Sending Cookies as Gifts? Tips to Help Them Last

It’s the season for sending gifts and packages to loved ones near and far; some will include gifts that were carefully selected while others may opt to send much anticipated holiday treats. Some of these packages will be headed across state lines, while others may be traveling across the ocean which begs the question, how can you make sure that these goodies will still be enjoyable when they reach their final destination?

A reader reached out and asked about swapping baking ingredients to increase the shelf life of baked goods, especially for “desert safe” recipes that may be shipped to your loved ones serving overseas. For some help answering these questions, we reached out to Londa Nwadike, PhD, State Extension Consumer Food Safety Specialist for Kansas State University and the University of Missouri.

What kinds of homemade goods are recommended for sending long distances?

Dr. Nwadike suggests sending firm, dry drop cookies such as molasses, ginger or shortbread cookies. Dense cakes, such as fruitcake, are also good to send in gift packages. Don’t send any baked items that require refrigeration or will easily break.

Are foods with white sugar least likely to mold?

The short answer is yes.

According to Dr. Nwadike, including sugar in a recipe will lower its water activity, helping to extend shelf life. White sugar has a lower moisture content and generally a longer shelf life than brown and powdered sugars. Thus, treats made with white sugar should generally be less likely to mold than products made with brown sugar.

What’s best for long-lasting cookies – shortening, butter or margarine?

Dr. Nwadike explains that shortening, when by itself, can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 months and that it should be less likely to go rancid than butter or margarine.

If you’re concerned about how shipping time will affect the quality of your treats, don’t worry! We’ve broken it down for you:

  • Most cookies can be stored at room temperature for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • High-moisture cookies, including cookies made with cream cheese, need to be refrigerated immediately.
  • Most breads and low-moisture cakes can be safely stored at room temperature for about 3 days.
  • Unfrosted cookies can be frozen for 6 to 12 months.
  • Unfrosted cakes can be frozen for 2 to 4 months.

If you are planning on sending treats to loved ones far away, choose firm, low-moisture goodies that will last several days at room temperature. Baked treats are always a good idea, especially if you’re sending them to servicemen and servicewomen who are serving abroad. For more insights on baking this holiday season, check out Baking Questions Answered With Science.

Originally posted Dec. 18, 2015, revised from the original.