Hello! It's CakeSafe co-owner Juli here. It’s come to light recently that many bakers have questions about whether or not they have to refrigerate their cakes before a delivery, or if it even matters? I can only speak from my own experience, and share what others have told us about what they do. The following is a combination of both my own recommendations based on 30 years of making and transporting wedding cakes, and, the comments and pictures from one of our customers and her cake. There’s definitely no one “right” way, but there are definitely some mistakes that can be avoided. We already made those mistakes so you don’t have to! I hope this is helpful!!
Refrigerating most cakes, preferably overnight, will ensure the very best results when transporting any cake using a CakeSafe box. A cold cake, especially one with soft fillings such as jams, preserves, custards or mousses will be much firmer and therefore stable. Having said this, it is not absolutely necessary to refrigerate your cakes. I have delivered room temperature cakes in a CakeSafe without having issues.
There are several factors to consider when deciding if we want to refrigerate a cake and whether or not it will make a significant difference for deliveries:
Conditions - the distance and length of time for delivery, as well as the weather.
Design - fondant or not, colored decorative components or not, the type of cake and fillings.
Distance and how long the delivery will take are factors that affect how important it is to have the cake refrigerated. If you have a 2+ hour delivery to the venue, the cake will definitely hold up better if it has been refrigerated overnight or for as long as possible. If you’re not traveling very far, it’s much less critical that the cake be as stable as possible, so refrigeration is less important for short deliveries.
Weather is an extremely important factor. If you’re in a hot climate or geographic location, it’s very much recommended that you consider delivering your cake as cold as possible, meaning refrigerated overnight. The CakeSafe does a really great job insulating the cake from heat, but it’s not magic! The CakeSafe significantly slows down the time it takes for a cold cake to warm up. If your cake is already room temperature and you're in a hot area, your cake will be more likely to become soft and the buttercream melted, than if you started with a refrigerated cake.
If refrigerated, fondant covered cakes may develop condensation on the sides of the cake affecting the desired appearance. This same condensation may make colors run or change shade. The CakeSafe does help lessen the amount of condensation by slowing the rate at which the cake warms up. However condensation is unavoidable when any object is colder than the air around it. Moisture will always form on the surface and only dissipate when the object is the same temperature as the surrounding air. Pesky laws of physics… If your cake is not covered with fondant, or does not have a lot of colored accents, this condensation is not an issue. It will gradually (most likely by the time the bride and groom see the cake) disappear all together.
Fillings, buttercreams, and types of cake (buttercake, sponge, devils food, etc...) are important to consider. A cold cake, especially one with soft fillings such as jams, preserves, custards or mousses will be much firmer and therefore stable. Cold buttercakes will be firmer than cold sponge cakes, so it may be less critical that your sponge cake be cold versus a buttercake.
The Bottom Line: It IS recommended that your cake be refrigerated before placing it in the CakeSafe if possible. Regardless of the temperature of your cake, the CakeSafe is still the safest way to transport your cake, protecting it from dust, dirt, rain, and the damaging effects of bumpy roads, bad drivers, and sudden stops! Makes me stressed just thinking about it! CakeSafe = less stress!
Here’s a comment from one of our customers, Catherine Sewell from Sewell Sweets, who delivers unrefrigerated cakes. She posted the following in the CakeSafe Crusaders Facebook Group:
“Yesterday I used my CakeSafe for the first time. I didn’t want the hole in the top tier, so I stacked tiers 2-5 in the CakeSafe and added the top tier at delivery. It worked great! Tiers 2-5 were perfectly leveled pre CakeSafe, but I definitely was a slow-poke-chicken putting the middle rod down through the cake and took it too slow. I ended up pushing down slow but hard and caused the cake to flex forward a bit and throw off the perfect level. Totally my fault though, not the CakeSafe. I’ll be braver and quicker next time! The cake was driven only 35 minutes but it was the smoothest delivery I’ve ever done! My husband helps me and he absolutely loved this new delivery method. It was also pooooouring rain at delivery and the CakeSafe kept everything perfectly dry! My cakes are scratch baked, frosted in ganache, covered in scratch made fondant, and decorated in edible painting andn sugar flowers. Once the fondant is on, they never go in the fridge so cakes are at room temp for delivery. I’m a CakeSafe convert!”
Two months later Catherine updated the Facebook Group with this:
"This weekend I did my 6th delivery in my CakeSafe and I am a complete convert!! I have two sizes, the Small/Tall and the Mini, and I love them both! The smaller one I can lift myself, the bigger one my husband carries for me. I choose to add my top tier onsite to hide the hole, unless the cake is using a topper that will hide it, and I replace the CakeSafe rod with a wood dowel after removing it to ensure stability once I leave. This works for me and I love doing it this way! I make wedding cakes that sit on display for normally 3-6 hours before being cut up, so this is the method that makes me feel the best. I also fondant cover my cakes and decorate with sugar flowers which can't be stored cold, which means I deliver room temp and not from the fridge, so I can say the CakeSafe has worked great for me even with stacked room temp cakes!"
Catherine clearly has very good reasons why she doesn’t put her cakes in the fridge, and it’s worked out well for her.
Something I would never have considered at the beginning of my baking career but that I found really helpful later, is steering the client away from certain options based on how far the venue is, the weather, and the kind of delivery issues those choices might bring. So for example, I might discourage them from choosing colored buttercream or handmade flowers and opt for real fresh flowers, or dried flowers if I felt the cake absolutely would travel better refrigerated. Again, the bottom line is they want a beautiful delicious cake. Not a melty mess. When they understand that some things might work well in winter, but not a hot humid summer day and an outdoor wedding venue, they can focus on a design that’s compatible with all the factors. The customer IS “always right” but that doesn’t mean that we don’t give them guidance based on our experience. I found over the years that they, the client, were appreciative of direction. After all, in a case such as a wedding, they’re making tons of decisions about stuff they’ve never thought about before….and it’s A LOT!
That’s pretty much all I have for now on this topic. I welcome comments, thoughts, suggestions, ideas, or anything else you’d like to share with me. I love hearing your stories, seeing pictures, and being a “fly on the kitchen wall” of someone else's experience. A special Thank You to Catherine Sewell from Sewell Sweets.
All the best, and happy baking!
- Juli Chapin