There are pretty much two big things that are the most stressful in any cake decorator’s life. The first one is working out how much to charge. Even if you do it as a hobby there will come the day when you either a) realise that you have not been covering your ingredients and that in fact you have become a charity or b) you are working for less than factory workers in China get paid. Working out how much to charge is hard, especially in the beginning when you are slow no one is possibly going to pay you for the hours you spend on a cake. But this is not a blog post about pricing. This is about the other thing that stresses the heck out of a cake decorator – deliveries.
But if you are interested in how to price properly and to learn with a no nonsense and honest approach, I can highly recommend The Business of Baking’s Online Confident Pricing Class.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Cake deliveries are so stressful because they usually have a deadline attached. We spend days and sometimes weeks preparing the decorations but during delivery know that if something went wrong, we would literally only have hours to fix it. Mere hours… to fix something that has taken you days or weeks to do. If that is not stressful enough, consider the fact that the client (children, brides, companies…) and a roomful of their friends and family are counting on you. Are you stressed already just thinking about that? How about add to that, the fact that you have no control over the other crazies on the road or mother nature (if she decides to rain, hail or snow).
I learnt early on that I had to make my cakes really secure because I lived in a high rise apartment for many years and that meant that my car was parked about 8 stories underground. The car park was tight and filled with lots of turns and speed bumps. Anytime I wanted to deliver a cake, I had to carry it in the lift and hold on to it for about 35 floors and at the same time avoid any number of people, children and dogs that entered the lift. Then once I got it in the car, I had to go over a number of speed bumps and pray that no one was speeding down the ramps in the opposite direction.
I’ve had many figurines fall apart, cake tiers shift and flowers break. In many cases, I’ve had to turn the car around, perform emergency ‘surgery’ in the back of the car when I arrived or fix things as the venue staff look over my shoulder (and pick that exact moment to ask me all about cake decorating!). But I like to think positively, so every time I encounter one of these intensely stressful situations, I’ve used it as a learning experience.
A while ago, I asked my Facebook audience to share their delivery tips and I’ve compiled and shared the top 11 (and a super bonus one) below. You can also can view the original thread of cake delivery tips and photos.
1. Make sure that the cake itself is structurally stable first! Give it a good shake when it is finished. Is anything wobbling or looking a little shady? Fix it now. Put extra dowels, use centre poles, replace heavy figurines with ones that have styrofoam so they are lighter, or remove things that are likely to break. Don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best. You will feel so more for confident come delivery time if you know that your cake can withstand some shaking and jiggling.
2. Find a good strong box. A strong box is way more important than a pretty looking one. I personally would rather the cake get there in one piece. For my small to medium cakes, I tend to use moving boxes or construct one out of cake box bases and lids. If you are living in a temperature sensitive area, it is also advisable to wrap and cover up any gaps around the box.
3. For larger cakes or cakes that are not travelling very far, I have them in a open box and bring with me a very large (and clean) garbage bag. If it is raining when I get there, I will use the bag to cover up the cake and box while I transport it.
4. Invest in a sturdy trolly. For ages, I was hand carrying these cakes and not only was I hurting my back, but I found that lots of little accidents can occur when you are tilting the cake or when you can hardly see around it. Go to your local hardware store and get a nice sturdy flat trolly.
5. Make sure your cake is placed on a flat surface during transportation. I know it’s tempting to have the cake on a lap because you can see it and therefore feel that it is safe just because you are holding on to it. But personally, I think it is one of the most dangerous places you can place your cakes. Chances are, if something happens, arms will be flying and the cake is more likely to topple over or slide forward from wobbly legs. Make sure you also have a non-slip mat underneath the cake box.
6. Have an emergency kit. Always keep some tools and emergency supplies (like royal icing, piping gel, pre-cut blossoms, spare flowers…etc) in your kit so you are not caught out when something unfortunate happens.
7. Cling wrap any figurines or flowers and place some tissue between them to prevent them from knocking into each other during the delivery.
8. The car must be cool to cold before the cakes get in. Especially on a hot day, I make sure I run the air conditioning in the car for 5 minutes before even putting the cake inside. Block out windows if you know the sun will likely shine directly on the cake and Facebook follower Catherine also suggests lining the boxes with foil to keep the cakes cool too.
9. Invest in special cake delivery boxes. If you live in an area where the roads are really bad or have to deliver really far away, consider investing in special cake delivery boxes like Cake Safe or getting custom sized ones made.
10. Provide proper care and cutting instructions. This is important, especially for 3D cakes. Most clients and venue staff would not know that there are dowels, centre poles or metal structures inside. Make it easy for them by providing a diagram and instructions on how to store the cake. That way you can be sure that they are not driving around for hours with it in the back seat, placing it under the hot sun or leaving it outside in humid weather.
11. Bonus Tip! This last tip is by my friend Yumi from Piece of Cake by Yumi Castrillo. She does a lot more buttercream cakes and lives in a more humid climate than I do so I asked her to share with you her biggest tip.
“I keep my finished cakes in either (a) the freezer, for buttercream coated cakes or naked cakes; and (b) the chiller for my fondant cakes.
I don’t have a problem with sweating, or condensation on my cakes, when I take them out of the freezer or chiller the next day. As long as I have my air-conditioning on, any sweating just evaporates in time. Note – at this point, the cake should always be in an air-conditioned room or car. If the delivery venue happens to be open-air (like a garden or the beach), I make an advance request from my client that they find an air-conditioned room for the cake to stay in until right before the party begins. A chilled cake has better chances of staying “up” in room temperature for the party.”
Super bonus tip from Nick (who delivered many of my cakes): “Use google maps and streetview to plan ahead, and call the venue to remind them you are coming! So many venues have strange entry points for their loading dock or terrible on-street parking. Sometimes you really need a second person simply to move the car (I’m talking about you, Cabramatta!). And in a few cases we showed up to a locked venue staffed only by kitchen hands who had no idea what to do with a many-tiered wedding cake.”
Hopefully you have found these tips helpful and will be just a little less stressed when you go to deliver your next cake. Do you have any experiences or tips of your own? Feel free to share them below.