While we might not be celebrating our holidays with loved ones as we’d wish this year, we can still mail our merriment. Sentiment doesn’t diminish when sent from afar, in fact—the sending becomes a gift unto itself.
Since some of my dearest have always lived at a distance, I have exceptional care package experience. I’ve sent shortbread rounds stacked in decorated paper towel rolls resembling Christmas crackers; slabs of chocolate-enrobed toffee, including a tiny hammer for breaking; and swaddled sugar cookie snowflakes across the country.
The act of baking is greater than its ingredients. Baking is gloriously unnecessary, unapologetically frivolous, and utterly celebratory. Holiday baking always amplifies the effect and, even as these bundles of seasonal joy take a little extra consideration beyond tying a bow, their impact is especially meaningful right now. Here’s five tips on how to successfully ship cookies.
What kinds of cookies and bars mail best?
Not all baked goods are suited for travel. The delicate (ethereal tuiles, bubbled cannoli) or those requiring refrigeration (cream-stuffed profiteroles, untempered chocolates) demand hand delivery. The same holds for soft, smearable toppings and frostings, or tenuously gelled fillings. Finicky bits and bobs will likely dislodge during transport. Forgo dainty lattices on pies and accept that sprinkles may arrive in the package rather than on the cake.
Rely instead on shortbread, gingerbread (cookie and cake form), dense loaf and bundt cakes, thick-cut sugar cookies fancy with royal icing, ganache-swathed brownies, and robust squares (pecan, date, and their kin), which are all well-built for distance. Swiss and Italian meringue buttercreams are famously steadfast.
Divide and conquer
Though the look of a traditional assorted cookie box is gorgeous in its visual variety, restrain the urge to mix styles for long-haul travel. (Get more tips on cookie storage here.) Tender cookies beside crisp will cause the latter to become soggy, and anything aromatic will scent the entire box. Separate styles either to their own containers, or in cellophane or Ziploc bags if cuddled together. Within those individual packages, place wax or parchment paper between layers to prevent sticking.
Cool treats thoroughly before packing. They will sweat if warm or damp when wrapped, creating moisture—which not only affects texture but will also quicken spoilage.
Consider going for a deep pre-freeze with gifts that can handle the cold. They’ll be fresher, last longer, and stay sturdier than at room temp. Cookies are the first thought, but pies and cakes take especially well to freezing. Larger-format baking, perhaps brownies in a giftable tray, conveys a sense of festive generosity and is a good traveller. A friend once sent a full sheet cake cross-country this way. (Picture McCain Deep n’ Delicious style, a cake presented in its tin and fully frosted, candles in place, frozen. Wrapped all in plastic wrap, placed it in a bakery box, and then in its final packaging.) It was nothing short of legendary.
To do the same, freeze the treat completely, then wrap tightly with clingfilm or beeswax wrap before packaging. It will slowly thaw in transit; be sure to include rewarming instructions when applicable as pastry appreciates the attention. (Certain cookies will also benefit from a gentle toasting in a low oven, say 300°F for a couple of minutes. Do not attempt with iced cookies.)
How to pack up baked goods for shipping by mail
Doubling up on packaging is essential. First, the box to hold the baking. Bakery boxes work, of course, however Tupperware or metal tins are preferable for airtight seals and reusable options. Choose appropriately sized containers to hold everything close. If there is headspace, fill with bubble wrap, balled up plastic wrap or parchment paper, so nothing tumbles if inverted. If you are concealing the interior contents with festive paper, make sure to include an “open now” tag so the recipient doesn’t hesitate to unwrap.
Place the container inside a slightly larger shipping box. Stuff the surrounding gap with crumpled recyclable paper, scrap fabric, or an additional gift—a scarf, gloves or rolled socks. When you think all is set, give the box a light shake, understanding the mailing process might not be as gentle. If nothing shifts with the movement, you’re good to go.
When to ship cookies for holiday delivery
The postal system has been functioning at holiday levels since the pandemic began, and will undoubtedly ramp up as the days continue. Canada Post advises sending national packages between December 9-16 via Regular Parcel service and all the way up to December 21 for Priority. The safest bet is to send perishables sooner than later, and choose the fastest method that is financially sensible.
Canada Post’s new flat-rate boxes (available in multiple sizes) are an “if it fits, it ships” solution with a stress-free, set fee for packages under 5 kg. They are handled slightly faster than basic service.
All this said, don’t fret. Even if it’s late, however many crumbs are in the box upon arrival, and no matter if nonpareils are disarray, the gift will be welcomed with cheer. Although the holidays are undeniably different this time around, there is pleasure in sharing, the appreciation of the giving, and comfort in the enduring taste of tradition.