Wow, thanks! Actually, I've already been figuring out this shipping thing. Working on it anyway. Here's what I have so far for those parties interested: Mike (Mike's Amazing Cakes), Colette Peters, and Sylvia Weinstock all ship through Continental's Quick Pack. However, if you were to call Quick Pack's 800 number, the people who answer the phone don't know a darn thing about the cakes and will give you wrong information. The woman I spoke to said the cake had to be packed to last two days in case it got stuck somewhere and that it should be prepared to take a beating because the crates and boxes are thrown around and handled roughly. (I knew this couldn't be right, or else how did the cakes even make it past the runway?)
Colette gave me the number of the sales rep who works out of the Newark Airport. I have it written down somewhere, but I believe her name is Claire. Claire told me that she has the Newark and Seattle airports set up to ship cakes out (Mike ships from Seattle, and Sylvia and Colette ship out of Newark). The staff at these airports are trained in delivering the cakes and know how to handle them. She calls ahead to the receiving airport and gives them careful instructions on how to handle the cake when it arrives. The cakes are sent on a non-stop direct flight and you should get there an hour ahead of time to drop it off. The caterer of the event should be the person to pick it up, open the box and inspect the cake. To make a reservation, you need to call 1 - 2 weeks in advance. The price is by weight. I don't remember exactly, but it’s something like: 0 - 50 pounds = $60; 51 - 75 pounds = $80; and up to something like 100 - 125 pounds = $100-something. It's also charged per box. So if you send the cake in 2 pieces, they are charged separately. If you send a cake through them, they can't be held responsible for any damages so it would be wise to have your customers sign a waiver to protect yourself. They experience 2 - 3 cake damages a year which I'm very impressed with considering how many cakes Mike and Sylvia ship.
There's one part I was confused about and I should really get it clarified... Claire said that since Philadelphia is a small airport and doesn't have direct flights to Florida (I was asking about delivering a cake there), I would need to drive it up to Newark which is 2.5 hours away. She obviously also doesn't have Philly 'set up' for shipping cakes out of. I'm just not sure if I would have to drive the cake to Newark for ALL shipments, or just certain ones if I couldn't get a non-stop flight to the destination. She also alluded that it wasn't worth it for her to 'set up' Philly if I was doing this just a few times. but I wonder if she would take the time to do that if I shipped on a regular basis (whatever that means...? Few times a month? Year?) If she won’t do Philly, then I’ll see about BWI since Baltimore is closer to me than Newark by about 40 minutes. The tolls are less and there’s always less traffic.
As for how to pack the cakes for shipping, no one wants to give out their secrets. Mike's just said they pack in a sturdy cardboard box with a window. Colette just said to make sure the cake base is the same size as the box so it wouldn't wiggle around. Claire said that Colette is the most open with giving info, Mike is the worst and won't tell anything, and Sylvia is somewhere in between, though I haven't asked Sylvia yet. Claire said she attaches a 1/2" thick plywood to the bottom of the box and that there's a stake driven down the center (obviously). I somehow think there is more to it than that. I don't even delivery my cakes stacked. I stack them on site. I tried it once and the cake was ruined so I'm hesitant to try it again. It must be doable because it's done all the time. The week after my ruined cake, I delivered a small stacked cake (5", 7", 9"); my husband drived and it sat on my lap. No stake down the center or anything. It got there just fine. I don't know if it's because it was on my lap and not subjected to the vibrations or b/c it was MUCH smaller. The small cake was also covered in fondant and the big one in buttercream. Maybe that made a difference too? Anyhow, all I know is that I'm going to make a few stacked cakes and practice transporting them and built up some confidance. If that goes ok, then I'm going to ship one through Quick Pack to my friend in Washington who's a pastry chef. If it can make it that far, from one coast to the other, I'll be in business! She also lives a good hour or so from the Seattle airport so that's subjecting the cake to a lot of travel. As for what I would charge to ship a cake, that depends on whether or not I have to drive to Newark or just to the airport here. If to Newark, then the normal price of what I charge to drive there, the shipping fee (weight of the cake), plus the extra money I'll spend on packing materials. If it's just to the airport here, I'd charge just for the shipping fee and packing materials as the airport is really close by and in my 'local range' (which is included in the price of the wedding cake). Once I get this all figured out, old&wise, YOU will be the first to know!
Now I'm going to start a thread about transporting wedding cakes. I thought I had the complete 411, but last month's cake proved otherwise.