What Sort Of Icing For Dam

Decorating By zespri Updated 15 Sep 2013 , 4:32am by katuri

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zespri Posted 17 Nov 2010 , 10:42pm
post #1 of 15

I'm getting a bit confused about dams. In all the tutorials I've seen, they are piped on, which goes against what I keep reading about needing a 'stiff dam' for fillings. I've seen examples of 'stiff', and had it described to me as when your knife can stand up in it. How do you even get that through the piping bag? I saw a little bit of my friends Sharon Zambito's DVD where she was holding some stiff buttercream in her hand, it looked the same sort of texture as fondant.

So do people really put icing that stiff in a piping bag? If it's so stiff, why aren't we just using fondant instead?

14 replies
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AnnieCahill Posted 17 Nov 2010 , 11:11pm
post #2 of 15

I know what you're referring to and I don't do it. I pipe my dam with regular stiff buttercream (obviously still "pipeable"), about 1/4 to 1/2 inch away from the edge of the cake. I have NEVER had any issues with bulging. If I'm using IMBC, I just pipe my dam and then refrigerate for about a half hour or so until it's rock hard. If you pipe the dam in far enough you shouldn't have to worry about bulging. Also, if you let the cake settle overnight after crumb coating you'll be able to smooth out any bulges if there are any.

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AnotherCreation Posted 17 Nov 2010 , 11:13pm
post #3 of 15

I do the same thing Sharon does in her videos and use 2 piping bags so it doesn't bust. The stiff dam is not as "stiff" as fondant. I just mix ps into my buttercream until I can roll it into a ball without it being sticky. hth

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Kellbella Posted 17 Nov 2010 , 11:13pm
post #4 of 15

Ditto what Annie said! thumbs_up.gif

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metria Posted 17 Nov 2010 , 11:37pm
post #5 of 15

since i typically make IMBC, i use the cake spackle method of Toba Garret. i'll put my cake scraps into my food processor and get some nice fine crumbs. that is mixed with some BC (kinda like making cake balls). that's what i use for my dam and to patch any other oopsies on the cake.

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twinsfan Posted 18 Nov 2010 , 2:36am
post #6 of 15

Annie, I'm new to this and have noticed my cakes bulging. Can you clarify what you do? If I'm going to use BC as the filler between layers, do I need to pipe a dam and then fill it in, leaving about 1/2 inch uncovered from all the edges. Can I use the same frosting for the dam and the filler? And then when I stack the next layer on top, can I use that same frosting to frost the entire cake? I'm not understanding if I need to change the stiffness of the BC, or if I can use the same thing to do everything? Thanks!

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AnnieCahill Posted 18 Nov 2010 , 11:40am
post #7 of 15

Ok the key here, for me anyway, is to make sure the dam is far in enough so that it has time to "expand" as the cake settles, without pushing through the final coat. I will say up front that I don't ALWAYS make the buttercream for the dam stiffer. Since you're a newb with existing problems with bulging, I would recommend that you reserve some BC and add more PS to it until it is stiff but still pipeable (like what you'd use for roses).

Here's what I do:

1. Level the cake.
2. Fill the bag with your buttercream. In addition to the regular American buttercream, I also use Italian Meringue buttercream, which is a meringue-based, all butter buttercream. It's VERY soft. So when I do use IMBC, I'll put that in the fridge for a bit before I fill because the butter gets rock hard.
2a. The dam is piped from 1/4 to 1/2 inch IN from the edge of the cake. In other words, when you "draw" your ring around the cake, you will see 1/4 to 1/2 inch of cake outside your ring.
3. NEVER overfill. Only put in as much filling as will fit in the dam (i.e. don't let the filling go "over" the dam). You risk blow outs and bulges if you overfill. When you fill, you can take the filling right up to the edge of the dam, but don't "dome" the filling, if that makes sense. Everything should be level and contained within the dam.
4. Let the cake settle for a few hours, preferably overnight. I don't always do this, and like I said, I don't ever have bulging issues.

Twinsfan, in your case if you decide to use the thicker buttercream for the dam, then no you won't use that for your final coat. It will be WAY too thick and it won't spread well for you, and you'll probably end up saying a lot of horrible curse words when crumbs start getting in your icing.

Even though you are filling with BC, I would still recommend the dam because it helps you learn the correct amount and level of filling you need. I always use a bag with coupler inside to do my dam. It's not pretty but who gives a care when no one's going to see it.

So yes, you will use two different consistencies: one for the dam, and the rest for your filling and final coat. Let me know if you have any other questions.


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twinsfan Posted 18 Nov 2010 , 12:34pm
post #8 of 15

Thank you so much for the detailed explanation. It was perfect! I hope to be bulge-free in the future!

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zespri Posted 18 Nov 2010 , 6:35pm
post #9 of 15

this has been great, thanks guys!

I am wondering though, what is 'american buttercream'? It's not the first time I've seen it mentioned. What defines it as different to regular buttercream? Does it use shortening instead of butter or something?

Also, is the reason you pipe 1/4 - 1/2 an inch in from the border so that when you smoosh down on your cake the filling has somewhere to go? What if it doesn't smoosh out, you will be left with a hollow ring around the cake. Wouldn't it be easier to put the dam closer to the edge, then scrape off any excess leaving it flush?

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metria Posted 18 Nov 2010 , 6:43pm
post #10 of 15

american buttercream usually describes a recipe that consists of fat (e.g. butter or shortening) and powdered/confectioners/icing sugar. as opposed to Italian or Swiss meringue buttercream, that mixes fat with meringue (whipped egg whites plus melted granulated sugar).

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AnnieCahill Posted 18 Nov 2010 , 11:54pm
post #11 of 15

Hi zespri,

Yeah, the point of doing it that way is to give it room to expand. You can do it one of two ways:

1. Put the dam right on the edge, then scrape off the excess.
2. Pipe the dam 1/4 to 1/2 inch in, then let it expand.

I do number two always. I always fill and crumb coat, then come back the next day (or a few hours later) for the final coat. The "seam" where the dam is gets filled in with BC regardless.

It's kind of a safety thing for me. If the cake is really heavy and dense, there's the possibility that it will push the dam out too far and then some of the filling may leak out. That's why I go in a bit from the edge.

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zespri Posted 18 Nov 2010 , 11:58pm
post #12 of 15

Thanks so much Annie, you've been very generous with your time explaining this!

One more quick question: if you're planning on eventually covering in fondant, do you use a thick layer of buttercream, or JUST the crumb coat?

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AnnieCahill Posted 19 Nov 2010 , 12:10am
post #13 of 15

Ok I don't ever work with fondant (just never had the opportunity), but I know that putting a full layer of buttercream underneath it can be done. Here are a couple of threads for your reading pleasure:



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zespri Posted 19 Nov 2010 , 1:00am
post #14 of 15

Annie, that's awesome, I just read those threads from start to finish, thank you so much!

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katuri Posted 15 Sep 2013 , 4:24am
post #15 of 15

Hi I am new in baking . I want to try custurd filled strawbery cake . i have one can of starwbery pie filling and i want to use it . so i want to know how to assemble the cake . how to make a dam ?  i just thougth to add custurd first ,on the first layer  then pie filling and put the second layer, and again repeat the process and then the final layer, and finally with whipped creame. can anyone please tell me if i am wright or wrong? should i put a dam before pfilling the cake ? please help.

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