Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

shipping cupcakes


Recommended Posts

hey all....i was asked to look into doing cupcakes for a chain of travel centers, all 260 of them....details are super scarce, they just asked if i'd be interested and we'd work on details later, as this is new for them too. and i'm assuming we'd start with 10% of their stores to see how they sell, but even so that would be over 1000 cupcakes with numbers only going up from there.

that being said, and they are all over the country, how would you ship them? they want them decorated with fun sprinkles and piped frosting different flavors etc, but would you frost and freeze? could american and italian buttercream defrost well? or would you ship fresh? would you have to hire a private shipping co/trucker? (or they could hire them) i dont trust shipping cupcakes through ups or fed ex....but are there special containers you know of that could keep them from tipping over or smushing each other?

i'm a little overwhelmed, and this may not even go anywhere, but i want to seem informed (ha ha ha) before approaching them. and for those in the restaurant biz, what is an acceptably profit margin for you if buying from a small shop (compared to sysco) so i know a good price point offer etc.

thoughts? oh lordy.... :0)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

About the containers: you can buy the clear plastic clam-box cupcake holder (your supermarket probably has them) with compartments for various quantities (12 mini, 6 regular size or large size, etc). This is what I'm thinking of: cupcake box

Would you be responsible simply for dropping them off to their shipping department or to a carrier (like FedEx or UPS)? It might be worth investigating that angle first - because the shipper is the best person to tell you about what will work and what won't as you start down this path. It's one thing to bake all these cupcakes and package them; it's another to deal with shipping. Your expertise is baking :) and what you learn from the shipper may give you pause, or at least give you the info you need to say here's the flavors (and whether you do American buttercreme or a meringue buttercream may well be a factor of how these are shipped). Or give you a chance to go in a different direction - like cookies shaped like cupcakes and decorate to look like cupcakes...

At great expense to yourself, no doubt, you could get yourself a box of sample cupcakes from Perfect Endings in Napa Valley and see how they do things....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You're going to hate this idea. The only way I can see it working is if you license your recipes and design to a bakery/factory that has experience adapting products for freezing, packaging and shipping. Or cut a deal with Dunkin Donuts to bake and deliver them locally. A big contract should get someone's attention.

Another option might be to build your own network of craft bakers to bake and deliver them locally. Or simply supply the restaurants in your area. Maybe, you could define your area as wherever UPS delivers by ground in a day.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."



Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've seen a number of individual cupcake boxes, some "paper", and others all plastic. Here is a single cupcake box with interior support (sold separately of course) The plastic containers I've seen are like the ones here. I know someone who uses them and will see about asking where she gets them.

Shipping would be relatively expensive as you will need "warm weather packaging" (with freezer packs) in the summer and need to ship via an overnight service, or at best a 2 day service. The issue would be to give the store as much shelf life as possible. Have you tested the shelf life in a refrigerated case?

I would make sure that your client is willing to absorb the packaging and shipping costs.

Steve Lebowitz

Doer of All Things

Steven Howard Confections

Slicing a warm slab of bacon is a lot like giving a ferret a shave. No matter how careful you are, somebody's going to get hurt - Alton Brown, "Good Eats"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've not tackled this project for the reasons you're bringing up - transportation, heat damage and cost. I ship cookies and brownies (I freeze brownies first) successfully, but have seen what heat does to buttercream just transporting cakes from shop to wedding reception site, and it's not always pretty.

I second the idea of ordering cupcakes online to see how they're packaged and what condition they're in when you receive them. Also note additional charges tacked onto your bill for hot-weather shipping (insulated coolers, cold packs, rush shipping). When I wanted to start shipping cookies, I ordered from Eleni's in NYC. The visual explanation was worth the price of the cookies.

Keep us posted on your progress - I'm really interested in what you're going to do with this project!

Beaches Pastry

May your celebrations be sweet!

Beaches Pastry Blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think what I would do first is contact the Retail Bakers Association (www.rbanet.com) and take a look at there list of packaging suppliers and then contact one or two of them to see what they would recommend for shipping containers, to preserve freshness, withstand the many ways a box can be manipulated through whatever service you end up using, and cost. For me, my plastic costs are outrageous and consume the majority of my "cost" per unit. I would ask these suppliers for samples (plural) and then do test shipments to see how the product is received. There are enough eGulleters who I'm sure would be happy to be a "test" subject - :raz:

If you find a container that fits your need, then you need to begin the price negotiations, how many units do you need to order to obtain the best cost?

Are the cupcakes going to be marketed under your name? Will the marketing allow specific advertising for (potential) direct sales of product to customers?

For those times when a box of cakes gets crushed, and are unsellable, what do you do about the damaged goods?

Just my 2 cents for what it's worth...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would love to know if there's a way of shipping cupcakes without ruining the frosting. shipping companies throw the boxes off the trucks and I think that anything with frosting will not arrive in good condition for that reason. No matter what kind of packaging you invest in, cupcakes don't ship well. One company that I know actually had no choice but to include a bag of frosting with their plain cupcakes and the product was then finished at the destination by customers. Eventually it didn't work out for either one and the deal was called off.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

No-one has mentioned the profit margin 'chocoera' can expect?? I have always heard the norm was a 1.5 times mark-up for retail pricing. Therefore: wholesale = $1, retail = $1 x 1.5 = $1.50. Does this sound correct?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think every business has a model they will use in pricing; some people are looking for a specific margin and some are looking for a markup. When the customer can articulate what they want (e.g., each of their 260 locations gets a package of 6 or 12 cupcakes), chocera could use that to begin to calculate expenses and price (for production and packaging). Shipping should be a separate line item and then together they can figure out whether the venture is profitable for them both (for chocera to do the work and for the customer to get all the goodwill that those delicious cupcakes will bring them!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wonder if what they need is simply someone to be a cupcake co-ordinator. Do they specifically want your cupcakes or just good cupcakes? If they don't mind who makes them this could be a nice side job for you if it interests. You could supply the locations close by and offer to source the best cupcakes in the local neighbourhoods for the rest. You could make arrangements to have "x" amount delivered on a regular basis. If there's any problems they could call you to sort it out. I realize what you probably want to do is bake, not co-ordinate so I don't know if this is an option. You may get some free travel out of it though since they're a travel center and you'll need to visit bakeries to find out who has the best ones :biggrin:.

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've got to agree with Holly Moore's and CanadianBakin' approaches to this problem. Unless you're dealing with an ultra high end product that can sustain a very high shelf price (which does not sound like what this chain is looking for), I think the shipping and packaging expense will kill the margins, even if the logistics are possible. Also realize that you will have no control over the way the final product looks on the shelf/rack. I could see where shipping frozen might work, but this is still expensive, requires special handling and probably involves reformulating the product to avoid degradation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

all this seems pretty intense....i wonder if i can even handle it.....what would you guys do? and about what price do you think we'd sell cupcakes for? i mean, do you know an approx mark up that food companies look for? (ie: company A needs to make 40% on a food product so they need it to be X price so they can sell it for Y price)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

well....lebowitz has been my go-to "uh-oh" guy with this company....i turned down the cupcake order due to the questions you all raised here, thanks for saving my a** :) it would have been over my head, especially when i learned we were talking like hundreds of thousands of cupcakes... as for shipping, i found a solution for smudged frosting from some experimentation....bake and frost cupcakes (used american *sigh* not my favorite), freeze them, and then pack in those containers that hold 12 individual cupcakes in one large container. but before closing the lid (which is indented for frosting) put a lolli stick in each cupcake which is the exact height of the lid when closed. so if tipped upside down (which of course happens with postal people) the stick keeps the cupcake grounded and not sliding into the lid portion :) (and of course ship with ice and what not)

well, then the company called back and was like "hey" wanna do 300,000 truffles in 4 weeks? i for one am not a large establishment and don't even own a selmi/enrober/lg tempering unit etc (which is high on my "i want i want i want" list) so i contacted a friend of steve's who graciously said they'd help me out with this situation and i got shipping coordinated with a friend who works for a private freight company and then....nothing. they canceled in favor of doing cookies. but they were so impressed with our coordination for the chocolate order, they offered us to do a bid on the cookie order...but wait, its not 300,000, its 900,000!!! ugggg :)

so, called lebowitz again to brainstorm and he found a pastry friend who was a culinary instructor and long story short, timelines got moved, things fell through and i decided since it was their company and my company's rep on the line, it'd be more responsible to bow out graciously. (though i still sent chocolate and cookie samples and a very nice letter). well, they were disappointed, (but had back ups of course) but they were so impressed with the choice i made, (trying to not be selfish, but instead look out for their better welfare) that they are going to keep sending my biz opps, and hopefully i can achieve one and grow into this type of position.....(so keep tuned, i may be here for help and opinions again!)

btw- they LOVED all the cookies and chocolates, their favorites thus far :0)

Edited by chocoera (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Similar Content

    • By cteavin
      I posted this on YouTube the other day and thought I'd post it here. Personally, when I make them for me I only use Erythritol (a sugar substitute) but depending on the friend sugar or a blend of the two. Unlike other zucchini brownies, these don't use egg white, so they're not cake-y, but dense and fudgy. 
      Oh, and because I use whey protein, they're higher in protein and good for post-workout bite. 
      300 -400 grams zucchini 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup sugar or sugar substitute 1/2 cup cocoa 1-2 tablespoons flavoring (brandy, rum, vanilla, etc) 2 shots of espresso (or instant, 60ml/2oz) 2 egg yolks 1/2 cup flour 1/2 cup oatmeal 1 cup whey protein (or milk powder) 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional, but adds nice flavor)   1. Mince the zucchini in the food processor with the salt.
      2. Add the sugar or sugar substitute and process until the sugar is dissolved.
      3. Bloom your cocoa: In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa with HOT espresso and your flavorings (including cinnamon). Stir until mostly dissolved.
      4. To the food processor add the cocoa mixture and two egg yolks and blend together.
      5. Add the whey protein or milk powder to the mixture and blend together.
      6. Add the oatmeal and blend.
      7. Add the flour and pulse to incorporate (in other words, try not to over mix).
      8. Pour into a brownie pan and bake for 20-30 minutes at 180C/350F
    • By ShylahSinger
      Hello! I'm fairly new to this site so I don't know if my search was weak. I'm trying to find a way to make Mandarin orange puree at home, but I couldn't find anything even similar in the forum. I am a home cook, but I have been making chocolate bonbons and other confections for over 4 years (intermitantly). It is too expensive for me to purchase this online- not because of the price of the puree, but the cost of shipping makes it prohibative. The recipes I've seen online are all differant and don't seem to be what I need. 
      I would love any help with this! I look forward to hearing and learning from those who have much, much more experience than me. Thanks!
    • By Darienne
      In hopes of sleeping better, etc, etc, I have currently given up gluten, dairy and now sugar.  The gluten and dairy pose no problems...the sugar does.  I am not happy using mannitol or erythritol or any of those artificial sweeteners...they give me severe digestive problems.   But I can tolerate stevia very nicely.  The only problem is that there doesn't seem to be much sweetened with this ingredient.
      I do have a carob/coconut oil/peanut butter/stevia candy of sorts.  I don't really like it all that much, but it does work.  That's about it.
      Has anyone any recipes for desserts using stevia?  Thanks.
    • By Janet Taylor
      Ever since Todd talked making cupcakes I have been cupcake crazy. Although, I am not a cake maker but more of a pie person.
      My first dessert that I love that I make is my Coconut Cream Pie w/heavy whipped cream. I don't use low fat anything and probably angioplasties is necessary after this baby.
      My second is Peach Cobbler w/rich vanilla ice cream. I never met a cobbler that I didn't like, but peach is my favorite.
      I don't make these often because I wouldn't be able to get through the front door if I did.
      How about yours?
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...