Earthquake Cake - How Did This Happen??

Decorating By AngelWendy Updated 18 Apr 2005 , 11:48pm by AngelWendy

AngelWendy Posted 5 Apr 2005 , 5:30am
post #1 of 23

My Wilton Course II Finale Cake came out lovely (I thought).. but then it developed some spiderline cracks in the frosting. I'm so glad I had brought my camera to school because I did get some before pictures. When I got home, the cake was split down the middle like a giant earthquake had hit it! A few minutes later it split again into thirds. So disappointing. A masterpiece suddenly ruined! I mean it's hard enough that our artwork gets eaten so quickly, but to have it fall apart like that is really rough!

The teacher told me in class that the reason the frosting was cracking was because I had not leveled the cake. Is this correct? See, she had insisted we do that and when I kept asking why she couldn't give me a good reason. I had pressed both layers with the pan of the other in the fridge for hours - and reversed which layer was on top. They didn't seem rounded enough to me to need levelling. Both layers stuck to the pan and were very damp. They'd been covered with foil overnight in the fridge. Any idea why they were so damp? More importantly, why would they crack so horribly like this?

Here are before and after pictures -

Thanks for any assistance in figuring out this mystery. I don't want this to happen again!


22 replies
KimAZ Posted 5 Apr 2005 , 5:38am
post #2 of 23

Hi Wendy,
I'll be interested to see what others say about this to because the same thing happened to me on a cake I did a while back. SO maddening! Yours looks very good though- pre crater!

veejaytx Posted 5 Apr 2005 , 6:15am
post #3 of 23

I'm a newbie myself, and certainly no expert, but if you didn't level the cake, and it was even slightly rounded and then you put all those beautiful flowers on each side, maybe it was just gravity!

The cake was beautiful! I know you were very upset when it cracked, but at least you have the pictures and the knowledge that you did a great job!

flayvurdfun Posted 5 Apr 2005 , 8:22am
post #4 of 23

Never the less...the cake is and was very pretty. I hardly ever...ever level my cakes this hasnt happened to me. Maybe it was just that the cake was too moist??? I dunno wish I could help you.... honestly I dont think it was you.... The cake is great!

peg818 Posted 5 Apr 2005 , 8:56am
post #5 of 23

At frist i thought it could be your board, and that still might be it. Did you pick the cake up by the board without the carrier? Is that a single board underneith? It doesn't look strong enough to me. That added to not leveling your cake would do it to you. Did you place the rounded side down?? If you had tops down or tops together, the weight of the cake and the weakness of the board would contribute to your crater.

But don't worry, take this as a learning experience so that it doesn't happen again. I do think it has happened to most of us at one time or another. I know i've been there done that!

AngelWendy Posted 5 Apr 2005 , 9:02am
post #6 of 23

I didn't remember, but after cutting into it, it looks to me like both tops were up.

Double cardboard. That's been enough for a double layer 9" round cake before. Yes, I had to move it from the counter to the table for the teacher to take pictures and back again.

I guess it could be too moist, but it's not undercooked at all.



GHOST_USER_NAME Posted 5 Apr 2005 , 12:35pm
post #7 of 23

The only thing I can think of is that you put the cakes in the fridge, hence the moisitness. Not leveling your cakes may have added to the damage. This is just a guess.
I never refrigerate my baked, undecorated cakes. I just leave them out, but covered either by a cake dome or on my baker's rack which has a zippered, plastic cover.

sgirvan Posted 5 Apr 2005 , 4:27pm
post #8 of 23

My first idea was that it was too heavy for your cake board as well. If you picked it up and put a hand only underneath in the niddle, it would cause it to push up and crack down the middle like it looks like it did. In your before shot, I see a small crack in the icing already (barely noticeable but it is there) and right where it cracked. If the bottom cake wasn't level or leveld with icing then placing the other cake on top may have caused it to dome up and cause the crack as well. I have very mosit cakes sometimes that break when I try to put them together but if leveled, once iced you could never tell that it was pieced back together.

Beautiful job on the cake BTW thumbs_up.gif

tcturtleshell Posted 6 Apr 2005 , 2:13am
post #9 of 23

I agree with sgirvan & your teacher. You always have to have a leveled cake especially when stacking. And if you picked the cake up & the boards weren't strong enough the cake will bend just like it did. I have a cake in my photo's that cracked too. It was too late to make another one so I just used it anyway. I didn't have the boards thick enough & the cake bent!! That's what caused that for me. It's either that the cake wasn't level or the boards weren't thick enough for the weight of the cake.

About your cake... it is very pretty!!!!! I'm so glad you took a pic of it before it cracked all the way!!
Great job!!

elin Posted 6 Apr 2005 , 5:47am
post #10 of 23

Hi. So sad about your cake. But It really looked lovely.
I always level my cakes in every case. And I think it is more important when I have a hight cake. It could be an combination with that and your thin board. Anyway good luck with your next.

p106_peppy Posted 6 Apr 2005 , 7:18am
post #11 of 23

didn't read through all the responses, so forgive me if I'm repeating something.

I think it's because you're cakes weren't level

AngelWendy Posted 7 Apr 2005 , 10:24am
post #12 of 23

Just want to say thank you for the compliments and the support about the self-destructing cake.

I am pretty sure the problem was caused because I didn't level the bottom layer and because I used icing to level the mdidle. When the basketweave was done it was heavy and pulled the sides down and since it wasn't flat underneath it had to crack to compensate. Make sure you level the bottom layer if you are doing basketweave! icon_smile.gif

Thanks again!


flayvurdfun Posted 7 Apr 2005 , 11:10am
post #13 of 23

definately have to take this into consideration.. sounds like good advice!!!

zoozieqv Posted 7 Apr 2005 , 9:33pm
post #14 of 23

I've only had one cake crack and it was the puppy dog cake I did. The head started coming away from the rest of the body, I think it was my board and it happened in transition to the buyers house!!! I left it and told the buyer about it so that she would be careful. Fortunately, you couldn't tell when the cake was flat on her counter!!!! YIKES! Amen, though, your cake was beautiful!!!

AngelWendy Posted 7 Apr 2005 , 9:42pm
post #15 of 23

Awww! Cute doggie, though! I think that might be because the board under the dog cake was too small, too. icon_sad.gif


SquirrellyCakes Posted 8 Apr 2005 , 4:55am
post #16 of 23

Just saw this.
Well the cake was gorgeous before the disaster, your flowers and all are wonderful!
Ok, the pressing down with the pans thing, well that might have been part of the problem.
The fact that the cakes were really damp, makes me think that your cakes were not completely cooled before you put them in the fridge and hence the dampness.
A two layer cake or three layer, is not a stacked cake, it is a regular cake and should be fine.
So adding to the dampness, the pressing down and the fact that there was one heck of a lot of icing and decorations, well I suspect that also your boards perhaps could have been heavier.
But here is what I think really did you in, the weight of all of the icing is all on the sides of the cake, even on the top all of the decoration goes towards the sides. So the weight of the basketweave along with all of the other decorations on a cake that sounds to me like it was unstable to begin with, well I think that was the problem.
A level cake is very important. A completely cooled cake before it is wrapped and moisture is trapped into the cake is also important. Supporting a cake like this with two minimum corrugated cardboards with the corrugations going in different directions, is important. I wouldn't refrigerate a cake, covering it would be sufficient.
When putting a heavy amount of decoration and icing on a cake, you want to make sure that you have a very dense cake to begin with, A package mix made according to the box directions is not dense enough to handle the weight of so much decoration.
Anyway, just my opinion.
Hugs Squirrelly Cakes

AngelWendy Posted 8 Apr 2005 , 7:03am
post #17 of 23

I appreciate your input. I did have two cardboard circles with the corrugation going in opposite directions, but the rest of it I think you're very much correct about. In the first class the teacher told us we had to level the cakes, but she could not give any reason for it other than "it looks better". I told her I really felt that was a judgment call and asked if there was any other reason. She scoffed at me and said no. Sooo, if there was a reason like cakes might break in half with heavy decoration on the sides, I wish she had said that! Oh well. Live and learn.

I thought they were totally cool before they were refrigerated, as they were out of the oven a good four hours before I put them in there, but all I did was cover the pans with tinfoil and chill. They stuck when I removed them from the pans. Levelling by stacking them or anything heavy on top was discussing in another thread called something like "Do any of you level your cakes like this?" and I thought most people that replied said that this worked well, but it apparently did not for me.

Thank you so much for your compliments on my cake and the flowers! I appreciate that! And again, I also appreciate your input on the earthquake cake problem!


m0use Posted 8 Apr 2005 , 3:35pm
post #18 of 23
Originally Posted by AngelWendy

I thought they were totally cool before they were refrigerated, as they were out of the oven a good four hours before I put them in there, but all I did was cover the pans with tinfoil and chill. They stuck when I removed them from the pans. Levelling by stacking them or anything heavy on top was discussing in another thread called something like "Do any of you level your cakes like this?" and I thought most people that replied said that this worked well, but it apparently did not for me.

Thank you so much for your compliments on my cake and the flowers! I appreciate that! And again, I also appreciate your input on the earthquake cake problem!


Did you leave the cakes in the pan to cool completely? That may have been the reason why they were so wet is because as the cooled in the pan, the heat created condensation in the pan and that condensation had nowhere to go but back into your cakes. As soon as I take a cake out of the oven I level it by pressing down on the cake, I then let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before taking it out of the pan to cool on my cooling rack.
So maybe what your issue was that you did level it, just not properly and also that your cake was way too moist.
I agree that you did have enough cake boards under it. I usually use only one cake board under a 2 layer cake and have had no problems (as of yet) with the splitting of the cake like you did.

SquirrellyCakes Posted 8 Apr 2005 , 9:14pm
post #19 of 23

Well, it is always a good idea to wrap your cakes completely in plastic wrap once cooled. You are right, after 4 hours they should be cool.
I know some people use the various levelling methods and swear by them, and I don't want to offend anyone here. But the thing is, there are so many variants involved when you do this. They density of the cake, how much pressure you apply, what is going to be happening to the cake afterwards in terms of weight of icing and decorations and even the moisture level of both the cakes and the icing.
So if you are happy with it and it works for you, that is just fine. But personally because you actually pushing the cake into itself and affecting the density, well there could be problems with some types of cakes, depending on the recipe or how they are altered, how much they are cooked, how big the crown is etc.
I nearly always make from scratch cakes and the main reason I do is well, I don't like the too sweet taste of a cake mix, or the texture. Now with some of the doctoring methods, well I don't mind those. But on the whole, I find that they have a more delicate texture. I find that I have to handle them more carefully because of this rather spongey type of texture. I find that they break easier, again probably do the texture. I find that some of them tend to stick to the pan too.
There is always a risk that exerting too much pressure on a cake, will break it. Even just when you are flipping it, you have to be careful.
Like I said, if it works for you and you are happy with doing this, that is fine. But it isn't done in professional baking courses.
Hugs Squirrelly Cakes

pastrypuffgirl Posted 16 Apr 2005 , 1:04am
post #20 of 23

i can see that you have a lot of trouble shooting here already but i thought i would put my two cents in also. I think that what could have caused this is that the top cake cracked. It may have cracked slightly when you placed it on top of the other and you never saw it. When you were icing it the icing was flexible so you wouldn't really see the crack in the cake opening and closing. After the icing dried some is when you probably saw the hairline cracks. Then, after some stress of being picked up etc, the crack reopened and with the addition of the decorations etc, it just kept on going. icon_confused.gif

AngelWendy Posted 16 Apr 2005 , 1:08am
post #21 of 23

Yep, never followed up here I guess. I discovered it was cracking because I didn't level the bottom cake and it wasn't sitting flat and then I added a lot of weight with the basketweave on the sides and flowers mostly on the edges/sides of top.

Thanks for your input, everyone! icon_smile.gif


awela Posted 18 Apr 2005 , 5:12pm
post #22 of 23

I am so sorry of what happened!! In my humble opinion this is what could have happened.
1) You tried to level the cake with icing - that's a No,No. Why? Because the weight of the icing and decorations are going to cause weight pressure on that already weak area. I personally use small mashmeallows which I wet a bit with water to give support to some areas that look a little unleveled.
2) Did you dowell the cake? This cake seems pretty high to me. Dowells give support to cakes. Follow the same architechtural principle as a two or more stories building. The cake came out georgeous and I'm sure ...delicious! Remember these two points before you decorate a cake: leveling and dowelling. Good luck next time my friend!!!

AngelWendy Posted 18 Apr 2005 , 11:48pm
post #23 of 23

Nope, didn't dowel it. It was only two layers, actually, each under 2", but maybe should have. Thanks for your suggestions! icon_wink.gif


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