Dairy Spoilage Question, or should I Mooooove on?
May 24, 2009 9:19 AM   Subscribe

There's a recipe I love doing - chocolate eclair cake - it's pretty much graham crackers, frozen whipped topping mixed with prepared (with milk) instant pudding mix, and the chocolate top is cocoa, sugar, a little bit of milk, and butter. This weekend, I'll be taking an 8 hour train to NYC, then have about another 3 hours to kill, then I'll be at a fridge for the night, then the next day, I'll be walking around NYC for about 8 hours, and then delivered to the house of the person the cake is for, with another fridge. So aside from the pain in the ass of carrying it around... am I risking major major dairy spoilage? I've left this cake sitting out on a table at work all day, but this seems a bit different. Thank you!
posted by dithmer to Food & Drink (18 answers total)
Many restaurants, cafes and hotels will "put this in the fridge for me?" if you ask nicely. Then you can leave it there for a few hours while you walk around.

(It always struck me as some kind of likely health code violation, and yet... I have done this more than once.)

Depending on the train, it may also have a fridge/freezer you can borrow.
posted by rokusan at 9:22 AM on May 24, 2009

Ordinarily I'd say, hey, it's going to be pretty cool outside, the train will be climate controlled, etc., but...the sickest I have ever gotten (minus full-blown food poisoning, which I've also had) was from eating a blue stilton that someone carried around NYC for the afternoon, refrigerated in the hotel, and then carried around some more and took a train the next day before refrigerating it again. I wouldn't risk it, if I were you (or the people you'll be serving).

It sounds like a no-bake recipe...if your heart is set on bringing this, is there anyway you could whip it up at the final destination?
posted by availablelight at 9:32 AM on May 24, 2009

Even if the cake doesn't spoil to the point of causing illness, it doesn't seem like it would be in great shape after all that schlepping, thawing, and re-chilling. (Not to mention, like you said, what a giant pain in the ass to carry a cake around for eight hours.) I think the best idea would be to make the cake once you get to your location. Is that possible?
posted by kate blank at 9:34 AM on May 24, 2009

I would say no. the temperatures are in the upper 70s and 80s in NYC right now, and may be warmer in whatever container you are putting the cake in. It may be ok on the train, but once you get to the city you should refrigerate it until you're ready to to eat it. I, too, have gotten sick from some pudding that was walked around outside all day and then refrigerated and then eaten. Can you just make it at your friend's house?
posted by bluefly at 9:37 AM on May 24, 2009

nthing make on arrival.

I would have no problem eating a cake I made and then gave a tour of NY, but I would be a little squeemish eating a cake brought to my door by some frazzled travel weary visitor under the same conditions.
posted by ian1977 at 9:57 AM on May 24, 2009

Bring all of the ingredients that don't require refrigeration. Use Google maps to find the closest grocery store to your destination, or just go to one you find along the way.

You could even make it in the morning, leave it in that fridge during the day, go back to get it on your way to the destination.
posted by barnone at 10:08 AM on May 24, 2009

I wouldn't do it. It's hot and humid in NYC right now. And if I were your host, I wouldn't want to serve it.
posted by Majorita at 10:11 AM on May 24, 2009

Also, in my book, people who travel 8 hours by train to see me are exempt from bringing cake!
posted by ian1977 at 10:17 AM on May 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

There are a few factors in play here
1. Will the cake physically survive in good form? No: the heat and humidity and walking around and sheer length of time will make the contents melt, loose shape, and really not look very appetizing.

2. Will the cake be safe to eat? Nobody knows for sure but with the length of heat and humidity and time out of refrigeration, the answer is likely no.

3. Furthermore: will the host or recipient of the cake want to eat it? They might, out of sheer gratitude or desire not to offend you. But really, would you want to risk it or put her in that situation? The answer is likely no - it kind of defeats the purpose of bringing a surprise cake.

All signs point to finding another way to bring the cake. Make it the morning of and leave it somewhere safe. Or make it upon arrival. Or perhaps the easiest: find a delicious bakery in NY and buy a treat there. LOTS of great options!

It's very sweet of you to think about bringing a homemade treat to your friend.
posted by barnone at 10:31 AM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

if you can pick the cake up right before going to your friend's house, make that cake when you get to nyc, not before—we have all those ingredients here too, you know. otherwise, just get them something else non-perishable, the weather's hot and it will not be fit for serving if you haul it around for eight hours.
posted by lia at 10:40 AM on May 24, 2009

A total of at least 19 hours? Made primarily of Cool Whip and pudding? I would think you would be presenting your hostess with a box of sludge.
posted by sageleaf at 10:51 AM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know the size of the pan you're using but what about placing it in a small cooler packed with ice packs to keep it cool? The type of cooler I'm referring to is one of the soft ones, not a hard plastic one. I have a cooler like this that will fit an 8x8 cake pan (the pan has a plastic cover so I could put ice packs under and on top, although the metal (or glass) will do a better job at conducting coolness versus on top of the plastic lid. And I would be able to lay the pan flat so it wouldn't slop around. Again, depending on the size of the pan (say a full size cake pan) it might be difficult to find a cooler that will fit.

Just a thought, although I don't know how practical this will be, especially walking around a large city, etc.
posted by cdg7707 at 11:11 AM on May 24, 2009

it's true, you probably are all right. it was a chocolate eclair cake pipe dream, i suppose. but now i have the hive mind to set me straight. :)
posted by dithmer at 12:21 PM on May 24, 2009

First choice would be to make it in New York, either before going to sleep if it needs to set, or in the morning if it doesn't, and only store it for one day. But you'll still have to find somewhere to keep it during the day. Even if you can keep it cold enough, and can ignore the inconvenience of having an extra parcel with you all day, you should avoid the jostling of carrying it around with you all day. It doesn't sound that structurally resilient, and you don't want to show up with a train wreck of a cake! Presentation is super important for dessert items.

Though I've never used them myself, it looks like these guys might fit the bill. I just called them and they said they have a small refrigerator (at their 36th st location only). I got the sense that it's normally for employee use but they wouldn't mind letting someone store a cake in it if it fits. If they can't fit the cake, they probably could treat a cooler like a regular piece of baggage.

I've kept milk fresh in the middle of the Nevada dessert for a week, so I have a lot of faith in decent coolers. A cooler should keep things cold enough for the day (how long depends on the quality and size of the cooler). I sometimes use tupperware filled with ice cubes (I have an ice maker in my fridge so it's easy), instead of blue ice, since it makes it super easy to "recharge" the cooler by just buying more ice at a convenience store. If you do this be sure to use something that seals well enough to not make a mess (test by filling it with water). Don't open it often to check on the ice - that's where you'll lose all your cold. If you wrap the cooler in a blanket (or if you wrap the ice & cake in a blanket inside the cooler) that will keep it colder longer.

If you are really determined* and can't find a cooler that will fit, you might be able to improvise something. I just stuck an ice cube in a pill bottle, and wrapped a couple layers of
insulation around it. I'll post an update in 8 hours of whether this is a viable alternative.

* I would be! Everyone likes cake, but nonchalantly showing up with one when there's obviously no convenient way to get it there - that's worth some awesome points in my book. Mmm, stunt cake!
posted by aubilenon at 1:08 PM on May 24, 2009

Um... recipe, please? That sounds delicious!
posted by archofatlas at 1:37 PM on May 24, 2009

This is possible, but you'll have to rely on the generosity of strangers with fridges. Which is also possible, especially if you have a good story about why on earth you're travelling with a chocolate eclair cake. I once travelled internationally with a large box of icecream, and it was still mostly frozen when I arrived. I wrapped it carefully, and along the way, it spent time in the freezer of an airport cafe and in the icebox in the plane's kitchen.

It worked because people liked my story: "Hi, I was wondering if you could help me. I'm flying to [country] with this box icecream. I know, it's ridiculous, but my friend has been overseas for years now and he really misses this flavour. I want to surprise him. Could you help me out by putting it in your freezer for a few hours?" People laughed at me, and then agreed that it really wouldn't be any trouble for them to help me out. The recipient of the icecream was overjoyed.

Also, remember that you can buy ice pretty much anywhere. If you put the cake in a box, and the box inside a plastic cooler, you can keep re-stocking the cooler with ice for as long as you need. It'll be heavy, but your cake will stay frozen.
posted by embrangled at 6:14 PM on May 24, 2009

This is possible, but you'll have to rely on the generosity of strangers with fridges. Which is also possible, especially if you have a good story about why on earth you're travelling with a chocolate eclair cake.

I miss Douglas Adams.
posted by rokusan at 8:45 PM on May 24, 2009

Okay, so at 4 hours there was still some ice left but it was mostly water. At 8 hours, it was room temperature water. But! this is one single ice cube, which has a huge surface area to volume ratio. The smaller the cooler the less effective it will be, but I don't really know how to scale this up. I'm not sure how this would scale up to a large sized project though. Results: inconclusive.
posted by aubilenon at 9:25 PM on May 24, 2009

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