Yes, you read that correctly: I shipped a legit cake via overnight mail. What began as a simple favor for a good friend became a problem-solving adventure.
This is less of a “Product > Problem > Solution” post, and more of a “In case you need to ship a cake, please proceed.” I had a lot of fun with this favor-turned-project, and I hope you’ll be amused with my creativity and resourcefulness, especially under a serious time constraint.
If you follow my Instagram, it was my featured Instagram Story that day!
So, a friend’s wedding anniversary was coming up and they wanted to celebrate with a cake from the same place where they got their wedding cake. They’ve since moved across the country, and asked if I’d help ship the cake since the bakery only does local deliveries. I was assured that it’d be relatively easy and they are good friends, so sure, of course.
The bakery hand-delivered the cake to my apartment, and I talked with them briefly about the logistics of mailing it. The cake arrived on its base inside a thin cardboard box. They were very hesitant to give the go-ahead for mailing the cake, yet could not offer much help.
Inside my apartment, I opened the box to assess the situation –there was a lot of room inside the box and the cake was very fragile… it was most likely going to break apart and arrive in pieces after tumbling through the mail system, even with “Fragile” and “Up” labels. As the cake people were not very helpful, I turned to other industry experts –the shipping people down the street. The best advice they gave was to freeze the cake to help it stay intact –as I’m not a cake person, this was very helpful advice/knowledge.
From an engineering standpoint, I also wanted to fill in all the space around the cake in the box to provide maximum protection and insulation. I went to 3 stores (Whole Foods, local grocery store, CVS) looking for something to “fill in the space around the cake.” Ideal items would include a cake holder that would fit the cake as near perfect as possible (approximately, 4″ diameter, 6″ height) and ice packs to fill up the box.
Unfortunately, all the cake holders I found were very wide in diameter and short (e.g., cake sheets). There were also no ice packs, or ice bags that were not the standard 10-lb bags of ice for parties/coolers.
I wasn’t deterred; I trusted my creativity and resourceful to get the job done even if the ideal items weren’t at my disposal. So, I began scouting for alternatives –anything that was 4″ in diameter, 6″ tall, and hollow on the inside. Surprisingly (or not), those were very specific requirements and few things actually matched those requirements in store. I can’t overstate how difficult it was to find a “cake holder.”
I eventually landed in the “Seasonal” aisle and spotted some beach pails. The pail had extra decorative nooks and crannies for sand castles, a handle, and a shovel –all extraneous parts. But I verified that the main component of the pail did the job I needed it to –to protect the cake.
Everything else was relatively straightforward after that. For the ice packs, I beelined to the frozen aisle and selected the smallest bags of frozen vegetables. Smallest so I could pack them in as tight as possible. I chose frozen peas/carrots, because they are more flexible to pack around the cake than say, frozen broccoli. Lastly, I picked up wax paper to wrap around the cake as an extra layer of protection, without damaging the cake decor, and packing tape to secure everything in place for my makeshift cake holder.
The next day, I used my handy blade to remove all the extraneous parts of the beach pail (handle (not shown), base, shovel), so that the pail would fit like a glove over the cake.
I tightly wrapped the wax paper around the cake, covered the cake with the custom-fit pail, and taped it down securely to the cake base. Then, I put it all back into its original box and filled it with frozen vegetables.
At the UPS store, I added more insulation and protection (i.e., a heavy duty box with air bags), knowing that the original box would weaken overnight as the frozen vegetables thawed out.
My original Instagram Story (only up for 24h) did not include the end result –but here it is! My friend sent me some pics as they were unwrapping the cake. And voila, the cake in perfect form against all odds and the bakery’s doubts: