Please Help!! Mistake Cost Me $275, Embarrassment And More

Decorating By howsweet Updated 7 Mar 2009 , 1:36pm by DianeLM

howsweet Posted 22 Feb 2009 , 4:14pm
post #1 of 28

I feel terrible that I disappointed this family.

Please help me figure out what went wrong. icon_sad.gif The first pic is the cake they ordered off my website. As far as I can tell, I didn't do anything that different. But clearly something I did caused this. I've never had this happen before, but now I''m terrified it will happen again.

This is all I can think of:
1) It was a very rainy, humid day (but I've done that without probs before)
2) I used a fruit filling (but I've had that without probs before)
3) I used Satin Ice instead of Pettinice (but I've done that without probs before)

At first I thought it was just air bubbles and as I tried to puncture them with a pin and smooth, it just got worse and worse.


Here is the cake not quite finished, but you see the problem:


27 replies
playingwithsugar Posted 22 Feb 2009 , 4:56pm
post #2 of 28

It looks to me like your dam failed to hold up the layers.
I've never known humidity to cause that.
Excessive weight without proper support, yes.
Warmth melting the dam, yes.
If it was a blow-out, the entire side would be pushing off, not just where the layers meet.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

Kiddiekakes Posted 22 Feb 2009 , 5:04pm
post #3 of 28

I agree with Theresa..It looks as if the weight of the cake was too heavy for the dams.You also may not have had enough support either..If the weight of the cake isn't supported will do this!! Humidity wouldn't have cause a ripple effect exactly where each layer is so it was not that.Bummer though...Great cake!

added to say..This is why I always make these type of cakes a 2 day process.Layer and stack the cake and crumbcoat and leave over night in the fridge to settle.The next day if there is any buldging can fix it without wasting icing or fondant.I have learned that valuable mistake myself!

devorie Posted 22 Feb 2009 , 5:07pm
post #4 of 28

Are you sure that the family is disappointed? If not, you can explain to them that something happened to the structure of the cake and as it is not up to your standards you will give them a discount. Unfortunately, I can't figure out what went wrong. HTH.

MikeRowesHunny Posted 22 Feb 2009 , 5:07pm
post #5 of 28

Definitely looks like the filling was seeping out from between the layers andcollecting behind the fondanrt. I've had this happen too, so I refuse to use fruit fillings now! I was also experiencing a lot of trapped air problems, but since I've started spackle coating my cakes it rarely happens. So sorry this happened to you, the original cake was so cute!

michellenj Posted 22 Feb 2009 , 5:14pm
post #6 of 28

I can see the bulging you are talking about, but the cake is still great. Did they say that they are disappointed, or do you just feel like they might be because this happened?

howsweet Posted 22 Feb 2009 , 5:16pm
post #7 of 28

Thanks for your reply. Sorry for my ignorance.. by the dam, you mean the buttercream around the edge of the fruit filling? It was apparently oozing out at each of the 4 layers, wasn't it? The fondant just kept stretching and stretching - I had to cut the bottom off repeatedly.

I outlined the edge of each layer with buttercream and then added the fruit filling in the center. Then covered it all with a crumb coat. Do you know a better way to do it?

Maybe I put too much filling in? How thick should it be?

The bottom layer looked like that before I added the top, it was well supported, fwiw.

playingwithsugar Posted 22 Feb 2009 , 5:22pm
post #8 of 28

Yes, that is what we mean by "the dam", and yes, it is possible that you put too much filling in.

I start my dam at least 1/4 inch away from the edge of my layer. If I plan to use a thicker layer of filling, I start even farther in, and double the size of the dam.

When using soft fillings, it is always best to allow the cake to settle for at least 30 minutes before applying the final coat of icing. I do this, then crumb coat, then allow the cake to settle overnight, befrore applying the final icing coat.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

howsweet Posted 22 Feb 2009 , 11:25pm
post #9 of 28

Thanks that's very helpful.
And yes they were very disappointed - they were expecting a cake that looked like the first photo. I didn't charge them for it. The kids were thrilled with it though

confectionaryperfection Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 12:17am
post #10 of 28

also it looks like the first cakes tiers are not as high as the new cake, could be that the new cake was heavier due to that.

Monkess Posted 24 Feb 2009 , 5:50pm
post #11 of 28

howsweet-wow, you gave them THAT for free? That is alot of work! And they took it?!! If someone didnt deliver to my expectations, especially when it is a cake and not a piece of furniture that I will have to endure for years...I would have definately paid them something, even if it was 50% Oh well we live and learn. good luck!!!

okred Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 6:39pm
post #12 of 28


Cake isn't absolute perfect so they get it for free!!!!!!

I hope this couple is having trouble sleeping at night.

Sorry, that was a little harsh. (what can I say, I'm a red head and have a temper)

howsweet Posted 26 Feb 2009 , 1:01am
post #13 of 28

Thanks, I appreciate those sentiments. They did pay me the $50 delivery charge. It would have been nice if they'd given me something more. But I held myself out as a professional -- not as someone inexperienced in fruit fillings.

CristyInMiami Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 5:33pm
post #14 of 28

The cake is beautiful!

I just had this happen to me this past weekend. I normally use the wilton fondant and for the first time bought the satin ice. It left the same bumps on the cake and tore it in serveral places. Luckily though I was able to cover up the mistakes with decorations and no one could tell.

I live in Miami and the humidity could be to blame but my experience with SI wasn't great.

I'm sure this won't stop them from ordering from you. The cake is beautiful and they obviously see that you are a more than fair person.

cylstrial Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 6:09pm
post #15 of 28
Originally Posted by bonjovibabe

Definitely looks like the filling was seeping out from between the layers andcollecting behind the fondanrt. I've had this happen too, so I refuse to use fruit fillings now! I was also experiencing a lot of trapped air problems, but since I've started spackle coating my cakes it rarely happens. So sorry this happened to you, the original cake was so cute!

What is spackle coating? I've never heard of it before. Is that a crumb coating, just worded differently?


cocorum21 Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 6:19pm
post #16 of 28

I don't see anything that warrants a free cake. I mean yeah so you had some problems but I don't see a free cake there.

Juds2323 Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 6:19pm
post #17 of 28

Maybe try a stiffer buttercream for the dam too - less wiggle room for it.



melvin01 Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 6:40pm
post #18 of 28

Mostly it looks like settling problems to me. If you have to keep cutting the bottom off of the fondant, the cakes are either too soft to hold the weight of the fondant or weren't allowed to set as well as they needed to.

I had to respond to this because I just order the Sugarshack buttercream video and I'm SO EXCITED!! Maybe this will help me get to where I want to be with smoother iced cakes! Woohoo!

lostincake Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 6:57pm
post #19 of 28

I just had something similar happen to this cake I baked for my sis' 40th B-Day.

It was to be my gift to her so no issue with profit loss there, but there was a lot of hype about me baking a "special" cake for her so there was the issue of disappointing her and embarrassing myself.

I also had bulging even though I used a stiff dam of BC, a very thick fruit filling and set the layered tiers in the fridge overnight. Luckily it was only 1 layer of filling so 1 (HUGE) bulge. There was no bulge when I first took the tiers out but they did appear after I had them all covered and stacked.

I managed to salvage it by placing the decorations strategically over the bulge (hence why it's a bit too close to the bottom of the tier).

But even after that I learned somethings:
- I really think I put too much filling
- The dam I put around was right near the edge of the cake so it did not give the "overflow" anywhere to go
- The layers were probably too heavy

Sorry this happened to you but look at it as a learning experience and a mistake you won't make again. There is a lot of great advice here from PPs and it's great you took the initiative to get some answers for yourself.

It's a very cute design and I'm sure they'll be back to order as you were very gracious with the customer.

lostincake Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 7:01pm
post #20 of 28

Oh...also, I learned to give myself more leeway in terms of time. I was a half hour late to her party because I was trying to fix the problem. Now I will ensure I have at least a 2 hour window in case anything unexpected comes up again. I took this as a big time learning opportunity for me as you can see lol icon_biggrin.gif. Chin up!!

artscallion Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 9:02pm
post #21 of 28
Originally Posted by cylstrial

What is spackle coating? I've never heard of it before. Is that a crumb coating, just worded differently?

Spackle coating is a mixture of buttercream, cake trimmings left over from leveling and some of your filling, all mixed together into a spackle-like paste. This is applied over the chilled crumb coat to further smooth, straighten and fill any imperfections, then chilled, before applying fondant. I first heard about it from Toba Garrett's book, "The Well Decorated Cake."

It works well. I also use it as a filling in four layer cakes. I fill the first and last layers with fruit filling and the middle with spackle.

howsweet Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 9:38pm
post #22 of 28

Vlin28, thanks for your detailed post. That was very helpful. icon_smile.gif

Artscallion, can you give approximate amounts or proportions?

mcdonald Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 10:14pm
post #23 of 28

I too had the same experience but with a wedding cake.. and while it wasn't a TOTAL disaster, even though I felt it was, it was still presentable. I walked away from $325... and thought that the family would at least send me a check for my supplies, etc... thinking they would do right.. either way I didn't want to take money. Looking back...... months later, I wish I had taken the check and issued her a half refund..... the cake was still edible and was not laying on the floor or anything. I know why you did what you did thought because I did it for the same reason... but you did spend money on the goods to bake...

DianeLM Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 10:20pm
post #24 of 28

Oh, I am so sorry this happened to you! You did such a nice job. The cake demons should be shot!

It definitely looks like a settling problem. As others have suggested, you may have added too much filling. I like to use just a smear of fruit filling so it's lower than the level of the dam. And, as others have noted, place your dam 1/4-1/2 inch in from the edge of the cake to allow for expansion.

Did you allow your cake to rest before covering with fondant?

I prefer to stack and fill my layers the night before. Wrap them well, then place a couple empty cake pans on top to gently weight them down.

The addition of fondant should not compress the cakes any further unless you've used a very delicate cake.

I also like to use spackle under fondant. It really helps create a firm, smooth surface.

I notice the bottom tier is squished much more than the top which leads me to believe your dowels were too short.

I hope you find the solution to this problem and never have to go through this again!

artscallion Posted 5 Mar 2009 , 10:25pm
post #25 of 28

The proportions for spackle from Toba's book are:

3 to 4 cups cake crumbs
1/2 to 3/4 cup buttercream
1/4 cup filling (citrus curd or preserves)Mix to form a stiff paste. Use the buttercream to adjust the consistency. You apply it in the same way you do the crumb coating, or any smoothed icing application, about 1/8 to 1/4" thickness.

It helps filling in gaps between layers and holes or damaged parts. It's particularly good in building up one side of the top that you notice isn't level after the crumb coated cake has settled, since the crumbs in it make it more substantial than buttercream alone.

I usually keep an extra cake in the freezer to use for the crumbs in case I don't get enough from trimming the one I'm working on.

gerripje Posted 6 Mar 2009 , 6:21am
post #26 of 28

That spackle coat sounds like an answer to my prayers! I also think I'm not putting enough buttercream on the cake. I am so excited to.... try fondant covered cakes again! Maybe until I get some more practice I shouldn't use homemade fondant. I use Michele Foster's recipe and it works pretty good for me, but I can't get fondant around here except Wilton at Michael's. It may taste awful, but it sure is nice to work with for amateurs like me!

thepinklotusstore Posted 7 Mar 2009 , 12:47pm
post #27 of 28

hey gals, thanks for the great advice on this thread, on question about spackle coating though, do you let it set and then put another coat of regular buttercream?? Or do you put the fondant directly onto the spackle ?? umm, pardon my question, but even if u crumble the cake very finely won't the spackle still be quite lumpy ?? anyway, I will def give it a try!! icon_biggrin.gif

DianeLM Posted 7 Mar 2009 , 1:36pm
post #28 of 28

The way I do it, the spackle is about 75/25 icing to crumbs, so it's still sticky enough for the fondant to adhere to without an additional layer of buttercream.

The center of the cake makes the best crumbs. I discard any outside edges because sometimes they do remain lumpy.

When I have extra batter, I make cupcakes in paper liners to be used as spackle in the future. The paper liner peels away the outside of the cake for me!

Because of the high ratio of icing to crumbs, it is not lumpy. The spackle should spread smoothly. If it's hard to spread or looks lumpy, there's not enough icing in it.

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