Mailing a cake -- please advise
May 16, 2007 12:19 PM   Subscribe

What's the best cake to mail? What's the best way to mail a cake? When should I send it to arrive in time?

I'd like to get some cake to my sister for her birthday, a state away. I read mailing and got some good ideas for how to package it, but does any of these cakes seem like they would mail better than others? I can make upside cake, chocolate cake with fudge frosting or regular frosting, petit fours, or well, anything else I can find a recipe for. Any idea which would survive best?

And I'd like it to arrive on her birthday, though I could send it early if need be -- when should I send it to arrive on a Monday?
posted by Margalo Epps to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Petit fours would probably survive the best, in my opinion. Not too messy, and each piece doesn't weigh alot, so less smashing. I send my sister baked goods fairly often (from the Midwest to the Southwest), and if I send it Priority Mail on Saturday, it will arrive on Monday. Hope this helps!
posted by bolognius maximus at 12:27 PM on May 16, 2007

really? I'm totally baffled as to how you would ship a cake. How do you keep it from getting completely smashed/crumbly/droopy?
posted by widdershins at 12:31 PM on May 16, 2007

sorry, just saw the link above - disregard my question.
posted by widdershins at 12:32 PM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: Seconding the petit fours. Wrap them each in wax paper and arrange them in one of those airtight plastic containers. You'll probably need to fill it out with tissue paper or something similar to minimize movement.

Fondant may be a good option for them as well, providing additional protection.
posted by mkultra at 12:35 PM on May 16, 2007

Be careful on the weather you're sending in -- if it's going to be very warm (or very cold) take that into consideration (eg. icing melting or anything). Trust me, it could get messy.
posted by inigo2 at 12:37 PM on May 16, 2007

fruit cakes are indestructible.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 12:37 PM on May 16, 2007

I know wisecracks are frowned upon, so I'll forgo the joke involving the use of foodstamps.

That said, you can go the Omaha Steaks route and put it in with dry ice if you're afraid of the icing going bad or runny. Somehow, I have a feeling that carrot cake would travel especially well. Fruitcake also.
posted by dr_dank at 12:38 PM on May 16, 2007

It's not homemade, so this may not be what you're thinking of, but I've ordered from here before and they make some nice stuff. I haven't tried their cake, but their chocolates are wonderful. Outside of New England, they will ship overnight w/ ice packs included in the package.

Alternately, I am sure she would understand if you sent her some homemade birthday cookies instead :)
posted by reptile at 12:39 PM on May 16, 2007

If you send the usual kind of frosted cake the frosting will goo everywhere. Mess and disappointment will ensue.

Your upside down cake is frosting-free and can be mailed still inside the baking tin, so should be less messy.

Any kind of filled cake - frosting on the inside only - could work. A jelly roll perhaps?

Petits fours could also work as the frosting is fondant and not squishy.

Alternatively, send an unfrosted cake with a separate pot of frosting.
posted by kika at 12:39 PM on May 16, 2007

If this were my sister's birthday, I'd be looking for a rather dense (structural) cake that wouldn't have to be iced to be pretty, and would retain moisture (won't dry out before it gets there) but not mold (happy birthday!!).

The best cake for all of these requirements has to be a heavily saturated rum cake. The rummiest rum cake I ever had is made in a Bundt shape and shipped in a tin with packing tape wrapped around it to prevent opening, leakage, evaporation, etc. Lots of alcohol (rum and everclear. hooo-ey) and sugar keep the cake mushy and the mold away. Delish, and hardly more difficult than a conventional chocolate cake.

The timing question is best addressed to your FedEx/USPS office. It is a birthday, and a relative, so I'd spring for the overnight or 2-day shipping, even though it "should" take just as long to send at normal rates.

inigo2 has a very very good point about the weather. A lot of conventional icings and petit fours and such won't like hot, humid summer weather.

Go rum cake!
posted by whatzit at 12:45 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Bundt cake in the pan. Nothing like armor-plated desert.
posted by trinity8-director at 1:04 PM on May 16, 2007

Seconding Greg Nog's request.
posted by hermitosis at 1:06 PM on May 16, 2007

Make all these different types of cakes people are suggesting, but make them as cupcakes. Put letters on each (H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y) and in the card, describe which cupcake is what kind of cake. So you get to mail your cake, and she gets to have all different kinds of cake - rum cake, carrot cake, chocolate cake, et cetera.
posted by cashman at 1:11 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Alas, it is something my mom makes, and has refined. I'll see if I can get an exact copy from her, but it goes more or less like what follows. It's definitely one of those recipes that has to be done to taste. I like the way this gives the rum cake a full walloping taste of chocolate, sugar, rum, and alcohol. In contrast, I find a lot of other rum cakes are just caky and rummy, and don't have a very full flavor.

1) make dark chocolate cake in a bundt pan (we were using the betty crocker with-pudding-in-the-mix variety). the bundt pan is important.
2) when cake is done, remove from pan and poke lots and lots of tiny holes in it with a fork. at this point, it should be warm enough to soak up the sauce but cool enough to hold itself together.
3) put the pan on a cooling rack, with another pan underneath the rack.
1b) **while the pan is cooling** you should be making the glaze. It's a glaze much like any other rum cake glaze* (but add a Tablespoon or so extra sugar to the recipe). When you remove the glaze from the heat to add the rum, also add ~2 Tbsp everclear. (I believe the ideal glaze has *too much* sugar in it, so when the glaze cools, the sugar-alcohol-fat mixture goos up on top of the cake!)
4) spoon the glaze over the cake, collecting any extra in the pan below the cooling rack. Keep spooning until the cake has abosrbed most of the glaze. put in tin. You know I said the bundt pan was important? Any extra glaze that tries to seep out gets caught in the hole in the middle, and it's a second slice of delicious dessert that also holds a lot of moisture for storing the cake. When we do these around Christmas, we store them in the garage (near freezing) and could pick at them for months if we didn't eat them so fast.

*This one I found online has about the ratios we use for a basic glaze. For this cake, add a couple T of sugar and a couple T of everclear.
1/4 lb. butter
1/4 c. water
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. rum

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add rum.

Also works well with other flavors of cake.
posted by whatzit at 1:16 PM on May 16, 2007 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Poundcakes actually get better the more they sit (to a point). We've shipped ours in hat boxes before.

I'd recommend a lemon pound cake, covered with lemon glaze (glaze: lemon juice, lemon zest, whisk in enough powdered sugar until it's the consistency you like, pour over cake and you're done). Put the cake on a cake board, wrap in cellophane and place in large hat box.

Put the hat box in a bigger box, and surround with popcorn. Seal and ship.
posted by Atom12 at 1:23 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you went with cupcakes, you could also buy something like this to put them in to mail. It seems like it would keep them stationary and allow them to stay in good condition.
posted by bove at 1:27 PM on May 16, 2007

Here is another option to hold cupcakes.
posted by bove at 1:28 PM on May 16, 2007

And just for fun this holder holds each cupcake individually.
posted by bove at 1:31 PM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: My mother once shipped me a birthday cake. It had 2 layers and was fully frosted! She froze it and then wrapped it in plastic wrap, then packed it using actual popped popcorn. It came in a monster box, but it was ready to eat when it arrived within a couple of days!
posted by MrFongGoesToLunch at 2:08 PM on May 16, 2007

Maybe you could do a cookie bouquet instead?
posted by parilous at 2:43 PM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: My birthday falls during the school year. When I was at college, my mother would usually send me a pound cake in a box via mail. The cake was cut up into pieces which were individually wrapped and padded with old newspaper. Then again, this was more about delivering a cake than an aesthetically-pleasing cake, so your milage may vary.
posted by Alterscape at 2:58 PM on May 16, 2007

Perhaps a loaf or pound cake could work, if they were packaged in one of those foil baking pans.
posted by mdonley at 3:02 PM on May 16, 2007

I've mailed brownies before (overseas via military mail, even) and it went really well...

1) Get a tossaway cooking container, with lid.
2) Make cake.
3) After letting cake cool (in pan) pack as follows (top to bottom):

hard piece of foam, thick enough to fill to the lid
plastic wrap, packed down against cake
cake, still in pan
bottom of pan

4) Tape as necessary.
5) Although it's kind of lame, include a container of icing from the grocery store...found next to cake-in-a-box...this stuff won't go bad, and won't splash all over if it melts. (Also, optionally, include candles and matches.)

I would just send some kind of standard layer cake/2 egg cake. (Mm.) 2 days isn't really long, if you stuff the plastic wrap down and get as much air out as possible.
posted by anaelith at 3:28 PM on May 16, 2007

Pound cake with nuts and lemon pound cake both go through the mail pretty well. I have received the "mailing cake" from my hometown bakery in Sweden before, and both kinds are as delicious as ever when they get to you.
posted by gemmy at 4:21 PM on May 16, 2007

Seconding the invincibility of fruitcake - it's the best cake for mailing, hands down. Even in the 1960s, you could send one, by boat, to the other side of the planet, and it'd arrive in perfect condition. Whether it's the best cake for eating is a matter for personal preference - I think they're great.
posted by zamboni at 6:02 PM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: I would think that the above mention of Omaha steaks and dry ice is the real answer - most cakes will survive freezing - just think about the whole "freeze the top round of the wedding cake" tradition. So: Bake whatever kind of cake you want. Put it in the deep freeze for a day or two, then wrap it well (very well) with plastic wrap. Then pack it in a cheap-ass styrofoam cooler with a bunch of dry ice, and two-day ship it to your sister.
posted by jferg at 6:53 PM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: A big, fluffy angel food cake, plain and unglazed, wrapped with foil and packed with popcorn... in a box within a box. With a jar of homemade chunky strawberry glaze. (They can add their own ice cream or can of whipped cream!)

Not the typical birthday cake but my personal favorite. Disappointed when my mom would go all fancy on me with fancy chocolate cakes, layer cakes, etc. Plus angel food is delicious when toasted lightly in a toaster oven and eaten for breakfast. Tastes just like marshmallows!
posted by QueSeraSera at 6:54 PM on May 16, 2007

Response by poster: While I do like well-made fruitcake, it's not exactly a birthday kind of cake. (Same problem with cookies.)

And sure, my sister would understand. But the main reason I'm doing this is because the two people in her life who would ordinarily make her a cake are in the hospital so I really want to get her something very birthday feeling, to cheer her up while she's spending all of her free time at the hospital.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:18 PM on May 16, 2007

Applesauce cake holds together pretty well. Seconding the "freeze before sending" recommendation.
posted by Lynsey at 10:13 AM on May 17, 2007

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