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Save my cupcakes! Travelling with food

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It is my dear boyfriends birthday on Thursday and I will be travelling from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to spend the weekend with him. I got inspired and decided to make him guinness-whiskey-baileys cupcakes (trying to stay away from the proper name due to sensitivities) from Smitten Kitchen. I've baked the chocolate guiness cupcakes and currently have them in the freezer. I plan on making the chocolate-whiskey ganache and the bailey's buttercream while I am there and completing them while he is at class, but he lives in a house with few kitchen applicances so I had to get the cakes done ahead of time (I'll be lugging my hand mixer with me in my bags). But I am concerned about getting the frozen cupcakes from LA to Philly, in luggage, on the redeye . . ..

Do I try to keep them frozen, and if so, how? Should I just let them thaw while I am on the plane, and if so, should I put them back in the freezer when I get to his place, or the fridge, or just out on the counter? Any tips on preventing squishing? I am thinking I will just have to carry them in their own bag separately.

I would like to do this without having to buy any crazy cupcake-carrying contraptions.

Thanks!

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  1. Before carrying them on with you, I'd call the airline and make certain that's permittable carry-on. Ya never know these days!

    One of the bakeries near me packs theirs in lidded, 6-pack cupcake containers, ie they're stackable and could be placed in a bag/sack. I'd check with a local bakery and if they have them, ask if you could buy a few.

    I wouldn't want to refreeze them, so hopefully, once you're there, you'll be eating the little cakes within a day or so and they'd remain fresh.

    3 Replies
    1. re: CocoaNut

      I figured liquid no, but cake, yes, I mean you can bring packaged food on the plane, so why not homemade . . .? The ice would be an issue if I wanted to keep them frozen but I figured I would just buy a few packs of frozen peas or something and do it that way.

      1. re: Cebca

        I've carried frosted cupcakes through security at JFK, so you shouldn't have any problems with the cakes. I'd definitely avoid any frozen gel packs or ice.

        I'd just pack them, frozen, in a tupperware, in your carry-on. They'll thaw over the course of the day, and if you fill and frost them the next day, I think you'll be fine. They might be a tiny bit dry, but the filling and frosting will help compensate for that.

      2. re: CocoaNut

        The cupcake containers from a grocery bakery are a really good idea. I have purchased cake containers from grocery bakeries before, so I imagine they probably would sell you the cupcake ones as well. I would line the lids with paper towel to keep the condensation from dripping and making soggy cake as they thaw. Don't bother with keeping them frozen or refreezing, you want them to be room temp for serving anyway. Definitely carry them on, checked baggage gets tossed around a lot and the poor little cakes would be ruined.

      3. If you ever decide to change boyfriends then give me a call. Meanwhile, do you have one of those soft-sided 'coolboxes' - the lunch box type of thing you can take to work? If you use one of those with a frozen gelpack (or frozen bottle of water at a pinch) then that should last the journey. Wrap the lunch box in some towels to stop air circulation.

        If you wrap each cake in cling film it should stay fresher even if it does defrost. And there is nothing wrong with refreezing them, despite the ass-covering dire warnings on the side of frozen food packets. The more frozen they are the less likely they are to be damaged in transit as they are lovingly passed through the caring hands of of security and baggage attendants.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Paulustrious

          The only problem with freezing is that each (re)freeze creates new ice crystals, extracting a little moisture and altering the goodness of the original product. I've found this to be particularly true with breads and the like. So the fresher, the better.

        2. Okay, so I'm down with the thawing on the plane idea. Should I unwrap them when I put them in the tupperware or leave them wrapped? I'm worried about the condensation like mpjmph mentioned making them soggy if I leave them wrapped. Right now they are individually wrapped in saran wrap and then foil.

          1. Hi Cebca!

            What did you do with the cupcakes? Did they travel well? I haven't been on Chowhound for a while so I missed your question. I always freeze my cupcakes and cakes before frosting. If I were taking them by plane to be frosted later, I 'd wrap them in plastic and use dry ice to keep them frozen solid. My cake decorating instructor taught us me that freezing cake makes it moister. She didn't explain the science behind it but it works for me.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Kate is always hungry

              I froze them wrapped in a layer of plastic and then a layer of foil (paranoid, I know). I took them out before leaving for the airport and put them (still wrapped) in some rectangular rubbermaids that I was able to find cheap at Ralph's, in my checked luggage. I flew overnight and got in the next morning, unwrapped them and stored them in the rubbermaids, then spent the morning buying frosting ingredients and the afternoon hollowing out the centers, filling, and frosting. They were all ready when the boy and friends got back from class around 6pm and they looked great. They travelled beautifully and were perfectly moist without having any squished or overly tacky qualities that you sometimes get when things are overmoist or waterlogged from thawing. Quite tasty, and all gone by the end of the weekend. Definitely a success - thanks to everyone for the tips!