Digital communication may have put a damper on snail mail, but when it comes to sending home-baked goodies, like cakes and pies, the postal service is still an option. The key to mailing a cake lies in choosing the right cake and preparing it correctly for shipping.
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Choosing a Cake
Moist, dense cakes, such as fruitcake, pound cake or carrot cake, tend to hold their shape in shipping, while lighter cakes tend to crumble or break apart. Fancy cakes with mounds of decorator frosting or intricate designs aren't likely to hold up well during the journey. Save them for hand delivery and choose a more suitable variety for shipping. Cakes steeped in liqueur or other syrupy flavorings are also good choices because they resist crumbling. Avoid cakes with creamy fillings or frostings made from eggs and perishable dairy products because they require refrigeration. Sending an item like this unrefrigerated could lead to foodborne illness and is not safe.
Preparing for Shipping
Freezing the cake before shipping it goes a long way toward preventing the cake from crumbling. Place the cooled and decorated cake in an airtight container and put it in the freezer for 12 to 24 hours to freeze it solid. The cake will thaw slowly in transit, keeping it both moist and fresh. If you don't freeze the cake, make sure it's completely cooled before you ship it. Alternately, slice the cake into individual slices and wrap them in plastic wrap. Place the slices in an airtight metal or plastic container so the container is filled with slices. Place the container inside a box, seal it with packing tape and mail the box. This method avoids issues with crumbling or squashed cakes, but does not make as dramatic a presentation as a whole cake would.
Special Cake Shipping Boxes
Pack a whole cake in an insulated cake shipping box, which you can buy at a party store. These boxes are made from foam insulation cut to the size of the cake to secure it in the shipping box. Many also contain a cold pack you can freeze and place in the bottom of the box. Put the cake in an airtight pan or plastic container and place it in the indented area of the shipping box. Cover it with the accompanying foam cover. This works like a mini cooler, keeping your cake cool. It also prevents the cake from shifting while in transit. Close the box and seal it with packing tape.
DIY Cake Boxes
If you do not have an insulated cake shipping box, place the cake in a container that is close to the size of the cake to minimize how much it can move during shipping. Wrap the cake with bubble wrap and secure it with tape. Line the bottom of the box with bubble wrap and place the cake in the center. Fill in around the cake with packing material, such as bubble wrap or packing peanuts, so the cake cannot move. Packing material should be level with the top of the box. Seal the box with packing tape.
Shipping the Cake
You have several options for mailing the cake. Overnight delivery or priority mail are the best options for shipping your cake so it stays as fresh as possible. Flat-rate Priority Mail boxes are also an option and get your cake to its destination within three business days. Mark the sides of the box with "this side up" in large letters with an arrow pointing to the top of the box. Label the box with "perishable food" and "fragile" above the address, underneath the stamp and on either the bottom or side of the box to alert postal service workers to handle your box with care.