The Wedding Cake that Didn’t Make it

This is one of the hardest posts I’m going to write. Whenever I’m asked to spill the tea on cake horror stories, this one hurts so bad that it usually doesn’t even come up. This is the cake that I thought was going to end my career. So pull up a seat and a drink for story time.

Top two tiers. Ivory fondant. Cake lace. Sugar pearls/ dragees. Fondant jewels.

I started decorating at a professional level in 2010. This cake went down in the summer of 2016, my first wedding season at the bakery. This was one of the brides I inherited when I started working at the bakery. I had spent two meetings with her and repeatedly assured her that I was just as good as the decorator I had replaced. Clearly I was wrong. This cake broke my heart and I was ready to throw in the towel. I thought I had done everything right, to the best of my ability.

This wasn’t the most expensive cake (the guitar 🎸) I had made to this point, but it was the most expensive Wedding cake I had made at that point, and possibly the first 4 tier wedding cake.

I hated that topper and took pics of the cake before adding it to the top.

In hindsight it was a recipe for disaster. Our bakery’s soft moist decadent cake. Our fragile swiss meringue buttercream. Heavy Fondant. Slippery raspberry filling. Delicate Cake lace. 4 tiers. Delivered almost 2 hours away. In the humidity of Southwestern Pennsylvania and heat of the summer. Outside In a barn. All the tell tale signs of a disaster in the making. The fondant was sweating and sticky as I stacked the top two onto the bottom two tiers. I had a bad feeling about the cake as i drove away, up the bumpy windy farm road, but i never could have imagined what was to come. I had a feeling the fondant was going to get air bubbles and no one would know that they can just be popped with a pin and resmoothed. That was my biggest concern. I hung out a bit longer than usual after the delivery but all seemed well enough when I was taking pictures.

Picture perfect wedding

I didn’t find out about the disaster until the next day, on a well earned day off, my friends were in town and we rode the incline and visited the bakery. The venue had called and left voicemail messages the evening before. We had the absolute worst telephone system.

The couple was on their honeymoon and I didn’t hear from them for a couple weeks. The unknown was torture. The bakery owner wanted to rectify the situation and offer a refund. Our contacts terms and conditions talks about how the heat, nature, weather and any post drop off problems isn’t really our responsibility.

She took it in stride. She thought she was being punked. Luckily the venue was still able to serve the cake. They tore it down before it fell -to keep it from falling. I’m going to now post all of the venue/ event planners emails and the pictures. I made $20k in wedding cakes that year. When I started this blog I was worried that if I were to post the Fails then I’d lose my legitimacy and future clients, not to mention other wedding industry professionals contacts and referrals. However, In the spirit of teaching, here goes it.

I believe the biggest problems were heat, humidity, moist soft cake mix, fragile all butter buttercream, slippery wet filling. Straws are just as strong as wooden Dowels, that wasn’t the problem. I’ve read a physics study about the strength of jumbo straws. When I was still learning I have had layered cakes shift in delivery from mousse fillings and fruit fillings. Dowels could be helpful to keep them together.

I also spoke with the venue and the bride on the phone, but everything was pretty much consistent with the emails. I have heard from others that in some situations that things can get stickier. Since after the Caker leaves the cake at drop off, that the responsibility lies with the venue. That’s what our contracts say. I have heard that Venues are not going to accept that responsibility. I have seen horror stories from other cakers where the florist or the heavy flowers have toppled cakes.

😬😳😱🤬🥵

I don’t even know what I could have done at that point if we had gotten the call to come back. I’m going to share with you in another post about yet another 4 tier wedding cake that fell and how we fixed it before the reception.

Emails from the venue to the bride, shared with me from the bride. 1 of 3
Correspondence between event planner/ venue and bride. 2 of 3
Correspondence between event planner/ venue and bride. 3 of 3

Tail between my legs I had to tell my new boss that I would learn from this and not have to refund another $700++ to any more couples in the future

Changes were made and implemented. 4 tier cakes get an extra $75.00 support system charge. There is a future blog post planned detailing supports and dowels. We invested in cake delivery in coolers and ice packs. They’re completed and refrigerated over night the day before delivery. 4 tiers are stacked on site.

We changed the tier separators to make sure our cardboard rounds are wax coated, and not just cardboard getting soggy with grease and wilting. The wedding contract was updated to ask if the cake was going to be outside or inside and if there was air conditioning. Delivery times are adjusted and time is cut real close to when guests are arriving for outside events. 2 and 3 tier cakes can sometimes be kept in the event venues coolers or fridge until guests start to arrive.

The real gravity and scope of the importance of a wedding cake, the significance of the cake, especially to a bride that wanted a showpiece, weighs heavy. I was ready to call it quits, throw in the towel. It took years to get over having ruined someone’s wedding day. If I can share some wisdom and cautionary tales to help save future cakes then I guess it helps balance the scales. We were fortunate that the bakery has other income other than weddings to offer a refund. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without using my personal finances, as a home based business owner. We were fortunate that the bride was so incredibly understanding and empathic to the situation.

Still standing, last pic I took before away, Flower insertion vases . Humorous Topper .
I sent her pictures of the cake so she could see what was hand crafted and intended for her 😭

Sometimes cakes fall.

That really is the moral of the story. Accidents happen. Mistakes are made. Learn from them and move on. Learn more. Do better. Teach others.

Happy Anniversary

And there you have it. I am now Going to go outside and do a yoga rinse under the moon light and hopefully, finally, put this disaster behind me for good.

Thanks for stopping by and having a read.

Good luck and blessings for all of our future wedding cakes!

Cheers!

Brandi Janine

Geode Wedding Cake

Oh my beautiful Geode! How lovely and serene. June, 2017

I loved this bride. She was gorgeous and so lovely. We bonded over laughter about how some geode cakes, with pinks and red rocks look like vaginas.

She was Laid back but also an artist so she was particular but also really appreciated what went into making cake. This was Both of their second marriages. The geode cake was actually the second wedding cake I made for them. The first one was a beach themed cake for their beach ceremony in Baltimore. She was worried it would come out too much like a kids birthday cake and not a wedding cake. I was worried about the cake making that big drive! Her car was packed and She kept it on the floor of the passenger side. In a box, obviously. Buttercream with fondant accents. I used the wilton seashell fondant mood and satin ice fondant. She had a special custom cake topper. She sent me a good pic with the topper at that dinner and I’ll add it if I come across it.

March, 2017

Here’s a few progress pics i took during the making of the geode cake.

Wedding tiers are four layers of cake and 3 layers of filling. You can see one of the tier supports, jumbo bubble straws.

Carved for shape, cut the cardboard tier separator round. 6″ top tier, 8″ middle, 10″ bottom. The 10″ stayed in the fridge while the top two got worked on.

Covered in buttercream and fondant. Use an edible marker to outline where you’ll cut. Carve it already stacked so you’re sure it lines up.

piping gel is the glue that keeps the sugar rocks glued in. Layer of piping gel on top of the buttercream and then you’ll want a piping bag of piping gel to use as you go.

Rock sugar colored with airbrush color. I used the airbrush color instead of gel color because it’s already so liquid y. If i had needed to use gel color I would have diluted it with everclear. It didn’t take a lot of color, the sugar rocks took the color brilliantly. I needed three shades of purple and this was the darkest. I divided them and stirred more .Here i moved into the other room so i could sit while i worked . You can see the brides’ geode on the table, she lent it to me to look at while I worked. This was a tedious task, inserting each rock individually with a pair of long tweezers. Darkest color in the center gives added depth and shadows.

This took several hours of work to complete. The bride even stopped in with her friends while I was working on it to check out the progress. They were big geode buffs and fell in love with the cake.

The rock cave gets outlined with gold leaf, and the inspiration cake she liked best had that big section of gold leaf. Gold leaf has a slight learning curve, but is easy to use as long as there is no breeze. A dry fan brush helps to smooth it out, but the wrinkles add another dimension too. Make sure you get the single Individual sheets. Gold leaf isn’t exactly edible, but it is non toxic.

Finally, at the reception. The bling band bottom border, topper, and cake stand really bring it all together.

Photo credit goes to Flip. He was the first person to get a new phone with the new portrait mode. 😻

This is the inspiration cake, seen in a store window on a vacation. I think i knocked this one out of the park.eliminated that very top 4th tier,

The inspiration cake from a far away land.

I don’t like to copy other artists cake designs exactly, but I don’t mind at all if someone else makes one of mine. It’s great to make adjustments when and where there’s room for improvement and if i can get the client to go along with the changes. She was pretty set on this style. We eliminated that very top 4th tier and used amethyst rocks instead of blue.

A picture one of the guests took and sent. The cake matches well with the chandeliers of the LeMont. – that’s a super fancy restaurant in Pittsburgh with incredible views of the city.

The bride Emailed me From her reception!

I felt pretty good about this cake, but it’s always magnificent to hear from the client when they enjoy a commissioned art.

My mom didn’t like this cake. Our oldest baker didn’t like it either, on a personal matter of style or taste. It stings a little anyways. It was my first geode cake after all.

A week later she sent this:

Thanks, Brandi!

I have yet to get the photographer’s photos & will pass those along, (including the 3/18 cake images), in a WELL DESERVED thank-you note…

Your incredible talents added SO much to our 3/18 wedding & 7/21 reception.

I ran into her again a few years later and she still raves about the Cakes. It means so much to be so appreciated. An amazing reminder of how truly important your cakes actually are.

Sweetly,

Brandi Janine

The Monster Book 📖 Cake

I have to tell you- I freaking loved this cake! I loved everything about this order.

My cake friend Marissa, another super talented caker in Pittsburgh, sent this man and his cake order my way. We have this lazy Pgh Caker Club (and I say lazy affectionately). We’re all too busy with our lives to actually meet in person other than twice, but when we did meet we all clicked and it was great fun and we all had so much in common being creative people and working with cake and art. If you’re in Pittsburgh and want to join our club hit me up and I’ll point you in the direction of our Facebook group.

NOW Back to the cake!

Check this baby aht!

(Aht is Pittsburghese for out)

Harry Potter Sheet Cake

What?!! Is that crazy or what?!

I made that!

The client sent me a couple pictures of things he liked for his wife’s 30th birthday cake.

Obviously, she LOVES Harry Potter –And even more importantly, he loves her.

I have to be completely and utterly honest with you right now. I’ve never seen or read the Harry Potter series 😬😬

There’s a monster book- it has eyes and teeth and a tongue and tentacles and FUR. There’s a sorting hat. A wand. A scarf. Hogwarts express and a gold flying dragon- coming out of a book.

The making of the cake:

I took a full white almond sheet cake and cut it into 4ths. The bottom layer was a 1/4 sheet double and the top layer a 1/4 sheet single. The double was filed with raspberry filling, and then they were both iced in Swiss meringue buttercream and covered with ivory fondant.

I added texture to sides to look like an open book and stacked with bubble tea straws.

Here’s a video of the making of the sorting hat! (You’ll be redirected to my YouTube- totally worth it to see my ultra beginner video editing)

Sorting Hat

My phone ran out of storage so I couldn’t take any more pics and videos during the process. Otherwise I’d have a full tutorial for you.

The train was also a cupcake on the inside.

I made all the small details out of Satin Ice fondant. The fur is chocolate buttercream with a large grass tip.

Everything came together at the very end. That’s always exciting stuff!

Thanks for checking out my latest cake and blog post! Hope you like it!

Xoxo

Brandi

in Cakesburgh

Subscribe to the newsletter so I can let your inbox know the next time I make a cool cake. 🙂

Construction Party 🚧

Fletcher’s Fifth Birthday Party 🎈

Happy 5th Birthday Fletcher !

Construction Party

My family LOVES to party.

And the parties are always planned around FOOD.

This is basically the whole reason I started making cakes.

Digger cake

 

Fletcher (my oldest baby) was super into everything construction and fireman related.

 

(We had the fire truck party for his 3rd birthday)

 

Very much a boy boy boy, no matter how full of stuffed animals his bed is.

 

He would play with his trucks for hours.

 

He turned five in August and started kindergarten a few weeks later.

 

I wasn’t sad though. He was super ready and I was happy and excited for him.

 

But maybe throwing him this big party took my mind off of it a little bit.

 

We had a great big party at the YMCA where Fletcher went to Preschool, with a bunch of his little friends.

 

And it’s so cute seeing them all grow up and become their own little people through Facebook.

 

 

I was just starting out with my home licensed cake business,

Event Cakes Pgh.

 

So I kind of had a lot to prove,

 

and also wanted to show off a little.

 

I used a tutorial that I found on Yeners Way

(It’s also possible that I found the tutorial and planned the party around the cake because i wanted to make it. )

I had a monthly subscription to Yeners Way and I learned as much as I could as fast as I could. << that’s an affiliate link if you want to check out the tutorials on the site. 

So when I’m asked if I’m self taught – the answer isn’t easy.

I submerged myself in tutorials and videos and tried out techniques constantly, and still am.

I’m also super creative and crafty though (you should see my collection of scrapbooking supplies) and a lot of things I just figure it out and wing it.

(I’m not sure I’ve made cake pops since this set. Cake pops are kind of a pain to make. Totally worth it when they’re this cute- but I gotta be honest, they should cost $10.00 each for all of the time that goes into them. )

 

 

I’m just saying –

We know how to throw a great party!

>>>Shout out to my mom and sister! <<<

….

An AMAZING cake

takes an AWESOME party

TO THE NEXT LEVEL!

…..

 

Thanks for stopping by!

You’re awesome!

 

Have you signed up for my newsletter yet? Cause I’ll drop a line in your inbox when I put out another blog post.

 

Xoxoxo

Brandi

Jumping Fish Cake!

This is the most delicious smelling fish you’ll ever meet!

Fish cake

I was super excited to get this cake order. It’s not every day that a client has the budget for a structured sculptured cake. But when they do, let’s just say, Magic Happens!

The realms connect,

gravity is defied,

the laws of physics are guffawed and

Art

is

born.

In other words,

hardware is purchased.

Internal fish structure

Make the sculpted edible fish a day ahead of the cake itself, on a styrofoam cake dummy. Time management skills at work, and also because we dont want all that pressure and extra movement making a bigger hole in our soft delicious cake.

Fish cake structure

Fire up the glue gun and make it stay put . You could probably skip this step, but your hardware would spin around. Fish are notorious for being wiggly and flopping around and we don’t want that on top of our cake.

Fish cake structure

Side note: notice the giant pink stain on my kitchen counter. Food coloring. It’s finally gone now, but it was there for a while…. 😬

Fish cake structure

Cover the fish bones with aluminum foil. It’s an inexpensive, light weight, food safe way to build up the structure.

Fish cake structure

I know it looks gross here… don’t cry yet…. it gets better…

Cover the aluminum foil with melted marshmallow so the RKT actually sticks to its bones.

Melt more marshmallows than you think you’ll need.

(It’s kind of all a guessing game on amounts anyways. The guessing eventually turns into intuition the more you get to make cooler stuff.)

Reference some pictures of real fish jumping out of the water- a lot. This one was a large mouth bass.

Cover with RKT (Rice Krispie treats- but not the traditional recipe from the box- crush them up and skip the butter).

Fish cake structure

Cover that whole structure with ganache.

I dont have any pics of the next few steps cause I was

IN

THE

ZONE

And That Place is AMAZING.

But this is what I was doing while i was listening to my jams and NOT snapping pics:

Make a batch of white modeling chocolate the day or so before you need it.

Save some of the modeling chocolate for the fins- you need the modeling capabilities of the chocolate to hold their shape.

Mix the rest of modeling choc with fondant at a 1:1 ratio. The idea is to hide that ugly skeleton, covering it all up, and turn it into a fish.

Reference and re-reference the fish pics. We wanted it realistic and not cartoonish.

The details are where it’s at! The eyeball and fins are SUPER duper important!

I didnt have an airbrush yet when i did this guy, so it’s all hand painted. Mostly with Greens, browns, ivory and yellow, wilton gel colors mixed with Everclear (don’t even think about drinking that).

Jumping fish cake Jumping fish cake Jumping fish cake

The cake itself is covered in a couple different shades of buttercream, blues, green and white, spatula’d on to emulate water.

Have you made a cake like this?! I wanna see it! Send me a picture and tag me!

🐠

🐟 Fishy face kisses!

Xoxo

Brandi

Thanks for checking out my cake blog! Sign up for my newsletter if you want to get a notification for when I post. 🙂