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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!