In Australia (and particularly in parts of Australia where we have extreme temperatures in Summer) the logistics of delivery and making sure orders survive the trip okay in the hot months can be difficult. The photo above is a cupcake tower I put together for New Years Eve, and anyone in South Eastern Aus knows it was pretty warm that day… 38 in fact!
Buttercream icing and anything with chocolate tends to get sad after 27 degrees, so what are the steps you can take to make sure everything arrives in the same condition it left in?
Your transport – Let’s face it, not everyone has the dollars for refrigerated trucks and transport, so the most of us are limited to some car airconditioning, which is more than fine.
In your car, before you leave:
- Put up sunshades – will help block heat!
- Leave windows open so the car can circulate air. If you leave them closed and hop in on a 35 degree day, it will be hotter inside than if you leave the windows open a little.
- About 5 minutes before departure, turn the car on and blast the aircon. Leave the windows open a little still to help with circulation.
- Point the fans of the air con directly onto where the cake/cupcakes will go. Usually this is the passenger seat or floor area.
Pre-cooling – Having everything a little cooler before you set out helps as well. With the giant cupcake, I had it in the fridge for nearly two hours before leaving. There was a time period of 3-4 hours between taking it out of the fridge and serving, so this was more than enough time for it to come back to a good serving temperature.
The cupcakes in boxes propped open slightly were under an air conditioner on a trestle table to keep them cool – the giant cupcake takes up too much space to put everything in my fridge together.
Ingredients – Your cake (and fondant) will be fine, but the problem can lie in your filling and icings!
In Buttercream you would normally use (for the simple version) one part unsalted butter and two parts icing sugar. Well, butter needs to be softened to make the buttercream in the first place so that presents issues straight away. We can substitute some of the butter for other ingredients to help the buttercream keep its shape and to stop from splitting (and leaking, it is not nice at all).
Some bakery supply stores sell creme or bakers shortening, this is also what you can use – that usually doesn’t need to be melted down like Copha but Copha is a little more easily accessible for everyone playing at home!
Copha – Most supermarkets sell Copha or a variation of it. It’s in a 250g block right near the butter, usually on a top shelf with all the cooking oils, and it is a vegetable shortening. To use it, you can substitute up to 50% of the butter for Copha, the amount you substitute is up to you. In most American buttercream and icing recipes they actually use vegetable fat or creme shortening as 100% of their butter amount in the icings which can leave a filmy mouthfeel, which is why we try to keep at least 50% of the butter in for a nice taste! I tend to go with a 1/3 shortening 2/3 butter kind of ratio.
To use, melt down the required amount of Copha until liquid and then leave to cool before making your buttercream. It can only be added as a liquid, you’ll see no matter how long you leave the block out to soften, it won’t soften like butter – which means you know it will help to keep the shape and consistency of your piped buttercream.
Also, do not use whipped cream. Don’t even attempt it at higher temperatures if you don’t have refrigerated transport (not just air conditioned). Not only do you risk some nasty illnesses, but cream splits and curdles and it is really made for fridge storage and immediate serving.
After you have piped out or smoothed your buttercream, putting it in the fridge just to set it for 15 minutes or so can really help.
I hope these tips help you get through the hot summer, enjoy!