It’s big. It’s unstoppable. It’s sparkly. Are you ready?
For the rest of the holiday season, that is. Feasts to prepare, halls to deck, family to see, and—oh, yes—gifts to give. Often, that includes whipping up our “famous” cookies, candies, and cakes and sending them to familiar faces in far-flung places.
But if you’re like me, you cringe to think what those goodies must look like by the time they’ve reached their destination. Have the cookies dried out? Did the frosting smear? Is your rum loaf still … well … a loaf? If the idea of people receiving a messy box of crumbs with your name on it makes you crazy, read on for some peace of mind …
“Can” Your Treats
Try stacking cookies or homemade candies in cans. If you’re packing soft, chewy cookies, include an apple slice wrapped in cheesecloth to keep everything moist. Cover with wax paper and cushion with biodegradable packing materials or air-popped popcorn. Do something out-of-the-ordinary like topping each can with a handmade tree ornament. This method keeps your goodies airtight, neatly packed and un-smushed.
If you’re sending cupcakes or muffins, bake them directly in jam-sized canning jars! Make sure to leave enough headspace for frosting and the dough’s rising. Then cool, frost, top with a wax-paper square, and cap. Take the cute factor to the max by applying custom labels, wrapping squares of pretty cloth over the lid, tying ribbon around the rims, and attaching a little spoon. They won’t be able to resist eating one right out of the box.
Only Take It Halfway
I know—Grammy’s pumpkin loaf just isn’t the same without that delightful deluge of cinnamon-spiced icing. But if you’ve ever tried to wrap a frosted cake and cushion it for shipping … it’s not pretty. So don’t frost it—don’t even take it out of the pan. Bake it in a brand new pan and wrap the whole shebang in multiple layers of wax paper, then plastic wrap, then foil. Grammy gets a goody, a new baking toy—and as far as shipping protection goes, you can’t do much better than a metal shield!
Then fill a quart-size food storage bag with your icing, double bag it, and bind the frosting and cake together with rubber bands and some wide ribbon. Pad the package with paper or air-popped corn to protect the frosting bag from injury. By keeping your cakes and quick breads separate from their icing, you’ll save yourself some work and worry. Not to mention, Grammy can now set out a pumpkin loaf that looks as good as it tastes.
Timing Is Everything
You’re probably used to being able to make your cakes, cookies, and candies the night before you need them. Not so with shipped food. Remember, any baked goods you send will be sitting ducks for a few days before anyone even takes a bite. Get up early the day of shipping to bake and cool your treats. Then pack and run to the post office early enough for priority packages to go out in the first shipment.
If you can swing it, don’t wait to send your treats until right before Christmas, when post offices everywhere are overwhelmed. Cookies that are sent a few weeks before the holiday get there faster and are often appreciated more than those that show up in the middle of The Rush.
Get Your Cake Tipsy
So fruitcake doesn’t have the best reputation these days, and that’s a darn shame. When it’s made properly—with real fruits, plenty of rum, and oodles of real butter, it’s a mouthful of Christmas that you’ll still have dreams about it in July. It also keeps exceedingly well due to the alcohol, and even gets better with days, or weeks, of aging.
But if you’re mailing the cake instead of driving or flying with it, keep in mind that it’s illegal for most ordinary folks to ship alcohol. To be legit, you’ll have to leave the rum soak out of the cake and add in a rum extract before baking.