If you’ve ever worked in the wedding cake business, you’ll appreciate why I always approached delivery day with an impending sense of doom. After putting hundreds of hours into each wedding cake, I shuddered at the thought of any misstep that might put my “babies” at risk. Bridezilla or not, few brides have tolerance for lopsided tiers, fingerprint-pocked icing, or – God forbid – cake on the dance floor. Delivering cakes is a high stakes operation, and so too is transporting decorated cookies – especially if you approach the trip unprepared. But, fortunately, I’ve already done much of the agonizing for you. If you follow these instructions, your next cookie excursion should be uneventful – and I mean “uneventful” in the best of ways!

To know in advance: Most of these tips focus on packing for long-distance air travel, which requires extra compact packing. But since most of you will be packing for shorter journeys, I start with a few quick tips for car travel. For other cookie storage instructions (such as how long to let icing dry before covering cookies, optimum storage time to ensure freshness, etc.), check out my new book Ultimate Cookies. It covers these topics – and more – in great detail!

What you’ll need for packing about 150 cookies:

  • 3 to 4 large (about 26 1/2 x 18 1/2 x 3-inch) heavy-duty corrugated cardboard bakery boxes (for car travel) or 2 cupcake caddies* (for air travel)
  • Bubble wrap, the type with small (3/8-inch) bubbles
  • A few 30-gallon garbage bags (for car travel) or 13-gallon garbage bags (for air travel)
  • Painter’s masking tape, i.e., the blue stuff that easily peels off surfaces
  • Parchment paper, ideally flat sheets such as those used to line bakery boxes
  • Scissors

*Note: Not all cupcake caddies are created equal. I use the Container Store’s Snap n’ Stack 2-tier caddy because the cupcake inserts flip over to make another flat surface for stacking cookies. They also fit perfectly under plane seats, so they needn’t be stored in overhead compartments or checked, where they’ll most likely meet an unhappy fate. (Psst . . . check out this page for the latest discounts on Container Store products.)

Packing Tips:

For car travel:
1| I prefer to use broad, heavy-duty bakery boxes (top photo) that accommodate many decorated cookies laid in a single layer. I never stack fully decorated cookies on top of one another, simply because if the decorations have any amount of relief, they will most certainly get rubbed off with even minimal jostling in the car.

For Car Travel, Wide Bakery Boxes Are Fine…
For Car Travel, Wide Bakery Boxes Are Fine… Photo by Julia M. Usher

2| To keep cookies from sliding and hitting the sides of the box, it’s best to line the box bottom with bubble wrap rather than parchment paper (second photo). If the boxes will be exposed to humid conditions, it’s also best to contain them in garbage bags to keep the cookies completely airtight until their big reveal. Large 30-gallon bags are needed to fully enclose a 26 1/2 x 18 1/2 x 3-inch bakery box that fits a full-size sheet pan, the size shown in the top photo. I buy my boxes wholesale, but similar boxes, and smaller versions, can also be found online.

...Provided the Cookies Are Set on Bubble Wrap!
…Provided the Cookies Are Set on Bubble Wrap! Photo by Julia M. Usher

3| Lastly, if you’re wondering about all the blue painter’s tape on the boxes, I use it primarily for labeling the box contents (since it easily peels off when I need to relabel the box). But I also use it to reinforce the box corners, once assembled. (The boxes come flat.)

For air travel:
1| In this case, large bakery boxes will not do, unless you plan to check them, which will be the last you see of whole cookies! Given the amount of book-touring that I do, it was essential for me to find a more compact mode of transport. So, as you can well imagine, I was delighted to discover that the 2-tier Snap n’ Stack caddies (third photo) can be converted to 4-tier caddies simply by turning their interior white cupcake holders upside down. As with bakery boxes, I like to line the bottom of each tier with bubble wrap to prevent cookie-skidding; I also tape the wrap in place with painter’s tape.

Air Travel Requires More Compact Containers
Air Travel Requires More Compact Containers Photo by Julia M. Usher

2| If you have to travel with as many cookies as I do (about 150 at a time), then there’s no getting around the stacking of cookies, unfortunately. Typically, I travel with 50 or so fully decorated cookies and another 100 in WIP (work in process), which are either undecorated or simply topcoated, and therefore more amenable to stacking. This number fully fills two cupcakes caddies, which is as much as one is allowed to carry on. If you need to fly with more than 50 decorated cookies, then design them with a minimum of relief so that decorating details will not rub off when stacked. (Marbled and rubber-stamped cookies are perfect choices in this case, since they can still be very showy even if completely flat.)

Separate Cookie Layers with Parchment Paper
Separate Cookie Layers with Parchment Paper Photo by Julia M. Usher

Long ago I learned the hard way to avoid stacking iced cookies directly on top of one another. Even if they’re simply topcoated and have no do-dads on top that could rub off, oils on the underside of the cookies will leave spots on the icing on the cookies underneath. To separate cookie layers, I prefer to use parchment paper to bubble wrap, as the latter can also leave marks on the cookie icing. Plus, parchment paper takes up less room and allows me to fit more cookie layers per caddy tier. I also prefer to use sheet (unrolled) parchment paper for this task. It lies perfectly flat so there’s no risk of corners curling up and breaking off delicate piped icing details. (Seriously, this can happen!)

This said, I usually start by cutting out 16 pieces of parchment paper (fourth photo), 2 for each of the 4 tiers in each caddy, since 3 cookie layers can fit on each tier.

Put Un-Iced Cookies Down First on Bubble Wrap!
Put Un-Iced Cookies Down First on Bubble Wrap! Photo by Julia M. Usher

3| Next, I put my un-iced cookies down as a first layer, directly on the bubble wrap, and spread them evenly across all of the caddies (fifth photo). Distributing them this way minimizes the number of cookies that sit on iced cookies. Even when cookie layers are separated with parchment paper, cookie oils can sometimes leach through the paper and spot icing, so this is just an extra safeguard against spotting.

My Second Layer is Typically Plain Topcoated Cookies
My Second Layer is Typically Plain Topcoated Cookies Photo by Julia M. Usher

4| Plain topcoated cookies form the second layer on each level (sixth photo), since they have no decorations on them that can rub or break off in transit. Again, I separate layers hereafter with parchment paper, for the reasons noted in Step 2.

Cookies with the Most Relief Form the Topmost Layer
Cookies with the Most Relief Form the Topmost Layer Photo by Julia M. Usher

5| Last in, on the third and top layer in each tier, are all of the finished cookies (seventh photo).

At Least 50 Fully Decorated Cookies Fit in Two Caddies
At Least 50 Fully Decorated Cookies Fit in Two Caddies Photo by Julia M. Usher

6| I’m almost done. Next, the lids get snapped into place on each caddy, and the seams of the caddies get sealed with my beloved painter’s tape. (The lids otherwise fit quite loosely and are definitely not air-tight . . . and we all know that humidity is the enemy of iced cookies!)

Last Step: Bag Them for Various Reasons
Last Step: Bag Them for Various Reasons Photo by Julia M. Usher

7| The finishing touch: the caddies get cloaked in garbage bags. (I cut a slit in the bottom of each bag and then slide the caddy handle through the slit). Even if it doesn’t rain while I’m traveling, I like to keep inquiring eyes off the cookies. Otherwise, I get too many silly questions (Are those real cookies? Can you eat them?) and too many requests for tastes! My cookies are precious cargo, so tasting and tampering are entirely disallowed – at least until the cookies land safely back on the ground!