Transporting Wedding Cakes

Discussion in 'Professional Pastry Chefs' started by lotuscakestudio, Aug 26, 2001.

  1. lotuscakestudio

    lotuscakestudio

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    Everytime I deliver a wedding cake, I get super nervous. I always box the tiers separately and stack them on site. The tiers are on a cardboard the same size as the box and the bottom tier is directly on the cake base. Then I have to cut the excess off, stack it, and quickly pipe on the border. This takes more time and I just want to drop the darn thing off and go. So I asked everyone I knew who delivered tiered cakes how they did this. I thought I had every piece of advice needed to do this successfully. I gave it a try almost a month ago and the thing slid around just after a few miles of driving and the cake was ruined. So once again, I am wanting to know: how do you deliver your cakes? Leave no detail out! I want to know what kind of cardboard you use between the tiers, what size dowels you use for supports and for the stake down the middle, what temperature the cakes are delivered at: room, partially frozen, completely frozen, chilled in the walk in....? Also, what's the biggest size cake you would feel safe enough delivering? How many tiers high and how big? (Nothing bigger than a 18" a the bottom, etc.) Even if you feel you are stating the obvious, please state it anyway.

    Thank you very much,
    Paranoid wedding cake deliverer
     
  2. thebighat

    thebighat

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    I don't do a ton of wedding cakes, a couple a year, and had one slide on me last fall. This spring I had one and got tough with it. I buy the cardboards at a cake supply place, so they're probably what almost everyone uses. I use straws to support each layer, and a 1/4 inch dowel driven through the cake top to bottom to hold it all together. Then I made a box out of 2 or 3 inch thick blue construction foam insulation, the kind they use to insulate foundations, all held together with long bamboo skewers and duct tape. I slide the cake in, skewer it through the base, which is triple thickness of cardboards covered with appropriate gold or silver foil paper, with bamboo teriyaki skewers, slide the last piece of the cube in place, skewer and tape it, and off I go. The cake is insulated from the heat too. Get to the site, bring it in, undo the "door", pull out the skewers, and take out the perfectly undamaged cake.
    I once worked at a place where they wanted to do wedding cakes, we got an order, and they made me make three cakes. One to see if I could do it, two to drive around the block, and the third one was for real. I have one to do Columbus Day weekend for my brother. I foolishly gave everyone in the family gift certificates for baked goods, so he and the bride jumped on the opportunity. It's only for 60 people, gotta be dacquoise and white chocolate, as far as I know.
     
  3. momoreg

    momoreg

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    LCS,
    You definitely do not have to assemble cakes on-site. I have yet to have a cake fall down or slide, and have put countless cakes in the back of a very unstable catering truck. They always arrive fine.

    The cardboards I use are the universal thickness, but I tape 2,3, sometimes 4 of them together, if I'm dealing with a heavy cake. Make sure it's white tape.

    Yo can drive a stake through the center of all the cakes, but if it's a regular stacked cake for 250 or fewer people, it's really not necessary. But by all means, it can't hurt.

    I use dowels, cut to the height of each cake; more for larger tiers, less for smaller.

    I ice each cake and chill overnight before stacking. The bottom tier gets glued to a wrapped or covered wooden board (1/2" minimum)while the icing is soft. This way, when you pick it up tomorrow, it won't crack.

    While I decorate, the buttercream comes to room temp, fusing the buttercream to the cardboard above. Then when it gets re-chilled, it's pretty solid.

    (You can sprinkle some 10x between the tiers before you stack, so that the servers have an easier time removing the cardboard, without ripping off the buttercream below. Just don't overdo it.)

    Try to make the box as close to the size of the cake board as possible. Then double tape the base to the bottom of the box. If you are still worried about it sliding, you can cut dowels that fit between the board and box, taping them down. (I just thought of that part! Never tried that, but I'm sure it will work.)

    A couple of months ago, I had to send a cake in the shape of a torso, with stumps of arms and legs (like Venus de Milo), to a party. It was for 150 pp I believe, and it had to balance on 2 stubby legs. And I had to make sure the arm stumps didn't slide off either. The whole project was a test of my patience, but also a great lesson of physics and construction. It arrived in one piece!!! That was a happy day!
     
  4. w.debord

    w.debord

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    First a response to a couple ideas posted before me:

    I've had problems driving any dowel thru ( one or several) layers of cardboard before. 98% of the time it's fine, works great, BUT every now and then I'd have the boards buckel in half (which kills the strength of them as a support and requires heavy repair of the cake) regardless of my technique, sharpness of the dowel being inserted or the thickness of any of the factors. So I no longer do that.

    Personal preference, I'm more comfortable delivering un-assembled cakes. I've seen too many accidents over the years. UNLESS it's a small cake no more than 18 or 20" tall.

    I've had cakes come in from other bakeries (at the club) that were frozen still when we served them, YUK! I've seen cakes that "melted" as they came to room temp. from a frozen state (placed in hot rooms or tents) too quickly. It's really, really eye opening being the person at the end who cuts the cake. The vast majority of cakes are so poorly constructed, undersized and have so much frosting compared to cake it's gross. If you really want to learn alot, watch at acouple parties standing in the kitchen (not helping) to watch what your product looks like and how they un-assemble, cut and serve your cake. I promise it will make you go back and make adjustments to what your currently doing.


    Boxing them, heavy carboard boxes if I stay and take them back, reg. cake boxes for extra cakes. I'd think wooden crates for shipping (but I've never done that). I use 1" styrofoam on the bottom of the box (it's easy to cut and you can buy it cheaply at home improvment stores). Before assembling the cake onto my base and frosting it, I take the base (I'll explain what kind of base later) and REALLY press it into the styrofoam. Unless the cake flies off the cake plate or cardboard or turns up-side down you CAN'T move it with-in the box!

    I assemble all my cakes the same way for the inside structure. If there's pillars that show between layers I use the same cake plates (it requires a buying and using double set)....I hate the look of the plastic dowels so I hide them with gum paste or chocolate plastic wrapped around them).

    (I have to post here, I'll be back)
     
  5. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I only use Wiltons "crystal clear cake divider set" # 301-f-9450. You have to look at this to follow me... I use those cake plates and depending on the weight of the cake (if it's light) I assemble and decorate dirrectly on the plates. If the cake is heavy and or large I place one or two cardboards under my cake (well taped together and properly attached to the plastic plate.

    Then I use Wiltons "plastic dowel rods" #399-f-801 and insert them into my cake layer exactly where the cake aboves dowel will insert. With-out twisting the dowel I pull up and totally remove the cake down to a clean cardboard or the plastic plate so when my leg for the next layer inserts it will sit on a perfectly clean/level surface. This keeps the each layer PERFECTLY level, makes it easier for the server to remove each layer and dowels (since they won't stick to the cake and makes it easier also for them to cut clean slices). I use wax paper placed in between layers that sit dirrectly on the next, for these reasons: xxx sugar doesn't help after 1/2 hour, it lets the cutter/person cleanly lift off the tier above which is OFTEN a problem for them and they sometimes they really ruin the cakes pulling them apart. They'll still have a hard time getting the wax paper off the cake to slice it, but it leaves it more in tack so they could scrap off the excess frosting and quickly ruff frost it back ontop of the cake before slicing.

    Then I use wooden dowels purchased at the hardware store as my dowels. I forget the exact diamiter, but I choose dowels that fit snuggly into the bottom of the cake plate instead of using the clear plastic dowels that come with the divider set (since those RARELY are the correct height needed). My husband cuts them for me with his electric saw (I can't hand cut, it's too inacurate). This step can be your most important: I'm so careful that each of the 4 wooden dowels are exactly the same height on each single layer. They can vary in height a bit from tier to tier and you can fake that with frosting. But if each layers dowels are exact inside your cake you'll never have a leaning cake or one that can't withstand an ENORMOUS amount of weight (as tall as you can dream of)!

    I'm also a nut about my frosting. I'd perfer to dirrect my clients to the cheap shortening based frosting for their displayed cutting cake then have all the rest come from the kitchen with real butter cream for taste. Again, unless I'm there to supervise the situation I take no risks (cause I've seem real butter cream drip down cakes in tents before). My clients get to pick, take the safe route I know that can withstand any heat or use really buttercream and gamble.... It's been years since anyone has choosen having all their servings come off the displayed wedding cake. Even our most grand weddings have chosen modestly/normal sized cakes.

    I have a photo of one of my cakes over at webfoodpros.com if you want to look to qualify my oppinions....look for the thread called "questions for a wedding cake expert, please" under bakersdozen about a month or two ago.
     
  6. kimmie

    kimmie

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    Once again, video to the rescue. PBS Julia Child Videos Scroll down to Video Prime Cuts, the chef is Martha Stewart and the series is Baking with Julia.

    You may not like the cake but the technique is there and I think she's got that down right!

    ;)
     
  7. w.debord

    w.debord

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    If I were to attempt sending a wedding cake thru an airline I think my first try would be sending a frozen cake. Don't planes get very cold in their cargo area? At least some of them must because you can't always put animals through, right (although I think that's more about lack of oxygen)?

    I wonder if you can call and find out just what the temp. factor will be? Since if it was hot you'd really have problem. I think frozen will have the least damage as far as shuffling it about. If you were to freeze it assembled it should hold even being multi. layered. The stucture can't shift in a frozen cake. Assuming the plane is cold like a cooler or more, it should travel fine. It might have a perfect defrost actually....or it need to be handed off to a person who would handle it properly to serving.

    Your frosting and decorations options would be somewhat limited. Ganche and rolled fondant don't freeze well, etc... You'd have to have someone on the other end place your gum paste flowers or real ones on the cake if you were shipping frozen. But something like a carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting and some buttercream roses should fly well.

    I wouldn't know how to get nice wodden crates made, but if it didn't cost too much I'd see if they could line them with thick styrofoam for insulation and to absorb some shock. Then place my heavy cardboard cake box into that, still using styrofoam with-in my box under my plastic cake plates.

    P.S. I took a look at Martha...I know her way will work almost all the time but I'm not a gambler, it's not foolproof in holding weight. Plus a million straws in your layers makes it that much harder for the people to cut your cake into anything resembling a slice.

    Tell us how you support your tiers Lotuscakestudio? What's worked, what hasen't?
     
  8. lotuscakestudio

    lotuscakestudio

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    QUOTE]Originally posted by W.DeBord:
    <STRONG>Tell us how you support your tiers Lotuscakestudio? What's worked, what hasen't?</STRONG>[/QUOTE]

    I use straws, but that's for all the cakes I stack on site. For the cake that fell apart, I used the Wilton plastic "pipes". I think they're the same ones you mentioned.

    I wish Mike and Colette would just give out all their secrets on how this stuff gets shipped! In one sense, I can't blame them, but it's not as if *I* would be taking any of their business away since I offer something they can't (eggless and vegan cakes). I fee like I should just order a cake from one of them, or Sylvia, just to see how it's packed. Probably Mike since not all of his cakes are expensive. Sylvia's start at $10/serving, and I'm sure Colette is in that range by now, as it was $8.50 three years ago. But I'm still determined to figure this all out without having to go that far and order a cake!

    When I talked to Claire at Quick Pack about the temperature the cakes were kept under, she assured me they were suitable, meaning it was room temp. to a little colder. She also said they have a large fridge at the airport to hold the cake in "just in case". She said there was an instance where one of Colette's cakes was supposed to go out the day before the wedding late at night on the last flight. For some reason, it didn't make in on the plane, so they held the cake overnight in the fridge. It was sent out on the first flight the next morning and arrived in time.

    bighat,
    I'm going to look into the insulation stuff you mentioned. It sounds really sturdy and I'm sure it's easy to cut it to size when you have to built a box in custom demensions.

    momoreg,
    I would love to see pics of that torso cake! Hehe!
     
  9. momoreg

    momoreg

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    I was very unhappy that my torso cake was never photographed at the party. My camera very conveniently died that weekend, so I asked my friends, who worked that party, to take along the digital. Of course they forgot. Never trust anyone to take pictures for you!
     
  10. m brown

    m brown

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    For transport, I have only had to travel as far as NYC, 36 miles but when delivering I usually don't use a box! I line the back of the car/van with a white table cloth and place the cake ontop and go. I use a press board base and wooden dowels from the hardware store, each layer is on a cardboard circle.
    For buttercream and whipped cream cakes they go out stacked. Pastillage work goes in pieces and put together on site.

    Collette is wonderful. :cool:
     
  11. panini

    panini

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    We have delivered 3-12 wedding cakes every weekend for the past 9 yrs. We use a wilton plate that accepts twist columns.These plates are used in every teir we build, stacked or tiered. These pillars go directly through the cake to the top of the next plate. With the pillars cut, you can assemble the pillars without the cake. This goes on 3/4 "plywood bottom. This may seem excessive but there is no margin for error.If there is a five teir cake, the bottom three are assembled and boxed, the top the same, and put together at the site.All out cakes are boxed with double wall corragated box. smaller layers are placed in 2" larger box.12" box,12"board and a 10"cake tapped to that.
     
  12. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I think Old & Wise agreed on another thread at another site that we both liked the same product from Wilton for out support plates, right?

    "With the pillars cut, you can assemble the pillars with-out the cake".

    (If I'm following you correctly Jeff?)...

    Re-worded (hope you don't mind?): it can stand (literally) cake plates with pillars by themselfs, the cake just fills in the empty space (so to speak, between the pillars).


    I've had the tape under the cake move before...I only used one sided masking tape in a cirle flattened to hold. Do you use double sided tape?


    Jeff, how do you cover your wooden base? I use contact paper, but it doesn't stay nicely on the bottom...have any tricks (I've used staples, glue and tape)? Also where are you buying them from? Whenever I ask someone to cut them for me they are never quite round and the edges are usually rounded a bit too so when you put a ribbon around the edge it doesn't sit flat. Then when you travel with it the ribbon gets messy. Is there a place that sells wooden cirles for cakes?
     
  13. momoreg

    momoreg

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    Whipped cream cakes go out stacked? How?
     
  14. momoreg

    momoreg

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    You can buy the masonite circles. They are perfectly round, and extremely strong, but a bit costly.
     
  15. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I've never seen them Momoreg, do you have a source you would share?
     
  16. lotuscakestudio

    lotuscakestudio

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    When I lived in Annapolis, the local cake decorating store carried the masonite boards. **** if I can find them here in Philly! Country Kitchens carries them. You can order online or through their catalog.

    There is only one place I've found to cut my plywood circles. Home Depot doesn't do it, the huge commercial lumberyard won't do it, but this small mom & pop type lumberyard will do it them and they do it right. It costs me $25 a circle though. Which I can't help but find to be pricey. I had a friend back in Maryland who taught wood work at an art college and he cut some for me for $10. I know the wood isn't that expensive and $10 seemed about right. But anyhow, $25 it is. And it comes out to something like $30 by the time they cut down the 1" thick dowels for the legs. I glue them on with furniture glue and then nail them in place. It leaves some extra space to make it easier to carry. You can slip your fingers underneathe to lift the cake with no problem. The cake also doesn't look "glued" into the cake table and if the florist is decorating around the base, s/he has more decorating options b/c s/he can stick like long stemmed flowers underneathe to have the flower facing out. (Does that make sense?) Anyhow, when the lumberyard guys make the plywood circle "rounded", they use a tool called a router...? Not sure of the spelling, but that's how it's pronounced. Just ask them not to router it so it will be flat for ribbons.
     
  17. momoreg

    momoreg

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    CK is where I buy them too.

    W., that's a good idea with the paper between the tiers. I should have specified that the 10x I sprinkle is mixed 50/50 with snow sugar, and it doesn't dissolve completely, so it does work effectively to keep the buttercream from sticking. I like your method too.

    PS- I know there are people out there who ram a giant dowel down the center of the cake, and I agree with you, W., that must wreck the support of the cardboards. But on the rare occasion that I've needed to do that, I just drilled holes in the center of the cardboard before filling the cake. Then glue or nail the dowel to the base, and slide the iced tiers onto the dowel.

    I find this method only necessary for complex shapes (like that unforgettable torso). Or, I suppose, if you were shipping via airplane.

    By the way, the only downside to ordering from CK is that they omit out of stock items from your order without informing you. Please tell them to call you if anything is out of stock. They also take a few days to ship. Wholesale orders have a $100 minimum.
     
  18. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I like the concept of sliding the cake down over a center dowel...is that what Lotuscakestudio was talking about when she was referring to how the pack cakes for air travel?

    Thanks for the info..

    P.S. I've never tasted or used that non-melting xxxsugar. I've wanted it a million times for tons of applications....do you like it's tastes and how it works?
     
  19. momoreg

    momoreg

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    The taste is not as sweet as regular powdered sugar, but it works well for certain things. The taste is why I add in 50% 10x.

    I used to freeze a lot of cookies at my last job, and it could withstand freezing, but there are certain things that it just can't be used for. Lemon bars end up with an ugly white crust, because the stuff doesn't melt. It just sits on top, and absorbs the liquid. Linzer tarts start out looking really nice, but afterpacking and freezing, the snow sugar collects on the preserves, and ends up looking terrible.

    But it's ideal for sprinkling on top of a flourless chocolate cake, or on blondies. And you don't have to worry about humidity killing your sugar. I buy it in 8 oz. quantities, because I need it so infrequently.
     
  20. angrychef

    angrychef

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    Great question Lotus! Just reading the posts I have learned some new little tricks.

    I make about 1-2 wedding cakes every weekend all through summer and late fall. If the cake is stacked, the whole cake is sent assembled; all the driver has to do is drop off. We have 3 sizes of wooden boxes that open from the top(with hinged double doors that can be sent closed or open if the cake is too tall): small(15"), medium(20") and large(36"). All wedding cakes are sent out in these boxes with a piece of non-slip rubber matting that you can get at Target or supermarket. The whole cake or a cake tier is placed in the box and then a piece of dry ice is placed in a corner of the box to keep it cool(it gets really hot here).
    My construction of stacked cakes is similar to what others have mentioned, I use straws and a 1/8" wooden dowel driven thru all the stacks. This method has never failed me, though I do get a lot of vampire jokes.
    I do double or triple the cardboard bases according to how heavy the cake is. The largest tier sits on a velon covered 1/2" press board base(I keep in stock sizes 16"- 24"). I get these boards from a cake deco. companu called Coast Novelty in Venice Beach, CA., ranges from $2.00-$6.00.

    Tiered cakes I send separately(unassembled) but sit on the separator plates. Once it reaches the party, it is assembled and no need to do any extra piping on borders and such.

    WENDY - I have found the easiest way to cover these boards is with this soft plastic material called velon(they use it to cover the offsite kitchen work tables). I cut a circle larger than the board, then staple with staple gun, then I staple the wedding cake lace on the edge.
    I agree with momoreg about the taste of the snow, but it is a good product to have on hand, specially when sprinkling it on hot items or lemon bars and such that you have to hold for a couple days. Albert Uster should have it, we get it from Ambassador in 10# box.
    I do use a couple loops of masking tape, but I've been using loops of white duct tape, seems it's stickier and holds stronger.