Friday, 13 April 2012

How to ship / post cake pops (the Cake Pop Princess way)

I get asked how to ship cake pops regularly, and I thought - rather than typing it out every time, why not create the most detailed tutorial possible? So here it is - if you have anything to add, please feel free to leave in the comments and I'll add to the post. This is my method - it's the only way I know and it works for me. In the last 18 months of poppery, and almost a thousand parcels,  I've only had three breakages in the mail - one where the box was crushed on one corner (2 pops out of 20 were damaged) which I assume was from being dropped onto a corner, and two where the pops had things that overlapped the edges - fondant in both cases. A pretty good track record, I think :)

A bit of background before I start: I live in the UK. I ship my cake pops all over the UK, and often Europe. Occasionally they've been as far as Brazil, Japan, or America (including Arizona and Florida). When it's hot the pops aren't particularly happy. My pops have made it in 35 C heat at my end, but it was a close one. If you live in a particularly hot place, you might want to consider only taking your pops to the post office just before closing, and using an overnight or expedited service.

Firstly, if you're going to post your pops you need to make sure they're as sturdy as possible. Try not to add lots of things (eg. ears) on top of the candy coating - I always put mine underneath. If you're using fragile fondant - perhaps for wings, then don't let them overlap the edge - stick everything down firmly. Means less things to ping off or break in the mail.

Let's start with the boxes. I use 9x6x6 inch and 9x6x3 inch single wall cardboard boxes. I buy mine on eBay (about £17 for 100). I could buy larger quantities but space is an issue here and I get told off by the hubby if I have too many boxes lying around (he's not happy about the 5 massive rolls of bubblewrap for about £30 I buy at a time either, but that's a different story!). 9 inch boxes are brilliant for 6 inch cake pop sticks, but will fit 7.5 inch sticks too. If you use longer sticks, you're going to need bigger boxes. 

I line my boxes with tissue paper. Not just because it's pretty, but because it helps to hold the pops in place. If the contents do settle during transit, the paper will keep them moving as one entity rather than bashing into each other. But mostly because it's pretty and I'm a sucker for pretty. 

After you've lined your box, you're going to need some bubblewrap to cushion your precious cargo. Remember than once your box is in the postage system, they won't be keeping it upright. More likely dropkicking it around the sorting office, so protect your babies at all costs!

If you're just sending plain pops without any fragile embellishments, then you don't need to individually wrap. If you're using 6 inch sticks, you can get 8 pops per layer, but 7.5 inch sticks will be limited to 6. Make sure you tuck all of your sticks under and to the side of the other pops - the last thing you want is a stick resting on the face of your pop in case they're crushed in transit. At least then the back is damaged but the face is okay. Don't ruin their pretty faces!

Separate each layer with a double layer of bubblewrap. 

You may have more fragile pops to send. I have varying degrees of bubblewrapping for such instances (yes, this is the exciting life I lead). This butterfly has a candy clay body that might get squished, so I give it a double layer of bubblewrap. 

Double it over, leaving a little room at the top. 

Now it's ready to box! 

Layer two has some bigger pops - there are only 6 pops on this layer. The amount of pops per layer is completely and utterly dependent on what you're sending. If you're worried, less is more!

This little guy has things that stick out of his head. The last thing I want is for those things to be touching the side of the box during transit, so I'm going to give him plenty of overlap when I wrap him. 

Layer Three has 8 pops again, but they're a bit fragile because they have mexican paste wings. Just in case I'm going to wrap them in a single layer of bubblewrap. Another double layer of bubblewrap between this and the next layer.

Then secure your tissue paper with tape, or a sticker. Isn't my sticker cute? No, really, isn't it? :)

Close the box. Give it a shake. Can you hear movement? If you can, you're going to need more bubblewrap (or packing peanuts, or shredded paper). MOVEMENT IS YOUR ENEMY!!!!! Sometimes I put a wad of cardboard hidden underneath the tissue paper at the bottom, to save costs as my courier doesn't weigh their parcels. Assuming I have cardboard to hand (I usually do; I'm a hoarder of cardboard).

Once it's all quiet on the Western Front, you can finish taping up your box.  And because you've gone to all that trouble inside, you'd best signify which way is up so the recipient gets the benefit when they open the box. You can do this with an address label, or another sticker, like I do. I do love my little stickers. Perhaps too much. I did mention earlier that I don't get out much, didn't I?

You're now ready to send! 

A few points to note: 

Are you sending in hot weather, or to a hot place? 
If it's hot where you are, then wrap each pop in bubblewrap, regardless of fragility, and refrigerate your box before you send for as long as possible (or keep your wrapped pops in the fridge until you box them - remember not to store unwrapped pops in the fridge as they'll sweat). Air is the best insulation. Those freezer bags at the grocery store? They're bubblewrap inside a shiny layer to look pretty. 

Don't put pops on top of pops!
They'll mark or dull each other if they rub against each other, especially if they're dropped from a height. For example, by a postal worker with butterfingers. Separate layers with bubblewrap. ALWAYS individually wrap your pops in cello bags, never leave them naked as they will mark against each other.

Got things to stick on your pop? 
Like eyes, or spots? Do it at the time of dipping rather than after it's dried with a blob of candy melt. Means a more secure attachment. Couldn't attach it before the pop dried? Use a hairdryer on low to get the surface tacky again (it'll go shiny) and pick up your sprinkle with a dampened cotton bud - so much more precise than a finger.

Hope this helps you in your posting endeavours - don't forget to stop by the UK Cake Pop Forum if you need any help with any aspect of cake poppery. We won't even mind if you're from overseas. No really, we love foreigners!

If you'd like to see more of my work, please do come on over to my website -
or join the lovely popfans over on my Facebook page at Sometimes I witter on about random things on Twitter too - just look for @cakepopprincess .