Cookies, cakes, desserts for 100
May 13, 2016 8:50 PM   Subscribe

I stupidly agreed to bake desserts for a party of 100 this Friday. I'm a decent baker, a little rusty, but never for so many people. I also need to transport the desserts using NJ Transit and MTA. I need some help getting this organized.

I figure I can knock out a bunch of mini cupcakes in a decent amount of time and frost them at the venue. What can I do in advance that wont get stale? Any better ideas on transporting besides aluminum pans ordered in bulk from Amazon? Specific recipes scaled up or easily doubled? Please give me every secret baking ninja trick that you may have up your sleeve. I'm taking Friday off to do as much as possible but would like to do some stuff in advance if possible.
posted by mokeydraws to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
On the back of the can of Hershey's Special Dark cocoa is the perfect recipe for a very dense, moist chocolate cake. You can bake it as a cake or mini cupcakes and then dip it in melted chocolate for cake balls. You can then wrap them in individual wrapping papers and put them in a large bag to bring to the event. Or, you could just dump them all in loose and then place them in individual mini muffin wrappers at the event, adding little icing swirlies or flowers there. My favorite dipping chocolate is the bronze metal chocolate at It pairs nicely with the Hershey Special Dark.

Cake balls and truffles would be easier to transport than cupcakes, cookies, or cakes.
posted by myselfasme at 8:58 PM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Piggybacking off this comment, what about making individual fancy chocolates in wrapping or cupcake papers? You can also make them in advance and transport them easily - as long as they don't get hot and risk melting.
posted by Jubey at 9:01 PM on May 13, 2016

Please give me every secret baking ninja trick that you may have up your sleeve.

There's always repackaging commercial baked goods and pretending you baked them yourself. I'm partial to those lemon cakes from Costco. That may be too heavy on the secret and trick and too light on the baking, but everyone gets dessert.
posted by asperity at 9:32 PM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

smittenkitchen has a recipe for a wedding cake that has lots of tips that would be translatable for what you want to do.
posted by bluesky43 at 10:03 PM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Basting your cakes with alcohol (or sugar syrup) helps keep them moist before frosting. I tried to find you an online guide to doing it and only found Smitten Kitchen's passing reference to it.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:04 PM on May 13, 2016

I don't know if it would be too messy, but I'd be tempted to make some single-serve trifles in plastic stemmed glasses, and assemble them there. Eg chocolate ones with crumbled-up brownies, chocolate custard and whipped cream. Maybe with some tinned cherries or caramel sauce as well? I think anything layered always looks really special, even if you've just bought all the ingredients at the supermarket and thrown them together.
posted by superfish at 11:28 PM on May 13, 2016

You are going to need a rolling luggage cart and several bungy cords to transport this. Bags is going to be insane.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:37 PM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I kept hoping someone would counsel you wisely, but clearly this has not happened. The closest you got here was a suggestion to get dessert from Costco - not logistically feasible!

Order from someplace near the venue and arrange delivery or pick-up with a vehicle. Full stop.

Source: Lived in your area, former chef, still in food service, familiar with public transport in the area, just had difficulty transporting crudités and cupcakes for 40 people with an SUV!

You can not even easily transport cookies for 100 people on public transport without significant weight and without breaking a bunch. No no no!

All the money and effort in supplies - equal to making an order at a bakery or grocery near to the venue - you will need 3 people and/or a vehicle to transport to the venue. Just spring for the delivery cost! They have the racks to keep perishables stable. Just get delivery!!!

I'm a chef. I would not do this. I do impossible things. I would not not not do this.

That's how serious I am!

Order from someplace close to the venue. Don't mess around. You are not a professional without professional connections. In your 'hood in your position I would have professional pastry chefs who would deliver to me inexpensively... But at a $10 to $50 discount, at most. And I would tip the difference.

Even if you pick up cup cakes for 100 from the nearest grocery bakery, you're still ahead on time/cost + your result is guaranteed!

Do not do this yourself.

Make your life lovely. Get these desserts delivered. Enjoy.
posted by jbenben at 1:23 AM on May 14, 2016 [24 favorites]

I did this. I agree it is very very challenging! I am not a professional food-maker and agreed to bake desserts for a friend's wedding (200+ guests?). I will share my experience with you, if this is what you decide to do. I baked several cheesecakes in square pans, cut them into little (1x1" or 2x2") squares, and put them in pretty cupcake holders. I used professional bakery boxes to transport them in an air conditioned car. I had to bake a few test batches before the wedding day. Everything came out okay but it was a lot of work for me (which was okay, since it was my gift to the couple).

I have also made large (60+) batches of cupcakes for work affairs. I used bakery boxes and normal tupperware containers (the long flat ones or the shoe box ones) for transport, but this was a more informal event, so it didn't matter if things were a bit smushed or not aesthetically perfect. I also used cake mix and store-bought frosting--not the most impressive but everyone was happy and nary a crumb remained. I also used store-bought sprinkles to make everything look festive. It was relatively quick and easy. I had a car, and used help carrying stuff from the parking lot.

If you are going to go for this: you can get tupperwares that are specifically designed for cupcake transport at Target (though I think they're fairly pricey, especially if this is a one-off for you). The bakery boxes might be found at a local bakery near you, or a kitchen store, or a craft store. Or, you could just buy pre-made desserts as mentioned by others above!
posted by stillmoving at 3:17 AM on May 14, 2016

I'm with jbenben, realize that you made an error in agreeing to bake this yourself. Call up a local bakery and have cake delivered to wherever it is that you're going.

You CAN'T schlep baked goods for 100 on two different transit systems. It's not feasible.

Also, it's fucking cake. No one will care if it came from a supermarket, let alone a nice bakery.

WHO would allow you to do this for them? They are not your friend.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:37 AM on May 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Brownie bites-- make insanely rich caramel brownies. You can use the Ghirardelli mix, the darkest one you can find without the icing. Pour half into the pan, lay those dark chocolate square Ghirardelli caramels all over the batter, top with the rest of the batter and bake. Don't adjust the baking time. Chill before cutting into 1/4 of the size of a normal brownie and then chill again. They are delicious but so intense that people won't eat a large number. Three batches will probably do and maybe supplement with some bought cookies.

Or, you know, go to a bakery like others have suggested. Or do you have Fanny May where you are? Bring two boxes of Mint Meltaways. People go crazy over those.
posted by BibiRose at 7:02 AM on May 14, 2016

Unless you can recruit a team of people to help you carry all that, the transport scheme sounds like a disastrous nightmare for you. If you feel honor-bound to bake, at least get help with the carrying.
posted by tomboko at 7:05 AM on May 14, 2016

Is this totally informal? If informal, just make six (being conservative) 9x13" pans worth of brownies and blondies (throw in some caramel chips). No nuts. Use disposable baking pans lined with parchment. Cut in ~2x3" portions and leave them in the pans. Hopefully you can carry that many pans of brownies.

But if these are supposed to be nice desserts, you kinda have yourself in a fix.

I have pulled inadvisable baking stunts. But not on a week's notice. I think you should save yourself the stress by ordering the desserts and getting them shipped direct. It really won't cost you much more, considering supplies.

There is 1 secret ninja trick: sheet cakes. Fill with a custard, frost with something light, cut/plate in the correct portion size at the venue, top with a garnish (a couple berries, chocolate shavings, etc). It can be done. But how many cakes + supplies can you carry?
posted by zennie at 7:07 AM on May 14, 2016

I notice that one of your tags is cookies. If cookies is an acceptable answer to this question, then you should absolutely make cookies instead of cupcakes. Cookies can be packed more densely, are less prone to breakage (depending on type of cookie, obviously), can be baked in advance, frozen and rethawed without loss of quality and are generally more forgiving of cooking time mishaps. Carrying 100 cupcakes, even unfrosted, on public transit sounds like kind of a nightmare. Carrying 200 or even 300 cookies isn't out of the question.

I'd still suggest a wheelie suitcase or one of those granny carts, rather than carrying them.

They can be packed standing on edge if they're relatively hard. If they're really soft, pack them with wax paper between the layers so they don't stick to themselves. If you end up with headroom at the top of the box, wadding up a bit of wax paper can fill that, as well, to minimize jostling. Pack them into the case/cart so that when the suitcase is standing up, the boxes are right-side up.

As others have noted, sheets of dessert squares like brownies, lemon squares, millionaire bars, etc, can also fill this bill. A good option with these is to pack them in the original pans and cut them at the venue. If you have to use boxes, cut the slabs down to fit the boxes, but don't cut into individual items until you get them there since it sounds like you'll have time on site to deal with them. less likelihood of breaking up, and if you do get a crack in the middle of a slab, you can cut pieces around it, instead of having your already sliced pieces break down and crumble.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:21 AM on May 14, 2016

Slab cakes are your friend. Sandwich a filling between two cakes if you want to get fancy. You can bake and freeze the cakes ahead of time, and it will be fine to frost/decorate them while still frozen, the cake can thaw in the fridge. Way easier to frost, decorate, transport, and then it's cut/serve with paper plates.

Buy frosting in bulk - available in bulk food stores... I would recommend doing this to save yourself some time and effort.

You can also do pies as slab pies, if you want that as an offering.

You will seriously need a trolley or cart to transport this stuff.
posted by lizbunny at 7:31 PM on May 14, 2016

Not sure this is doable without a hundred grannies, but I have long been fascinated by the wedding tradition of the Pittsburg Cookie Table. Cookies will not stale nearly as fast and would be much easier to transport.

Overview here:
posted by media_itoku at 8:59 AM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do NOT make anything that is made as a single serving (cookies, cupcakes, cake pops, anything of that nature). Consider: You would need 10 to 12 dozen cookies. The average home oven can bake maybe two dozen cookies at a time (if you have the perfect cookies sheets). 15 minutes per batch baking. That's a minimum of three hours JUST BAKING, and not baking where you can go watch some TV since you will be forming the next set of cookies, shuffling around cooling cookies trying to get them cool enough to stack, etc.

I am unfortunate enough to have the best cookie recipe ever (Cooks Illustrated Browned Butter Brown Sugar Cookies--but use two eggs, not an egg+a yolk) and all I ever get requests for is cookies. A triple batch of cookies (less than half of what you need) takes almost exactly three times as much time and energy to make as a single batch. Also, a triple batch is definitely at the point of being difficult to work with (mix, etc.). Plus the effort involves leaves me really wrung out and miserable afterwards.

If you really, really want to do anything cookie-ish, possibly as an accompaniment to other desserts, 1) buy the gigantic pre-made cookie dough tub from CostCo, and 2) make a few Gigantic Cookies instead of individual cookies. This went over really well with my coworkers and was much less stressful for me. However, gigantic cookies look even less formal than normal cookies--also, crumbs everywhere.

Otherwise, realistically, bar-shaped desserts...aka brownies and blondies. These have the nice property of not needing to be frosted or otherwise handled. I would buy 8 boxes (or 10, if you're feeling like this is going to be a hungry crowd) of pre-mixed... 2 boxes plain, 2 boxes blondies/non chocolate, 1 or 2 boxes gluten free, and 2-4 boxes of whatever looked fancyish (candy mix-in or some fancy topping). Pick up disposable bakeware at the store according to the box directions. Bake two or three boxes per night (you can easily fit two boxes worth in an oven) starting with the plainest varieties and freeze them in the pans. Definitely need a rolly-bag or a helper to transport them, you will have about 15-20 pounds of brownies.
posted by anaelith at 4:37 PM on May 15, 2016

This is an idea too late and possibly too informal for the occasion anyway, but in case someone else comes looking for similar ideas: Rice Krispies squares are light to carry, easy to make, and usually REALLY popular. (But note they're not vegetarian, because of the marshmallows.)

How did it go? What did you bring? Please tell us!
posted by tomboko at 5:53 AM on May 23, 2016

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