This is the photo of doom - the scenario you hoped would never happen to you (but did).
I've been successfully delivering cakes for years. In the beginning, it was the stuff of nightmares. Every road seemed to have a pot hole. Every driver was a maniac. Bicycles would cut across me, forcing an emergency brake. But then I learned exactly how to manage things and it all got a lot easier. Dare I say it, not much bothers me now, helped entirely because every delivery goes well.
But I know it's not the same for everyone, especially as I seem to have had a barrage of photos lately from people starting out their cake businesses with disaster after disaster. (If you're wondering, the cake in the photo was the result of someone's customer racing away because they were late.)
So here are my 7 top tips for ensuring your cake gets to the other side of the road without a chicken crossing and ruining it (if you'll pardon my take on a very old joke. Hey, maybe the chicken was crossing the road for the cake?).
Don't travel with a stacked cake
Admittedly, I have done this and successfully arrived at the venue with the cake still looking marvellous. That said, I'm sure I had about twenty heart attacks on the way. I did have a good reason for taking it stacked - it was a woodland-themed cake where a tree climbed up the middle on both sides. But unless you've got a similar issue, I'd always advise taking each tier separately.
Use gumpaste to secure the hidden cake board to another cake board
Gumpaste is wonderful for many things and one of them is how hard it sets. I take about four pea-sized pieces (or more if it's a really large cake) and moisten them with water. Then I stick them to a large cake board and press on top the board the cake's going to go on (the one that's the same size as the cake that no-one ever sees). After a few hours, the boards will be stuck together nicely, and I can start layering up the cakes ready to be decorated. When I get to the venue, I insert a dinner knife between the cake boards and the gumpaste unsticks fairly easily. The bonus of using gumpaste is that it's edible. Since the hidden cake board is going to go on top of another cake, this is really important. Plus, the gumpaste I use is vegan and gluten-free so I don't have to worry about allergens.
Take the cakes in separate hard plastic boxes
Those cardboard boxes you get for cakes just aren't guaranteed to make it through a car journey. If something slides into a plastic box, however (like another cake box), chances are everything will be all right. Plus, you can see through a plastic cake box so if something did happen, you'd see the disaster before you took the cake into the venue, thus sparing you the unveiling of a fallen cake.
Check the boot (trunk) temperature
Just because you've got air conditioning doesn't mean your boot does. The temperature of your car when you first open the door is probably the temperature of your boot. If it's really hot then your cake may melt. If you can't park your car in a cool spot prior to delivery, you might want to think about packing your boot with ice (in waterproof bags so it doesn't leak everywhere, obviously).
Take your puncture repair kit
No, not the one for your car tyres - the one for your cake! If something awful does happen to the cake, or even something minor, having the following items can make a world of difference:
(a) lace (to cover up any cracked fondant);
(b) sugarpaste (to cover any tiny holes/nail indentations from lifting the cake); and
(c) wide ribbon (to make an enormous bow to tie at the top tier and cascade down the cake, thus drawing guests' eyes away from any issues).
Get a signature for cake collections
Some people may think this is overkill. However, I honestly believe signing for a cake can be done in a way that doesn't put off your customers. Chat to them about how they're transporting the cake. Offer cautionary advice if they're thinking of putting it on the passenger seat/next to a can of wiperwash/underneath someone's feet for a two hundred mile journey. Then kindly ask them to sign for their cake under a written reminder that they've read the Ts & Cs, are happy with their order and know they're responsible for its safety once it's left your premises.
Check your terms & conditions
So you got your cake safely to the venue. Phew. But then you discovered it's going to sit for ten hours in a blazing hot marquee. Or there's a skylight above the cake where the sun will beam down like a laser. Or there's a group of kids nearby playing catch and you're sure it won't be long before the ball lands slap bang in the middle of your buttercream.
None of these issues should be your problem but they will be if you haven't covered yourself. Take photos from all angles (N.B. and you'll need photos anyway for your portfolio). Make sure your Ts & Cs clearly state you're not responsible for the cake once you've left the venue and that external factors (such as room temperature and dodgy flooring) are the customer's responsibility.
Have you had any cake delivery horror stories? Do share them below!