Buckling Cakes

Decorating By shannonlcorum Updated 12 May 2013 , 11:32am by AnnieCahill

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shannonlcorum Posted 8 May 2013 , 8:07pm
post #1 of 21


Hi, I'm hoping someone can help me solve the mystery of my buckling cakes. I've done several cakes  over the past couple of years with no problem, now all of a sudden my cakes are buckling around the bottom. See the flaring blue and green layers? Those are not supposed to be that way. I don't know why the red layer didn't do it. Maybe because that was the last cake I covered and it was out of the freezer longer than the others? Maybe because the fondant was Duff's red and not marshmallow like the other 2 layers? Who knows?


Here's some basic info: double layer cakes, filled and covered with buttercream, then marshmallow fondant (Duff's on middle layer). Bottom and middle layer has several wood downs, all at or a little above level of cake. Cakeboards between each level.


After a short while the nice straight sides of the cake begins to bulge out and the fondant begins to buckle at the bottom. Yes, I am using a dam of icing in between the layers. Here are my thoughts on what could be wrong:


1) My buttercream is too soft, needs to be stiffer to use under fondant


2) My buttercream layer is too thick (1/4-1/2 inch)


3) I recently started adding shortening and another tbsp of water to marshmallow fondant recipe to make it stretchier (don't know why that would affect it but hey, I'm grasping at straws here)


4) I've recently started baking all my cakes and freezing them (not iced) as soon as I get them out of the oven to save time when I need to decorate later.


If I had to guess, I'd say it's #4.


I let them rest about 10 minutes out of the oven, turn them out of the pan, level them, then double wrap them with saran wrap and stick them in the freezer. They are still very hot when I freeze them. I thought that might help keep them moist. My guess is maybe that's the problem. They are too moist.


I'm taking them out of the freezer, crumb coating them (sometimes while they are frozen), sticking them in the fridge for a little while, taking them out and covering them with buttercream, then sticking them in the fridge again for about 30 minutes, before taking them out and covering them with my fondant.


I think what may be happening is my cakes are so moist (due to freezing when they are hot and not waiting until they've cooled?) that they are compressing under the weight of the fondant, which leads to the bulging and buckling around the bottom. The fondant has no where to go but out. But this is just my best guess as to what the problem is. Can anyone else offer some insight on what may be wrong?






20 replies
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perfectcakebyshirley Posted 9 May 2013 , 12:50am
post #2 of 21

That's very strange. I use MMF too. Are you sure the dowels are the correct height? Do you end up with some space between the tiers? What kind of cake recipe is it - is it really soft? If you had a tier by itself, would that happen? I would definitely make sure the layers are not frozen when you ice them, to make sure they are at their regular shape, before you cover them in fondant. Is the fondant stretching along the top, to end up with excess on the bottom? is it just fondant that's flaring out, or cake too?

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connie9003 Posted 9 May 2013 , 1:30am
post #3 of 21

scratch the dowels and boards and go straight to SPS (Seperator plate system) this will eliminate the problem as long as you cut the columns at the right height. Good Luck

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Bubbl3h3ad Posted 9 May 2013 , 2:22am
post #4 of 21

Even if you don't use SPS, the cakes should not be doing that. I think it could be #4 as you said. I do freeze my cakes also but not when they are still hot. If they are a little warm I will but I think the steam that would have escaped is trapped and causing too much moisture. Also, if your buttercream is thick enough, you should not have to put the cakes in the fridge after frosting them. I usually crumb coat mine while they are frozen and then let them settle overnight and then frost them the next day. If you put fondant on before the cakes have a chance to settle then it can cause the fondant to sag as the cake settles. I'm not sure what else it could be but that would be my best guesses! HTH!

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KathleenC Posted 9 May 2013 , 6:35am
post #5 of 21

What kind of buttercream are you using?  Just curious.  :-)

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shannonlcorum Posted 9 May 2013 , 1:46pm
post #6 of 21

I'm using the Wilton recipe, usually doubled:


2 cups vegetable shortening

4-6 tbsp water

2 tsp clear vanilla

2 tbsp meringue

2 lbs powedered sugar


I've been putting a little more water in though so I might be making it too thin. But I really think the problem is the way I'm freezing them. I'm going to test my theory out some and see what happens.



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AnnieCahill Posted 9 May 2013 , 1:52pm
post #7 of 21

OK wait, the blue and green layers are supposed to have straight sides?  Is that right?  I do not think this is in any way related to buttercream or fondant.  It's either in the supports or the cake recipe you are using.

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cakegrandma Posted 9 May 2013 , 1:57pm
post #8 of 21

I think it is the height of the dowels you are using.  You must not be getting them all the same height and this can cause the layer to bulge with the weight of the one above it or just it alone.  I freeze all my cakes for a few days and then I let them set out to defrost so I can ice them and I don't have this trouble, not even with fondant.  I would go with the sps system and add it into the cost, it really works well.



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shannonlcorum Posted 9 May 2013 , 2:00pm
post #9 of 21

Yes, I usually cut mine a little high, to prevent squashing the cake below. I used like 12 dowels on the bottom! so I don't think it's the doweling. I don't see why the MMF would all of a sudden start causing me issues. It happened on the tiers before I stacked them so I think I have enough dowels for support. The fondant flares out, like I have a bunch of excess that I didn't have when I first covered it, which leads me to believe the cake is shrinking after I put the fondant on it. When I had the small layer elevated on top of a jar after I covered it with MMF, it looked perfectly fine. When I went to pick it up, it was like the fondant and buttercream were hanging about 1" below the cake. I thought that was odd considering I'd cut the fondant off at the bottom of the cake when I covered it. But I didn't grasp the idea that when I sat it on the next layer it might cause a problem. Ever have a little light bulb go on a little too late? Yep, went right over my head. Looking back now, I'm starting to piece it together on what seems like the logical problem. If I'd realized it at the time, I probably could have taken some kitchen shears and trimmed off the excess and the top layer would have been fine. The bottom was sitting directly on the cake board so that one was hopeless.


I'm going to change some things with the way I'm freezing and using my cakes to see if that corrects the issue.


1) Wait until cakes are completely cooled before freezing, which might prevent trapped steam from accumulating too much moisture in the cake, making it too soft.

2) Remove cakes from the freezer the night before I need them instead of a few hours before.

3) Stack and Crumb coat cakes while they are frozen when I take them out, then let set overnight to hopefully settle before adding buttercream and MMF.


If that don't work, I'll switch to taking them out the night before, letting them settle overnight, then stack and crumbcoat.  We'll see happens! ;)



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AnnieCahill Posted 9 May 2013 , 2:09pm
post #10 of 21

Twelve dowels on the bottom is too much, in my opinion.  I either use SPS or the hollow Wilton dowels.  I use a max of four for bottom tiers. 


On the flared tiers, is that actually cake that is flaring out or is it just fondant?


Why are you working with frozen cakes?  I think this is part of your problem.  You should let them come up to room temperature before you ice them and cover them in fondant.  Cake shrinks and expands with temperature, just like most things.  It's not so much a big deal being cold, but being frozen causes problems.  I generally refrigerate my cakes overnight after they're decorated, but that's just for greater stability when being transported. 


Edited to add that I wrap my cakes when slightly warm but I wait until they're at room temperature before I freeze.  But I always bring everything up to room temperature before I work.

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shannonlcorum Posted 9 May 2013 , 2:37pm
post #11 of 21

They weren't frozen when I put the fondant on them, but they hadn't been out of the freezer for a long time either. I think if I let them sit out overnight before icing them that might help.



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AnnieCahill Posted 9 May 2013 , 2:39pm
post #12 of 21

Try to work with your cakes at room temperature and see how they behave.  Also, give the hollow Wilton dowels a try but make sure you are cutting them level with each other and not level with the height of the finished icing.  If you can, give SPS a try.  Awesome system!

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shannonlcorum Posted 9 May 2013 , 2:42pm
post #13 of 21

Yes, they were supposed to be straight, not slanted. I'm using the same box cake mix I always have. But I didn't use to freeze my cakes. I just baked them right before I needed them. I'm getting so many orders I can't keep up with that. I think my freezing technique needs tweaked. I didn't know youre supposed to let them cool completely before freezing. I was taking them out of the over, waiting a few minutes, then wrapping them in saran and freezing, smoking hot and all.



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AnnieCahill Posted 9 May 2013 , 2:44pm
post #14 of 21

I think some people do freeze them while hot, but I don't do that because all my other food is in the freezer and I'm not going to do that.  So I personally wait until they're at room temperature before I freeze them.  I do wrap them about a half hour after I pull them out of the pan.  I do this with scratch or box mix cakes.  I have to freeze because cakes are just a hobby and I can't bake during the day because I'm at work.

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kazita Posted 9 May 2013 , 2:52pm
post #15 of 21

AI freeze my cakes while they are still pretty warm ....not right out of the oven but I let it cool like 10 minutes than I double wrap with cling wrap and put in the freezer and I've never had the problem that you are having. I let my cakes thaw before I put anything on them.

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shannonlcorum Posted 9 May 2013 , 5:17pm
post #16 of 21

I have used and like the hollow plastic dowels, I just didn't have any on hand when I made this cake. Only had a bag of the wood dowels. I've ordered some fat boba straws and am going to give those a try. Someone, maybe Ace of Cakes? uses those. I think I got like 142 of them on ebay for like $5. I really think the issue is I'm not letting my cakes sit out long enough after taking them out of the freezer. The middle layer had been out quite a while and if you notice, it didn't have the same problem the top and bottom layers did. I'll be sure to keep everyone posted...





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LizzieAylett Posted 9 May 2013 , 8:13pm
post #17 of 21

Can I just add that I really like the shapes that they've turned out as?  I know it's not what you intended, and I don't know what it looks like inside, but I find it quite attractive and it kind of fits in with the theme.  Maybe once you've worked out what the problem is, you can try to recreate the shape on purpose!

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MissMona Posted 10 May 2013 , 3:28am
post #18 of 21

Okay, I have to agree, I freeze my cakes HOT.  I do it to trap the moisture and to cool them quickly.  I don't always let them FREEZE, but sometimes just cool completely faster than the fridge.  Now, I do thaw them before I ice them.  I leave them wrapped and they sweat and warm enough in an hour or so.  (Depends on the size)  I think that your buttercream is sliding down the cake under the fondant and bringing the fondant with it.  If you could just cut one open once and see what's happening in there!  :)  But my thought is, use a stiffer buttercream, let the cake come to temp before icing it.....oh, and make sure you cut your MMF EVEN at the bottom.  I've had this type of problem (not this severe) when my MMF was a bit too long.  Keep us posted and best wishes!!!!  i know you must be frustrated.  

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kikiandkyle Posted 10 May 2013 , 10:23am
post #19 of 21

AYou said you use a box mix recipe, is it possible that the box mix has been changed and is no longer compatible with your doctoring (I assume you are doing that since you said recipe)?

I've frozen my cakes in all kinds of states and never had this happen. The fact that your bottom tier has collapsed more than the other two would really suggest its more of a weight issue to me.

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shannonlcorum Posted 11 May 2013 , 3:33pm
post #20 of 21

AWell I think I solved the problem. I baked a cake Thursday, didn't freeze it but waited until cool to crumb oat. On Friday I iced with buttercream and covered with fondant. Turned out perfect. No sliding. No buckling. My buttercream might have been a little stiffer, but I think the issue before was not letting my cake settle long enough after taking it out of the freezer. From now on, I'll wait until my cakes are cooled before freezing, then take them out the day before using them to allow plenty of time to thaw and settle. If I start having the issue again, guess I'll skip freezing all together. Thanks for all the suggestions/thoughts/and compliments. I'll post a pic of the cake I did Friday a little later.


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AnnieCahill Posted 12 May 2013 , 11:32am
post #21 of 21

AGlad it worked for you!

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