How to Prevent a Cake Disaster – Tips & Tricks

“Caketastropies” from Ace of Cakes.

His expression at about the 1:22 mark is priceless!

Quote Ben: “This is like driving a glass car.”

For me, the fear of a cake disaster is a common one. Have you every seen a cake fall over or had a cake disaster happen yourself? For more examples, just check out the painful Cake Disasters photo album and comments at CakeCentral.com for not-so-sweet images of mishap cakes…

In this article I will share some tips I have learned about preventing cake disasters:

What do I define as a cake disaster? Well, a number of things:

  • Dropping the cake (that’s never a good one…)
  • Melting of sorts – icing peeling/bubbling
  • Wrong colour/design/flavour
  • Misspelled names or phrases. “Happy Bitday” anyone?
  • Damage in transportation

But the one that strikes me most often is simply this:

  • Falling over while on display

Why specifically “on display?” It worries me more while on display because I am not there to fix it! And it’s almost always a slow, painful process that so many people can see inch by inch as it makes it’s way down.

I personally call all these fears “cake anxiety.” Sometimes it even gets me in my sleep –  resulting in what I refer to as “cake nightmares.”

It saddens me to see cakes fall. So here are a few tips on preventing tiered cakes from falling as well as preventing cake disasters in general, from a decorator’s point of view:

  • Have a plan. And a back up plan.  Make time for fix-ups and repairs, just in case. I try to make dry pieces (bows, figures, etc.) ahead of time. If pieces are really delicate, I made two. Making a cake from start to finish sometimes cannot fit into one day. Bake one day. Fill and decorate the cake the next.
  • Choose a solid cake (literally). Pound cake is great for carved cakes, and will not settle as much as a fluffy cake. A swiss/italian meringue buttercream or chocolate ganache filling is more stable  and less squishy than a mousse or fruit filling.
  • Review the details. Write down and read over the details before starting. I find most of my errors are from not reviewing the details thoroughly in the first place.
  • Freeze the cake beforehand. And no, I don’t mean have it frozen months ahead of time so that it becomes a baking soda box. What I do mean is that once the cake is filled, flash-freeze it by popping it in the freezer for at least an hour to set the filling so that the layers are not sliding everywhere when you ice the cake. Freezing will also make your cake easier to carve because that way you won’t have pieces of cake crumbling off. Freezing prevents staling and helps set the cake – see Starch Retrogradation for more info.
  • Let it settle. Cakes, being spongy and squishy and all, have this funny way of  sinking and/or bulging sometimes. After crumb coating, give your cake some time to let the settling happen, before covering the cake.
  • Keep things level. Through every step of the process: Cut the layers level. Fill the cake level. Ice the cake level. Cut all the dowels level. After stacking the cake, check to see if the tiers are level. Transport the cake level.
  • Have enough and the right kind of support. For me, planning the support structure comes way before even thinking about baking the cake. I like to use boards and dowels inside anything higher than five inches. For larger projects, sometimes a center dowel is required.
  • Transport safely. What is the point of the cake if it doesn’t even make it to the party? When delivering the cake, make sure it sits level in the vehicle. If it is a hot day, turn up the air conditioning and let your car cool down. Give yourself lots of time to speed up and slow down. And take those turns real easy!
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2 thoughts on “How to Prevent a Cake Disaster – Tips & Tricks

  1. awesome tip! making a 3 tier for a cousin’s birthday for the first time. really “cake-anxious” but reading about your tips helped a lot.thanks!

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