Tall, Straight Sides?

Decorating By pattiverde Updated 22 Jan 2010 , 3:46pm by Sagebrush

pattiverde Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 4:35am
post #1 of 28

Hi all!

I made this beach-themed wedding cake as a practice version for a cake I'll be making for my sister's wedding in August. I had never made a 3-tiered cake before, so I really wanted to practice. Thank you Alexandrabill and Terrylee for inspiration from your beach-themed cakes. Also, thank you Kakeladi for help on the straws vs. dowel issue (I used thick drinking straws).

The one I make in August will have white adirondack chairs on top (thank you Cakeladiinri for inspiration and purchase info!).

OK, now my question: Most of your cakes have straight, tall sides. How do you achieve that? Mine seem kind of short and chubby. These are 12, 10 and 8-inch cakes that are two layers each. Do you tort your layers to create 4-layers in each cake, thus a taller cake? My top tier here has especially slanted slides, and this may be because I overfilled the cake and despite a pretty thick dam of buttercream, the filling started oozing out and the cake became lopsided. So I added more frosting and re-smoothed it, but it didn't help much and I essentially ended up with a big bulge in the back of the cake and not very straight, tall sides. I think this cake looks more like a pyramid than a wedding cake!

Also, if you have any feedback or suggestions on the general style of the cake or anything else, please let me know! I would love to improve upon it when I make it again in August! I am already thinking I might not "cascade" the shells but instead have a few placed on different parts of the tier shelves, in little groups. Please advise!

Thank you so much! I am learning so much from all of you!
icon_smile.gif patti
LL

27 replies
Rylan Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 5:11am
post #2 of 28

The cake looks nice.

I torte depending on the cake I'm using. If I am making a my chocolate cake with my rich chocolate filling, I wouldn't torte because I don't want an overpowering taste. Usually, I bake three 2 inch cakes and stack. If I do torte, two 2 inch cakes will be fine with a thick and fluffy filling.

I've also done up to 7 layers of cake for an 8 inch tall tier.

Texas_Rose Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 5:11am
post #3 of 28

It's very pretty. I like the color and the shells are lovely.

About the tall issue...if you have a 4" difference between tiers it gives it more of a tall look. You might need to put more batter into the pans too...I've noticed that I have to put more than it says on the Wilton chart in order to get each of my layers to be 2".

I'm wondering if you have two different 8" pans and if maybe they're slightly different sizes? I could never figure out why I was unhappy with the look of my 8" cakes until I realized that my 8" pans were 8" at the bottom and 8 3/4" at the top. Once I figured that out and replaced them with straight-sided pans, I got a much better look. Sometimes though it will seem like one layer of a tier sticks out further than the other, and in that case I'll carve it down a little bit. I don't know what everyone else does but it works fine for me.

One suggestion when you do the actual wedding cake...cover the cake board with fondant and glue a ribbon around the edge. It's pretty easy to do but it looks really fancy.

Bakingangel Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 5:49am
post #4 of 28

Your cake is very pretty! Not too much to tweak!


If you look closely, the middle tier has straighter sides than the others. So, I think it might be the way you are putting the b/c on. Maybe your spatula is out further at the bottom instead of a 90 degree angle. I use a bench scrapper to straighten up the sides (learned this from Sharon Zambito's DVD Perfecting the Art of Buttercream. I highly recommend it. She has tips for making a dam that won't leak and also gives a little more height to each cake layer along with many more.)

Regarding the height of each tier, I fill my pans 3/4 full, bake at 325 until done. Usually after leveling (if needed) I end up with a 2 inch layer x 2 = 4 inch tier.

Good luck. I'm sure it will be fabulous!

LeckieAnne Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 6:00am
post #5 of 28

Not much help beyond what everyone else said - but I have to say, I like the cascading shells. Sort of a traditional wedding cascade look.

FlourPots Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 7:33am
post #6 of 28

It's lovely...

For more height, personally, I would add an extra layer of cake to each tier.

LillyLou Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 8:36am
post #7 of 28

I always bake 3 2" layers so I don't have to torte. Besides taking the lazy way, I don't like to torte because I'm afraid it won't be level when I get everything together. Also, I like more cake than filling/frosting. The cake looks marvelous!

ahuvas Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 8:49am
post #8 of 28

The cheaper cake pans have slanted sides so the top is slightly wider than the bottom.

cylstrial Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 12:05pm
post #9 of 28

If you take a really sharp knife, hold the knife vertical at all times and shave off the excess cake, to get straight edges. I learned this from Sharon Zambito's video's (which I highly recommend).

I actually really like the cascading shells. Things like that are great way to high any small blunders in the fondant and so.

Don't forget, there is always a back side to a cake. But if you let your cake sit with a piece of tile on it (leahs way) or a book (something that evenly distributes weight), that will help squeeze any extra out, before you put the fondant on.

I really think the cake looks great though!

indydebi Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 12:23pm
post #10 of 28

I'm betting you have the wilton cake pans, which have a flare to them, thus making the middle of your cakes flare out when you put those two halves together. Get Magic Line or another good brand that has straight sides. You'll see a big difference.

In the meantime, what you can do is freeze your cakes (even slightly), then stand them on their side (like a wheel) and with a sharp knife, cut off the flare.

The suggestion of the bottom may be flaring because of how you put your BC on is a good one. I did it for a LONG time before I realized I was doing it. Get a bench scraper to smooth your icing. When you set this on the turntable, you have a PERFECT 90 degree angle and end up with perfectly straight sides.

for the height, I think the wilton pans are not quite a 2" pan (never measured them, just comparing baking results between those and my good pans). With a good pan, I can put in enough batter so that it bakes higher than the pan (no it doesn't overflow) then use the pan as a guide to lelvel it. Perfectly level cakes that are exactly 2" tall.

pattiverde Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 3:56pm
post #11 of 28

Thank you so much everybody!! Your suggestions are just what I needed! I did use Wilton pans for this, as Indydebi guessed. It is curious though that the middle cake came out with straight sides, as BakingAngel noted. Hmmm. I will try freezing then cutting off any unevenness on the sides, but I think I will save up for some Magic Line round pans in the future (I have the square ones and love them). I will also save up for the buttercream DVD that a couple people suggested. Working with buttercream is my biggest challenge so far in cake making. Oh, and getting tall, straight sides!

Thanks also for the feedback on the style. This is so helpful!

Oh! And thank you Indydebi who helped me figure out a good timeline for making this cake in August without going crazy. This practice version took me exactly 30.5 hours (I kept a tally!), spread over a week.

icon_smile.gif patti

indydebi Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 4:21pm
post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by pattiverde

This practice version took me exactly 30.5 hours (I kept a tally!), spread over a week.



What valuable info you've added to your arsenal of info!

Here's an interesting exercise you can do: figure out what your ingredient costs were, and then assume you make only a lousy $10/hour to make the cake = $300 in "payroll".

Add the $300 plus your ingredients to see what your expense really is for this cake. (understanding that this does not include the taxes you will pay on that $300).

Then take the ingredients cost alone and do the "times three" system that folks use a lot. Compare that "times three" number (which under the times-three theory should be your selling price) and see if it comes close to the labor+ingredients number.

I'm betting it's not even close!

pattiverde Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 10:01pm
post #13 of 28

Indydebi, you are so right: the cost is not even close!! Here's the comparison:

$50 for ingredients x 3 = $150

$10/hr. x 30 hrs. labor + $50 ingredients = $350

WOW! Using the ingredients x 3 pricing method leaves me with less than half the pay of charging labor + ingredients. You know, this works out similarly on smaller cakes. A lovely decorated 8" cake can take me about 8 or 10 hours to make and decorate, while the ingredients might only cost me about $10 or $15...

Good to think about!
icon_smile.gif patti

indydebi Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 10:32pm
post #14 of 28

This illustrates exactly what many of us have been trying to say for a LONG time. The biggest expense is usually not the ingredients but the labor .... so why are people using the LOWEST cost contributor (ingredients) times three instead of the HIGHEST cost contributor (labor).

If you were doing this as a business and had to actually write a payroll check to the person who did the 30 hours to make this cake, you'd go bankrupt in a second. You would have had to write a payroll check for $300 when you only received an income check of $150.

Not hard to see how soon it would be before you went out of business.

I'm saving this thread ... I'm sure I"ll be referencing folks back to your numbers quite a few times! thumbs_up.gif

Dessert_Diva Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 11:13pm
post #15 of 28

As a newbie doing this as a hobby and not charging, I still don't understand standard across-the-board cost per serving type of pricing because some cakes require more effort and are more elaborate than others. Shouldn't it be degree of difficulty as well?

indydebi Posted 13 Jul 2009 , 11:25pm
post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dessert_Diva

As a newbie doing this as a hobby and not charging, I still don't understand standard across-the-board cost per serving type of pricing because some cakes require more effort and are more elaborate than others. Shouldn't it be degree of difficulty as well?




Definitely.

But I haven't found a BC design that caused me extra work and merited an add'l charge. (Been doing BC for 30 years, so I'm pretty quick at it.)

Most fondant cakes that I've done (so far) are super simple .... fondant covered with dots or ribbon-based. And I charge a higher rate for fondant and that covers it ok.

I have a flat across the board price that covers most anything a bride would want. And it's why I always coach brides to "never ask how much it costs ... always ask how much you have to write the check for." Because while my flat price may be higher than most folks' base price, by the time everyone else adds their nickel and dimes to the bill, I end up being cheaper.

I have a handful of designs that do have an add'l fee for them and I refer to that as a Design Fee. (like my City Skyline cake on my web home page or the Mirrored Dessert Stand). If I come across a design that merits add'l charges, of course I'll charge it. I just haven't come across too many that took me SO much exra time that I thought it merited an extra fee.

tony_sopranos_ebony_girl Posted 14 Jul 2009 , 12:16am
post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

I'm betting you have the wilton cake pans, which have a flare to them, thus making the middle of your cakes flare out when you put those two halves together. Get Magic Line or another good brand that has straight sides. You'll see a big difference.

In the meantime, what you can do is freeze your cakes (even slightly), then stand them on their side (like a wheel) and with a sharp knife, cut off the flare.

The suggestion of the bottom may be flaring because of how you put your BC on is a good one. I did it for a LONG time before I realized I was doing it. Get a bench scraper to smooth your icing. When you set this on the turntable, you have a PERFECT 90 degree angle and end up with perfectly straight sides.

for the height, I think the wilton pans are not quite a 2" pan (never measured them, just comparing baking results between those and my good pans). With a good pan, I can put in enough batter so that it bakes higher than the pan (no it doesn't overflow) then use the pan as a guide to lelvel it. Perfectly level cakes that are exactly 2" tall.




I have the same trouble and it's funny because I was watching Amazing Wedding Cakes last night and the Merci Beaucoup Cake they did a crumb coat and then when they put the second layer of icing on it was nice and thick but yet once covered in fondant it was perfect !!! Same thing with Christopher Garren's Cakes ... I like a decent amount of frosting ... I do admit I use a spatula to apply but even when I let it sit overnight the minute I put the fondant on and cover it I have to use the smoothers to manipulate the shape ... and it is still not as straight on the sides as I would like !!!!

Could someone please tell me help me !!! Is the bench scraper and type of pans really the only factors ??????????? icon_cry.gif

indydebi Posted 14 Jul 2009 , 12:45am
post #18 of 28

The reason I like the bench scraper is because it's a PERFECT 90 degree angle. If you could see a freeze-frame of yourself while using a spatula or a smoother, you'd probably be surprised at the angle at which you are unconsciously holding the tool.

(oh wait ... that would be SUB consciously, wouldn't it? Kinda hard for someone to ice a cake if they're unconscious! icon_redface.gif )

tony_sopranos_ebony_girl Posted 14 Jul 2009 , 12:55am
post #19 of 28

indydebi you are hilarious !!!
Ok I am going to purchase one !!! The next time I do a cake I am going to try it and I will be letting you know !!! I'm trusting you ... icon_razz.gif

TamathaV Posted 14 Jul 2009 , 9:13pm
post #20 of 28

Patti, your cake is very good! I remember my first 3 tiered cake took me over 30 hours as wellicon_smile.gif By August I bet it will be flawless!

First, make sure your filling is really a thick consistency. If you're using a fruit filling it might need to be stabilized with a good bit of cornstarch, mousse with gelatin. I learned this the hard way the last time I made bavarian cream. It was a tiny bit runny when I was spreading it and I should have known better but I left it. Even though it was a thin layer and I used a good dam it leaked and bulged. So make sure your filling is quite thick. If you're using BC to fill you should be fine.

Here's how I get straight sides. Give yourself time to shave the side edges of your torted and filled cake. Not only will it straighten them nicely if there's a bulge or flare but if you have a white cake with a golden brown crust it looks more professional if you trim it away. It also prevents "shadowing" which is when you're icing and a bit of the uneven side gets thinner icing and shows through. Really bad on choc cake with white icing.

Build the tier on a corresponding size cardboard round. Dam and fill. Place another cardboard round on top of tier and press down on the cake evenly (firmly but not hard). This helps prevent icing bulges when the cake settles. Place the tier on a turn table. Holding the knife perpendicular to the top, slice straight down from top to bottom. You should maybe be cutting 1/16 off at the top (just the crust, you don't want to lose too much cake!). If you have a bulge in the middle or a flare at the bottom you'll obviously be cutting off more as you cut down. Turn slightly and slice down again right next to the last cut or overlapping just slightly. Check your knife often to make sure it's at a right angle from the top of the cake. Go all the way around the cake. It takes a little bit of time but it's worth it. When you're done check your cardboard base. The distance between the edge of your cardboard and the cake is how much icing you'll have so if it's really wide you may need to trim the cardboard down. Depends on how much icing you want. For some reason I have more of this issue with 6" tiers than any other. If you need to trim the base make sure it's not jagged because you'll use the cardboard as a guide.

I'll be honest, I don't crumb coat anymoreicon_smile.gif. At this point I place my BC into a large piping bag with a plain round coupler and beginning at the bottom of the cake pipe the BC on in even, touching rings all the way up the side. It should be a little thicker than you need it an extend out past your cardboard base just a tad. I also go up past the top edge, then fill in the top with the same thickness, concentric circles. I use my bench scraper like Deby mentioned. I hold it sideways on the surface of the turntable and butt it up against the edge of the CARDBOARD and then slowly turn to remove the excess BC. This keeps you at a 90 degree angle. I don't do much smoothing at this point, just getting excess off.

Because I work mostly with meringue based BC's I chill the tier for an hour at this point and then begin smoothing with the scraper in the same position, dipping it into very hot water. It melts the BC as it passes and makes it ultra smooth. Clean the edge of the scraper after every pass. Do the sides first, making sure that your BC still extends above the top edge. When the sides are straight and smooth, take your hot scraper and pull it across the top of the cake from the edge to the center, taking off the excess. You may need to rechill the cake before you move on to the top. Smoothing is much easier to do when the cake is cold because you won't be taking off too much at a time and it's harder to ding with you fingericon_smile.gif. You want to be especially careful not to take off too much of the top edge. If you take too much off just add some where you need it, chill for a moment and re-smooth.

Sorry I've written a novel!!! I know this one of the hardest things to master and I always had a hard time until a chef showed me this technique. I don't use the crusting BC very much but it you do the same steps for applying the BC it should already be pretty straight even before you refine it.

HTH!

Tammy

Peridot Posted 14 Jul 2009 , 9:33pm
post #21 of 28

TamathaV

What meringue based BC recipe do you use? I want to try something other than just BC. Does your meringue based BC crust? Can you lay fondant over this?
I think your novel was great!!

TamathaV Posted 14 Jul 2009 , 11:13pm
post #22 of 28

Hi Peridot!

I use Swiss Meringue BC. It does not crust at all but it does set up hard when cold, like butter. I just prefer the taste and texture to a crusting BC.

Yes, you can (and I do all the time) use it under fondant but I use a bit thinner layer and always put my fondant on a well chilled cake. This means you have to get it on, in place and smooth fairly quickly before any condensation starts to form. I get it in place, smooth like usual and after about 3-4 minutes when condensation is forming leave it alone until it's dry. When I say condenation - It doesn't get really wet or even beaded, just a little tacky but if you try to manipulate it while it's tacky you might have problems.

I put my fondant covered cakes back in the fridge after covering if I have fillings that are perishable. Also, I make Michele Foster's fondant recipe and it holds up well under refrigeration but I've heard that Wilton fondant won't. Satin Ice does well chilled too. After the fondant is cold again it is not sticky so I'll do any stacking and final decorating after it's chilled. The cake should be served at cool room temp, though, so I usually try to time delivery so that it's been at room temp for 2 to 3 hours by the time it's served. Any condensation is dry by that time as well.

If you just use SMBC to fill and frost it is okay at room temp for 2 days so then you can leave the fondant covered cake out to come to room temp and let any condensation that forms dry before proceeding to decorate.

SMBC is pretty heat sensitive. I don't do outdoor cakes with it for sure! I am trying out using white chocolate ganache this week under my fondant (Planet Cake style) to see if I like it better but I'' still use SMBC to fill.

Boy am I wordy today...musta been that last espressoicon_smile.gif

Tammy

TamathaV Posted 14 Jul 2009 , 11:17pm
post #23 of 28

Hi Peridot!

I use Swiss Meringue BC. It does not crust at all but it does set up hard when cold, like butter. I just prefer the taste and texture to a crusting BC.

Yes, you can (and I do all the time) use it under fondant but I use a bit thinner layer and always put my fondant on a well chilled cake. This means you have to get it on, in place and smooth fairly quickly before any condensation starts to form. I get it in place, smooth like usual and after about 3-4 minutes when condensation is forming leave it alone until it's dry. When I say condenation - It doesn't get really wet or even beaded, just a little tacky but if you try to manipulate it while it's tacky you might have problems.

I put my fondant covered cakes back in the fridge after covering if I have fillings that are perishable. Also, I make Michele Foster's fondant recipe and it holds up well under refrigeration but I've heard that Wilton fondant won't. Satin Ice does well chilled too. After the fondant is cold again it is not sticky so I'll do any stacking and final decorating after it's chilled. The cake should be served at cool room temp, though, so I usually try to time delivery so that it's been at room temp for 2 to 3 hours by the time it's served. Any condensation is dry by that time as well.

If you just use SMBC to fill and frost it is okay at room temp for 2 days so then you can leave the fondant covered cake out to come to room temp and let any condensation that forms dry before proceeding to decorate.

SMBC is pretty heat sensitive. I don't do outdoor cakes with it for sure! I am trying out using white chocolate ganache this week under my fondant (Planet Cake style) to see if I like it better but I'' still use SMBC to fill.

Boy am I wordy today...musta been that last espressoicon_smile.gif

Tammy

LillyLou Posted 15 Jul 2009 , 5:50am
post #24 of 28

TamathaV, thanks for those great instructions!! Don't worry about getting too wordy; I do the same thing. I'm going to try your way the next time I've got a cake to do.

I also found the answer to my question about whether to refrigerate a fondant covered cake. I've always refrigerated mine and just let the condensation evaporate. I don't use Wilton fondant anymore since I found the MMF recipe on Cake Central. It's really, really good! I tried Fondarrific and that needs to stay refrigerated as I found out last August. I made a 3 tier cake for me and my niece's birthdays and had to transport it in my car to Jacksonville, FL from Montgomery, AL over 6 hours. When I got to my mother's house, the fondant had cracked around the top of the bottom 2 tiers at the back and started to sag. I believe that if I had kept the tiers in a refrigerator they wouldn't have sagged. I had to repair it and it looked real good from a distance but I was not happy with the way it turned out.

Thanks again for your advice!

sugarspice Posted 12 Jan 2010 , 2:42pm
post #25 of 28

What good examples of how to price. I wish they would do some stickies about how to figure a price as well as what to consider when opening a business. There have been a zillion questions with great answers in the past! (And more to come, I'm sure!)

sadsmile Posted 12 Jan 2010 , 3:12pm
post #26 of 28

Invaluable advice in here already! I will add this one bit. You said your top tier was 8" and the average cake is 4" tall. Looking at it is going to appear wider than it is tall because it is. Most prefer a 6" top to give it a taller appearance. 6" wide and 4" tall makes it look taller. Some(very few will do a 4" top tier. Some add more height to each tier by adding another layer of cake, but as Indy has pointed out in the past that messes with your size of cake on the size of dessert plate and it might be too tall for the average dessert plate.

Renaejrk Posted 12 Jan 2010 , 3:15pm
post #27 of 28

As far as the pricing differently for level of difficulty thing goes, I think it's a good idea and there are several ways I'm sure that you could go about it. I can't really charge for mine now, but I want to go into business so I've figured up a price list, though it may change/increase - it's just a general idea at this point to get numbers together for myself. I personally would charge $$ per serving for a "flat" non-carved cake, $$ per serv for a flat/2-d carved/shaped cake, $$ per serv for a partially carved/3d cake, $$ per serv for a "short" 3d cake (no complicated structure issues), and $$ per serv for a difficult 3d (such as a lipstick, something tall, or that has to stand on some type of structure and not really touch the board, etc.). It sounds complicated, but you could make it simpler, depending on what you would offer. There are a lot of 3d requests here, so that is what my focus was for the prices.

If you mostly do sheet cakes or wedding cakes, I probably would charge per serving for a BASE cake, and then additional fees for things they want to add to the cake - flowers, decos, etc!

Wow - this isn't even what the OP was talking about to begin with - I can't believe I just typed all that!! LOL

Sagebrush Posted 22 Jan 2010 , 3:46pm
post #28 of 28

You said that your tiers were 8, 10, 12. The fondant wave design uses up a good portion of that 1" space on each side between the tiers, so they don't look like there's quite as much of a difference. I think you could fool the eye into thinking each tier looked taller giving more the effect of a tiered wedding cake than of a pyramid by increasing the difference between the tier sizes. 6, 10, 14, perhaps. You do end up with 10 more servings that way (128 instead of 11icon_cool.gif.

That said... the cake as is looks beautiful! I can see your concerns once you've pointed them out, but as a guest at the wedding, I probably would not have even noticed.

- Leisel

Quote by @%username% on %date%

%body%