cathie1327 Posted 2 Oct 2010 , 10:31pm
post #1 of

Hi all,
I'm pretty new to posting here but I'm hoping you can all help me out.

I did a wedding cake yesterday that was covered in fondant. I made the cake gray and for some reason by the time we got it there, it had turned purple. I don't understand what on earth happened here!!!

But, that's not the worst part. When we got there and started to set it up, the cake started collapsing on itself. I put in extra dowels, and did everything i could think of, but found out today from the bride that shortly after we left, it collapsed and the top two tiers (it was 4 tiers) fell over.

I used boards for each cake, and used the small wooden dowels to stack it. I really do not understand what happened.

I've offered her a full refund but am really very heartbroken over the whole ordeal. I know that I ruined a moment for her that she can never get back, and it frustrates me because I have never had a problem like this before, and I can't figure out what went wrong. I know that somehow, it must have been the weight of the top cakes that starting making everything collapse, but I wish I could figure out why. I thought I did everything I was supposed to do to prevent something like this from happening. I do cakes out of my home, and have been doing it for almost two years now, and have never had such a huge failure. It's a huge hit to my confidence level, so much so that I don't know if I'm going to keep up my home cake business, because I am so afraid I could ruin someone else's event.

Any advice would be sooooo appreciated. Thank you everyone.

55 replies
crystal18_corpus Posted 2 Oct 2010 , 10:53pm
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Hello Cathie first off I would like to tell you sorry this happend to you the fact that you are on here asking for advice tells me you should not even consider giving up on cakes this is a lesson learned and you have tp pick up find a solution and move on with the wooden dowls if the weight is to much they will just fall to the side cakes covered in fondant are very heavy all it takes is for one to give way and they will all follow you should look into sps system it is an internal support system for cakes and it is very cheap and you are guranteed to have stability for all your cake layers i did a 4 tier cake and delivered it stacked 45 min away and it held up great... look into to it you will not regret it .. Crystal icon_smile.gif

crazyladybaker Posted 2 Oct 2010 , 10:56pm
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I am no professional but some things that come to mind are: You say you put in "extra" dowels. How many dowels in each cake and what size layers?
It is possible to "over dowel" the cake layer whereby making it more fragile because of displacing the cake. Too much of a good thing is not always better.

How did you transport it? Was it transported stacked or did you assemble on site?
Was thinking maybe the dowels shifted in route?

What kind of boards did you use?

I have no clue about the color change. Could frosting under the fondant have changed it or grease/moisture? Just thinking out loud on this one.

Sorry this happened to you.

hollyberry91 Posted 2 Oct 2010 , 11:05pm
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Im so sorry that happened to you! Did you get a pic of the cake you could post? How thick were the wooden dowels you used? How many dowels did you use in each tier and how did you space them? What were the tier sizes? Sorry for so many questions trying to figure out what went wrong.

bakencake Posted 2 Oct 2010 , 11:06pm
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One time I put my cake where the sun shined. I was not full on sun, just evening light, that's it light. could this account for your color change? I cant really give you any advice on the collapsed cake since I myself had my first collapse it's my daisy cake on my pics. I still dont know what happened or why it happened, have done plenty of tiered cakes and this was my firs. dont quit, learn

cathie1327 Posted 2 Oct 2010 , 11:33pm
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Thank you so much everyone for the support, it really is comforting to hear that. I know giving up is not the right option but my confidence is just so low right now. I'm thankful I don't have anything coming up soon, I'm going to definitely take the down time to practice and make myself better.

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you get a pic of the cake you could post? How thick were the wooden dowels you used? How many dowels did you use in each tier and how did you space them? What were the tier sizes




Unfortunately, I don't have a picture. I asked her if she could send me one, but it sounds like it hit the floor before they had a chance to take one. The sizes were 12, 10, 9, and 8 inches, three layers each. I used the wilton wooden dowels, I'm not sure the exact size but they are just the 12 pack you can get at michaels or I think even Walmart sells them. I spaced them a square, four for each layer

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One time I put my cake where the sun shined. I was not full on sun, just evening light, that's it light. could this account for your color change? I cant really give you any advice on the collapsed cake since I myself had my first collapse it's my daisy cake on my pics. I still dont know what happened or why it happened, have done plenty of tiered cakes and this was my firs. dont quit, learn




It was inside, so I don't think the sun had something to do with the color change, but I did some researching online and found that the wilton black food color has a tendency to do that....I'll be looking more into how to avoid this. And I'm sorry to hear about what happened to you as well, it's a crappy feeling ruining something when someone trusted you to do a great job.

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You say you put in "extra" dowels. How many dowels in each cake and what size layers?
It is possible to "over dowel" the cake layer whereby making it more fragile because of displacing the cake. Too much of a good thing is not always better.

How did you transport it? Was it transported stacked or did you assemble on site?
Was thinking maybe the dowels shifted in route?

What kind of boards did you use?




I put four in each cake, and that makes sense about the extra dowels, because we put more in the front since that's the way it started leaning, but then that would put more pressure on the back. I transported them individually, because I tried transporting cakes stacked before and it was a nightmare, so I always do them individually and assemble them on site.

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Hello Cathie first off I would like to tell you sorry this happend to you the fact that you are on here asking for advice tells me you should not even consider giving up on cakes this is a lesson learned and you have tp pick up find a solution and move on with the wooden dowls if the weight is to much they will just fall to the side cakes covered in fondant are very heavy all it takes is for one to give way and they will all follow you should look into sps system it is an internal support system for cakes and it is very cheap and you are guranteed to have stability for all your cake layers i did a 4 tier cake and delivered it stacked 45 min away and it held up great... look into to it you will not regret it .. Crystal




I think that may be what happened, because once it started tilting, I unstacked them to try to fix it, and a couple of the dowels had gone sideways. I'll definitely look into the sps system you mentioned, and thanks so much for the advice. I guess it is just live and learn, I have never done a fondant cake this tall, and so I guess I should have looked a little more into whether or not the wooden dowels would be enough support for something that heavy.

Thanks so much everyone for the advice and support, she contacted me back and gave me her address so I can mail her a full refund, and I offered to do a free cake for her for her next event to kind of make up for it (though I know that I won't be able to fully fix the "damage") and she said that she will contact me when they have their son's birthday party, so I am a little comforted that at least she seems to understand that it was just an awful mistake and I am not a horrible cake maker!

crazyladybaker Posted 2 Oct 2010 , 11:47pm
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I love the SPS system. It is so very stable and worth every penny spent icon_smile.gif

still_learning Posted 2 Oct 2010 , 11:54pm
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I'm thinking that 4 dowels weren't enough for the bigger layers. I'm thinking I normally use 6 evenly spaced.

Joshua_Alan Posted 2 Oct 2010 , 11:58pm
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SPS! One of the downsides of dowels is they displace cake. The SPS pillars are hollow and don't displace nearly as much cake as dowels do.

julesh268 Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 12:06am

HUGS! Can I tell you that the exact same thing happened to me, except it was an early practice cake. Three tiers all over the back of my car! It was the wooden dowels that did me in. I agree with everyone else. Now, pick yourself off, dust it off, and bang out another cake!

Joshua_Alan Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 12:22am

yeah, i lost a christening one early on. not fun at all

madgeowens Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 12:43am

Do you think the difference in the diameter of each tier was only an inch except for the bottom one, can this be a problem? I am asking I don't know. I have not had tis happen yet.....and I feel so bad for you and the bride that this happened.

indydebi Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 1:22am
Quote:
Originally Posted by still_learning

I'm thinking that 4 dowels weren't enough for the bigger layers. I'm thinking I normally use 6 evenly spaced.


i always used 4,even on tiers bigger than these.

I did have a dowel go crooked on me once. I think once that happens, we're screwed! icon_redface.gif what i observed on my cake is when the dowel went crooked, it created a larger-than-needed "hole" in the cake, so even when the dowel was reinserted straight-up-and-down, the dowel had wiggle room because of the enlarged hole caused by it going crooked.

BlakesCakes Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 1:33am
Quote:
Originally Posted by madgeowens

Do you think the difference in the diameter of each tier was only an inch except for the bottom one, can this be a problem?




Yes, this was probably one of the factors.

How were the wooden dowels cut? Did you measure the first on at the high spot in the cake and then cut the rest to that first one? Did you check to see that they were all level after inserting them in the cake?

Also, when having cakes so close in size it's important to make sure that dowels in the cake above DON'T line up with the dowels in the cake below. Having them staggered distributes the weight much better.

For the sizes of tiers used, if using wooden dowels, I'd have put 6 in the 12, 5 in the 10, and 4 in the 9. I now use bubble tea straws pretty exclusively, so it would have been 4, 3, 3.

HTH
Rae

CWR41 Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 3:55am
Quote:
Originally Posted by madgeowens

Do you think the difference in the diameter of each tier was only an inch except for the bottom one, can this be a problem?




No, probably not. Even if there was zero difference in diameter and many layers of the same size are stacked, it doesn't spell disaster if supported properly. Some examples are tall tiers, castle turrets, and pillar-shaped cakes, etc. I've done all of these without building it onto a center support pipe, although I think a tower of Pisa would require one!

aswartzw Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 4:13am

1. Too few dowels. For a 6", I'd insert 5 (4 in a circle and 1 in the middle), 8" I'd do 7, etc.

2. This is the most important one: do not cut the dowel even to the cake but to the highest point of the cake layer with an extra 1/8" added. Never let the top cake rest on the bottom cake because this can force out the bottom layer.

3. Cut all dowels for each layer to the same size (aka the tallest dowel).

4. I also have been known to double board my cake boards just to give a little extra support--never can be too careful.

Also, I do love SPS. I would definitely look into it for future cakes. thumbs_up.gif

Montrealconfections Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 4:20am

Sorry to hear about your story ;o(

Evoir Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 5:03am

So sorry to read about your wedding cake collapse... I agree with posters who have said not enough dowels. I use wooden dowels exclusively for support, and was taught to use one dowel for every 2 inches, ie 6 in a 12 inch. 5 in a 10 inch, 4 in an 8 inch and so on. I use a perspex guide to place my dowels at the correct diameter for the next tier up - and place them quite near to the outer edge of the next tier up, equidistantly.

The cake tiers should always sit ON the dowels, not the tier below it.

Good luck for your next one icon_wink.gif

sweetooth0510 Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 5:13am

Oh my god you poor thing, my heart goes out to you. We put a little of ourselves into our cakes and to have one go 'wrong' is devastating.

The purple thing is definitely a WILTON issue, I use a Chefmaster (NZ) black only as it stays true.

I use wooden dowels as we don't have the SPS system here, what you can do for a taller cake is insert the dowel then take it out, poor melted choc into the hole and then re-insert the dowel, it creates a concrete effect.

Keep going, don't let this one defeat you!!

madgeowens Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 5:56am

pouring melted chocolate in that hole is clever.....how coould you d do this without making a huge mess and weakening the support in this process?

sweetooth0510 Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 7:52am

You just put enough in the hole to fill around half way - then push the dowel in, it does overflow a bit like a volcano but then you just wipe this away or simply stack the next cake on top so the overflow acts as a glue as well. I don't find it weakens the structure at all.

bakencake Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 1:48pm
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It was inside, so I don't think the sun had something to do with the color change



My cake was also inside. It was near a window that has some shade so the evening light was not full on and it still changed the color so look out for that. And yes, the colors I used are wilton

mireillea Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 3:41pm

I am so sorry this happened to you, but don't give up on making wedding cakes! I personally believe it has everything to do with the wooden dowels and the Wilton colors. I am so ANTI wooden dowels. They have to be exactly perpendicular, if not, they will lean. I never use wooden dowels. I always create my own 'sps system' (because SPS is not available in the Netherlands) with Wilton plates, Wilton hidden pillars and Wilton PLASTIC dowel rods. I know it costs (a lot) more, but it buys not only a stable cake but also confidence. Just charge your client 10 to 15 bucks extra. You will never be sorry! We delivered my rainbow roses cake yesterday (last one in my photos), to the beach. It was a very tall cake, 24" in height!, and we had to drive steep roads up and down to a location right on the beach. I was almost wetting my pants but the cake survived perfectly!

And the color, well I am pretty sure that is due to Wilton. I don't use Wilton colors anymore, just not my preferred quality!

cathie1327 Posted 3 Oct 2010 , 6:14pm

Wow everyone, I can't say thank you enough for all of the advice and the support.

She wrote me back and thanked me for being professional about the situation, and made the comment that we can't go back and change anything, just move on, so I am soooo thankful that she is at least not ridiculously mad, or cussing me out majorly, although she'd have a right to both.

It's funny, but the sensation is almost a mild one like someone died lol. It's like I'll forget about it for a little bit, and then all the sudden I'll remember and I'll just start feeling awful again. I guess that'll pass eventually. Like I said, this is my first big failure so it's a pretty hard thing to accept.

Thanks so much for the support everyone, it means alot!!!

leah_s Posted 4 Oct 2010 , 7:20pm

I think a dowel shifted. And with only four, there just wasn't another one in the neighborhood to offer any support. Once a wooden dowel goes off perfectly perpendicular, you're in for trouble, because they're NOT CONNECTED to the plate above. That's part of the beauty of SPS. Legs and plates are connected. They can't go off perpendicular.

cakeaddikt Posted 10 Oct 2010 , 1:01am

I am so sorry this happened to you. Same thing happened to me this past spring, it was for a big 40th birthday party. I believe a wooden dowel shifted on me and I will never ever use wooden dowels again. I use the Wilton large plastic dowels for large cakes and bubble tea straws sometimes. I need to look into the SPS system also. This made me me not want to make anymore cakes either so I know exactly how you feel. But all you can do is try to figure out what went wrong and keep making cakes. Wooden dowels dont seem to be reliable to me. Good luck and keep on caking!!!!

costumeczar Posted 11 Oct 2010 , 12:11am
Quote:
Originally Posted by aswartzw

1. Too few dowels. For a 6", I'd insert 5 (4 in a circle and 1 in the middle), 8" I'd do 7, etc.

2. This is the most important one: do not cut the dowel even to the cake but to the highest point of the cake layer with an extra 1/8" added. Never let the top cake rest on the bottom cake because this can force out the bottom layer.




haha, I do exactly the opposite of this, so there's more than one way to skin a cat and stack a cake. I cut the dowels to the lowest point (assuming that the tier is level there shouldn't be much of a difference in the length of the highest and the lowest part. Then I make sure that the upper tier is making good contact with the lower tier. Once it's chilled they won't slide around.

To support a 6" tier I just put in 3 dowels, to support an 8" I'd use 4, for a 10" I'd use 5.

madgeowens Posted 11 Oct 2010 , 12:23am

I am no expert, but common sense would tell me that if you use too many doowel rods in a cake it is displacing a lot of cake, also going from one level to the next with only one inch difference these extra dowels are going to run into the others and bammo.....disaster........its a shame for everyone involved....and the Bride does not get a do over so thats really sad. Sad all around

Sweet_Toof Posted 11 Oct 2010 , 2:01am
Quote:
Originally Posted by crystal18_corpus

Hello Cathie first off I would like to tell you sorry this happend to you the fact that you are on here asking for advice tells me you should not even consider giving up on cakes this is a lesson learned and you have tp pick up find a solution and move on with the wooden dowls if the weight is to much they will just fall to the side cakes covered in fondant are very heavy all it takes is for one to give way and they will all follow you should look into sps system it is an internal support system for cakes and it is very cheap and you are guranteed to have stability for all your cake layers i did a 4 tier cake and delivered it stacked 45 min away and it held up great... look into to it you will not regret it .. Crystal icon_smile.gif




What is the sps system? I just use dowls and a cardboard peice under each tier. I've only ever done a few but it worries me sick, reading cake disasters on here that I want to do all I can to ensure this won't happen to me. Am I stacking wrong?
What sort of cakes ARE collapsing? Are they ones with fillings and cream?

newmansmom2004 Posted 11 Oct 2010 , 2:21am
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joshua_Alan

SPS! One of the downsides of dowels is they displace cake. The SPS pillars are hollow and don't displace nearly as much cake as dowels do.




You can also use the bubble tea straws (check Amazon online for them) as they also don't displace cake. Good luck and don't give up!

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