I know this question has been asked a million times and I apologize for repeating it again but I'm hoping if I provide more details about my situation then it will help someone solve it for me!
I am only a hobby baker, so I don't bake but maybe 2 cakes a month. Because of this, sometimes its hard for me to tell what the issue is when things go wrong. .lol In my last 4 cakes or so, I've gotten those awful dreaded bulges in the side of my cakes. I haven't changed anything about the way I do cakes is the thing. It just seems like they started happening. Here's my process: I bake a few days before an event, cool then freeze my cakes after wrapping in 97 layers of plastic wrap, foil and freezer bags. lol. Then a few days before the event, I bring them out as I need them and fill and crumb coat with american buttercream. My recipe uses half butter, half hi ratio shortening, if that helps. I rough ice the cakes after filling and they go straight in the fridge. My process always has my cakes in the fridge when I'm not working on them. I'm lucky that my fridge doesn't condensate. I usually put the tiers in the fridge overnight to let them settle. and I NEVER have seen a bubble or bulge happen at this point. They always look just like they did when they went in. I next final ice my cakes smooth. I don't use fondant to cover cakes in, although I have dabbled lately in stripes, figures, etc. After I final ice, they go back in the fridge until the event, which is either that day or the next. I always let them get good and cold though. My buttercream doesn't really crust, but it gets firm again, which I like dealing with. I usually take the cakes out just before an event and thats it. Never had issues. .For years. Then the last 4 or so, I've had issues. It started with a cake that I had to take outside and it was warm. So I suspect this the issue, but I don't know what to do about it. It was a large, 3 tier birthday cake and I traveled with it stacked on my lap about a mile. When I took the cakes out of the fridge and stacked they were perfect. When I got it to the venue a mile away, I had a bubble in the side. Next cake, same thing. I was taking it to my nieces birthday and it was perfect until I got there, and after it was set up on the stand for an hour, it formed a bulge. It wasn't hot that day is the thing. So that kinda ruined my theory. Then this past weekend, I did a cake for a graduation here at my house and it was hot. I expected issues. And I had them. .The cakes were perfect. This one and the one before, I had to take it out of the fridge before I like to at my home to apply fondant stripes to them and I don't refrigerate after that. So they were out an hour or so. Then took this one outside, 20 minutes later I had 2 bulges. This time when I cut the cakes I investigated and the icing was not bulging out from the filling in between the cakes. It was not even touching the cake! I was shocked! What in the world is causing my icing to just not stick to my cake there? I feel like I could have just torn it away and it would have just been crumb coating underneath! These bulges are hard to fix too, as they aren't really like fondant where you can poke a hole and push the air our. I tried that, and its not really the key here. A major fix need to happen to fix these and I'm getting scared to do another cake now.
I'd really appreciate any help here. I'm at my wits end with these. Again, I don't think its a settling issue, as the filling wasn't bulged out with it. Just a pocket of like air between my icing and the crumb coat.
Do you happen to have any pictures of these bulges? That really is weird, especially using hi-ratio! I’d your butter the same kind/brand of butter?
Well, I don't think I do have any. I kind of refuse to photograph them lol. They look like typical blow outs. Although they don't completely blow out. They just bulge out away from the cake. I don't think I'm using a different butter. I think its the same I've used for a while but I might consider trying a whole new brand to be sure.
Are your cake layers leveled? Do you use a buttercream dam? How stiff is your frosting?
Sorry for asking so many extra questions! I’m trying to rack my brain
I think it's because of air trapped between the cake layers that never gets a chance to come out since the cake is fridged all the time.
Basically, when filling, tiny air bubbles get trapped between the layers of cake and since the cake goes straight back in the fridge, they don't get a chance to get squeezed out by the weight of the cake. Then they're trapped even tighter by the final coat of icing
When the cake finally warms up, all that trapped air expands and comes out at the weakest points of the cake, forming bubbles between the crumb coat and final coat.
I understand your previous cakes haven't really spent much time outside the fridge or in warm weather before being cut, so there wouldn't have been enough time for any air bubbles to expand. But warm weather and a longer time out of the fridge contributed these times apparently
Solutions: press each layer of cake down firmly when filling
Allow your cake to settle at room temperature for at least 8 hours (or fewer with a weight on top) before putting in the fridge again. A lot of people don't do this and have no trouble with bubbles, but every time I skip this step, I have the same problem as you
Use a skewer to make a hole through the centre of the cake after you've filled it, whether you're fridging or not. Trapped air will take the path of least resistance and come out through the hole. I'd recommend doing this for iced and fondanted cakes too, if they'e going to sit for a while, and if you can hide the hole later with decorations.
yeah, they are leveled. I usually just level the top although sometimes I torte also. I don't use a dam. But I never have. I make my filling/crumb coat batch pretty thick though. I don't feel like the filling is coming out though. Like I said, I looked at the bubble when I cut the cake and it was like the outer icing wasn't even touching the cake.
Thanks so much for the suggestion! I will definitely try that and admittedly, I've never smashed down on the cake layers, or put a weight on top. I'll definitely try leaving it out the fridge also during that time and doing the hole. Just in the top, right down the middle of the cake? Do you think I can put the cake back in the fridge after I final ice?
You're very welcome! Hope this works out for you!
Yup hole in the top, all the way down to the board.
Yes once it's settled, it should be ok to go back in the fridge before you ice it, and again after your final coat.
That’s a great advice, and makes a lot of sense! I’ve never taken steps for ‘settling’, myself, and admittedly had never even heard of this term until a few days ago. I’ve been lucky enough to not have any problems with it yet, but will definitely take that advice regardless, because I keep my cakes in the fridge as well.
I'm making a practice cake this week. Gonna try and see how it goes with leaving it out of the fridge while decorating until its finished. Then put it in fridge to get hard and set. Then take it out and let it sit on my counter for a few hours, then put it out in the sun lol Wish me luck!
I may have to do this for my upcoming cake! It’s just for practice, so might as well!
Let us know how it works out!
Oh I hope I made it clear that the out-of-fridge settling should happen after the crumb coat and before the final coat? Because you want all the air out before you put that last coat on.
Sorry if I was unclear!
Best of luck and do let us know how it goes!
Yes! Got it!! I'll let you know how it goes. I'm baking tomorrow and freezing like always until the weekend. Then starting to decorate.
So I tried lots of new things with these cakes! New buttercreams, damed the filling, chilled before crumb coating, and let them set out all night before putting them in the fridge. It was probably about 8-9 hours, and had no problems with bulging
Letting the cakes come to room temps saves you a lot of grief! Every time we get in a hurry and do not get to full room temp it happens. The hole in top through the center always is an extra safety net. Also dam the layers every-time. Your bulge issues should stop.
I wanted to give an update! I had a cake this past weekend. I pushed down on the layers while stacking, made a dam, poked a hole in the cake and left the cake out of the fridge while the crumb coat sit on the cake for 8 hours. Then I final iced the cake and put in the fridge like always. I took the cake out and transported it an hour in the car and set it up and NO BULGES! I don't exactly know what worked but oh well. I guess thats all part of my process now lol.
I have never left my cakes out of the refrigerator to settle, but I do always press down on the layers as I stack them.
A few years ago, I was having trouble with the buttercream detaching itself from the sides of the cake, as you described. Like you, I had previously experienced no problems, so I was stumped. I reached out to the cake community and lots of people made suggestions. None of them were really helpful because I was alreadying using the recommended processes. One day Goreti, one of our good members, asked me what kind of cake release I used. At the time, I was using the homemade cake release, which is equal parts of shortening, flour and vegetable oil. It works very well for releasing cakes. Goreti suggested it could possibly be the oil in the homemade cake release that was being absorbed into the outer crust of the cake, resulting in a surface which will not adhere strongly to the buttercream. Big light bulb moment, brilliant. I went back to parchment paper, Crisco and flour, like in the good old days, and have not had an issue since and that was about three years ago. I will never know for sure, but I do believe that was my problem.
Wow! Thats interesting! I use Bakers Joy. I have used it for a few years though. But its kinda like one of those homemade ones I feel like. I used to use flour and crisco and parchment but when I read about Bakers Joy a few years ago, I never looked back.
I've been using Baker's Joy for like 50 years, until I made the homemade cake release. I had already gotten accustomed to lining my pans with wax paper on the bottom (which I have been doing since I was five, lol) and parchment paper on the sides, so I just smear on a small amount of Crisco. Honestly, I will probably buy Baker's Joy again for my loaf pans and bundt pans. I love the stuff.