Wedding Cake Transportation

I've been tasked with making a wedding cake for a friend next month. She wants a simple 3-tier carrot cake with some sort of white icing--she doesn't care if it's buttercream or not. The problems are thus:
-I have never made a wedding cake before. I've been watching videos on YouTube for help with the construction process, and it looks simple enough, BUT this is going to be a very posh wedding. It's the union of two old KY families, and I'm guessing that the wedding is going to be incredible--I don't want my cake to be the weak link.
-Since the wedding is in late April, there's no telling what the weather will be like. It could be cool, in which case buttercream would be perfect, but if it's hot and humid not so much.
-I live 4 hours away from where this wedding is taking place. This means that I either need to transport the cake in one piece or transport the layers and assemble them on site, which makes me incredibly nervous.
-Did I mention that I've never made a wedding cake before?
So, I'm seriously considering bailing. Should I bail or go for it? Any wedding cake transportation tips or suggestions?



karaB March 23, 2013
How many tiers is it going to be? You should definitely dowel it, but if you transport it in pieces and assemble on site you don't need to worry about a center dowel, which is pretty much false security anyway. I agree with SeaJambon that you should make sure to put it on a flat area of the car, I deliver my wedding cakes in a station wagon with a flat area, but a minivan or SUV would also work. Use a layer of non-skid carpet padding under the cake boxes to keep them from sliding around the car, and a layer inside the box itself to keep the cake from slithering around in the box and whacking against the side of the box. I find that the best thing to use for boards that the cake itself will go on is the tuffboard cakes boards, they're corrugated plastic and are really strong, plus they're moistureproof because they're plastic. You could also make boards out of corrugated plastic board from a craft store.
petitbleu March 24, 2013
3 tiers. It's not going to be a huge cake, but big enough! Thanks for the advice.
SeaJambon March 23, 2013
One more thought about transportation (obvious but important) make sure you can transport it level. Most car backseats are NOT level and I guarantee your cake will slide very unpleasantly in transit if it is not on a level surface. Also make sure the box is packed in tightly so it won't slide when you go around corners (and try to drive "gently" not the Grand Prix!). If you must use the back seat of your car, use towels or other padding to create a level surface before placing the cake boxes on it.
hardlikearmour March 23, 2013
I like to use drinking straws as supports between the tiers (per RLB). I also like to use foam core to put each tier on -- it's light but strong. You can also make a cake "plate" from it, but need to glue 2 sheets together for added strength. I'll typically cover it in foil (or royal icing) then hot glue ribbon around the edge to make it pretty.
SeaJambon March 23, 2013
And if it is a tiered cake, think through some of the support issues. Practice will tell you whether -- and how much -- you need. You may need to sink pillars in the bottom cake to support a cake plate (cardboard is fine) under the next cake layer. Fondant may be another good frosting choice (again -- practice with it if you aren't sure). And, I agree with all above who suggest that if you aren't totally comfortable seeing about hiring a pro instead -- in that case, maybe you could offer to do a bridal shower cake or a groom's cake in lieu of the formal wedding cake. This would allow you to give the gift of your capability (which is an AWESOME and loving gift to give a friend) in a slightly less pressured way.
petitbleu March 23, 2013
All great ideas. I would definitely use supports for this cake--it wouldn't be huge, but big enough to need dowels run through it.
hardlikearmour March 23, 2013
I'd also suggest taking a peek at the Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. She's got a nice white chocolate cream cheese frosting that could work well, plus great construction tips. And has a good assortment of cake decorating supplies if you need any of that stuff.
petitbleu March 23, 2013
Thanks! I have Rose's book, so I'll definitely take a look at that.
karaB March 23, 2013
If she wants a smooth finish on the outside of the cake you shouldn't do a cream cheese icing for that. It's really sticky and ner to impossible to smooth out completely.
sexyLAMBCHOPx March 23, 2013
Can the wedding venue provide you with safe refrigerated storage for the completed cake? Or perhaps explain the situation and ask for a workspace to complete the cake on-site?
petitbleu March 23, 2013
Good questions to ask. I'll ask the bride.
karaB March 23, 2013
It sounds like your stress level about this is pretty high, but if you're going to back out do it now so that she has time to find someone else to do it. I would think that if it's such a fancy wedding she should be willing to pay for a professional cake and not put you through the stress, but whatever...It's possible to do a simple cake that has rustic icing on it and not have any problems, but assembling it on site is a good idea if you've never transported a wedding cake before. You can email me if oyu have specific questions... This whole setup makes me nervous for you.
petitbleu March 23, 2013
The cake she wants is simple enough--3 tiers, carrot cake, white icing, no sugar flowers or decorations or fancy piping. It's just the transport and assembly that freaks me out!
boulangere March 23, 2013
SKK's advice is excellent, especially the practicepracticepractice part. Most definitely transport the cake broken down into tiers and assemble it on-site. I deliver all my cakes that way, and always allow construction time on-site. If you don't have cake boxes for each of the tiers, go to a bakery or grocery store and see if they'll sell you some - I'm sure they will, as bakers tend to be a generous lot. All the practicing will give you an idea of the tools and materials you'll need to take with you. White chocolate buttercream is a very good idea for the icing. Be sure to have each tier finished to the degree that you can before leaving at least 24 hours before departure so that it can chill thoroughly all the way to the center. And travel with the AC on. You're extremely kind (and brave) to take this on for your friend, but I also agree with SKK's advice about having a heart-to-heart chat with your friend. And perhaps take her a sample tier (a small one!) so she can taste it and see if it fits with her vision.
petitbleu March 23, 2013
Thanks, boulangere. I feel better already. I just keep looking at photos of wedding cakes, and it's a bit intimidating. Deep breaths...
ZombieCupcake March 23, 2013
I would say it depends on your confidence in your own personal abilities. Sounds like you have considered quite a bit in this. Have you considered a Cream Cheese fondant good stability and have to worry about the weather less?
petitbleu March 23, 2013
We'll, I've done quite a bit of baking and feel confident, generally speaking, in my abilities. However, I have almost no experience in making cakes--birthdays and such, but never anything like this. Most of my experience is in making French-style pastries and breads.
Cream cheese fondant may be a good idea. I had considered a thick white chocolate icing, as chocolate tends to add stability to frostings. Thanks for the help!
SKK March 23, 2013
Regarding transporting the cake, the safest is assemble on site - particularly with the distance and all the unknowns. And start practicing now. Bake, bake, bake, construct, construct, construct and frost, frost, frost. Regarding 'bailing', I don't think reconsidering is 'bailing'. Perhaps share with your friend everything you just told us. Going to a wedding of a dear friend worried about being the 'weak link' and stressed out is not fair to you or to the desired mood of a wedding. The day will be about your worries and take away from the bride. It is ok to let the professionals do this.
petitbleu March 23, 2013
Thanks, SKK. Great advice.
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