How Do You Handle Cake Catastrophies? - Long

Decorating By sassycleo Updated 2 Oct 2008 , 5:07pm by SugaredUp

sassycleo Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 6:32pm
post #1 of 18

Ok so here is a little background on this whole thing.

I had a wedding yesterday and it was a complete and utter disaster. The top tier didn't want to co-operate - I tend to have issues with the small cakes. At any rate I ended up taking the icing off and redoing it and the filling leaked out a bit but I was able to stop it and re-ice so ok not great but it looked better than it was originally. Set up time was between 12:30 - 130. Ok so I was there by 1ish still had plenty of time to set the cake up. The cake was a 4 tier iced in buttercream , tri dots with ribbon and pearl border with a throw away bouquet as the topper. So I get the "toss bouquet" was this little thing of flowers. The florist told me she needed me to have a shot glass in the cake. So i went and bought a votive holder cut the center out of the cake (btw do you know how hard it is to fill and ice a cake that has a hole in the center???!!!) and here I probably could have left it as is and put it in one of those flower picks.

So I start setting it up. The venue had the doors open no air on yesterday. They put the cake directly in front of the dj and one of his speakers and when I say directly I mean if the speaker would have fallen over it would have landed right on the cake table. He was nice enough to move the way it was positioned to it was directing away and not having the sound come right out onto the cake.

So I got it all up and assembled and was going to put the border on around the bottom of the ribbon on the tiers, I walked over to the right side of the cake and the bottom tier was buldging so bad it looked as if it was going to blow any minute. Here the floor was uneven (it was some kind of stone floor like cobble stone or something) so the table was uneven and you couldn't tell by the naked eye but it was just enough to make the entire cake lean hence crushing the bottom tier. This surprised me because I was using the SPS system. Guess it's not fool proof after all? I was in a panic, one of the guest came over and was like oh look at the beautiful cake and at the time I had my hand with a fondant smoother and paper towel trying to push the cake back into shape and just had this look of panic on my face, I had to turn my head because I started to cry (I actually could still cry right now that is how upset I am with the whole ordeal) They didn't have anything to fix the table and I didn't have anything in the car. We ended up getting napkins from "the bar" and I folded them and put them under the leg of the stand to level out the stand. The whole bottom tier was just all out of shape and I had to push it back together completely smushing the tri dots I had all over the cake, so I had to hurry up and fix them because at this point I was there 20 min past the set up time. I never did get the border on the cake and each tier was just finished with the ribbon. I didn't have any time because of dealing with the near collapse. I called the girl over who really could have cared less what was going on and I told her that I don't know when they were planning on cutting the cake but they would have to do it as soon as possible because I couldn't guarantee how long the cake was going to last. I have no clue if it made it or not.

I did manage to get one good picture well we'll see how good it is once I get it off of the camera. Luckily the good side was the one facing the guests..lol I felt so horrible yesterday. It makes me completely doubt my abilities or at this point the lack of abilities that I have. I had signed up to do a big bridal show but now am second thinking it and wondering if I should just forget it.

How do you handle situations like this. The venue didn't have the table level and yes I do have a note about that in my contract but that doesn't change what happened or how I feel. They didn't have any air on and it was humid yesterday, they put the stupid cake in front of the speaker - all of this was out of my control yet I still feel horrible. The bride has to bring the stand back to me and at this point I'm not even sure whether to bring all of this up or how to handle that meeting.

For the seasoned pro's how to do you handle situations like this, or are you way past the problem cakes and fly seamlessly through your weddings? How do handle all of the emotional aspects to this business. I mean I guess there are those people out there who would be like ok so we had a disaster so what on to the next one, maybe I care too much, is that possible? I wonder now if that will be my downfall. I have learned to take a level with me , and yes I know I was foolish for not having one with me but would have also thought a venue who hold many weddings would be ok. My boyfriend and I were discussing this on the way home yesterday and he suggest not offering any discount unless they asked first for the fact that the stupid table was not level.

What does everyone bring with them when they deliver a cake I thought I was ok with my spare icing, decorating bag with tips, paper towels, fondant smoother, gloves spare ribbon and such. Now I know to buy shims and bring them with and a level.

How to get past feeling the way I am feeling, I think that is my biggest problem right now.

Ok so I'm done venting Thanks for "listening" and I welcome any suggestions that anyone has to offer.

17 replies
JoAnnB Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:16pm
post #2 of 18

"I cannot set up this cake on the table in this location." period. I have made them move the table, they do it when you explain the cake will fall over.

CakesByJen2 Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:27pm
post #3 of 18

First off, I go over with the bride about how important it is that the cake table be sturdy and level, or I will not set up the cake. I also give the a sheet with all kinds of info, which spells out in detail that the table must be a single sturdy, level table, no direct sunlight, etc. In the contract it states that I am not responsible for any damage that occurs to the cake due to improper conditions such as table not being level, excess heat and humidity, damage by staff or guests, etc.

I would have insisted they move the table to a more appropriate place and leveled it (I bring a level and check before I set up the cake). But, all of the factors that affected your cake were due to the reception site, not to anything you did. Therefore, you are not responsible. I would not mention anything about it unless they bring it up first. If they do complain, I would simply explain that they did not provide appropriate conditions and there is nothing you could have done about and they should take it up with the reception site.

-K8memphis Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 9:17pm
post #4 of 18

I would call the dj or any other vendor and see how everything went. I'd approach it as if you want to trade links, y'know website links and then maybe (but hopefully not) they'll just say, 'omg what happened to the cake' or if no cake comments are offered maybe just casually say, "hope that uneven floor didn't do my cake in." pause pause--wait for them to respond. Y'know avoid any sharing of drama--be professional. But I mean I understand how devasting it can be in your gut.

But it's gonna be ok. That feeling of unrest will calm down as time passes. Brides and groom's are generally off gettting married and generally and hopefully the minutiae of the reception is but a blur in their overloaded brains.

I don't quite understand how the blow out made the tier collapse.

But I mean the worst that can happen is you gotta refund some money. You will get back up on the horse and ride again. You are a very good decorator/designer so I know it will take more than one teensy little cake booboo to get you down or out permanently--this is just a little detour. Sucks for sure but just exhale, maybe it will pass or maybe you will refund but you will land on your feet and you will come out successfully on the other side.

And for sure what JoAnnB and Jen said--I have a little ditty on my order blank that says, "I reserve the right to make your cake to the best of my ability." For example, if the cake table is in the sun, then I will get it moved without contacting the bride. I just make the executive decision and do it. Whatever the issue is.

It's gonna be ok.

indydebi Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 10:29pm
post #5 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by k8memphis

For example, if the cake table is in the sun, then I will get it moved without contacting the bride. I just make the executive decision and do it. Whatever the issue is.




Had to laugh at this one, because I do the same thing! Brides will ask me "Is it ok if we put this one thing in this one place on the table?" I tell them, with my big 'ole gramma smile on my face, "Honey, you can put it anywhere you like, because if it's in my way, I'm moving it anyway!" icon_biggrin.gif They usually laugh with me and tell me that's fine!

sassycleo Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 12:04pm
post #6 of 18

Well it didn't actually blow - it looked as if it was going to. This was a 4 tier cake and the lean although not like the leaning tower of Pisa, was enough to put added pressure on the side of the cake hence making it buldge and to the point that I was afraid any minute it would spew the insides out...lol

I've learned my lesson about things to bring with me. So Lesson Learned. I probably should have asked them to move however the girl "in charge" saw me over at the cake and saw I was having issues and honestly could have cared less, she just went on her merry way.

I had to go out last night and run some errands and forgot my phone. When I came back I had a voicemail message from the bride thanking me for the beautiful cake and how everyone loved the taste and said how beautiful the cake was. So I'm guessing by that message it made it fine. Thank the cake powers that be...lol

CakeForte Posted 1 Oct 2008 , 12:12am
post #7 of 18

No news is good news. I know that the bride did end up calling you...but if it had gotten worse, you would have heard about it the next day.
Like others, if something will get in the way of the cake being set up correctly, I get bossy. I've had to do patch jobs on site also, but I don't bring a whole lot of things. I do make sure I have extra dowel rods, spatulas, icing and whatever piping colors I used. I also make sure my cakes are in the fridge for at least 4 hours prior to delivery. My standard delivery time is 2 hours before the ceremony starts. That way I have time to make fixes and the cake has approximately 2.5 hours to come to room temp. Like you, I take a photo of the cake. After that point...anything that happens to the cake after the photo is not my fault.

Also, you mentioned the florist wanted a shot glass in the top tier. Never ever put glass in food, that is a HUGE liability for you. You should put something in your contract that states that the client is responsible for making sure the flowers used are safe to put on food.

OhMyGanache Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 2:24am
post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by sassycleo


For the seasoned pro's how to do you handle situations like this, or are you way past the problem cakes and fly seamlessly through your weddings? How do handle all of the emotional aspects to this business.




I have had one disaster in the very beginning of my professional cake career (if you don't count the van door/sheet cake incident when I worked for someone else - which is a really funny story that I won't get into now). I was humiliated - and the bride's family was comforting ME! LOL! It wasn't a complete disaster, but the cake shifted when I stopped a little too abruptly and the top 3 tiers slid off the bottom tier of a 4 tier cake - cutting it into pieces. The top 3 tiers were fine, they cut and ate that and served the bottom tier from the kitchen. Nobody noticed or cared - except me. I wanted to die.

The embarrassment is so huge, that I still will not accept photos of the cake from the wedding - I don't even want to LOOK at it (even though the top 3 tiers were beautiful). I cringe to this day even though I KNOW I am a damn good decorator!

However, because of that "disaster" I am far more cautious when driving to deliver cakes, I put a dowel through all of the tiers, and I bring a complete repair kit (that I haven't had to use yet - knock on wood).

You just have to accept your mistakes and learn from them. Be glad that it wasn't any worse (and it could have been), and make sure you are better prepared the next time you deliver a cake (bring a level to check the cake table, etc.)

Oh, cocktails help too. icon_smile.gif

indydebi Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 2:59am
post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by PoleKitten

..... but the cake shifted when I stopped a little too abruptly and the top 3 tiers slid off the bottom tier of a 4 tier cake - cutting it into pieces. The top 3 tiers were fine, they cut and ate that and served the bottom tier from the kitchen.



icon_surprised.gif omg, that is EXACTLY what happened to me a few months ago! My first "slider". We served the bottom tier from the kitchen. Everyone was fine with it. I deducted $200, even tho' we served the cake and they turned around and gave my crew a $200 tip. The 3 tier cake they ended up with looked perfect.

I didn't panic because I had read the experiences of all the other CC'ers who had sliders and how they handled it. Without those threads, I would have had NO IDEA how to fix that disaster!

So this is why we brag about our problem cakes ... so the next person can learn from our experience. Like I did. thumbs_up.gif

sassycleo Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 10:11am
post #10 of 18

Thanks Polekitten and IndyDeb for sharing your experiences. I knew/know that I wasn't the first to go through something like this, but that is hard to remember when your trying to push your cake back into some what of a shape...lol

I actually cringe every time we deliver, I swear my driving is completely different then my DBF. He gives me a heart attack and then says "Stop turning around to look at the cake". Yeah ok buddy..lol

I'm doing a favor for a friend and this weekend I am delivering a cake to NC, so basically a 4 hour trip. I'm going to need a serious drink when we get there.

Your sliding stories bring up a good question - do you deliver all of your cakes assembled or set up at site?

indydebi Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 10:46am
post #11 of 18

For years and years, I delivered totally unassembled and then assembled on site. I recently began trying that dowel-down-the-center thing and it works ok. But as leahs points out, it's a false sense of security. It will hold hte cardboards in place, but the cake itself can still slide thru the dowel rod ... and the stationary rod will rip right thru the sliding cake.

So I'm back to delivering unassembled ... I may dowel-thru-the-center a small tier, but not my larger tiers.

-K8memphis Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 11:10am
post #12 of 18

When I started doing the driving for delivering, my jangled nerves were healed. This way I retain control, as much control as possible considering all the other people on the roads being in whatever state of control they may or may not be in, one in ten are drunk...ok I digress but anyway, then you start counting one, two three...is it that one...is it that one... icon_rolleyes.gif ...no no no but really when he drove I sat there and died four thousand deaths moment by moment--when I drive I'm healed.

I just could not give up the reigns like that and not cringe and quake allll the way. All I had to do was drive myself. He still goes with me most of the time but I drive. Healing balm.

Driving thought for you.

slopokesgirl Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 11:32am
post #13 of 18

icon_surprised.gificon_surprised.gif That is SOOO true.. my hubby and I just had a spat over the "driving incident." Every time I deliver a cake, I experience what I lovingly refer to a "mini anxiety attack." But let my husband get behind the wheel and it's a full blown heart attack. LOL.

After having several creations turn into Egors... I had to enlighten him of his LEAD FOOT. Needless to say, ...we argued. But, to tell you the truth, I would rather endure that argument then the constant fighting in the car during delivery. Not to mention having to face my friends and family when I bring my dropping cakes. I'm tired of saying.. "It was nice before we left the house.. look I have pictures to prove it." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

costumeczar Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 2:35pm
post #14 of 18

Drive to NC with the cake unassembled, or you'll have a stroke on the way there regardless of whether anything goes wrong or not.

If I get to a location and the cake table is iffy I make sure that it's okay before I'll set the cake up. I remember one where the table was on a slope, not a slight lean, but a slope, and I made them move the table, obviously. I've had them move tables out of the sun, etc. etc. You can get as bossy as you want if it's going to affect the cake int he long run.

And also remember, "every cake has a back" icon_smile.gif I know all of the reception sites that do "cake in the round" and it just adds to the stress. Once you do this for a while you'll learn where the different venues set up the cake table, they're all pretty consistent with where they put them each time. Then it will take some of the stress of the unknown out of it for you. It will also let you prepare for weird situations because there are a couple around here that refuse to move the table, and I tell the brides about that when they're here for their consult. It can make a difference sometimes becasue if the sun is going to hit the cake all afternoon you might want to insist on fondant, etc.

If you know the venue does somethiing weird each time, you can sometimes get the bride to talk to them about it beforehand, too. They tend to respond better to the bride than to us asking about changes while we're there trying to set up.

sassycleo Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 2:43pm
post #15 of 18

Oh believe you me, the cake is going to NC unassembled...lol I couldn't imagine making that drive with it even partially put together. Are there any tricks/tips I should know about before making such a long drive with the cake in tow? I figured that I would have to drive the whole way down with the air on, guess I'll have to dig the winter coat out..lol

indydebi Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 3:36pm
post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by costumeczar

I've had them move tables out of the sun, etc. etc. You can get as bossy as you want if it's going to affect the cake int he long run.




Hubby did a good job in this regard last weekend. He delivered an 18x24 for me, for a company employee picnic. He said the caterer was kinda arrogant "....and a dumba$$". Caterer told him to put the cake at the end of the food line "....for the flow". Hubby said, "That table is in the sun ... you can't put a cake in the sun." Caterer said, "Well if you put it on the shaded table, the flow won't work right!" Hubby said, "Then you can move the cake table later, but I'm NOT sitting this cake in the direct sun!"

Sometimes, he DOES listen to me! icon_biggrin.gif

OhMyGanache Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 4:17pm
post #17 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

Quote:
Originally Posted by PoleKitten

..... but the cake shifted when I stopped a little too abruptly and the top 3 tiers slid off the bottom tier of a 4 tier cake - cutting it into pieces. The top 3 tiers were fine, they cut and ate that and served the bottom tier from the kitchen.


icon_surprised.gif omg, that is EXACTLY what happened to me a few months ago! My first "slider". We served the bottom tier from the kitchen. Everyone was fine with it. I deducted $200, even tho' we served the cake and they turned around and gave my crew a $200 tip. The 3 tier cake they ended up with looked perfect.

I didn't panic because I had read the experiences of all the other CC'ers who had sliders and how they handled it. Without those threads, I would have had NO IDEA how to fix that disaster!

So this is why we brag about our problem cakes ... so the next person can learn from our experience. Like I did. thumbs_up.gif




Well, so far, the dowel down the center has stopped anything like this from happening again - even when people have picked up their own cakes (and you know they are nowhere near as careful as we are), I haven't had a problem since I started doing that.

Y'all should be careful about automatic van doors too! I took a full size sheet cake out of my 2004 Nissan Quest that has automatic side doors and the corner of the box hit the open/close button and the door closed on me and the cake. I thought it would re-open with just slight resistance - but sadly, I was wrong and my sides were bruised and the cake folded in half. LOL!

It was a sheet cake to be served from the kitchen (they also ordered a tiered cake) and I fixed it up just fine with a butterknife - the only problem would have been the pieces at the center point, the rest of the cake was fine (so perhaps 8 out of 96 pieces) but wouldn't you know she called the bakery wanting a FULL refund? HA!

Now I know to always turn the automatic doors off when doing deliveries - just in case.

SugaredUp Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 5:07pm
post #18 of 18

To the OP, I think that when you're just getting into doing wedding cakes (I am too) that you get so discouraged so easily. But you sound like me. I over think everything and get myself so worked up. It's good to be like that in some ways, because you'll always strive to do better the next time, always try to improve. It sounds like you made out just fine. The bride was happy. But you did learn from it. Next time, you'll put it on a sturdier table and you'll have other supplies w/ you just in case. I was so upset when I delivered my last wedding cake.

After the bride and groom promised me that since it was an outdoor wedding and it was going to be in the 80s, they would keep in in the air conditioned kitchen and bring it out only for a short period of time to take pictures and cut it... there was no air conditioning on site at all, and the bugs were all over that thing and it was so gross and it was melting before my eyes. The flies were actually attacking me as I was trying to add the border! The tent was actually WAY hotter than it was outside. It was like 95 or hotter in that tent. It was awful! But the bride thanked me as well. I was freaking out for a few days though! I still cringe when I think about it!

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