Ask Chef Mom – Transporting cupcakes

Do you have a question about cooking or planning meals for your family? Chef Mom is here to help! Ask her your question, and she will offer you her time-tested, mom-smart advice.

The question:
Dear Chef Mom: I need to bring cupcakes to my daughter’s school party. Last year when I brought them in, they were a mess because they moved around while I was transporting them. Do you have any ideas for how to deliver frosted cupcakes intact? – Marissa

Chef Mom says:
I have been there and done that and know how frustrating it can be to arrive for your child’s party with smooshed cupcakes. (That’s not even to mention the three cupcakes that landed frosting-side down in the car.) Through trial and error, I discovered a few tips.

First, start simple – think separation. If you will have time and the room to frost the cupcakes at the school, consider doing so. (This can also be a very fun – if messy – activity at a school party.) Bring a couple cans of frosting and sprinkles galore and let the kids decorate away! In this case, transporting the materials is simple – unfrosted cupcakes can stay in their pans until it’s party time.

If you’re dropping off cupcakes or simply need to frost and decorate in advance, you need to do things a little differently.

First, frost the cupcakes (and add any sprinkles) the night before. This will allow the frosting a little time to set, so it will be a little more resistant to smudging.

Next, prepare your carrier. What works really well for me is a cardboard box. Any box will do as long as it’s taller than the tallest of frosted cupcakes (about 3 inches – cut down the box if you like) and can hold all the cupcakes in a single layer.

Pack the cupcakes closely – don’t cram them together, but don’t allow wiggle room. If there’s space in the box after all the cupcakes are in, use a plastic cup or bowl, cardboard or folded paper to keep the fit tight.

Put a cardboard lid on the box (even a cardboard sheet secured with tape) or use foil. Steer clear of plastic wrap, because it almost always drops onto the cupcakes and picks up some frosting.

Tracy Callow of Beaufort, South Carolina, suggests using a plastic cake container or a plastic pie container upside down. “Set the cupcakes in the upside down lid and put the ‘bottom’ on top and they work beautifully.” She also notes that these containers stack, saving space in your car and making them easier to carry. (One more budget-friendly tip: “You can get these pie or cake containers at the dollar store.”)

You can also splurge and buy frosted cupcakes at the grocery store. (A Cheffy mama I know suggested that idea – noting, “They pack them perfectly at the store.”) And Chef Mom, who always recycles, says keep those cupcake trays with the lids and use them for your future cupcake transport needs.

Hope you have a wonderful party!


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