Extremely Upset Bride - Suggestions On Cake And How To Handle

Baking By TEsplin Updated 24 Sep 2015 , 7:30pm by katsmeow777

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TEsplin Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 7:09pm
post #1 of 24


By the end of this year I will have made 300+ wedding cakes. I have never had a cake fall, although this past weekend, one of my wedding cakes did fall, and it was the wrong bride for it to happen to. For the cake I made a 4 tier buttercream cake, with spice and cream cheese on the bottom, vanilla with vanilla cream next tier, chocolate, and almond with raspberry for the top tier. There were 20 dowels in the bottom tier, 16 in the next, and 12 in the third. All tiers were transported separately and the cake as stacked and decorated on site. I received a call from the caterer about 2 hours after leaving the venue, letting me know the cake had fallen. She said she saw the cake leaning and that the bottom tier had crumbed and she was able to save the top 3 tiers. I asked if anyone had accidentally hit the table (as the room was still be decorated when I left), if any of the dowels were split, etc.. I was told no, and that the fault had been my own. According to the caterer, who is a very well known caterer in the area, and has catered for 30+ years, she said I am a very inexperienced baker and that I should know better than to use spice for the bottom tier as it crumbles too easily. Has anyone else ever seen this or agree with this? She also said my dowels were cut too short, although they were individually cut to the height of each tier, right at the top of the finished icing. She was also very adamant that nobody has touched the table. The bride is requesting a full refund. Can anyone, or would anyone be willing to share your thoughts on spice cake for the bottom tier, and how to stack your wedding cakes. I actually had just decided a few weeks ago to start using the SPS tiered system for my wedding cakes, starting next weekend, although only putting 4 pillars in to a cake to hold up 3 tiers on top, makes me very nervous as well. Do most others use dowels, or SPS system? I realize this is one cake and one order out of many, and I honestly still strongly think someone may have hit the table while decorating, however this is a very small community, and this bride said she is intent on making sure everyone knows what happened to her wedding cake and whose fault it was.


23 replies
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Gingerlocks Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 7:24pm
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Honestly; I don`t think the spice cake would be the issue..it`s the dowell`s holding the cake up not the cake itself. In my experience it may have been the cream-cheese buttercream. I find it never hold`s up as well as an all butter butter cream or ganache and may have caused the instability. I don`t think the bride should get a full refund; there was still a three tier cake, but she should get a refund..maybe 25%

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-K8memphis Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 7:31pm
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'spice cake' being crumbley is a non sequitor to say that in general spice cakes are known for being crumbley -- I've never heard of that -- 

what size were the cake tiers?

it's possible to have too many dowel, 20 is a lot unless the cakes were super big and needed that many -- were the dowel in concentric circles like a bullseye -- or were they in one continuous circle -- and how far from the center were they under each tier -- halfway out to the edge of the tier above it or on the outside perimeter of the cake above --

did they serve the cake?

when was the cake baked and how was it held, in the fridge, freezer or counter top

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cakedout Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 7:38pm
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Sorry this had to happen to you!  Although I would tend to agree that the fault may have been from a table failure, or someone bumping the table (and no one willing to fess up) there is not much you can do to prove it.  I can hardly believe that a cake with 20 dowels would have collapsed unless several of them on the same side were shorter than the others....and I have done spice cake with a cc frosting/filling plenty of times with no issues.  So there is only a shred of possibility that it could have been your fault!

The fallen cake did not totally ruin this gal's wedding day - she's married isn't she?  ;)  Her guests had cake to eat, didn't they?   Yeah-  I would offer only a partial reimbursement. 

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-K8memphis Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 7:45pm
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did the caterer book the cake with you? if not i would respectfully decline to negotiate with her -- she's already suspect with the 'spice cake' story 

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-K8memphis Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 7:50pm
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were your dowel cut to to the same identical length per tier? where one is inserted, measured and all dowel are the same height per tier? otherwise it's unlevel then to set the cake on

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CWR41 Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 8:24pm
post #7 of 24

20 dowels is overkill... you've made a perforated line for cake to fall away from.

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TEsplin Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 8:58pm
post #8 of 24

Dowels were all cut to the same height for each tier.

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maybenot Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 9:41pm
post #9 of 24

20 dowels?  Given that the rule of thumb is 1 wooden dowel per inch of cake supported, that would mean that the tier above was 20 inches--which I strongly doubt. 

Say the bottom tier was 14".  If it had 20 dowels in it, it was swiss cheese and the tier above it was balancing on a group of skinny sticks that were, in turn,  balancing on the board below.

The wide bore columns of the SPS, or the bubble tea straws that I use, are much stronger and more stable than skinny wooden sticks.  You use fewer of them.  For wide bore straws, you'd use 1 per 2 inches of cake supported, so to support a 12" cake, you'd use just 6 straws--leaving more cake intact.

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TheresaCarol Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 10:57pm
post #10 of 24

Spice cake is more dense and crumbs have nothing to do with stability.  I agree with those above, I believe the number of dowels used was way too many causing some of the issue.  So sorry this happened but I don't think a full refund is the answer because there was still three tiers to serve.   Stand your ground with grace and offer a partial refund and maybe a anniversary cake to help mend the fence.

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ljdills Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 11:11pm
post #11 of 24

So, I will be the unpopular voice today I am sure, but I would give her a refund.  I understand they still were able to serve cake, but it was a wedding cake... what about pictures and the stress and disappointment of the bride ?  Sometimes these things happen and we just have to swallow it and move on.  If I were the bride, I too would want a full refund.  If you order a pizza that is cooked unevenly (half is burned half is not) and they say to you "We won't give you a refund because you were able to eat part of it" would that satisfy you ?  It is a crazy analogy but it has been a long day and I am tired.  

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blueangel174 Posted 21 Sep 2015 , 11:20pm
post #12 of 24

Sorry to hear about the cake falling. I usually only make cakes for friends and family but the last large wedding cake I made I used the Cakestackers system and delivered it fully intact. I didn't have to stack the cake onsite.

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littlemo12 Posted 22 Sep 2015 , 12:18am
post #13 of 24

I too am a cakestacker user .... its worth every penny for the piece of mind. Absolutely no weight distribution to worry about with the system. I also think the 20 dowels and swiss cheese theory is the answer to the problem. I  would give a FULL refund. The bride will still not talk highly of you when asked, but she will be less likely to be the one to start a conversation about her experience with you too.    

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ladyonzlake Posted 22 Sep 2015 , 12:35am
post #14 of 24

I'm so sorry this happened to you.  I can't imagine going through this.  I use the SPS system and I've used them for over 7 years with no issues.  I don't think your spice cake was the issue but maybe the cream cheese frosting was?  Seems odd for it to fall with so many dowels.  I personally would refund the entire cake to the bride.  It was her wedding cake and while some of it was saved it was not the decorated cake that she paid for.  

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-K8memphis Posted 22 Sep 2015 , 1:28am
post #15 of 24

but about the refund -- you're kinda getting the double whammy with the caterer joining in and you have to weigh that especially since you're in a small community -- 

but since the bride is angry and it happened within minutes of her reception i take it, the caterer is not helping anything i would not want to see you loose more than 50% -- of course they served the cake right -- 

so your decision is how much of the remaining 50% is your peace worth -- i would hate for you to give that up -- so my suggestion is no more than 50% unless you decide putting out the fire is easier -- she served the cake she should pay for that 

if guests were around that exacerbates it -- i understand if you don't want to give any more details --

these things happen -- give yourself enough time -- take 2-3 days if you need it -- find a quiet spot take a deep breath and then stand your guns whatever you decide -- best to you -- it's not the end of the world -- you'll recover -- one out of three hundred -- shoot it happens -- you got this and you're already stronger--


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pastrypet Posted 23 Sep 2015 , 10:16pm
post #16 of 24

I'd give her the 100% refund. It was probably the 20 dowels in the first tier that made the cake collapse.

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costumeczar Posted 24 Sep 2015 , 1:03am
post #17 of 24

20 dowels is way too many. All you need in each tier is the diameter divided by two with one added if that's an even number. So for a 16" tier it would be 8 dowels plus 1 for a total of 9. 

Having said that, I really doubt that a cake with that many dowels in it would collapse because the cake was soft. The only time a caterer ever tried to give me a lecture was when she was trying to pass off a mistake of hers onto me. I'd be willing to bet that the table was knocked or someone tried to move the cake. But who really knows, you're not going to find out the true story because it sounds like the caterer is firmly behind blaming you to divert attention from herself.

I'd offer a 50% refund and see how that goes over with the bride. Don't deal with the caterer anymore, this is between you and the bride at this point.

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TEsplin Posted 24 Sep 2015 , 10:55am
post #18 of 24

Well ladies, thank you all so much. Like I had said this is a small community, I have made over 2,000 cakes and 300 wedding cakes with never an issue. I do know I use a lot of dowels. There was actually a cake master who lived in the area before he passed away, and he was the official White House cake decorator for 2 presidencies. He is the one who taught me that and showed me how to space them.

Finally someone who worked for the events decorator admitted to hitting the cake with a ladder, enough to make the cake wobble back and forth. It happened right as they were cleaning up and guests were arriving for the reception. She was worried she would lose her job but heard how many phone calls I was getting from the mother of the bride and said something.

Thanks so much!

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-K8memphis Posted 24 Sep 2015 , 11:36am
post #19 of 24

yes! i mean had to be! spice cake is not at all known to be crumbly -- so it was in the wedding reception with the ladder by the ladder weilding events staffer fully exacerbated by the caterer who rushed to judgment --

sounds like you never refunded -- i hope -- wow what a great save--

you best be getting several yea many calls of apology -- i know you'll be gracious -- they better call --

so happy for you -- big fat spicey whew

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costumeczar Posted 24 Sep 2015 , 12:01pm
post #20 of 24

Finally someone who worked for the events decorator admitted to hitting the cake with a ladder, enough to make the cake wobble back and forth. It happened right as they were cleaning up and guests were arriving for the reception. She was worried she would lose her job but heard how many phone calls I was getting from the mother of the bride and said something.

Ah HA! I had a feeling that somebody was trying to cover themselves. That caterer owes you an apology, but don't hold your breath waiting for one. What a wench...

And you really don't need that many dowels. That many in a cake will make it a nightmare to cut and serve anyway. Save yourself some time and cut down on that. 

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Snowflakebunny23 Posted 24 Sep 2015 , 3:27pm
post #21 of 24

I'm so pleased you got that sorted.  I was really panicking when reading as I'm doing a sponge cake for tomorrow and it's my first 5-tier!  Starting to panic as it's  huge wedding and for my oldest friend, lol.  

For what it's worth, i always do my damnedest to deliver after the venue is set up.  I know it's not always easy if you have multiple orders for one day but if you can, it's worth it.  On my first paid cake delivery, all hell was breaking loose at the venue.  I had generally been standing in front of the cake so had protected it but i had to step away and a bloke was carrying a chair, legs forward (and at cake height!) and missed an impaling cake event by about a centimetre.  What was worse was the lad didn't even seem to notice that there was a cake!  He was in his own little world of chair management...  Hope you never have to go through this again!!

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-K8memphis Posted 24 Sep 2015 , 3:40pm
post #22 of 24

sfb23 -- what an interesting way to like to deliver after the venue is set up -- the only time i come close to that is if there was a problem and i needed the extra time or if highly perishable is involved -- but there's always commotion -- well except for the times there's no one there at all -- 5,000 different ways huh -- squared

and TEsplin -- the caterer gets it for saying you're inexperienced too -- i shoulda said that earlier but i mean i was telling my husband about this thread when that thought came up -- i mean you do 25 or 50 cakes you pretty much got this thing down you are officially experienced -- but people are people and whadayahgonna do -- so glad the event/ladder person piped up!

ain't nothing wrong with no spice cake! 

*Last edited by -K8memphis on 24 Sep 2015 , 3:41pm
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remnant3333 Posted 24 Sep 2015 , 3:51pm
post #23 of 24

Glad the truth came out!! Sometimes the truth never comes and people never admit to what really happened!! I am sure you feel a whole lot better knowing that nothing was wrong with your cake.  This happens more often than we think and the baker gets blamed for it!!! Whew!! Thank goodness!!!

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katsmeow777 Posted 24 Sep 2015 , 7:30pm
post #24 of 24

I was guilted in to frosting a 3 tiered Wedding Cake for my fiances cousin because her Aunt who was making it could not make it up in time for the Wedding to do it at the last moment. I had never done one before. I did not have to bake the cake just ice it and stack it. It took me forever to get it iced and stacked being a newbie and being very sure that it was iced smooth etc. The caterer watched me and my fiance who helped me do it all day. We left after we moved it and had it all set up right where it was supposed to go and went and changed. About an hour and a half later we made it back and when we walked behind the table there was a big chunk of frosting out of the top tier and the bottom tiers frosting was smashed. We tried to fix it the best we could and were grateful it was on the back of the cake so it did not show in pics but later that night the caterer came up and told us exact words - I boobed your cake. I tried to move it. I still have some of the frosting on my dress.  I could not understand after she watched us all day - why did you not meet us at the door when we came back and let us know so we could fix it right away? I am glad they finally admitted to it.

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