So, you’ve taken on a cake order, have baked, and decorated this beautiful cake. Now what?
Cake delivery is an inevitable part of the order fulfilment process. There probably isn’t such a thing as a truly stress-free and easy delivery. No matter how much we all wish that could be true. However, there are steps that you can take to make the whole process as straightforward as possible.
When you take on a cake order, there are a lot of factors that play into how well the delivery is going to go in the end. You have to think about the cake in terms of how heavy it is, how large it is, and how sturdy it is. All of that is going to play a big part in how that cake transports – especially in the heat. So, you’ve got to think about delivery at the very beginning, not when you’re ready to take the cake out to the car and go.
There really aren’t a lot of steps to actually take when delivering a cake. You basically just take the cake from the fridge, put it on the cart, ensure that the temperature stays as cold as possible during transport, and make sure it’s stored properly upon delivery. But the key to a great cake delivery doesn’t begin when you’re ready to deliver the cake. It begins before you’ve even baked the cake.
Here are 5 great tips to think about to make sure you have a smooth and easy cake delivery.
1. Understand the Event
Especially when you’re new in the cake making business, any request is exciting. You’re probably willing and eager to take on just about any order. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It is exciting! But before you accept just any request, you want to fully understand what is required in order to ensure the best possible experience not only for your customer but yourself as well.
Before you even get to the design brief, you want to understand:
- What kind of event is it? Eg: wedding, birthday, baby shower etc.
- Where will it be held? Eg: at home, at a venue, at a restaurant etc.
- Where will the cake be displayed? Eg: indoors, outdoors.
- What’s the typical weather pattern for the time of the order? Eg: warm, super hot, cool, freezing cold, monsoon season, etc.
- How long will the cake be on display before cutting?
Where the cake is displayed, if it can be stored refrigerated, when it’s going to be cut etc are unique to each event. Don’t assume ANYTHING just because someone wants to order a wedding/birthday/babyshower cake. Find out as much as you can about the event so that you can minimise surprises for both you and the clients later down the track should the order proceed.
2. Understand Your Requirements
Regardless of whether a cake is picked up or delivered, someone needs to transport it. Therefore, in order to ensure that the cake gets from A to B safely, a set of requirements needs to be in place. These requirements are non-negotiable (for buttercream cakes).
The cake needs to be:
- Transported on a flat surface in an airconditioned car. While in the car it needs to be away from direct sunlight.
- Stored refrigerated if it was to be delivered/picked up prior to the event start time.
- Displayed away from direct sunlight and heat, in a cool, air conditioned room.
The client is to be made aware of these requirements prior to confirming their order. If for example, they cannot provide refrigeration for the cake, then you can discuss whether a pick up/delivery just before the event start time is possible. Don’t get yourself into a situation where the event starts at 6pm but you deliver at 3pm only to find out when you get there that there is no room in the fridge for the cake.
Other requirements you should consider (especially for buttercream cakes in warm weather):
- What’s the maximum amount of time the cake can be transported in the car? For me, that threshold was 90 minutes. If someone wanted a cake delivered to somewhere further than a 90 minute drive in summer, I would decline the order. Driving further than 90 minutes with a buttercream cake in the car and the aircon on full blast isn’t exactly pleasant. Then there’s also the drive back.
- Can clients pick up multi-tiered cakes? For me, that was a no. If someone wants a tiered cake, it will have to be delivered as you don’t want to risk their inexperience.
As mentioned above, it begins before you even bake the cake. You want to have as many safeguards in place as possible and you want your clients to understand these safeguards in order to ensure that the cake gets to its destination safely. If you find yourself staring at a finished cake wondering how to deliver it, it’s too late.
3. Structure Matters
This is pretty simple: a sturdy structure has less chance of falling over. To ensure a successful delivery, build a sturdy structure.
DTC cakes have a consistency that is in between a sponge and a mud cake, not too heavily dense but not too light either. I know that DTC cakes retain the cold a lot longer than other cakes. Sponge cakes for example, have a much lighter consistency which soften at a much faster rate.
In my Buttercream Cake Mastery course, I don’t recommend using sponge cakes to build structure but if you do decide to use it, know that you’ll have a smaller window of time for a successful delivery. Similarly, if you make a cake with a curd or mousse filling in the middle, the risk of the tiers moving while in transport is higher than if you didn’t.
It is crucial that you possess fundamental knowledge about building a sturdy cake structure. You need to understand how the cake will handle the movement of being on the road and how it will behave being out of the fridge for the amount of time it takes to arrive at the venue. Pay attention to the ‘building blocks’ that make up the structure i.e cake layers, fillings, covering, decorations etc. Understand their characteristics i.e how dense or light, how they react to heat etc. Without such knowledge, you’re setting yourself up for mishaps come delivery time.
Learn to take control of your processes & master the foundational skills to create stunning, contemporary buttercream cakes that will wow not only your clients, friends and family but also YOURSELF!
4. Have a Delivery Schedule
A delivery schedule is essential and should be completed no later than a week before the delivery. A delivery schedule should have:
- Date and time of delivery
- Venue name (if applicable) and address
- Venue access information and map (if applicable) eg: enter via delivery gate, walk up 10 sets of stairs, use the back lift etc.
- Coordinator’s name and contact number
- A signature section
Having to fill out a schedule like this forces you to be organised. You want to have everything figured out in advance so you know exactly what to do on the day. You want to make sure you know where to go and how to get there. If this involves walking the cake up a set of stairs, it’s better to know ahead of time then to find out on the day of. If you can’t find the entrance, you know who to call for clarifications.
A delivery schedule takes away a lot of the usual cake delivery stress. And the final part – the signature section – that’s for whoever receives the cake to sign off. To go a step further, I recommend that you take a picture of the cake/cake box in the spot you’ve left it whether it be inside the fridge or on the cake table. If the cake ever gets damaged after you’ve handed it over, you have the signature and photo to absolve you from any blame.
5. Prepare for the Cake Delivery
The actual delivery itself is straightforward enough.
- Remove the cake from the fridge and load it into the car.
- Drive carefully to your destination.
Well, that’s the theory. The reality involves a few more things than that. Here’s my cake delivery prep list to help make the actual cake delivery as pleasant as possible:
Ensure that the cake has had sufficient time to chill in the fridge.
This means at least a good few hours since you last worked on it.
Turn on the air conditioning in the car prior to loading the cake.
This gives the car a chance to cool down. This is especially important in summer when it gets hot. You don’t want to bring the cake into a really warm environment. If you plan to place the cake in the boot of your car, make sure you fold down the seats so it actually gets cold back there. Maximum/full blast/Antarctica is the recommended setting.
Cover the passenger windows as well as the boot window.
This helps to block out any direct sunlight and keep the car cool. My car windows are tinted, but sunlight can still get through. Using a window shade gives you an extra layer of protection from the sun. Remember, the sun is your cake’s enemy.
Pack a jacket and a scarf.
Yes, even in summer because the car is going to get really cold for you. You might sustain a few weird stares on the road but that’s the cost of the job. 😃
Pack a hand trolley.
This is a small investment you do not want to skip. A hand trolley doesn’t have an expensive piece of equipment. All you need is for it to be able to fold up, have a handle, and roll well. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it saves you a lot of stress instead of holding a large cake box and walking without being able to see where you’re going. What I normally do as well is fold out the trolley and place a piece of nonslip mat on it to place the cake on top of. This ensures that your cake doesn’t move while you’re pushing the trolley and it makes it easier to lift the cake board up later. All you’ll have to do is pick up a corner of the mat and pull it up to lift your cake to transfer it to your car.
Pack a cake emergency kit.
Luckily, I have never been in a place where I needed to use my cake emergency kit but it’s always good to bring one anyway. It’s called an emergency kit for a reason. Obviously, you can’t preempt every emergency but it’s good to be prepared. I like to bring a small piping bag pre-filled with extra buttercream, a small offset spatula, food-grade gloves, and some paper towels. These can help fix any small touch-ups that are needed after delivery.
A cake emergency kit should also have everything you might need if you’re delivering a floral cake and using the client’s florals. Almost 90% of the time, I use florals provided by the client and this requires me to come onsite with the tools necessary to fix them onto the cake. Don’t forget to bring your professional camera or phone to take a finished picture afterwards.
Don’t forget your delivery schedule.
This one is self explanatory isn’t it! Your delivery schedule has all the important information, so don’t forget it.
Cake delivery seems pretty straightforward, but it can easily become the most stressful part of the cake making process. There are many factors that play into how smooth your cake delivery will be, so don’t ignore them. Prepare for them instead.
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