I have a small bakery / party supply store in a small town in Oklahoma. We (my mother and I) have been in business for about 5 years and during that time have made about 2 dozen wedding cakes - mostly we do birthday/shower type cakes. We have taken the Wilton cake decorating classes and most of our skills have been self taught and by experimentation. In July 2010 we did a fondant covered wedding cake. Square 12 inch, round 8 inch, round 6 inch. No decorations, just added orange ribbon as a border, the bride was adding fresh flowers. Have done it before and should not have been an issue.
July in 2010 in Oklahoma was HOT. The fondant arrived a few days before the cake was due. When we started kneading the fondant, it did not feel quite right and when I tried to roll it out it was very "Stretchy". When we tried to cover the cake, it looked awful. Not smooth and cracked. We had to remove it a few times and start over so the cake began to fall apart. Finally after many hours of trying to get it to look good the night before the wedding we "settled" and decided to see how it looked in the morning.
Next morning it still looked awful but we didn't have enough fondant or enough time to do it over.
We did what we could to make it look presentable and refunded the full price to the bride.
She was the most gracious lady. She accepted our apologies and our refund without any type of drama - saying sometimes things just happen. BUT - you could see the disappointment in her face.
I am so grateful that she was not a "bridezilla" but now I have lost all confidence in my ability to make a beautiful wedding cake. When we have requests now for wedding cakes I find myself telling customers that we cannot promise it will be a perfect cake and they should look elsewhere if that is what they are expecting. We have still gotten some orders because our prices are reasonable for our area and those cakes have turned out beautiful - done in buttercream - .
I'm not even sure why I'm posting this except that I need to share this story with someone who might understand the doubts I'm having with myself.
There's nothing wrong with only offering buttercream cakes until you're more confident using fondant. It's your business... you can "specialize" in whatever you want!
I totally understand how you're feeling. I'm fairly new to the baking world myself and am not confident with my fondant skills quite yet. I can make fondant toppers just fine, but when it comes to covering cakes in fondant, forget it, I suck. But I haven't lost hope, and will just keep on practicing and experimenting.
And I totally understand why you posted this. We all need to let out some steam once in a while and it feels nice to get some encouragement and good advice from people who understand how you feel. I myself have posted something similar once and felt instantly reassured after reading all the positive advice from CCers.
I hate how some people say "after reading all of the horror stories here on CC, you should have already learned" or something like that. Sometimes we post these horror stories, because it feels good to vent and sort of unburden yourself.
Stay positive, keep baking, keep practicing, and believe in yourself!
Maybe you could look into getting a fondant brand which is specifically designed to hold up in hot climates? I know Carma Massa Ticino Tropic is one such brand. It is expensive but you would increase your prices accordingly to account for the increase in cost price.
Agree with the above that I'm glad you posted this. No matter how long we do cakes, there is always the chance we will run into a new problem. My very first cake that was a slider (top layer slid on the filling when the car in front of me slammed on its brakes), I would have had NO idea what to do to fix it except for the fabuous CCers who had posted their horror stories and the subsequent suggestions on "what to do next time". And I'd been doing cakes for a couple of decades!!!! So we're always learning.
As also mentioned above, feel free to 'specialize' in one type of cake until you are comfortable with any new materials or designs. For example, I've never done a topsy turvy cake and would refuse to do one for my very best friend, if asked, simply because I've never tried one before.
We all have bad cake days. I would not recommend trying a new technique on a wedding cake. There is also nothing wrong with being a buttercream only bakery. There are several out there.
It sounds to me like the fondant was the problem, not your skills. I think you should just try a different fondant before you start doubting yourself.
I agree with Sugar Fairy also, sounds like the fondant was the problem. I have made my own fondant which is good and reliable, but with time allowance and muscle power I decided to buy ready made. I experimented with all the brands. Just a learning tool: practice with a ready made fondant brand on a cake dummy and see which one works best for you....buy samples of fondant; Satin Ice or use a coupon for fondant at Micheal's or AC Moore. Personally I love to work with Carma Massa $$$, to work with, reliable consistency and taste....it's my favorite.
I completely understand the way you feel! But it sounds like the fondant was the problem, not your skills. I live in Mississippi and everyone here uses either Satin Ice or Pettinice. Just think, there's such a huge learning curve when you learn to do new types of cakes. I've only done 10 or 12 cakes, all buttercream, but with each one I learn something new! And I've avoided fondant because I've heard it is so temperamental. If you want to do a wedding cake you can always say you only do buttercream, nothing wrong with that at all!