Shipping A Cake

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What happens when your friend lives states away and is having a baby shower for her FIRST baby?!  Why, ship her a baby shower cake, of course!  And that’s just what happened.  Back on Kodiak, I met Astrid who over the years became not only my best customer but also a dear friend.  Our husbands got their orders (Coast Guard) the same spring.  They were moving to Louisville, Kentucky and we were being transferred to New Orleans, Louisiana.  But the move didn’t stop Astrid from ordering cakes.  We have had 3 (counting this one) successful cake deliveries!  Here are the basics to how we have managed to keep our cake friendship going with states separating us.

I always use very stable cake recipes for my cakes with quite extensive support work.  So the cakes are very sturdy.  What I would have done differently and plan to do next time, is to get a center dowel that actually goes through the base board.  I think what would work best is if I used a center dowel of all-thread and secured it to the base with a nut.  This would be heavier and thus the shipping would probably be a bit more costly, but I do think that the stability would be worth it.

After I complete the cake, I wrap it in cling wrap and freeze the entire cake (preferably overnight but at least several hours).

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This ensures that the cake is not going anywhere during transit and you won’t have to worry about the sides getting dinged up during the packaging.  While it is freezing, I prep the packing box.  Again, this is still a process that I am fine tuning but here’s what I did this time around.  The cake itself was on a 10″ foam cake board and was approximately 10″ high.  Here are the materials I needed:

  • X-acto knife with new blade
  • self-healing mat to cut on
  • a sheet of styrofoam insulation (found it at Lowe’s)
  • Measuring tape
  • Foam (I used foam about 1 1/2″ thick)
  • Packing tape
  • A gazillion fragile stickers (though I’m fairly sure the UPS man ignored them)

I cut the sheet of insulation to fully line the inside of the box, this helped keep the cold in.

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In total, I needed 6 pieces; so one for the bottom, 4 for the sides and 1 for the top.  I lined the sides and the bottom.

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I then cut the 1 1/2″ foam to fit the bottom of the box.  This will give the cake some shock absorbency.  I cut another square of foam and cut out a circle the size of the cake board.

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I then cut that piece into 4 corners to secure the cake base into the center of the box.  I removed the cake from the freezer and gave the cake a couple inches of bubble wrap around the first tier (the bubble wrap extended to the edge of the cake board).  I then placed the cake into the prepared box and secured the corners using the foam I cut in the previous step.

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I wrapped the top tier again with multiple layers of bubble wrap (this not only protects the cake it also helps keep it frozen during transit).  I then began filling the empty spaces with chunks of foam again for some shock absorbency on the side of the box.  Any empty spaces around the foam was filled with more packing material (bubble wrap).

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I covered the top of the cake with ample bubble wrap and cut a larger square of foam to cover.

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Make sure any gaps are filled in with bubble wrap.  After the cake was completely secured, I placed the top square of insulation on top of the packing material.

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I then used heavy duty packing tape to secure it.  I went crazy trying to warn the driver of my delicate cargo by drawing random messages on the sides and covering it in “This Way Up” arrows and Fragile stickers.

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I had called UPS earlier in the day to find out when the last truck pick up was for the day and dropped it to UPS about 15 minutes prior to that pickup.  I used the Overnight Delivery with the Early A.M. option and I will say that it cost a pretty penny.   The package was 23 pounds when finished and cost about $175 for shipping.

It arrived early the next morning having spent approximately 15 hours in transit.  I gave Astrid directions to remove it from the packaging and let it come down to room temp on the countertop.  As you can see, it made it to her baby shower just fine!

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I’ll probably keep trying to fine tune this process though, keep in mind your customer has to be prepared to pay a small bundle for the shipping.  Had there been a topper of some sort, I would have sent this in a separate package with directions for placement and how to secure it.  Hope this helps all of you who have been trying this method of delivery!

Comments

  1. Kudos on an amazing cake and well thought shipping!

  2. This is unbelievable! Thanks for posting the process. Beautiful cake too :)

  3. Very useful..so freezing cake will last 15hours in box? Her in SA it is hot!

    • Depending on your location, you may want to include dry ice in the packaging. It was freezing here and in KY so I didn’t mess with it. The cake did arrive frozen but the baby shower wasn’t until the following day so it had plenty of time to thaw. :)

  4. That’s awesome Rachel! Thank you for sharing how you did that!

  5. Great post Rachel! :) xx

  6. Wow..this is great! Thank you for guiding us and wonderfully thought process!!!

  7. We, at Cupcake Envy have perfected the shipping process and have been shipping cakelet designs for years. Let me know if you need any advice. :)

    • Thank you, Amy! It was a fun experiment but WOW, what a lot of work, stress and cost! I’ll leave the shipping of cake to the experts (you included!) Love your cakelets!

    • Tiffany says:

      Hi Amy,

      I need some shipping advice to send my cakes and treats to family and friends at military posts abroad.

    • Thanks Rachel for the advice on shipping. I’m freaking out because my Mother-In-Law is getting married and insists that I be the one to make her wedding cake. It won’t be anything big as it will just be her and her new husband enjoying it. There really isn’t any family that will make it there. I certainly don’t want her wedding cake (of all cakes) to get messed up in transit. Any ideas on design that won’t get crushed or smudge? Should I use poured fondant and paint the cake or just use regular fondant? And then for shipping it… Any ideas on how to ship a small cake with no extra tiers? Preferably not too expensive and do I still need to overnight it?

      • I would use regular fondant. I’ve tried shipping painted fondant and did not have the greatest results since some condensation can occur and completely ruin the painting work. I haven’t tried poured fondant yet though. That would be a whole new post! :) I would always feel more comfortable overnighting the cake. There is too much variation in temperature to let it sitting for multiple days in transit. Plus, I plan on the carriers never keeping the box upright, no matter how many arrows I put on the box. All boxes generally go down conveyer belts and undergo all sorts of horrors before arriving at the destination. Try shipping the tiers undecorated as I did in my post and the fondant and gum paste decorations separately with instructions for assembly on site. Perhaps you could include a drawing or computer rendering of the placement of flowers, etc. so that whoever delivers the cake to the couple could easily assemble and place the decorations. Hope this is helpful!

  8. Thank you so much for doing this tutorial! You are as always are amazing!

  9. Thankyou so much for this tutorial… Beautiful cake!!! I was wondering if you ever shipped with dry ice for a fondant cake… I have to ship from nyc to Florida. Please help!!!!

    • Jessica, originally the plan was to ship this cake with a small amount of dry ice (check with the post office first to determine how much is allowed). I think that would definitely work! Just make sure that the dry ice does not come in contact with the surface of the cake and is secured well within the box and you should be good. Hope this helps!

  10. Kelcie Crockett says:

    Hello! Fellow military wife here :) Just came across your site because I have been racking my brain trying to figure out how to send a fondant cake to the desert!! I was going to just send it on one of our jets out there since it typically only takes a couple days for them to get there. Any tips or tricks on the type of frosting to use under the fondant and between the layers? What has the most stability? Any help would be appreciated!

    • Hi Kelcie! I just happened upon some pretty awesome styrofoam insulated boxes on Amazon. I would recommend one of those as well as some foam quick freeze packs (also on Amazon I think they are Re-Freez-R bricks) and then lots and lots of prayers that it arrives in time! :)

  11. Amazing! I have had several requests for shipping cakes. Your cake is beautiful! The shipping looks as involved as the cake making process! You must have a very special friend indeed to go to such lengths to make a cake for her! Nicely done!

  12. Tiffany says:

    Thanks for sharing Rachel!!!! Get tutorial and I’m sure everyone will appreciate not having to wait for me to visit and vice versa for their cakes and desserts.

    • You are so welcome! Glad you could find it helpful. Shipping baked and decorated goods is definitely an ongoing learning process though and every location with its different weather conditions would mean additional changes, I’m sure! :)

  13. Hello is it possible that the shrink wrap can stick to the fondant while defrosting

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