Where Did I Go Wrong?

Decorating By Jenndelisle Updated 20 Aug 2013 , 1:23am by mskerrih

Jenndelisle Posted 9 Aug 2013 , 8:29pm
post #1 of 56

AHello to all, I've just become a member, but I've been visiting CC for years. I've just come out of a huge first-time cake disaster/nightmare, & I'd like your input. I delivered my first non-friend/family-related 4-tier wedding cake on Friday evening. We left the place at 8 pm, the cake was awesome. At 12 am, the groom, who had been staying there with his buddies for the night tries to call me, but I didn't hear the darn cell phone. My 12" tier (the bottom one) had sunk/slid. By the time I got the message at 8 am, the 2 top tiers had fallen, everything was a mess. I had put wooden dowels (which I will never do again), was this my mistake? The wedding took place at a mansion the b&g had rented for 4 days. Could it have been pushed un purposely? Was it because the table wasn't stable enough? I had delivered the cake into 2 sections, had kept the cakes in my air/conditioned living room, the mansion was the same temp. Was that part of the problem, not refrigerated? I know it can't be my cake recipe, I use & love the WASC recipe. Another addition to the problem, the bride wants a full refund. I did everything I could to solve the problem. I cooked a new 10" to make for the cake that needed to be cut & thrown out, I bought dummies, covered them with fondant, put the flowers on the new "cake", also provided a new 6". But she's unhappy, she would have wanted 4 totally new tiers, which was impossible for me to do. I had not made a contract with her. Do you guarantee your work after setup? Should I give her a refund? Thnx.

55 replies
BatterUpCake Posted 9 Aug 2013 , 8:48pm
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What kind of icing did you use? Try the SPS system in the future....besides that I don't know what to say except that sucks.... icon_sad.gif

Jenndelisle Posted 9 Aug 2013 , 8:50pm
post #3 of 56

AI always use ganache. I've already ordered a few SPS systems, never will I go back to wooden dowels...

BatterUpCake Posted 9 Aug 2013 , 8:51pm
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It just doesn't sound right to me. Did you use cardboard between the layers or something else?

Sassyzan Posted 9 Aug 2013 , 9:06pm
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AWas the wedding on Saturday? I gave a bride her cake and she drove it 2 hours away for her wedding the next day I explicitly said after it left my possession, she was responsible for the condition of the cake. Usually after set-up, it's out of your hands, but you also need to make a cake that doesn't fall apart (obv). That stinks. Do you have any photos for Cake crime scene analysis? So sorry this happened!! What a bummer.

Smckinney07 Posted 9 Aug 2013 , 9:09pm
post #6 of 56

AIf it was delivered and setup properly there shouldn't have been any problems.

Did you use seperators between your tiers like BatterUp asked? Did they move the cake?

I assume it was setup inside, and it happened that evening so I don't think the problem would be with temperature but it's hard to tell without seeing it or having more info. I don't care much for wooden dowells, especially for larger tiers-I always use larger supports for larger tiers just a personally preference I like poly dowels and sps.

Honestly, if you used enough support it shouldn't have mattered what system you used-some are better then others but people use varieties with ease. I don't mean that to be offensive, like I said its hard to tell.

Yes, someone could have bumped the table. It sounds like you did what you could to fix it. I think you'll like the sps. Did you take a picture when the cake was assembled, perhaps you could post that here so we could have a better idea of what went wrong and how you can proceed. I'm so sorry this happened!

AZCouture Posted 9 Aug 2013 , 9:13pm
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APhotos? Before and after? Tell us word for word how you constructed this cake, even if you think tiny details wouldn't matter to the story, because they might.

BatterUpCake Posted 9 Aug 2013 , 9:14pm
post #8 of 56

Sounds to me like a bachelor party got out of control.....a call at 12 am? In a house with nothing but a groom and his groomsmen? I seen Hangover...I KNOW what happens..lol. Sorry. This is no laughing situation. I honestly don't know what I would do for the bride. In the future ALWAYS have a contract and make them sign for the cake saying they accept it and the condition it was received in.

Smckinney07 Posted 9 Aug 2013 , 9:19pm
post #9 of 56

AI have a contract that states if they chose to pick up it is no longer my responsibility, after delivery and setup same thing-once they accept the cake it's theirs. Someone posted a few weeks ago having a second invoice for them to sign or initial upon delivery that they are pleased, what have you-I have added this to my policy as well as documenting with a photo.

Of course things happen, I've ran over to someone's house to hide a dent they made while getting their cake home, it was close to me and a quick fix so no charge but I suppose this is different.

If you believe this was a mistake on your part you should consider a partial refund.

scrumdiddlycakes Posted 9 Aug 2013 , 11:19pm
post #10 of 56
Originally Posted by AZCouture 

Photos? Before and after? Tell us word for word how you constructed this cake, even if you think tiny details wouldn't matter to the story, because they might.



Unfortunately, it's pretty much impossible for anyone here to help you out without all the details.

Jenndelisle Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 3:27am
post #11 of 56

ABefore & after pictures. I had a drum base, each tier was sitting on cake circles, the 12" had 6 dowels, 10" - 5, 8" -4. DH & I lifted the cake once it was setup, they had forgotten to put a tablecloth on the table. I had put double tape in my box for transportation, & it stuck so well, we had to cut the box & work hard to seperate drum and box, all this without one glitch. 15 minutes on unpaved roads. Does this help? [IMG]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3074982/width/200/height/400[/IMG] [IMG]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3074984/width/200/height/400[/IMG][IMG]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3074985/width/200/height/400[/IMG][IMG]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3074986/width/200/height/400[/IMG]

ApplegumPam Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 3:40am
post #12 of 56

From those pictures I would think that either your dowels were not level or not straight (vertically) 
It looks like the bottom tier dowels have shifted (2nd pic) and cake is sinking at the back - once that happens, its only a matter of time before the whole thing collapses.

Definately a 'support' problem.   A well supported (constructed) cake should not have a problem on unpaved roads - I drive on dirt, bumpy, windy roads all the time.

Evoir Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 4:08am
post #13 of 56

Hi there, welcome to Cake Central.


Its great you have some photos of the cake post-crash.


I believe your 12" tier supports were insufficient, and/or unevenly cut. There is every chance the table was shoved from the front causing the backward movement of the cake to occur, and hence initiate the collapse at the rear of the 12". But this is something that you CANNOT blame on anyone, because you do not have evidence.


For cakes this size, I would have had 8-10 dowels in the 12", 8 in the 10" and 6 in the 8". There is nothing wrong with using wooden dowels, so long as you cut them properly and level each tier as you go. I also would double up cake boards under the 10".


I know you are saying you will no longer use wooden dowels, but in case anyone else is wondering how to use wooden dowels for support while reading this:


1. Use a template on the top of the base tier to mark where you'll place your dowels.

2. The dowels should sit around 2cm from the edge of the tier above. Arrange the dowels markings so that they are equally spaced, and add a centre one also if desired.

3. Get down and eyeball at the level of the tier top to see if any part of the tier is slightly higher than anywhere else.

4. Using the pointy end, place your first dowel into the highest point of the tier (within your selected doweling points), ensuring it is going in at 90degrees. You can use your level for this (from front and from the side).

5. Using a pencil, mark your dowel about 3mm higher than the fondant skin.

6. Carefully unscrew out this dowel, wipe clean.

7. Use a sturdy flat border, such as the straight edge of your gumpaste board, and place the point of your dowel against it at 90 degrees, then align EACH dowel in turn and mark for cutting exactly in the same place as your first dowel. Do not try to do all at once along a row of dowels.  Repeat for all the dowels.

8. Use sharp, secateurs that you reserve solely for this job. Carefully cut each dowel straight across the top. Check that each cut length is the same as the height of your marked pointy dowel.

9. If there are ANY discrepancies, use sandpaper or an emery board to get the perfect height across all dowels. If any are too short, discard and repeat step 7.

10. Clean your dowels before inserting into your cake tier - off any dust or pencil marks.

11. Insert  each dowel into the cake tier, using your level to ensure they are going in perpendicular to the table surface. Remember you need to check 90 degrees from the front and 90 degrees from the side!

12. When every single dowel is firmly in the cake, check that they clear the tier surface by 3mm (approx), then place a flat board on top of all the dowels sticking up a bit, and check (front and side again) that the dowels are now all LEVEL.


OP - can you please explain what happened on the wedding day? Did you replace everything so they had a full 4-tier cake in the original design? Can you post a photo? Because if you provided a cake exactly the same and on time (before the reception) - no refund. If you provided cake but not to the specifications, I would issue a partial or full refund. If you didn't supply anything in time for the reception - full refund, and a free cake to a nominal sum.


I also have a policy of not accepting liability after my cakes have been set up or collected. This is signed for upon delivery/pickup and I take photos of every set up. Why did the cake get delivered the night before (just out of interest)? Seems risky.

Godot Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 4:58am
post #14 of 56

That's a shame!


the cake was lovely

Godot Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 4:58am
post #15 of 56

That's a shame!


the cake was lovely

Smckinney07 Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 7:13am
post #16 of 56

AThe cake was lovely! I'm so sorry this happened but Pam & E are correct about the support.

You were able to recreate the cake out of styrofoam and give them a tier to cut and serve as well as a 6"? So were you able to salvage some of the other cakes for serving or were they short on cake for guests? I understand the time constraint didn't allow you enough time to recreate the entire cake, it sounds like you did your best to give them a nice showpiece.

Forgive me if I misunderstood but you setup the cake, then had to lift it up so they could place a tablecloth down-that shouldn't have mattered if it was assembled properly and stable when you left (to save you headache make sure the table is in order before you setup in the future, something you might also want to go over when signing the original contract). Unfortunately you learned a lot of lessons out of a mishap, it happens to everyone so try not to dwell on it.

I certainly hope the groom and his friends weren't messing around by the cake, as BatterUp stated! But you just don't know for sure. I would follow Ev's advise about refunding. I know you did your best to make it right but if it were me I would give them some sort of refund, I was unclear as to what you were able to serve.

MBalaska Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 7:54am
post #17 of 56

The cake is gorgeous by the way; but I don’t understand…….someone has time to find a camera and take photos of it collapsing, but doesn’t have the good sense to pick up the top three layers off the base and salvage it.

They just let it be destroyed? While taking photos? One from the left side, one from the right side. Not really believable. Bachelor party poopers broke the cake.

very sorry to see this, hope it works out for you.

scrumdiddlycakes Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 8:16am
post #18 of 56

The only reason I could come up with that would explain the pictures, is that something went wrong with the supports in the bottom tier. Maybe they weren't perfectly level, and then if the table was off a bit too, it had all night to start sinking/falling. Or maybe the one of the dowels slipped.

If the cake simply toppled, I would think it had to do with someone bashing the table, or something similar. It appears to me that it is actually sinking into the bottom tier though, and that to me says dowel problem :(


It really was a beautiful cake, sorry something went wrong! Especially on your first big order!


As far as refunds, Evoir covered that really well imo.

DeliciousDesserts Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 11:22am
post #20 of 56

ADo I understand correctly that the cake was set up the night before the reception?


It does look like the bottom support was flawed. Love SPS.

Even with my SPS, I like to deliver as close to reception start time as possible. Sometimes I have to deliver before ceremony starts if they are in the same location.

MimiFix Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 11:23am
post #21 of 56

Yes, the cake was very nice! Looking at the bottom set of photos, how did you get the far left and middle ones, showing the disaster-in-progress?

Jenndelisle Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 11:30pm
post #22 of 56

AI delivered the cake the evening before because it was ready, & I thought the bride would be happy.

Smckinney07 Posted 10 Aug 2013 , 11:46pm
post #23 of 56

AThat's unfortunate, if it was knocked over. I setup the day of the event a few hours or whatever we decide at the tasting, and have on my contract the cake will be delivered at x time on x date-then have them sign it was received and they were pleased. It's mainly about giving the customer an excellent experience as well as covering yourself in every possible way, so you don't have to worry about the bride coming back at you with Buyers remorse.

In your case I think it worked well considering you were able to salvage and serve something but you will never know if someone knocked it over.

Dd you end up with enough servings for the guests?

Jenndelisle Posted 11 Aug 2013 , 12:02am
post #24 of 56

AThe day of the wedding, I went back to the mansion to fix the problem. Unfortunately, not having made any extra cake, but luckily had an extra 6" in the freezer, I baked that morning another 10". So when I got to the mansion, I had an extra 6" & an extra 10" in cake + 3 dummies for the 3 bottom tiers. I spent my whole day Saturday setting up a new cake with the flowers from the cake that had fallen. I did everything I could to make up for the fallen cake. The before picture is the one I had taken, the pictures where the bottom tier is sinking was taken by the groom at 12 am, & did not dare touch the cake in case he would damage it more, hence letting it fall during the night. The last picture was taken by the groom's brother early Sat morning.. After I left the day of the wedding, there was more cake than the original order. I did everything I physically could to make up for the loss, but I couldn't replace the cake with 4 new cake tiers (we all know that it takes more than a few hours to bake 4 tiers, adding to that that I did not have any extra ganache). The bride is unhappy that I provided a fake cake, she wanted 4 new tiers of cake. I understand that there might have been a weakness to my structure, but like I said, we went on unpaved roads to get there & we shook the cake hard to get it to unstick to the box it was in & we lifted the cake up to put the tablecloth underneath & with all of that it there was not a single crack on the cake when we left Friday. I always use a guide to cut my dowels, so they are all of equal length. I have no proof it was the groom's fault, but they have no proof it is mine. & I did go back to fix the problem (which I did not charge), & with what it cost me to go back (1 1/2 hour gas, 3 dummies, 1x 6" + 1x10" ganached cakes, new fondant for all 4 tiers + 8 hours of my time), I feel I refunded a part of the amount the bride had paid for her cake.

BatterUpCake Posted 11 Aug 2013 , 12:11am
post #25 of 56

I would refund a portion of the money. Sometimes in business you take losses. You can write them off on your taxes provided you are operating legally (not implying you are not) I would rather lose some money than have my name trashed. After seeing the pictures it looks to me like the supports slipped. Perhaps the unpaved roads contributed to the problem.

maybenot Posted 11 Aug 2013 , 12:45am
post #26 of 56

I, too, think that there was a problem with the dowels in the bottom tier (they could have shifted during the drive, during the extraction from the box, or during the tablecloth situation and you'd have never noticed UNTIL it began to fall--which could take hours, as it did).  This is the inherent problem with slippery little twigs supporting a cake (hollow cylinders--straws--are much more reliable).


I think you went above and beyond to make it right.  I'd give her a small refund as a gesture of good will, explaining that you had no control over the cake for at least 4 hours before the first pic of the problem and that because of that, you have no idea about what all may have happened to create such a dramatic collapse.

BatterUpCake Posted 11 Aug 2013 , 12:58am
post #27 of 56

So you replaced the 6 & 10...but the other tiers were destroyed? How did you still have enough cake going from 4 layers to 2? I'm sure I am missing something here.

AZCouture Posted 11 Aug 2013 , 1:19am
post #28 of 56


Original message sent by maybenot

I, too, think that there was a problem with the dowels in the bottom tier (they could have shifted during the drive, during the extraction from the box, or during the tablecloth situation and you'd have never noticed UNTIL it began to fall--which could take hours, as it did).  This is the inherent problem with slippery little twigs supporting a cake (hollow cylinders--straws--are much more reliable).

I think you went above and beyond to make it right.  I'd give her a small refund as a gesture of good will, explaining that you had no control over the cake for at least 4 hours before the first pic of the problem and that because of that, you have no idea about what all may have happened to create such a dramatic collapse.

Slippery little twigs. Totally using this description from now on. I agree too that the bottom supports were probably the downfall here, and unfortunately that's on you. And definitely don't deliver a whole day ahead again. Aside from the fact that twenty million and a half things could go wrong with it being out of your hands for soooo long, it's food, and it shouldn't just be sitting around collecting dust, germs from sneezing people, and grabby hands.

BatterUpCake Posted 11 Aug 2013 , 1:40am
post #29 of 56

So AZ what would you do if you were her in terms of a refund?

Evoir Posted 11 Aug 2013 , 2:00am
post #30 of 56

Jenndelisle. It is an unfortunate experience for sure, and I am sorry to see your lovely cake didn't survive until the reception. I think the take-home from this is:

  • Use more dowels or a different support system (I don't use SPS here in Australia because I would have to import it and it would be heinously expensive, which is why I will remain a devout "slippery twig" user, and bubble tea straw user). As you have already said, you'll be using the SPS, so that is sorted.
  • Review your contract (or start using one, if you aren't already), to clearly state ALL the delivery and set-up conditions, including having a sturdy, set-up cake table ready for you to plonk your cake on, taking set-up photos AND having a waiver signed that it was all delivered in tact and to order. I have heard of some people taking this to the extreme, having the client be photographed with the cake before they leave for evidence :-)
  • Rethink your delivery system, especially if bumpy roads feature in your locality. They do in mine, especially in the vineyard region where there are many weddings. For those, my uber-careful husband drives, and I nurse the cake in my lap doing everyting I can to lessen the curves and bumps. There is a real art to delivering big cakes. I sit next to anything 4 tiers or larger.
  • Think carefully about the compensation issue. Yes, you did provide many hours and materials to try to make good, but if it is not what the bride paid for, when in the absence of a signed-off release upon delivery, you can't really use the 'he said/she said' argument. You are the professional and as BatterUp said, sometimes we need to cop it sweet and take the hit. Out of the hundreds of wedding cakes I've made, the one time I really effed up a wedding order, the bride and groom got a full two-tiered cake delivered in time for the reception (enough to serve all the guests), all their money back for their original order, and a voucher for $200 to redeem on another special occasion cake, plus I offered them to tickets to the Opera in the Vineyards concert for the weekend of their wedding (they were staying in the vineyards area for 3 nights). Even though I had to re-bake the cakes I'd given them (for another order I had the next day), plus buttercream and sugar flowers plus another 3-hour round trip to the vineyards that night over washboard roads, I STILL groan out loud every time I think of the mishap. Did I learn from it? I certainly did - and I have finetuned my system even moreso since that wedding. As a professional, you need to accept some responsibility, and do your utmost to ensure the client is more than fully compensated. Just my opinion.


I wish you all the best!

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