These last two weekend's have been rough on me. Two Saturday's ago was just insane: took on too many orders, had too many deliveries, and ultimately one cutting cake suffered. My last delivery of the day and the cake sifted during delivery (it wasn't chilled prior to delivery) and look like it imploded. The planner and I were able to cover the sides with fresh flowers and make it decently presentable. I felt awful since I knew the bride. It was just a 6 inch cutting cake with over 400 mini cupcakes for her guests. She was very gracious about it and of course I refunded her. After I got back to the shop, I just collapsed. My mom (and business partner) and I vowed to not attempt that large of work load in one day again and to make sure every cake is chilled prior to delivery.
So last week we decided to take a slower week, both for my own sanity and to give my staff a small break (two weeks in a row we were swamped with orders). My assistant, who usually doesn't get to go on deliveries with me, got to come with me to a delivery to a beautiful outdoor venue. I've delivered there several times so it was super easy. The planner told me where everything was going. We had a three tier fondant cake with two gum paste peonies, 24 mini cupcakes, and 36 cookies. The planner showed us the stand that it was going on. It was a HUGE (probably 20 inch diameter) silver stand that the bride's sister had purchased. It just barely fit on their rustic buffet table but we made it work. We got everything set-up and everyone at the venue said it looks gorgeous.
Not even 5 minutes after we got back to the shop, which is about 20 minutes away, we get a call from the planner saying that the back of the cake has melted. WHAT?! I've never had that happen, especially not with a fondant cake. I asked her to send me a picture so we can assess what's going on. It looked awful! The ganache under the fondant had completely melted so the fondant slid off. I actually didn't allow myself to look at it until my mom and assistant had figured out what to do. I had another wedding cake I had to finish and I didn't want it to suffer because of another cake. I finally looked at it and I was crushed. This beautiful cake that I spent so many hours on looked like an amateur mess. Once we got the picture, we realized that the cake was still sitting out in the sun. We asked the planner to move the cake inside, or at least out of the sun. I sent my assistant to ice the back of the cake in vanilla buttercream (american, not SMBC). She did the best she could given the situation. Thankfully it was the back of the cake, although because of the heat, the ganache on the middle tier wasn't holding up well so it looked a little lumpy.
Looking back on the set-up pictures and even the disaster pictures, I believe the stand was a major contributor to the melting. The ambient temperature wasn't bad, maybe 75 degrees. Not ideal but I've delivered cakes at that temperature without problem. Shoot until recently, my kitchen was always at least 77 degrees. There wasn't much shade on the back of the cake. What I think happened is that the shiny metal stand acted like a mirror and magnified the heat of the sun onto the cake. The bottom tier was the first to have problems and the top tier, which was in just as much sun as the rest of the cake, was fine.
I've learned from this horrible experience: just because the temperature is fine that doesn't mean the cake still can't melt. I won't allow those silver stands to be used on outdoor cakes unless there is shade and the sun isn't magnified.
I'm trying to come up with an idea of what to refund the bride. I feel like I should have known better about the stand. Ultimately, the cake wasn't perfect and the back surely wasn't what the bride wanted. I haven't heard back from either the planner or the bride. I'll wait to give a refund until I know more and make sure that the cake itself was still good. I really hope the cake was decent for pictures for the bride and groom. The bride was so sweet during the consultation and I feel like I've let her down.
Just wanted to share my experience, hope other people can learn from it, and see what you would do in this situation. My confidence is a little shaken, but I know I make great looking cakes. There will be bumps in the road and crazy days, but you have to pick yourself up and learn from the mistakes so you don't make them again.
On a side note, my assistant told me that the caterer was just showing up as she was leaving. The ceremony was almost over. Apparently, the caterer went to a venue that was over 3 hours away. All of the waitstaff was present, but the truck with all of the supplies and food was somewhere else.
outdoor receptions make me cringe -- i had one where while i was setting up the setting sun was drawing a laser beam on my cake but there was a tree right in the way where 5 minutes later the cake was in the shade yes!
yes that plateau sure could have exacerbated the effect of the sun -- hate that for you!
even for indoor cakes i make them move the cake table, close the shades and i make them understand fully that the big ball of fire in the sky will bring the whole thing down -- mayday mayday
Being in AZ the sun can be brutal - even during the winter. Even for indoor events, I require the cake NOT be near a window.
Never mind cakes, people melt at outdoor events in the sun…
Outdoor ceremonies are beautiful and all, but in extreme heat they are not fun…
I am sorry this happened to you, that's awful. See what the bride says before any refund is issued..she may not ask understanding what happened. Good to know about the metal stands!!
AThere's so many outdoor venues in my area (Southern California, about 30 minutes south of Santa Barbara and about 1-2 hours from LA depending on traffic) that the outdoors are unavoidable. But thankfully most have some sort of shade and some even have an air conditioned indoor space if needed.
I have another busy week ahead of me but I'm really excited for one of my wedding deliveries. The wedding planner is my sorority sister and the bride is also a sorority sister from a different chapter. It's 2 hours away but it's in the same town as my alma mater so I'm going to a football game after the delivery. The cake is simple and elegant. I'm mostly looking forward to seeing the whole reception. There's something like 300-350 guests, and from the vendor list I can only imagine what her budget is. I'll take plenty of pictures! And I'm taking my boyfriend with me so I'm hoping it'll be a nice relaxing weekend, after the delivery of course!
AOMG, I'm getting nervous just from reading this! I haven't done wedding cakes (yet) and I adore all of you for your nerves, lol.