top tips for baking in BULK

Lets get one thing straight here.  I’m not a professional; I bake purely for the fun of it or sometimes for the challenge and although I have done literally a handful of orders for cash the majority of them I do out of love (or obligation, or guilt, or is that quite another story?)

At the beginning of the summer I was asked to do a bulk order of graduation cupcakes.  No probs, easy job, wasn’t worried.  Until I realised that I had got my dates a little mixed up and the day preceding the graduation order was in fact the day I was to deliver the wedding cakes that I had been preparing for, for weeks (white cupcakes) and weeks (vanilla cupcakes)!  I panicked for the best part of a day and then thought I can do this it’s just going to require me to be extremely organized.  That’s the thing with perishable cupcakes, you can’t whip ‘em out a week before and hope they’ll hold out – people will TASTE the difference!  To me, baking anything more than a day before they are due to be served is 2nd rate and unacceptable but what it also means is that you’re pretty much guaranteed a very hectic 24hour stint (especially if you’ve been at work all day!).  Fortunately in this instance the weeding-grad whammy fell on a long weekend!)

What being in this situation made me appreciate however was that all the years I have been doing this, all the experience, all the mistakes and failures that have come my way have actually given me an almost baking sixth sense.  It comes so naturally to me now that I can predict what could and can go wrong and so hopefully avert disaster.   What I wished however was that I hadn’t had to have learned these lessons first hand and that someone had made me a list of top tips when I had started out.  So here I present cakebook’s top tips for bulk baking.  It’s not something I do particularly often but it probably is the baking scenario that can induce the most stress.  I have included everything that I could possible think of from MY experiences and if it helps you avert even one micro-disaster in your kitchen then it will have done its job.  I am not claiming these tips will be to everyone’s style or that the advice is by any means all-inclusive and encompassing but they have worked for me time and time again and I hope they can for you too. If you have any top tips for bulk baking, please, add them in the comments – THIS is the stuff that makes us better bakers!!

Just a note on the structure of the tips – I have ‘timelined’ them AKA Delia’s and Nigella’s Christmas dinners.  Mainly because sometimes a couple of hours after work for a few days is all I have to knock out 100 cupcakes for a charity bake sale or a friends big birthday bash.  Take and use what you will.

Up to 2 weeks before

Test your recipe before hand – a must.

Make sure you have enough wrappers – and then some (see next point)

If you are trying new wrappers with an old recipe or vice versa test that too  – My fairytale wedding cakes failed miserably at T-minus12hours – The ‘new specially bought for the wedding’ stiffer wrappers started to peel away from the soft delicate cupcake and at 10pm the night before the reception, I was left 50 wedding cupcakes down – back to the kitchen I trudged (after a midnight butter run to the store!!)

Measure out batches of dry ingredients in advance, keep in ziplock bags – This saves TONNES of time and really can be done whenever you have a spare hour or so!

Sieve the icing sugar – do you know how much icing sugar you need to frost 150 baby shower cupcakes!!

Up to 2 days before

If you are pressed for time then make the frosting before hand.  I often do because I find making frosting in bulk quite time consuming and very messy (that icing sugar gets EVERYWHERE).  Butter cream, fudge frosting, cream cheese frosting are all fine to do this.  Ganache and marshmallow frosting however, have to be made on the day.

On the day – baking

CONCENTRATE – I can’t stress this enough (I’ve been there and its hard to stay focused at 11pm on a friday night after a long work at week!) Silly things I’ve done when I’m all cupcaked out and my concentration starts wavering? Start the kitchen Aid without securing the bowl, forgotten the baking powder, lemon zest, vanilla extract, pinch of cinnamon, SUGAR!! , fill in blank with anything else you can think of, melted the butter when it’s a creamed recipe, creamed the butter with the sugar when it’s a melted recipe, not checked the correct oven temperature, had the grill on instead of the over , overdone/underdone cupcakes, dropped a whole tray of cupcakes sunny side down out of the hot oven, burnt my arm, hand, wrists – you get the picture – CONCENTRATE.

STANDARDIZE – use a cup, ice-cream scoop or batter dispenser, depending on the consistency of your batter.  ALSO test the quantity, ie. ½ filled, ¾ filled so you know exactly how they’re going to look, domed, flat etc. I’ve just recently bought this dispenser from Cuisipro for my runnier batters and although not perfect, takes a lot of the frustration out of bulk baking and speeds things up considerably.

Plan for a little more that you need – ie. If you need 100 cupcakes, make 5 batches of 24 (see any of the above fails if you need a reason)

On the day – frosting & decorating

Making frosting on the day – if you do, try and make it while cupcakes are in the oven.  This saves a bit of time as for every batch of cupcakes baked, you should get a batch of frosting done.

Frosting made in advance – take it out a couple of hours before you need to use it.  You want to take the chill off, not overheat it so keep it away from the oven or kitchen or anywhere where it might be too warm.  Put it back in the mixer for a minute or two to regain its just made consistency

Have a clean large space available – ie dining table or somewhere you can sit.  You’ve just been on your feet baking for 3 hours+, you’ll be grateful of the chair!

Have all decorations ready before you begin – counted out if necessary or at least guestimated, small cups or bowl make them easy to see and access.

Do a few test pipes (if you haven’t already) – so you know what style you want and how much frosting you’ll need – sometimes what you plan isn’t quite what looks best.

Frost in batches – otherwise when you come back to sprinkle the nonpareils on cupcakezero, the frosting might have crusted already!

Keep batches on large trays – this enables cakes to be easily moved around and accessed – nothing more painful than moving individual cupcakes one by one again and again.

Storing and packaging

Airtight – Most card cupcake boxes are not airtight – If you need to store over night airtight is best.  Its more hygienic and there’s no chance of cakes drying out.

Packing – If you have boxes of 12, 18 or even 24 try and get a larger box to transport them.  There’s nothing more nerve wracking than carrying 3 stacked boxes of 24 cupcakes!

And to finish…

Enlist the help of a friend or relative – obviously someone to help wash up is going to make a huge difference to your workload but sometimes even just having someone to chat with or throw ideas around with can be sanity saving (especially if you’re up burning the midnight oil).  Cups of tea are also much appreciated!

Wear Comfy Shoes – Sounds ridiculous but can make a difference if you’re on your feet for hours.

EAT – it’s easy to forget when you’re up to your eyeballs in cake batter and frosting, but low blood sugar leads to poor concentration and we all know what can happen then!

Enjoy yourself – If you’re not having fun then question if this is something you should be doing for next time.  You may be completely cream crackered at the end of a monster bulk baking session but you should also be thrilled with the results and feel that all the hard work was well worth the effort!

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This entry was published on September 16, 2012 at 8:58 pm. It’s filed under cupcake, top tips and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

29 thoughts on “top tips for baking in BULK

  1. Patrice Keating on said:

    Just starting with a new cupcake company and am trying to change their recipes from volume to weight. Would you know of any software where I could plug in a recipe and it could scale it for me and where I could change from say 12 cupcakes to 100?

  2. What recipe would you recomend for chocolate cup cakes? I need to bake 300

  3. Hi.. I just accepted an order of 100 cupcakes from a friend to be completed by this coming saturday (19th october). Its the 12th today. This is my second time taking an order and my first at such a huge amount. I was wondering if i could get any tips on when i should start baking when my working hours are fr 14.45 – 2315 hrs every weekday. Any advice welcomed. Thank you!

  4. Wow….all cakes look marvelous….very nice icing designs…I like all of them

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  7. I love the design can’t wait to melt in my mouth. thanks for your recipe and advice

  8. its very interesting and great recipes.

  9. What an art of baking. Worth to think that all are yummy to eat.

  10. Great post. I actually am a professional pastry chef at Spruce Confections in Boulder Colorado and make huge volumes of baked goods for two bakeries and our wholesale division which supplies Whole Foods, most of the coffee houses in Boulder and Denver. We produce thousands of croissants, danishes, scones, cupcakes etc each day. So much fun! I can’t believe someone pays me to do this. Your post had some great tips. I am spoiled with my 120 quart stand mixer. The big bowl keeps my arms toned. I am glad to have found this blog.

  11. Thank you so much for this! I love the pre-measuring idea, that’s gold.

  12. Thanks everyone for your kind words – I had fun writing this and I’m glad some of you find it useful!

    @Lily – I generally don’t like to store cakes in the fridge over night but obviously sometimes you have to. Really depends on the cake and the frostings. And the weather – I have been known to keep the aircon on all night so my cupcakes are OK! Some are OK in the fridge, others dry up. Marshmallow and Ganache don’t do so well in the fridge and should be frosted on the day. Each cake and situation is different.

    @Devan – GOOD LUCK :)

    @Aaisha Shaikh & @mzrichee – good timing indeed – all the best with your events!

    @ Cynthia – Thanks – Yes Love loud music to keep me going an Yes I wrap the boxes in cling sometimes too – totally forgot – the first time I did it I was like ‘WOW I love how the boxes stick together when I stack them’ – haha :)

    • Yeah, it’s awesome. I should note that I ended up stacking too many on top of another once and it crushed my bottom box :( Gotta love learning the hard way!

  13. Great post, and all too relatable! Specially about forgetting to eat, and wearing comfortable shoes! Blasting music helps keep the mood light too – although I’m not sure what it might do to your concentration. With regards to packaging, I place the cupcakes overnight in their boxes, and then cling wrap away. Good for stacking the boxes on top of another and then wrapping them up so they do not shift when traveling ;)

  14. I love this! I’ve never had to bake in bulk, but when I do, I’ll be prepared! This is a really fantastic post; thanks for sharing!

  15. That was mighty sweet! and helpful! Thanks for sharing! i am a homebaker with a day job and bake in bulk somewhat. All your tips hold true for me! :)

  16. Great post! I will be baking 100 mini cupcakes and french macarons next month for a wedding and all of your tips will come in very handy.

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  18. This is such a perfectly timed post! I have to make 120 chocolate and 120 vanilla cupcakes for a 12pm event on a Sunday (plus 120 mini tiramisu cups!) and am planning on doing all the baking and frosting the day before. Just did my test batch today and things look good so far. Waiting for tomorrow to see how the frosting holds up.
    FANTASTIC idea on premeasuring the dry ingredients! That will save me a ton of time.

  19. This is an amazing post and I cannot even imagine making them all..but for me..it’s the piping! WOW! Now that alone would take me….forever!

  20. That’s a FANTASTIC post. Thanks for sharing your advice.

  21. I just launched a cupcakery for weddings and special events and this is very helpful! Thank you so much for the insight!

  22. how do you typically store your cupcakes over night? frosted & unfrosted.

  23. Great tips and advice!

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