Cake Collapse & Customer Bummed

Decorating By Bourgonsgirl Updated 20 Oct 2007 , 4:05am by Bourgonsgirl

Bourgonsgirl Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 3:57pm
post #1 of 40

I just made a 3 tier cake for a friend/customer for her daughters birthday party where about 80 people were going to show, her husband picked up the cake and she called me about 15 minutes later telling me that it was falling over! There is nothing I could do, it was falling, and there is no way that I could salvage it! She is my number one supporter and I totally disappointed her! I feel sick to my stomach! I feel like crying and getting sick! I put dowels in the bottom tier, I was told that it should hold. Now I guess I should have dowelled everything! Also, I put chocolate mousse as a filling in the middle tier, is there a secret or something anyone can tell me about the fillings setting? I put the whole cake in the fridge after I filled and crumb coated it! What else could I have done besides more dowelling?? Anyone???
I dont want this to happen EVER again!
this is the cake icon_sad.gif http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-photo_1144333.html

39 replies
renee2007 Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:03pm
post #2 of 40

I don't see how this cake could have fallen. it looks perfect.

peg818 Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:05pm
post #3 of 40

Its a really cute cake to bad it fell over. Did i read right that you only doweled the bottom tier? If thats what you did thats most likely your problem. A cake should be doweled for every 3 to 4 inches in height.

Batter-UpBakery Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:05pm
post #4 of 40

i learned that lesson the hard way. anytime there will be another teir sitting on top of another use dowels. and also after the cake is assembled add one straight down the middle of each teir to make sure there is no sliding going on. i feel for ya, like i said i learned that the hard way. next time just make sure each teir that will be holding another is supported. in your case the bottom and middle both should have been doweled. then just stick another in all three to make sure it is stable. HTH

Tiffysma Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:09pm
post #5 of 40

I agree - dowels should have been in the second tier as well as a long dowel through the center of all for transporation.

I never let a customer pick up a tiered cake. Just too risky. I always deliver them myself. It's worth the effort for me to know it gets there safely.

Bourgonsgirl Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:09pm
post #6 of 40

Thanks to all of you! I would like to know too,, how long do I cut my dowels?? I did it so that it was stuck inside the cake about 1/8", so I could cover it with icing. And should the middle dowel be thicker than the others? Also, I put in 5 dowels on the bottom tier, is that enough in one tier?? I know now that I should have dowelled every tier but the top one! ARGH!!!

imagine76 Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:10pm
post #7 of 40

i'm so sorry that happened to you it really stinks! icon_surprised.gif i don't know what could've caused it to fall. i guess my only suggestion is to deliver and set up the cake yourself if you possibly can. i have never delivered more than 2 tiers already put together. it's just too heavy and i don't trust it to be moved. sounds like maybe the travel was too much for it (you never know what happened when it was out of your sight). seems like your supports were all in place so i don't know?

the cake was beautiful -i added it to my favorites! i hope your friend understands.

Tiffysma Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:10pm
post #8 of 40

The dowels should have been longer. You want the cake board from the next tier to sit on the dowels, not on the cake.

Melvira Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:15pm
post #9 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bourgonsgirl

Thanks to all of you! I would like to know too,, how long do I cut my dowels?? I did it so that it was stuck inside the cake about 1/8", so I could cover it with icing. And should the middle dowel be thicker than the others? Also, I put in 5 dowels on the bottom tier, is that enough in one tier?? I know now that I should have dowelled every tier but the top one! ARGH!!!




This could be part of your problem! You want the dowels to be the same height as the cake itself. You want to take ALL the stress off of the cake, or it will bulge and possibly break, depending on the weight on top. You want the cake board of the tier on top to rest on the ends of the dowels. You don't have to cover them with icing, as no one will be seeing them. If anything, make them 1/16" to 1/8" longer than the cake and use a border to disguise it. So sorry you went through this, I know how it feels when you have problems with the cake you are most interested in making perfect! It's NOT FAIR!!! Oh, 5 dowels should've been plenty.

Edited to add: That cake was just gorgeous! I meant to say that. I am heartsick for you!! What a gorgeous cake!

ladyonzlake Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:17pm
post #10 of 40

There should be dowels in every 4" of cake between tiers. The dowels should be level with the cake so that the board rests on the dowels. I've also learned that if you put a decoration on top of your cake that should be doweled as well (my jungle cake animals didn't have dowels under them and as the cake softened my animals started falling). I also put 1 long dowel through my stacked cakes too! I'm sorry about your cake. I know how awful that feels.

Jacqui

kelleym Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:17pm
post #11 of 40

You should cut your dowels exactly to the height of the cake or even a little bit taller. The cake above should rest only on dowels, not cake. Also, every tier except the top should have supporting dowels.

I have also started using the Wilton hollow plastic dowels instead of wooden dowels. I really like the larger surface area, it makes the whole cake seem much more stable and sturdy. Here's a link:
http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=399-801&CMP=AFC-CCF

I started using them after I had a 3-tiered wedding cake partially collapse during delivery. Now I never travel with more than 2 tiers stacked at a time, and I always use the plastic dowels instead of wooden.

I'm really sorry that this happened, it must be heartbreaking for you - such a beautiful cake. At least you have a wonderful picture!

MacsMom Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:18pm
post #12 of 40

It does appear to be a pretty stable cake and it is likely the car ride that created the problem. So take a deep breath, chalk this down as a learning experience, and next time dowel each layer that is supporting a tier - especially if you won't be personally delivering it.

I saw your cake yesterday on the home page and I loved it! I instantly thought that it would also make a great Christmas cake if you make it green and red--or all blue--and call the bubbles snow. Great design!

As for filling, I always let my mousse chill to stiffen for several hours, then fill the cake using a BC dam, then I smash it down a little with my hand and clean up any bulges, crumb coat, and finally put the whole cake back in the fridge to let everything settle for a while before decorating.

Bourgonsgirl Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:22pm
post #13 of 40

Wow!! Everyone is soooo helpful!! Thank you sooooo much!! I love this website!!! LOL
What is a BC dam??
Do you think that the bigger plastic dowels are the best for holding up a heavy cake?? And can I cut those??

MacsMom Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:23pm
post #14 of 40

I forgot to add -

I use drinking straws to support my tiers. Smart-n-Final has a large box of black bubble straws (bigger than a regular drinkning straw) that work wonderfully and I don't have to worry about splinters.... It's also very, very cost-effective! And extremely easy to cut.

onceuponacake Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:41pm
post #15 of 40

cake is beautiful!!!!!

nothing more to suggest than the above

I know some use wood, straws or plastic dowels.

I've use all of them at one time or another. I read somewhere plastic ones are the best ones to use because of sanitary and strength reasons, but who knows.

lilypie Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:42pm
post #16 of 40

I also use bubble tea straws. SO easy to cut and no splinters, like MacsMom said.

i saw that cake on the Popular Cakes earlier this morning, and gasped icon_surprised.gif when it came up as the disaster cake! That sucks so much!

everyone else has already given you really good advice, so i don't really have much to add icon_razz.gif

jibbies Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 4:58pm
post #17 of 40

Just wanted to say what an adorable cake. I'm so sorry that you had the disaster with it. If I am taking a cake past my front porch and it has more than one tier, I dowel rod it. For 16 or 18 inch tiers I use 1/2 inch wooden dowel rods and for the rest of the sizes I use 1/4 inch dowel rods. I bought an inexpensive miter box that came with a saw at Wal-Mart for about $13.00 it works great. I can cut them myself without having to ask my husband, not that he minds but sometimes he's at work when I need them. On stacked cakes like yours, I always cut a dowel and sharpen it in the pencil sharpener and tap it with a hammer all the way through all the tiers, that way they don't shift.
I know several people use straws, but I just wouldn't feel as comfortable with something other than a wood dowel rod.

Jibbies

messyeater Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 5:14pm
post #18 of 40

Gosh I'm so sorry to hear about that...this cake is one of my favourites, it's so cute!

I too use thick straws to support my cake but to me it seems more of a problem of too much weight on the mousse filling. Perhaps you can try a ganche next time, this would hold up better than a mousse.

Anyway don't take it too hard, these things happen to us all, you have to just pick yourself up and get on to the next cake. Every cake is a learning experience, the disasters even more than the successes!

Melvira Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 5:17pm
post #19 of 40

I absolutely agree with the Wilton plastic dowels. They are wonderful. I have used straws on smaller cakes and the thing I love about those is the ease of cutting to height (and no splinters as others have mentioned!). I am not sure how well straws work for larger, heavier cakes... I'd be interested in trying the bubble straws that people have mentioned. Perhaps more stable than your average straw? I wish there were an easy and perfect way to cut the Wilton plastic dowels because they are my favorite... SO stable!! That large surface area really does it!

BakingGirl Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 5:19pm
post #20 of 40

Melvira, I have an answer to your question - and straight from the horse's mouth. I just did a course at the Wilton school and to cut the thick plastic dowels they used a pvc pipe cutter from the hardware store. It is an inexpensive tool and it cuts straight through the dowel effortlessly.

Melvira Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 5:27pm
post #21 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by BakingGirl

Melvira, I have an answer to your question - and straight from the horse's mouth. I just did a course at the Wilton school and to cut the thick plastic dowels they used a pvc pipe cutter from the hardware store. It is an inexpensive tool and it cuts straight through the dowel effortlessly.




Suh-weeeeet! I am going to have to go get one of those! I love those dowels, and they actually cut easily enough with scissors, but then they are not perfectly flat and straight, and doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose?! This is a very helpful tip, thank you! (Once again, off to the hardware store for cake supplies!! ?? icon_confused.gif )

eme926 Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 5:54pm
post #22 of 40

Straws...straws....straws!! Love them for supports.

One of the tips is to the same number of supports as the tier size to be used above. 10" cake....10 supports.

I also dowel "after" final frosting. Put the straw in, and using scissors, go just a smidgen under the surface of the icing (about 1/16"), grip the straw and remove. Cut it evenly at that point and then use that as a guide for the rest of the supports on that tier. By going just under the surface of the icing, it sort of holds the tier in place.

I transport fully stacked wedding cakes regularly and I use nothing but straws for support...and very rarely use a center dowel.

frindmi Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 6:18pm
post #23 of 40

First of all, I'm sorry that happened to you. The cake looks awesome!

As someone else said, you should dowel the bottom tier and the middle tier. After you dowel the bottom tier you should place a cardboard round the size of the middle tier on top and then place the middle tier on top of that. Then dowel that middle tier, place another cardboard round the size of the top tier and then place that top tier on top of it. The dowel going through all the tiers is also a good idea. To make sure that it goes through the two cardboard rounds I mark the middle and make the hole before I put it on top of each of the tiers that need it so that when I insert the middle dowel it goes through effortlessly. I don't know if that makes sense to you.

So sorry again! I'm sure your friend will understand. Also, could it have something to do with the transport? The chocolate mousse filling might not have been stable enough either.

Inma

indydebi Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 6:30pm
post #24 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by eme926

One of the tips is to the same number of supports as the tier size to be used above. 10" cake....10 supports.




I respectfully completely disagree with this.

I will frequently cut the wedding cake for a bride who purchased the cake elsewhere. Had a 3-tier cake that was 12/10/6. The baker/bakery had put 12 to 15 dowels in the bottom tier! This was unneeded overkill.

The cake was turned into swiss cheese. It crumbled terribly when it was cut and was just a big mess! In my opinion, too many dowels weaken the structural integrity of the cake itself.

I use 4 dowels no matter what size the cake. Always have .... always will. It supports the tiers just fine .,... even my 5-tier cakes.

This is a good example of why I think there should be a rule that bakers should be required to cut a few of their cakes so they can see how their assembly method affects the end result. I've cut cakes that were put together with what can only be described as DEFCON 4 security that I had a TERRIBLE time trying to figure out how the he!! to disassemble them! And I do this for a living! I could only think about "what would this poor bride have done if she or a family member had to try to figure this crap out!?"

Melvira Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 7:56pm
post #25 of 40

Debi, I have to agree with your count! I normally use 4 dowels, but if it's a big tier that is going to have several more on top, I may use a fifth center dowel. I don't do the dowel down through the whole assembled cake, simply because I don't deliver assembled. I also agree about the swiss cheese thing... I don't do the 'push the dowel in, then extract to cut'. I use a nice thin cake tester to mark the height, then cut each dowel to that height. I just feel that the more you push them in and out, the weaker it becomes. That could easily be some weird thing that I made up in a dream some night, though! icon_rolleyes.gif But, I like to be carefull about placing them so that I don't have to move them... better safe than sorry!

Totally off subject, but has to do with dowels... when you use the wide plastic Wilton type dowels, does anyone else find the little 'cake plug' that comes out of it to be a delicacy?? Or am I just insane? It's like a compressed little nugget of cakey goodness!! icon_redface.gif Not gonna show my face around here much after admitting this one!! Hehehehe. Kidding.

KathysCC Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 8:17pm
post #26 of 40

I'm not an expert on dowels but it sounds like you got a lot of good advice here.

My first thought about this was that the driving did it. I have seen people take one of my cakes and pop it in the back seat and drive off. I cringe at the thought. A non-cake decorator (through no fault of their own) does not understand how delicate a stacked cake is. No matter how you dowel it, a cake cannot handle a car ride sitting in a seat where it is leaning or a rough car ride. I've actually ridden with a cake sitting on pillows and someone holding it (the party was a mile down a dirt and cattle-guarded driveway). Shaking to a cake is like an earthquake to a ten story building.

I think it is a good idea to deliver stacked cakes. I know it isn't always possible but it will save you from being upset. Like someone said before, you just don't know what happens when your cake leaves you, but you still feel guilty if something happens.

Doug Posted 14 Oct 2007 , 8:34pm
post #27 of 40

another vote for plastic dowels and site assembly (only central dowel all through if customer insists on pick-up and too far to deliver)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Melvira

Totally off subject, but has to do with dowels... when you use the wide plastic Wilton type dowels, does anyone else find the little 'cake plug' that comes out of it to be a delicacy?? Or am I just insane? It's like a compressed little nugget of cakey goodness!! icon_redface.gif Not gonna show my face around here much after admitting this one!! Hehehehe. Kidding.




rewards for the cake cutter -- aka me!

wgoat5 Posted 15 Oct 2007 , 11:48am
post #28 of 40

Oh this cake is sooo awesome and I am sooo sorry this happened to you. I'd be sick also!!!! But you will be ok and I promise she will call again!!!!!

((((((((((hugs))))))))))))

Christi

dl5crew Posted 15 Oct 2007 , 12:29pm
post #29 of 40

You have a lot of great advice on doweling. My first question was... How did the friends husband drive with the cake in the car. If he is like most non dacorators/bakers; he thinks it's just flour,sugar & icing.....
They usually do not drive the way we would.
The reason I say this is...
I had decorated 3 cakes for a lady, I was driving, my husband inquired as to why I was driving like a snail, since I'm the one who "flies" in a car normally. I replied " When it's cake, I'm slow. I have blood, sweat & tears involved with cake. Not always my blood(interuptions), my sweat & tears. The cakes I do have a part of me in each one."
He said "ok"
he he he he



I saved your cakes to my favorites. I would love instruction on how you did this along with permission to try one like it.

jibbies Posted 15 Oct 2007 , 12:33pm
post #30 of 40

PVC pipe! I wonder if its cheaper than wooden dowel rods? The next time I go to Lowes I'm going to check it out. There are different sizes too!
By the way the most dowels I use is 5 in a 16 or 18 tier, one in the center to help support the weight above but any smaller and I only use 4.

Jibbies

By the way if you use pvc pipe you will get those "little plugs of cake" everytime. icon_lol.gif

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