Help Me Troubleshoot This Please!

Decorating By confectionsofahousewife Updated 12 Jan 2010 , 10:14pm by DeeDelightful

confectionsofahousewife Posted 9 Jan 2010 , 9:55pm
post #1 of 35

I made this cake for my niece's birthday party today. It is two 10 inch rounds stacked on top of two 8 inch rounds and then carved into a strawberry shape. There is a cake board under the 10 inch cakes and dowels in the 8 inch cakes to hold the top. Not sure if you can tell from the pic, but overnight the cake started to lean. By this morning there were some cracks in the buttercream and I could tell that it was leaning.

It worked out okay and I was able to drive it to the party without a major disaster (and it was for family anyway) but I would like to know what I could have done to prevent this. The cracks in the buttercream were less than attractive. I realize that with the top tier being smaller than the bottom it is inherently unstable but there has to be something I could have done to prevent the leaning. Thoughts??

ETA: Apparently I'm a dumba$$ and can't figure out how to shrink my photo to 800x800 pixels in order to attach it to his message so here is the link to it in the photo gallery.
http://www.cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=gallery&file=displayimage&pid=1553694

34 replies
Doug Posted 9 Jan 2010 , 10:01pm
post #2 of 35

try www.shrinkpictures.com for the pic problem.

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were all the dowels exactly the same length? even a little bit off could induce lean over night.

were top 10" cakes exactly centered over the 8" ones -- even a little bit off could induce lean over night.

did you central dowel it?

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for future consider SPS system:
http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-603925-sps.html

confectionsofahousewife Posted 9 Jan 2010 , 10:32pm
post #3 of 35

It is certainly possible that not all the dowels were exactly the same length. How do I remedy that? Its also possible that the 10 inch cakes weren't exactly centered. I do sometimes have a problem with that. I did use a central dowel.

Doug Posted 9 Jan 2010 , 10:34pm
post #4 of 35

remedy - sps system

or

clamp them down and cut all at the same time in a miter box

confectionsofahousewife Posted 10 Jan 2010 , 1:58am
post #5 of 35

I have read about SPS but have yet to try it. It sounds harder than using dowels, unless you are me and can't cut them properly icon_wink.gif . Could I use sps on a cake like that where I had to stack it first and then carve it?

And, what' s a mitre box? What do you use to cut the dowels? A saw?

Finally, thanks so much for that website about shrinking pics. I tried it and am trying to attach it to this message to see if it works!
LL

Doug Posted 10 Jan 2010 , 2:07am
post #6 of 35

sps very secure and easy to adjust

miter box is woodworking tool used to get precise cuts on molding and the like

costumeczar Posted 10 Jan 2010 , 3:11am
post #7 of 35

I use a pair of cable cutters that I got at Home Depot to cut wooden dowels. Put the first dowel into the cake, mark the height at the top of the cake, carefully remove the dowel and cut it with the cable cutter. Then use that cut piece as a guide to measure and cut the other ones.

The dowels probably weren't the same length, so that would have caused the leaning.

If you do this kind of shape again you could do an 8" with a 9" on top, then dowel that, and put the 10" tiers on top of that. But as long as it's dowelled correctly it shouldn't lean.

prterrell Posted 10 Jan 2010 , 3:28am
post #8 of 35

What size cake board did you have under the 10"?

icer101 Posted 10 Jan 2010 , 3:32am
post #9 of 35

its vey pretty.. it just looks to me .. like you didn,t cut enough off the 10" tiers.. so.. yes, next time. use 9" tiers... on top of 8" tiers.. and then shape up some.. i don,t think it was improper doweling at all. just not enough take off 10" tiers.. hth

confectionsofahousewife Posted 10 Jan 2010 , 2:16pm
post #10 of 35

So we think maybe it was a little too top-heavy? It had the shape that I wanted so I didn't really want to take more off of the top. I did want to use two consecutive sizes but I only have 6-8-10-12 inch round pans. I supposed I could have cut a 10 down to a 9 but didn't really think about that. I am not very good at cutting dowels so I am relatively certain they were not the same length. I am going to be more careful about that from now on. I need to get the cable cutter that costumeczar mentioned.

prterrell, the cake board under the 10 was slightly smaller than 10 inches to allow for carving. Perhaps that caused a problem too? I was afraid of putting a 10 inch board under that part of the cake because i filled and stacked everything before I carved it. I thought about just stacking the cakes first, carving, and then unstacking and filling, doweling, etc. but was afraid I wouldn't get everything lined back up properly. Not sure what the proper protocol would be for something like this.

Thank you for all of your input. I am still learning!

yeastconfection Posted 10 Jan 2010 , 2:44pm
post #11 of 35

Maybe you should stop using the wood dowels alltogether.....I had a topsy turvy fall over this summer (doweled with wood) and now I don't trust them no matter how evenly cut they are......they are just not wide enough in my opinion.....try the bubble tea straws (you could order them through Ebay) or the thick white tubes from Wilton....I cut both of these with a kitchen scissors (fast) and they hold my cakes together so much better! I only use wood now for the central dowel. Also, if you have good supports, you should be able to put a 10 inch easily on an 8 inch....if you have good supports the 10 inch can be off center also.....I really think your problem lies not in the size of your cakes, not in the carving, not in the stacking, but just in the supports.....Good luck in your next cake endeavors!

deMuralist Posted 10 Jan 2010 , 3:16pm
post #12 of 35

I found that I had some lean on a cake I did a while back and figured out it was because the "boards" which were the typical corrugated cardboard had absorbed enough moisture that they were no longer of any value regarding support. The dowels pushed through the cake layer above them and the boards wilted. It was a topsy turvy so no huge problem, and it was my first stacked cake so a total learning lesson all the way around.

confectionsofahousewife Posted 10 Jan 2010 , 6:29pm
post #13 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by yeastconfection

Maybe you should stop using the wood dowels alltogether.....I had a topsy turvy fall over this summer (doweled with wood) and now I don't trust them no matter how evenly cut they are......they are just not wide enough in my opinion.....try the bubble tea straws (you could order them through Ebay) or the thick white tubes from Wilton....I cut both of these with a kitchen scissors (fast) and they hold my cakes together so much better! I only use wood now for the central dowel. Also, if you have good supports, you should be able to put a 10 inch easily on an 8 inch....if you have good supports the 10 inch can be off center also.....I really think your problem lies not in the size of your cakes, not in the carving, not in the stacking, but just in the supports.....Good luck in your next cake endeavors!




I've been contemplating the bubble tea straws but really wasn't sure if they would be stronger than wood. It seems counterintuitive that plastic straws would do better than wood dowels. Are the bubble tea straws more or less expensive than wood dowels?

Sagebrush Posted 10 Jan 2010 , 8:48pm
post #15 of 35

At the cake shop I shadowed at last month, the owner told me that she always uses four dowels in her stacked cakes. She said that through frustrating experience she had found that she go shifting in transport with any fewer.

It would seem to me that with only one center dowel (especially if the upper tiers are not perfectly balanced on the supports below), that the upper layer(s) could twist, and as they twist they could pull the supports out of upright... causing ever further lean and twisting. So, an additional dowel (or two or three) might also prevent the cake from developing a lean.

HTH

- Leisel

confectionsofahousewife Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 12:09am
post #16 of 35
Quote:




Thanks! I'm still concerned about them not being as sturdy as wood dowels, though.

Deb_ Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 12:41am
post #17 of 35

I know, I've always felt that way too. I've never tried them but I do have a close friend "caker" that swears by them.

Maybe I'll try them on a family cake first.

yeastconfection Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 1:09am
post #18 of 35

Think about balancing a book on 4 wooden dowels....it would fall over! But if you use the wilton white tubes or the wide bubble tea straws you could actually do it! If you are stacking a small cake (like yours in the pic) the tea straws are great....for huge 5 tier wedding cakes I use the Wilton white tubes (they are thicker and do not bend at all but are more expensive).

Deb_ Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 1:22am
post #19 of 35

That's what I use too the plastic pillars.

But, they're a lot stronger then straws aren't they? I mean just the material they're made of is harder and not flexible like a drinking bubble tea straw is.

All I can think of is I can bend a bubble tea straw without a problem, the plastic pillars I wouldn't be able to do that.

confectionsofahousewife Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 3:04am
post #20 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by dkelly

.

All I can think of is I can bend a bubble tea straw without a problem, the plastic pillars I wouldn't be able to do that.




exactly! I cant bend wooden dowels either. What kind of pillars do you use, Deb? Do use sps?
Practicing on family is always good. I figure they wont care if something falls over.

Deb_ Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 3:14am
post #21 of 35

I mostly use the Wilton plastic pillars. I did order SPS for a wedding cake back in October. I can't get it anywhere near me so I have to order it and I'm not always good about ordering in time.

I liked SPS OK, I just didn't think it was so much better then what I was already using.

The "knobby" thing on the plastic plate is a little tricky to get lined up with the cake board, even though I cut a hole in my board ahead of time.

Have you ever tried it?

confectionsofahousewife Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 3:32am
post #22 of 35

I have never tried SPS. After reading the directions it sounds a little complicated. I know everyone says its easy to get the hang of, but I'm not so sure! Wood dowels are the only thing I have ever used. But, as we have seen, I can't seem to cut them to be the same length. Do you reuse the wilton pillars? Are they expensive? I hate to do anything that would increase my costs.

Deb_ Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 3:43am
post #23 of 35

No, I don't reuse the plastic pillars (or columns I think they're called).

They are fairly inexpensive....I believe a package of 4- 9" columns are about $2.50, so that's enough for 2 tiers. I just build the cost into the price of my cake.

confectionsofahousewife Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 4:01am
post #24 of 35

If I'm reading that right the columns are 9". So you have to cut them? What do you use to cut them? I need something easier to cut than dowels. Obviously I can't cut them all to the same length using a saw!

Deb_ Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 4:18am
post #25 of 35

lol...these can be cut with regular kitchen scissors.

I noticed on one of the cake supply sites they were advertising adjustable plastic pillars that were 4" but you could "screw" them to make them taller or shorter. Those looked pretty cool and you wouldn't have to cut them.

I'll try to find the link.

Deb_ Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 4:24am
post #26 of 35

I found it....
http://********************I just realized it's part of the SPS system....maybe it's a new feature I'm not sure.

The link above may get blocked automatically, some sites do for some reason.

It's ********************

confectionsofahousewife Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 2:02pm
post #27 of 35

Thanks deb! I'll have to check those out. Do you buy the wilton ones in bulk somewhere? I like something I can cut with my kitchen scissors!
BTW why do links get blocked?

Deb_ Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 2:53pm
post #28 of 35

I haven't found them anywhere in bulk, I wish I could since I'm using a lot more lately.

I wanted to mention that sometimes you can find them in the 4" length too.


That particular website always gets blocked and I'm not sure why.

Someone had posted that there was a problem with them and CC, but I've ordered from them many times and they are always quick with their delivery and I've never experienced any problems. So I don't know why it's "banned" from here.

confectionsofahousewife Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 8:33pm
post #29 of 35

Thanks for the info! So when you use the columns, do you use plastic plates under the cakes? If so, how do you stabilize the cakes? Can you use a central dowel?

Deb_ Posted 11 Jan 2010 , 8:59pm
post #30 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by confectionsofahousewife

Thanks for the info! So when you use the columns, do you use plastic plates under the cakes? If so, how do you stabilize the cakes? Can you use a central dowel?




Yes I use cakeboards under the cake and then that is placed on top of a plastic separator plate. ( you don't need to use the plastic plate but I do for stability, because the plastic plates have legs that snap into the pillars)

Here's what I do. When I purchase my separator plates I drill a hole in the middle of each one. I use my largest drill bit I believe it's 3/8".

Then once my first tier is placed on the board I hammer in my center dowel straight through the base....I then lower my separator plate down over the dowel and snap the pillars (that were placed in the bottom tier) into the bottom of the plate.

I use RI to attach the cake tier to the plastic separator plate and lower the tier down over the dowel in the same manner as I did the separator plate.

I just repeat this until the entire cake is stacked.

Note--- I also make sure to cut an x in the center of each cake board before I place the cake on it. This allows the center dowel to go through the board easier.

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