have been left open, especially if the packaging has been open for a long time.
They will then reproduce and lay eggs, which will result in more bugs infesting the food, and so on and so forth.
Unless you’re craving a cake packed with fly eggs and decomposing maggots, it would be best for you to throw the whole cake mix away immediately.
As long as the cake mix looks good, smells good, and doesn’t contain pests, you should be fine to bake it and eat it as planned.
As a rule, most cake mixes remain at a good quality for up to 6 months after its expiration date.
However, you should always be cautious when using expired foods. If you are really worried about using a cake mix that’s out-of-date, you may as well go out and buy another one. They’re not too expensive, and it’ll save you a lot of worry.
We hope you found this guide helpful.