Transporting cakes may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! We’ve gathered top tips to get your cakes, bakes and makes safely to their destination.
Whether you’re transporting large cakes, lots of cakes, tiered cakes, cakes with models (or a combination of them all!), we’ve got you covered with plenty of advice on how to transport a cake. It’s over to Phil and Christine Jensen, directors of The Cake Professionals and our other cake experts…
We (Phil and Christine) vividly remember delivering the first paid-for cake we ever made. Every bump in the road was a mountain. Every roundabout was taken at snail’s pace. Nearly seven years later, we’ve delivered hundreds of cakes, yet each delivery is still worth considering. Along the road of our own business we’ve learned some important lessons in getting cakes safely from A to B.
How to transport a cake – top expert tips!
- Start with design
- Stabilise your cakes for safety
- Consider the pros and cons of travelling with cake pre-assembled
- Package and prepare!
- Carry your cakes in style
- Sculpted cakes need extra prep
- Extra large cake? Make sure it fits!
- Secure the cake
- Plan for the worst
The delivery is something to think about BEFORE you start a cake not AFTER you’ve finished it. A great cake design that doesn’t reach the customer in one piece is not actually that great! From the very start, think about exactly how the cake will be boxed, moved and assembled at its destination (for tiered cakes, this is where separator tiers come into their own!).
Extra tip! Make sure you construct the cake on a sturdy base.
Queen Victoria cake at the venue in her carriage!
Extra tip! Keep any embellishments and toppers separate and fix them to the cake once assembled at the venue. Be particularly careful with modelled figures, giving them extra protection when boxing up.
Until a few years ago we always transported all our tiered cakes with more than two tiers in separate pieces. We didn’t want to join the ranks of the cake wrecks we see online. But we spent all our weekends driving and doing set-up.
That’s when we started using an internal support system called Sturdy Cake Stacker. It consists of a central pole and complimentary cake boards with a pre-drilled hole. There’s still need for dowels as usual, but it meant we could deliver four tiered cakes pre-assembled. This magical system gave us back hours and hours with our family.
Extra tip! “Transport decorative figures separately, using sponge to cushion them. Fix the modelled figures to the top of the cake with edible glue or royal icing at the venue to avoid damage in transit.” Fiona Brook, No More Tiers.
Extra tip! “When the cake is assembled and ready to decorate (which can be done at the venue), transport the cake whole on its ring, in a snug fitting box so it cannot move in transit. Consider decorating each tier and transporting each one separately, before reassembling at the venue.” Dawn Butler, Dinkydoodle.
Pros of pre-assembled:
- Seriously reduces set-up time at the destination.
- You get to stack the cake with no-one watching!
- If set-up complications happen, you can manage them without the stress of having the party about to begin.
Cons of pre-assembled:
- It’s heavy to lift multiple tiers in one go.
- If not secure internally, the cake is much more likely to fall over and/or tear apart.
- Having to get over the fear of trying something new.
Extra tip! If the cake is simply stacked, try to transport the full cake assembled. If you’re transporting a large cake with many stacked tiers, you can assemble at the destination if necessary.
Most of us deliver our cakes in a van or the boot of a car. Clean horizontal flat surfaces are essential for safe travel. Sloping back seats are a fast road to tragedy.
Summer heat can play havoc with cakes. On warm days the vehicle should be cooled for ten minutes with its air-conditioning on before loading in the cake. The cake box should be stowed away from direct sunlight and protected with a sun shield.
For long journeys or very hot days, you can chill down buttercream cakes for 12-24 hours ahead of the journey, insulated the transportation boxes to retain the cooler air, or physically stuck freezer packs securely into the boxes with the cakes to help them stay cool for the duration. No one wants to deliver a melted cake to their customers!
Extra tip! “NEVER transport a fully assembled cake with pillars. Transport the tiers separately and stack the cakes once they arrive at their destination.” Carol Deacon, Carol Deacon Cakes.
Large cardboard boxes are great to carry our cakes in, however they’re a bit unwieldy and it’s tricky to open doors when we’ve got our hands full. Also, cardboard boxes aren’t very pretty when you’re delivering to nice places. So, we now use a cake carrier made by CHIBU. There are others on the market, too – check them out to find one that fits you. The big advantage is they’re food safe, designed to be reused, they pack flat and they look an awful lot more professional when you’re trying to make the best impression!
Chibu cake carrier.
Extra tip! If you’re using cardboard boxes, don’t try and save your cake boxes to use again. Cut the sides and slide the cakes out, it’s far cheaper and easier to replace cake boxes than attempt to rectify a seriously squished and damaged decoration!
For sculpted cakes you need to have thought about the structure and how to keep it stable right at the start of your design. For your tallest cakes you could use a rod that runs through the middle which you can then secure the whole cake with. Our Queen Victoria cake had a removable head to make this element work!
Christine adding the finishing touches to their Queen Victoria Cake.
This is more often a problem for big sculpted cakes but it’s an important one. It may seem blindingly obvious, but we’ve been caught out a few times… and we know a few other cake makers who have, too (it’s surprisingly easy to accidentally add extra inches during the build)!
- Make sure you know how wide all the doors at your property and the venue are.
- Make sure you know how high and wide your van/car is.
Extra tip! “Make sure you pack the car in reverse order, so the things you need first are at the top. Don’t pack the tablecloth at the bottom of the box, as it’s always going to be the first thing you need! It’s always worth ringing the venue first to make sure you can park within a reasonable distance and check precisely where you need to go when you arrive.” Natalie Porter, Immaculate Confections.
If only roads were completely straight with no corners or dreaded speed bumps! Sadly, they’re not, so, how to keep our cake from moving about in the vehicle? It may seem like overkill but it’s good to ask, “what if I have to do an emergency stop?” It’s happened to us twice so far and what saved us was… wait for it… non-slip mats! These cheap and cheerful buys are the simplest, most effective tool in our transportation kit. For bigger sculpted cakes that need more than a non-slip mat, put the cake on a large plywood sheet and screw the cake in place.
Extra tip! When you arrive, don’t start unpacking immediately! Take a walk to where you will be setting up, checking the floor for bumps and trip hazards, as well as any tight spaces, difficult corners or generally awkward spots along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you think it might be a difficult task!
Christine setting up a tiered cake.
Extra tip! Check the cake table is level before bringing everything through – this is where a trusty spirit level will come in handy!
Despite all our planning sometimes things go wrong. So, we should all plan for it. For every cake delivery take a cake emergency kit. It should include any equipment and edibles you may need to finish or make repairs once you arrive at the venue, such as key modelling tools, smoothers, sugarpaste and sometimes spare decorative pieces. If anything breaks there’s a backup.
A damaged top tier before Christine worked her magic.
Extra tip! Take a photo when complete! Partially for your portfolio but mostly for your protection. It ensures you have definitive proof that the cake was in pristine condition when you left.
The damaged top tier after repairs.
Just remember, hours and even days of hard work can go to waste at the last minute when transporting cakes, so knowing how to transport a cake long distance and the best way to transport a cake in a car securely is absolutely essential, whether you are transporting a cake to a wedding, party or a competition.
What fab tips for transporting cakes from our experts!
Check out more from our cake business series, like five things you need to know for starting a cake business, our expert dos and don'ts when entering a cake competition, how to price your cakes and the essential cake decorating equipment you’ll find in every pro’s kitchen!