Yet Another Wedding Cake Nightmare

Decorating By vkane Updated 24 Aug 2008 , 5:01am by Jorre

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vkane Posted 11 Aug 2008 , 8:30am
post #1 of 13

I'll ask my question first, then explain.........

What type of buttercream do most decorators/small bakeries use? Is there a particularly good recipe that holds up well in high heat?

I just recently started working at a local bakery to gain some experience in the industry. I'm fresh out of culinary school, but they only teach you so much. I'm a firm believer in experience being a huge part of any education. The bakery I'm working at is very new and the owner is not a baker herself; she relies mostly on the knowledge of her kitchen manager, who as far as I know, has many years of experience.

Let's just say the disaster was a wedding cake, covered in buttercream and buttercream rose swags around all 3 tiers, for an outdoor wedding in Southern California. (Are buttercream roses on the side of a cake practical?? They are so heavy!) Prior to delivery, I was quite nervous about how the cake was going to hold up, as I had been battling with the buttercream all day. So I offered to come along to deliver it, in case I needed to make any repairs once it arrived. Once we arrived, the cake went straight into the cooler, with only a couple of rose casualties. However, it only had only about 15 minutes to chill before it was to be hauled away for the reception, which was outdoors!! (I had no idea the cake would be displayed and served outdoors!) It was a race against time and I couldn't fix the roses fast enough before more starting falling off! It was AWFUL!!

My problem is this........we have been experiencing problems with, obviously, the buttercream not holding up. It has a tendency to sag, slide, etc. We are also having issues with the refrigeration producing way too moisture, which is also not helping. The bakery is currently using a 50/50 butter and shortening blend, nothing fancy. Should they switch to solid shortening (YUK!)? Add some other form of stabilizer? Would an IMBC hold up better? My gut would say never to offer a buttercream cake for a ceremony held in 90 - 100 degree weather, but is it possible???

Does anyone have any suggestions? Fortunately, I was not blamed for the catastophy, as I did everything I could do with the tools I was given. I am not the one running the kitchen and do not call the shots with what recipes we use. I offer suggestions from time to time, but it's not my bakery. I'm there to learn and BOY AM I!!!

12 replies
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lynda-bob Posted 11 Aug 2008 , 9:07am
post #2 of 13

I'm in San Antonio, Tx and it's almost 100 degrees here now. I've never had any problems w/ icing outside except for once when I did the buttercream 50/50 icon_surprised.gif My icing was sliding off not even half way thru the party. What I usuall do is make the buttercream w/ 25% butter and the rest shortening. It's always fine that way and I never refrigerate. HTH a little icon_smile.gif

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Tona Posted 11 Aug 2008 , 9:45am
post #3 of 13

I live in Georgia and the temp here get to the high 90's. I use just shortening in my buttercream and have not had a problem with it sliding or melting in the heat. I do not refrigerate mine either the moisture may be adding to your issue. Good luck

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indydebi Posted 11 Aug 2008 , 12:16pm
post #4 of 13

You mentioned how the roses are "heavy" you let them air dry first? Air drying removes the moisture from the roses and makes them very very light, and easy to attach with a blop of BC icing as glue to hold them in place.

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APrettyCake Posted 11 Aug 2008 , 12:32pm
post #5 of 13

I live in FL and it has been humid all summer with rain every day and upwards of 100 degrees. I have never had a problem with sliding BC, and I almost exclusively use 50/50. However, my recipe does call for 3 TBS of meringue powder, which may help - I am guessing? icon_rolleyes.gif
Someone else may be able to elaborate on the use of meringue powder in BC - but it works great for me icon_smile.gif
SMBC would not hold up well in heat - it is mostly butter.

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annacakes Posted 13 Aug 2008 , 12:32pm
post #6 of 13

Well, sounds like a nightmare. Those devil wedding cakes!

Indydeb is right - drying those flowers ahead of time would definitely help. Making them ahead of gumpaste even better. Gumpaste dries nice and hard and light.

I liked the suggestion about reducing the butter to one-quarter. I alter the butter/shortening ratio's depending on the situation. If its to be a filling I have a higher amount of butter for taste. If its to be frosting and its hot I lessen the butter and increase the amount of shortening AND add meringue powder for sure.

You're going to learn a ton working at the bakery! Good Luck and enjoy it.

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aswartzw Posted 13 Aug 2008 , 6:30pm
post #7 of 13

I agree with prettycake. IMBC is not the answer. Butter has a melting point in the 80s; shortening in the 90s.

I never knew that BC roses should dry before using but that makes tons of sense! It makes me want to make some now to try it out! icon_biggrin.gif

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michellenj Posted 16 Aug 2008 , 12:08am
post #8 of 13

Definitely let the BC roses dry, or use gumpaste. I don't like the taste of meringue powder, personally, and would try to do fondant in the hot hot months.

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steelers450 Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 5:29pm
post #9 of 13

I use an icing recipe that consists of shortening, confectionary sugar, vanilla and water. In the summer months I use less water, and in winter I use more. I have never had icing melt off my cake, and it has always held up well, even outdoors in humid weather. When I need to do any roses on the side, I use royal icing or gumpaste. As for the taste of a completely shortening-based icing, I have had nothing but compliments. There have even been people who say they don't normally like icing, but they love mine. I use store-brand all-vegetable shortening and stay far away from Crisco.

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beth2027 Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 2:35am
post #10 of 13

I am VERY new to cake decorating (I've only been at it about a year; aprox 20 cakes) so I can only tell you from my experience. My recipe has no butter (I use butter flavor from Wilton for the butter taste) and includes meringue powder.
So far, no problems with melting icing. I have also dried roses before placing them on the cake and that was very easy and helped me on the stress levels since I was making 3 cakes for my best friend's wedding shower.
I haven't, however, attempted a wedding cake, so that's something for all the others to advise on. icon_smile.gif

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tiggy2 Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 8:00pm
post #11 of 13

You can also use hiratio instead of crisco and wont have the greasy feel in your mouth. It also makes the icing very smooth & creamy.

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FrostinGal Posted 20 Aug 2008 , 8:12pm
post #12 of 13

The bakery I used to work at, we did a large volume of wedding cakes. (42 was our busiest weekend when I was there, 16 hour days all weekend!) They used hi-ratio shortening and the buttercream always stood up. Especially since the bakery did not have A/C! icon_eek.gif Also, we refrigerated completed cakes, so they were chilled for transportation. That helped, since our cakes were delivered by people who learned about transporting cakes on-the-job!
The buttercream was very good, people loved it! Go figure. Making the buttercream was the baker's responsibility, but it definitely had butter flavoring, vanilla extract and a hint of almond flavoring. It was really easy to work with once you got the hang of it "bouncing back." You can get a cake super smooth with that icing and a bench scraper. Who'd've thunk I'd ever miss that place...

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Jorre Posted 24 Aug 2008 , 5:01am
post #13 of 13

I made a 4 tier wedding cake for yesterday. Horribly hot here in CA and it had to be transported 1 1/2 hours to Santa Barbara where it was basically outside, it was in but the whole "room" was french doors that were all open to the dance floor/beach outside.

I covered it in fondant over buttercream and it was as perfect at Midnight as it was at 5pm when I set it up.

I'm sure that a buttercream cake would have melted. I think fondant in So CA is the only way to go in the summer if the cake is not going to be inside with air conditioning.

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