My First Fall...what Happened?

Decorating By StaceyC3 Updated 12 Jul 2008 , 11:45pm by poshcakedesigns

StaceyC3 Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 4:40pm
post #1 of 32

CC, I need your help! This is going to be long...I really need to figure out what went wrong so that it NEVER happens again.

Yesterday, I made a 2 tier topsy turvy cake, my 2nd topsy cake ever. The first topsy cake was 3 tiers, with 2 layers of cake in each tier, and it was covered in fondant - I had no problems with it (it's on the very last page of my pics). Yesterday's cake was just two tiers, but 3 layers of cake each, and covered only in buttercream (indydebi's recipe).

The customer called this morning to tell me about the disaster. I delivered the cake, assembled, yesterday afternoon. She said it was sitting up on her hutch last night, out of the way of getting bumped, when it looked as if if the whole thing was leaning (more than in a topsy-turvy way!). Later that evening, they saw that the top tier had fallen off, taking a chunk of the bottom tier with it, due to the center dowel ripping through the bottom when the top went.

So they covered the bottom tier in plastic wrap, planning to at least serve what was left. She said this morning, that it had collapsed entirely - "laid out" is what she said. She said the cake was very wet, almost gummy in texture.

I just used the same box mix I always use to make the layers. I ruined the first batch because I added an extra egg and a box of pudding (trying to make a sturdier cake), and it puffed up really huge and then deflated. ??? So I just made my regular cake instead.

I froze the layers, as I always do. I doweled properly, with the same wooden dowels I always use in tiered cakes.

The only things I can think of that contributed are the following:

1. I used a center dowel through the entire thing, which I never do - an instructor told me once that if you do that and the top tier shifts and slides, it's going to rip through all the other tiers when it goes. (and it DID)

2. I pulled the cakes out of the freezer, stacked them with buttercream, carved them, then stuck them BACK in the freezer to firm up before icing. I have never put a cake in the freezer that's had BC in it already.
Did I pull it in and out of the freezer too much? Is that why it got "gummy"?

3. I live in Missouri, and it's REALLY humid here right now.

4. Maybe I carved to much "taper" into the tiers? Was the top one just too top heavy? But then, why did the bottom one collapse too, and get so gummy? I know it was done, because I always level and check the scraps and inner consistency of the cake.

Also, the top tier is sitting on a totally flat surface - I only tapered the bottom tier, I didn't actually angle it.

Please help - I'm so embarrassed, and I'm afraid to do anymore tiered cakes until I figure this out! I'm going to try to attach the pic of the cake before the fall - I was so proud of it. icon_sad.gif
LL

31 replies
StaceyC3 Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:06pm
post #2 of 32

I know, I know, it's the 4th of July...but doesn't somebody have some wisdom for me? icon_smile.gif

summernoelle Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:10pm
post #3 of 32

Well. you know, in the photo it looks perfect. Completely centered and balanced.

For numbers 1, 2 and 3-I don't think any of those would have done it....

It's a 4th of July Mystery!

Customer error? She had to have bumped it or SOMETHING. You doweled correctly...it's centered....

Here is a bump...sorry I can't help.

StaceyC3 Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:22pm
post #4 of 32

Thanks for trying - maybe someone else will have some ideas. An evil little part of me would like to think someone (one of her three children?) poked it or bumped it. But I still can't figure out the consistency issues, or why the bottom cake would collapse.

summernoelle Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:27pm
post #5 of 32

Seriously-it was on a flat surface. And you supported it correctly. The only part topsy turvy was the tapered part of it, and the top of the top tier. It wasn't dramtically tapered. Cakes like that don't fall for no reason. She may have carried it in at an angle and damaged it.

Mike1394 Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:31pm
post #6 of 32

They were still frozen when you iced them? I think with the thawing, and refreezing it broke down the structure of it.

Mike

Kate714 Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:31pm
post #7 of 32

I don't have any advice, but just wanted to say the cake was adorable!! I hope someone can help you.

2sdae Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:34pm
post #8 of 32

I see no bulging or sliding or off center or anything wrong with that cake.
It was dowelled according to what you said correctly and plenty. I believe someone moved it sideways maybe not realizing how heavy it was and the cake due to that shifted and viola!
Sounds fishy to me. And the gummy thing? I'd ask to see it so you can figure out what went wrong. Weather it be your fault or some 4th of july ghost happened by and ooops! icon_rolleyes.gif

Price Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:35pm
post #9 of 32

Sorry that happened. I don't have an answer as to why it collapsed. Was the customers house air conditioned? Was your cake still frozen when you iced it? I have heard it's not good to ice when frozen due to the condensation and moisture in the cake. I can't understand how a cake that is sitting on a level surface could just slide off of the bottom cake? Bottom cake collapse underneath of the weight of the top one if the dowels are cut too short, but the top one slide off? Doesn't sound right to me. I think she might want to check with her kids to see what happened!!

SUELA Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:38pm
post #10 of 32

First...why didn't she call you that night to say what happened? Second..if the bottom was wrapped in plastic wrap, how did it collapse? Maybe having the top on a flat surface, but I agree, something else happened you don't know about.

Kitagrl Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:41pm
post #11 of 32

I think the freezing had something to do with it too. If you carved and then crumb coated and then froze....and then iced it (especially frozen) all the trapped moisture from freezing would have stayed inside instead of evaporating. It very possibly could have been just tooooo moist. I have crumb coated a 3D cake partially frozen before but then let it sit for awhile OUT before icing. And I don't do it often.

Frozen cakes expand slightly too, when thawing...and can crack as well. Also did you transport cold, or room temp? The vibration of a car can weaken a cake, esp a very moist one. I always transport my cakes refrigerated now, so they are very firm. I notice transporting room temp cakes really risks cracking because the constant shaking and bumping can loosen the supports inside of a really soft cake, especially a buttercream-only cake.

Sorry that happened. icon_sad.gif

FromScratch Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:42pm
post #12 of 32

I a firm believer that straight mix cakes don't work well for TT cakes. The tapered bottom layers can't support the heavier top layers in the tiers. I think the fondant on your first one kept it together better than the BC could.

There are any number of factors that could have come together to end in disaster. The humidity is a big one. Cakes don't like humidity. Next time I might try using an extender recipe with extra flour if you'd rather not mess with a scratch cake.

So sorry that this happened to you. If any of your dowels weren't completely straight and level it could have shifted and set it off. I highly recommend using a manufactured support syatem like the single plate system to support your tiers.. there will be no shifting like there can be with wodden dowels.

((hugs))

Irish245 Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 5:58pm
post #13 of 32

I would agree with the couple of people that said it was probably the freezing thing. I know when my SIL did our wedding cake, she did it frozen (she had only taken the first Wilton course and I had never done any cake decorating at the time) and we had to hurry and cut it right after diner because it was leaning so far we were afraid it would fall. It was a pretty laid back wedding (picnic type thing at our house) so we laughed about it!!!

Ruth0209 Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 6:00pm
post #14 of 32

Too bad, too, because it's a really darling cake!

I never freeze my cakes because I've read so many stories here of difficulties that it can cause. I've found that a nice cold refrigerator firms them up enough to handle easily and I think it keeps them fresher.

I agree with jkalman. I think straight cake mixes are so kind of airy or fluffy that they're not very sturdy for stacking.

I'm so sorry this happened to you! Hugs to you.

Ruth0209 Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 6:01pm
post #15 of 32

Too bad, too, because it's a really darling cake!

I never freeze my cakes because I've read so many stories here of difficulties that it can cause. I've found that a nice cold refrigerator firms them up enough to handle easily and I think it keeps them fresher.

I agree with jkalman. I think straight cake mixes are so kind of airy or fluffy that they're not very sturdy for stacking.

I'm so sorry this happened to you! Hugs to you.

angelcakes5 Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 6:03pm
post #16 of 32

I know here in NY last weekend it was very humid and I had carved a cake for my husbands bday and ended up throwing it away becasue it was like you said gummy? I usually keep my house very cool and the cake was at my moms, which was very warm. It did fall apart easy. I would bet the humidity placed a role too.

StaceyC3 Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 6:07pm
post #17 of 32

Oh, thank you all SO MUCH. I definitely feel a little better now - still totally embarrassed, but better! I do wish she had called last night - if I couldn't have fixed it, I always have a few extra cakes and BC at the ready, and I could have at least made her something pretty to serve. I just ended up apologizing profusely and giving her a total refund.

I do agree that something fishy happened with the top tier - it just FELL off? Hmmm.

However, I think you all must be right about icing frozen. I usually let my cakes mostly thaw before I ice them - cold, but not frozen. I was so afraid of not being able to smooth an angled cake with just BC that I did ice this one TOTALLY frozen. I bet that's the main problem.

I tried to tell the customer that fondant really did help hold things together more firmly on a topsy cake, but she insisted on BC!

I will definitely use a firmer batter next time like jkalman recommended- but anybody know why the pudding and extra egg baked up so strange?

Thanks again for all of your comfort and advice!

Kitagrl Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 6:12pm
post #18 of 32

I have found that straight cake mix and buttercream does make a VERY moist cake...if it was not chilled before traveling, it very well could have weakened enough to fall later on.

When you add pudding mix and an extra egg, you are supposed to also decrease the liquid...I believe its one cup of water instead of 1 1/3 cups. Also be sure to beat it til its nice and thick. I always use the pudding and egg...that, or I combine one DH yellow with one small box of BC pound cake. Either one makes a nice moist, yet slightly more sturdy, yellow cake.

Mike1394 Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 6:12pm
post #19 of 32

The pudding won't give it any structure at all. One egg probably no difference at all.

Mike

BlakesCakes Posted 4 Jul 2008 , 9:12pm
post #20 of 32

The addition of a box of instant pudding mix and an extra egg definitely changes the texture of the cake, making it much more like pound cake.

I had some leftover batter a few weeks ago, so I made 3, 7x1.5 inch round layers. I cooled them, wrapped them well, and then froze them. I decided to use them to make a small birthday cake for family, but rather than drive 12hrs. with a completed cake, I planned to bring the layers with me and construct there. I put the frozen layers in a cooler with ice packs, but of course, they defrosted most of the way by the time we got there. The cake wasn't needed for 4 days, so I re-froze the layers and then defrosted them in the refrigerator the day I constructed the cake.

These cakes were WASC--for me, very stable & dense. After so many freeze/defrost cycles, they were terribly soft and crumbly! The cake was only 4.5 inches high and it couldn't handle even a thin coat of buttercream and some RI flowers! It sank like a stone.

It was a great learning experience--I will never freeze, defrost, freeze, defrots, again!

I don't normally freeze layers before constructing--I just refrigerate. I have frozen completed buttercream cakes with no problems once defrosted.

I think more than one freeze is just more than cake can handle--too much structure disruption when the moisture freezes (expands) and then defrosts (contracts).

Rae

sunnybono Posted 5 Jul 2008 , 12:26am
post #21 of 32

One question...what was your filling? I assume it's buttercream but I have heard time and time again that fruit fill creates layers that slide (aka sliders). Just a thought. Adorable cake! Try again with a sturdier recipe, don't ice frozen and see what happens.

-K8memphis Posted 5 Jul 2008 , 1:01am
post #22 of 32

After the ride over and the putting of it up in the hutch that all might have gently g-forced it enough to start the crack heard 'round the internet add in the humidty factor etc.

Plus to me a huge biggee with whimsies is that angle where the ledge of the bottom cake surrounds the base of the cake above it. The wrong kind of pressure at that join and that's a catastrophe. I mean initially the cakes will give for each other--but that can start something big.

Just a thought.

So very sorry that happened, Cake-buddy. (((hug)))

StaceyC3 Posted 5 Jul 2008 , 3:46am
post #23 of 32

Sunnybono, I've heard that about fruit fillings too - I just used thin layers of BC between the layers.

Thanks again, everybody. Your suggestions have really been helpful - I knew I could count on my cake friends! No more freezing / thawing / freezing for me for sure.

FromScratch Posted 5 Jul 2008 , 4:18am
post #24 of 32

I have made many tiered cakes with slick fruit fillings (even the TT cake in my photos is filled with lemon curd and raspberry puree in 2 of the layers and pastry cream and strawberry puree in another) and have never had a problem with sliding. It all has to do with how well it is balanced and supported if you ask me. One slightly crooked dowel and be the demise of a beautiful cake.

I do think though that the handling of the cake with the freezing and thawing partially and freezing again and all that had a lot to do with why it fell apart. Don't you hate these sort of lessons? Why do they always have to happen on a paid cake?? It couldn't be the crappy cake you (the collective you not you personally) threw together for company last minute right? icon_lol.gif

StaceyC3 Posted 5 Jul 2008 , 7:28pm
post #25 of 32
Quote:
Quote:

Don't you hate these sort of lessons? Why do they always have to happen on a paid cake?? It couldn't be the crappy cake you (the collective you not you personally) threw together for company last minute right?




Yeah, no kidding! And compared to the cakes I usually make, I lost a significant chunk of cash on this one! icon_cry.gif

KateWatson Posted 6 Jul 2008 , 3:27am
post #26 of 32

That was the cutest, most beautifully done cake!! Really impressive . . . I think the humidity and maybe a "bump" or two at the house may have done it in. But please be proud of it, it's an amazing cake!

loriemoms Posted 6 Jul 2008 , 1:42pm
post #27 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike1394

They were still frozen when you iced them? I think with the thawing, and refreezing it broke down the structure of it.

Mike




I was about the say the same thing..was your fillings well dammed with good strong (more sugar added) buttercream? This helps a lot in making sure the structure stays put.

But it does sound like the moistness in the cake built up in the freezer then broke down again. I also do not feel a straight cake mix is strong enough to hold up to a topsy turvey design. Just too soft. Just my opinion, nothing against cake mixes! It would have done better with a doctored mix I think or a good pound cake recipe.

loriemoms Posted 6 Jul 2008 , 1:48pm
post #28 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunnybono

One question...what was your filling? I assume it's buttercream but I have heard time and time again that fruit fill creates layers that slide (aka sliders). Just a thought. Adorable cake! Try again with a sturdier recipe, don't ice frozen and see what happens.




Raspberry filling is one of my top sellers and I have never had any problems with a cake sliding. If it is dammed properly, and not overfilled, it should be fine!

My question also is how did you create the topsy turvey affect? Remember, a topsy turvey cake should be the ILLUSION that it is going to fall over..you don't actually set a cake directly on an angled cake like you would a normal tiered cake. I always cut into the cake to have the next tier actually sitting on a flat surface...

If the cake was set up High, heat rises and it could have also melted!

Mac Posted 6 Jul 2008 , 2:06pm
post #29 of 32

I made a topsy-turvy last year and the top layer (3-tiers) did split and fall. It was too tall and tapered. Went to plan B and refrosted the mound that was left and put a graduation cap on it. It was on my table (thank goodness it was for a friend) all by itself. I had the feeling that it would when I finished it.

Maybe that was what happened to yours. As for the center dowel--My TT cakes are on the 1/2" foamboard. I drive the sharpened dowel all the way thru the cake and into the foamboard. Haven't had a dowel come loose and fall over (YET!). I do use the plastic tubes by Wilton for supporting the bottom tier.

leah_s Posted 6 Jul 2008 , 2:31pm
post #30 of 32

How did the customer transport the cake? In a box sitting on the car seat?

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