How to Ship Baked Goods So They Arrive in Tip-Top Shape

Tin of cookies

A gift of homemade baked goods is one of the sweetest ways — literally — to send good cheer during the holiday season. But opening a box only to find it full of cookie crumbs feels about the same as getting a lump of coal in your stocking.

To ensure that your cookies, cakes, brownies and more all arrive in perfect condition, we nabbed the top shipping tips from Andrea Geary, deputy food editor at Cook’s Illustrated Magazine (published by America’s Test Kitchen) in Boston. Geary and her team have tested numerous methods of packing and sending to determine the best ways to ship baked goods — and discovered a few insider secrets regarding what you should hang onto until you can hand-deliver.

The Best Baked Goods to Ship (and Those You Never Should)

1. Cookies

If you’re sharing a food gift with a cookie monster, consider those that are baked until dry in consistency, such as spritz cookies, meringues, gingersnaps or biscotti. Skip anything with nuts though, as their natural fats can speed up spoilage.

“Fragile cookies like tuiles, brandy snaps and lace cookies are almost guaranteed to break in transit, so avoid those and deliver in person instead,” Geary says. “You run into problems with middle-of-the-road cookies, too. Ones that are crisp at the edge and moist in the middle, like chocolate chip, oatmeal or homemade iced cookies of any kind, just read as stale after a few days.” Translation: By the time these cookie varieties reach their final destination, they may no longer be in sweet shape.

2. Breads and Cakes

For those who prefer their baked goods have a little more heft, unfrosted loaf cakes, loaf breads and pound cakes all travel well so long as they’re securely wrapped and have a transit time of three days or less, Geary says. Know it’ll take just a smidge longer (like, say, four days)? Soak your goodies in bourbon or a similar spirit. “[It’s] an excellent — and seasonally-appropriate! — way to extend the shipping life of a cake by about a week,” Geary adds.

That said, it’s best to leave the layer cakes to the pros, who are equipped with all the proper supplies to keep a cake cold. (Plus, no sliding or slipping layers!) And remember to cool anything and everything to room temperature that you plan to ship before packaging and sending.

3. Jams and Sauces

Processed properly in a canner or pressure cooker, items such as fruit jams, preserves, salsas and marinaras last for up to a year unopened, Geary says. Just be sure to surround glass jars with plenty of padding. (See more on that below.)

4. Brownies and Bar Cookies

Bar cookies (think brownies or blondies) that are sturdy and more moist from edge to edge do well on the road, Geary says. Again, aim for unfrosted instead of frosted bars for best results.

How to Package Your Favorite Baked Goods

1. Cookies

“Pack baked-until-dry cookies in zip-top plastic bags, and make sure to pack strongly flavored items on their own,” Geary says. “Otherwise, your meringues may end up tasting like gingersnaps.”

2. Breads and Cakes

To prevent your unfrosted loaf, sheet or pound cake from slip-sliding around, you want to wrap it extra well. The United States Postal Service (USPS) recommends using a two-ply plastic wrap method before placing inside a gallon-sized zip-top bag, then shipping as quickly as you can.

3. Jams and Sauces

Once your jam is cool, wrap those glass jars in bubble-wrap. For a festive touch, Geary says you could then cover the jars in a holiday-themed cloth napkin or dish towel.

4. Brownies and Bar Cookies

Stack bar cookies in layers with parchment squares in between the bars, then wrap the stacked snacks snugly in plastic wrap, Geary says. For extra seasonal spirit, tuck these wrapped bars inside a holiday-themed food-safe tin.

Pro Tip: If you do choose to mail softer baked goods, such as snickerdoodles or moist bars, the USPS suggests packaging them with a slice of bread to share moisture and help keep the baked goods fresher longer.

How to Ship Food Gifts for the Holidays

Once you’ve packed your baked goods so they’re nice and secure, select a sturdy box for shipping. One that has two to three inches available for cushioning around the food gift will give the best results — you’ll want to place the most fragile items at the center of the box, then fill the surrounding space with shock-absorbing packing material, like air-popped popcorn, bubble wrap, wrapping paper or crumpled newspaper, Geary says. Pack in enough so when you shake the box, you don’t hear or feel anything shifting around.

From there, add packing tape across the top, along edges and on the bottom of your box to prevent anything from sliding out — and keep outside elements from slipping in. Add a fun label and you’ll have a holiday gift that would make Santa proud, set to arrive in perfect condition.

A Note About Food Safety

Remember that anything perishable or requiring refrigeration can spoil, especially if your package is shipped through warm climates. Avoid mailing anything with a buttercream or other dairy-based frosting. Ideally, food would be delivered overnight, but choose the quickest shipping time that you can afford or that’s available. Take note of these USDA tips for safe handling, where to store and length of lifespan. It’s also smart to pack a tip sheet with your food gift so the recipient knows how and when to enjoy.

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