Top tips and techniques

There are always cake questions from newbies, like me, about cakes, training and techniques.  And many a time when I have asked myself “Where did I hear this and who from?” and never quite (usually never) remember them. So, I thought I would post them here as a reminder.   Here are some common concerns and the answers as well as tips and tricks which I have  collected from various cake decorators and websites – I will mention their names, when available to ensure that I give credit where it is due.  BUT please bear in mind, these are just tips which you may follow and which may or may not work for you.

 

1) Making ganache – right combination of cream and chocolate is key to making a great ganache.  Below are the ratios which are used by many cake decorators.

  • Milk chocolate – 2.5:1 rule = 600g milk chocolate + 240g cream
  • White chocolate – 3:1 rule = 600g white chocolate + 200g cream
  • Dark chocolate – 2:1 rule =  600g dark chocolate + 300g cream

 ***Kara Couture (cake extraordinaire) provides the following general guidelines for ganache ratios (Note her ratios for milk is the same as white chocolate):

  • Dark Chocolate – 2 parts dark chocolate : 1 part cream
  • Milk and White Chocolates – 3 parts chocolate : 1 part cream  

In her blog, you will find useful tips about how to repair “broken” ganache.  Her advice:  it’s good to note that you should take the weather in your area into account. If it’s very warm/hot and your cake will be served outdoors or may not be refrigerated for any length of time you may consider bumping up the chocolate portion of the ratio.

 

2) People are always searching for the Best Recipes – tried and tested and sworn by.  Here are some of the links used by cake decorators, but some of which I have not tried and cannot swear by.

 

3)  General Rules for Making Fondant and How to handle fondant in hot and humid Singapore by Fait Maison  can be found on my other blog post.  What is the best store bought fondant?  Most cake decorators do not like Wilton. Some like Satin Ice – depending on colour – black is ok.  Most Aussie cake decorators prefer Bakels but colours are limited.  You may be interested to know more about The Good, the Bad and the Tasty: A Comparison of Fondant Brands (Bakels is not included :-() If you mix fondant and gum paste (flower paste) 1: 3 portions, you would get a modelling paste for making flower ruffles.

Jessica Harris recently shed some light in her cake blog on the pros/cons of homemade vs store bought fondant.  As she said there are so many options and we all have different climates, different needs and are in different economic situations, but don’t despair, there is a fondant for you.  You just might have to try a few out.  What works for me, might not work for you!

My first experience in using fondant was on a real wedding cake. Luckily, I had my sis-in-law there to guide me to ensure that there were no elephant skin, ‘bubbles’, cracking and tearing.  I found that fondant is a very versatile decorating element and needs plenty of practice (watching too many videos and different techniques made it all the more daunting – so practice is key) to be used effectively and to create that smooth and seamless look.  It can also be unforgiving (I should say more frustrating!) and I have encountered and experienced these problems in my journey when using fondant.

Fondant layer is not smooth : This usually is the result of a very thin layer of fondant causing existing imperfections on the surface of the cake such as lumps in the icing or uneven layers to show. This must be fixed before you drape the cake with fondant. You must make sure your cake is very smooth with no holes, protruding edges or creases. If the problem is not astonishingly unsightly, use sugarpaste flowers or laces or figurines to hide/camouflage these ‘imperfections’.  Or it can be part of the cake theme :-). If it is real bad, you may have to redo or alternatively cover with ruffles.

Fondant is bulging : Fondant can be smooth and perfect and then with no warning suddenly develop an unsightly bulge. This can be a result of trapped air between the cake and fondant or fondant that is not adhering properly to the surface of the cake. There are a couple ways to fix this issue depending on how freshly iced the cake is and what tools are available. Like wallpaper bubbles fondant bulges due to trapped air can be deflated if the cake is freshly iced. You can prick the fondant (with a pin – at an angle) over the bulge and press gently to flatten. If the bulge is near the bottom of the cake you can use an offset spatula to lift the fondant away from the bottom, wet the cake with water and smooth. If the fondant has hardened before you can fix the bulge the only viable method of fixing it is to camouflage the area with decoration.

Fondant is torn or cracked : Fondant that is rolled too thin or too thick can cause issues such as tearing and cracking. If the fondant is too damaged to repair it is best to take it off and use a new piece. The damaged fondant often has bits of icing and cake in it so reusing it can cause further issues. Tears and cracks can be repaired by filling them in with a fresh piece of fondant. Smooth edges with your fingertips coated in shortening. Cracks can also be smoothed out with an icing smoother or your fingertips. Do not wet your fingers with water, this will cause the fondant to melt and tear further. If the area is still unsightly you can always pipe on the spot or place a design element over the flaw.

Sweating fondant: This can happen when your fondant covered cake is stored in the fridge or have just been taken out from an airconditioned room.  Try storing your finished cake in cardboard boxes big enough to totally encase the cake on all sides and the top.  If the cake has visible “sweat” marks you can apply a little icing sugar on the damp spots with a clean paint brush. I left it as is for my first wedding cake as I was afraid of making a mess since the humidity was very high.  Thank goodness, the fondant did not melt away…

 

Some great tips on covering a cake with fondant can be found on The Sugar Coated Chronicle: Perfect Fondant: Tips for covering a Cake Flawlessly  Here are her quick tips – for more details visit her blog by clicking on the link above:

  • Tip 1: Start with the right fondant
  • Tip 2: Get your icing (or ganache) as smooth as possible
  • Tip 3: Knead your fondant in pieces (with glycerine and shortening)
  • Tip 4: Put away the spray bottle – use pastry brush.
  • Tip 5: Use your corn starch or powered sugar sparingly (I personally use corn starch scantily)
  • Tip 6: Roll it out bigger than you think it needs to be (10inch x 3inch tall = roll out 18 inches)
  • Tip 7: Roll it up with the rolling pin
  • Tip 8: Secure the top edges first
  • Tip 9: Lift up and in (The trick? As you smooth with one hand, use your other hand to lift up the excess fondant on the bottom and push in towards the cake just slightly. Up and in. All that excess will help you with this. Keep lifting as you smooth down)
  • Tip 10: Cut, smooth, cut
  • Tip 11: Use a butter knife to get a clean edge (remember to tuck in any excess underneath)

 

Extract from Erica O’Brien’s Miracle Gunge how to repair broken fondant:

“It happens to all of us: elephant skin, stray marks, cracks and crevices in our fondant. Here’s how to remedy it.

Gunge?

Gunge. And it is a miracle. No more cracked, dry fondant. No more elephant skin! It’s the technique I’ve been waiting for.

Kelsey, of Kelsey Elizabeth Cakes, learned about gunge from Peggy Porschen, and thankfully, she shared it with me. For years I’ve been using Wilton Ready to Use Decorator Icing as a sort of spackle to repair cracks and elephant skin in fondant. It works great for white and ivory fondant, but because the icing is white(ish), not so much on colored fondant. Sure I could color it to match my fondant, but I do so much custom color matching, with a dab of this and a dot of that, there are times I’d never be able to replicate a color.  Gunge works in very much the same way, but because it’s made out of the same colored fondant you’ve covered your cake in, it’s an exact match, and you don’t have to do any additional color mixing.

Once you’ve covered your cake with fondant, assess for any imperfections. This might mean cracks, accidental nail marks (though you should really keep your nails short), cuts around the base that were accidentally made too high, etc. (For this demo, I beat up my fondant pretty badly to include all possible imperfections. I actually tried to create fondant with elephant skin. Turns out elephant skin only appears when you don’t want it to. It took quite a few attempts to achieve a proper elephant skin.)

  • To create the gunge, put a small amount of fondant in a glass–you won’t need too much–and add a small amount of water, 1/4 teaspoon at a time.
  • Mix and mush with an icing spatula after each 1/4 teaspoon water addition until fully incorporated. The goal is to achieve a smooth, toothpaste-like consistency. I used 1 ounce of fondant and ended up mixing in 3/4 teaspoon of water.
  • The gunge can then be used like a spackle to give the cake a flawless finish. I use my food-use only paint palette knives to apply it to the cake.
  • Simply wipe on a generous amount of gunge to any problem areas and then carefully scrape off. Important: Be sure to use the gunge method immediately after applying fondant to your cake. If allowed to sit, the fondant on the cake can fade, and then the gunge will not match.
  • When it is still wet, areas where you applied the gunge might be visible, as in the photo below. The water in the gunge will eventually evaporate and won’t be noticeable at all. Kelsey said it can also be put in a piping bag and used around the base of the cake to fill in any spaces, making the bottom edge appear perfect.”

 

4) How to clean your oven or your stainless steel cookie sheets – Put about 1/4 cup of baking soda in a small glass bowl and squirt in hydrogen peroxide (I also found that you can replace with vinegar) until it makes a nice paste. Then rub it on the offending dirt/stain/grease…whatever! You can usually just use your fingers…but you can also use a small sponge as well. Posting by Melanie Rowland.

 

5) Cake Flour, Self Raising Flour, All Purpose Flour, Hong Kong Flour, Potato Flour…. you name it, the flour got it!  My head is already spinning!  In some places, we cannot find these flour below is a useful tip:

  • If a recipe calls for Cake Flour and you don’t have them available, here is what you can do  – Sift regular flour (plain or all purpose), and remove 2 tablespoons per cup. Then add 2 tablespoons corn starch (per cup) Sift 4 more times. Then use. This tip was posted by Christy in the Artisan Cake Company site.

 

6)  What is the difference between Gum Tragacanth, CMC and Tylose? (Extract from Pretty Witty Cakes).

Gum Tragacanth is a substance which is derived from the sap of a plant and hence it is a natural product.  The sap is drained from the root of the plant and then dried. This forms a powder which is ideal for thickening up fondant.

CMC stands for or Carboxymethyl cellulose.  In short, it is the chemical version of Gum Tragacanth.  It looks exactly the same but it tends to work a little bit faster than gum tragacanth and is also a little bit cheaper as it is a chemical version of the real thing.

Tylose powder – This is a brand name for CMC so is effectively the same thing as CMC.  It works in the same way and is again a chemical version.  It is usually again cheaper than Gum Tragacanth due to its chemical nature.”

What are they for?

In essence, they all do the same job.  They can be added to fondant (50/50) to make modelling paste and for making flower paste. They also make the flower or the modelling paste to dry out quickly.  Gum Tragacanth is said to take longer to start working but you can usually use it within 30 minutes of adding it to the fondant in quantities of less than 250grams.  For flower paste, it is recommended that you leave up to 12 hours before you re-knead and use it.  

How much do you add?

I work with Gum Tragacanth and add 1 teaspoon to every 250grams (a small packet) of fondant.  You can add the same proportions to CMC and Tylose powder. If you want your fondant to be softer and not dry so quickly, you can add less powder (ie 1 teaspoon per 500 grams CMC).

At what point do you add it?

I always add the Gum Tragacanth (or CMC/Tylose) right at the beginning prior to adding any colour paste to the fondant.

Why don’t the manufactures of fondant add the powder and sell it pre added?

When fondant is packaged it does not contain Gum Tragacanth (or CMC/Tylose) as it would dry out too quickly in the packet.  You therefore need to add it yourself,  Do not add Gum Tragacanth or CMC/Tylose to all your fondant as it will make it dry and it won’t last as long as untouched fondant.  Just add it to the piece you need.

How long does fondant last once you have added Gum Tragacanth

Once Gum Tragacanth or CMC/Tylose has been added to the fondant, the fondant will become drier. You therefore need to store it properly in a clear sealed bag (like a sandwich bag). This will seal it and preventing it drying. It should work well for a good 2 to 3 weeks before it dries out too much. However, if you go to use it after 12 or more hours or a week or so, it will feel dry to touch.  You will therefore need to re-knead it and perhaps add some vegetable fat (Trex, Crisco) to it to soften it a little.

You should be able to keep it for a fairly long time (months).  Never keep it for longer than the original sell by date on the fondant package so make a note of this.

What if your fondant becomes too stiff?

If this happens, it means you have added to much Gum Tragacanth or CMC/Tylose.  To fix this, add some more fondant (without Gum Tragacanth or CMC/Tylose in it) to dilute the quantities.  You will know if it is too stiff as it will feel like you are bending an iron bar when you try and bend it!

The Big “No Nos”!  There are certain things you should never do with fondant which has Gum Tragacanth in it

  • Never store it in the fridge.  It will make it sweat and go sticky and will then need to “de-melt” when taken out which you can do with a fan)..
  • Never wrap it just in cling film as it will dry out quickly.  Either wrap in cling film and then put in a plastic sandwich bag and seal or put in a plastic sandwich bag inside a plastic box.
  • Remember fondant can be kept in a plastic box BEFORE you model it but not after you have made your models.  This is because the plastic box will cause the models to go sticky and sweat thus loosing their shape

 

7) Cake Decorating Time Lines

Big cakes require slightly more preparation time than cupcakes.  Make sure you plan well head so you don’t find out you are missing a critical took or flower decoration too late.

Two weeks before the Cake Day

  • Prepare any sugar flowers or other decorations made of fondant or florist paste (gum paste). These can be left to dry and stored in a cardboard cake box until you need them.
  • If you are making novelty characters like animals or fairies, these can be prepared up to a month in advance and stored in a cardboard cake box until you need them.
  • Make sure you have all of the equipment and tools you need to make the cake.

4 days before Cake Day

  • Make the buttercream and wrap in Clingfilm.  Store in the fridge until a few hours before you need it.
  • Make any decorations if you have not done this already.

3 days before Cake Day

  • Bake the cake and leave to fully cool.  Wrap the cake in Clingfilm (firmly) and put in the fridge overnight.
  • Colour the fondant up making enough for the cake and board
  • Cover the cake board.

2 days before Cake Day

  • Takes the cake and any buttercream out of the fridge.
  • Then let the cake come to room temperature for around 30 mins.
  • Cut, level, stack and crumb coat the cake.
  • You may want to put the cake in the fridge during this process,  For example, when putting on the crumb coat, if the cake is too soft, put it back in the fridge as applying a crumb coat is easier when the cake is firmer
  • Once finished put the cake in the fridge for 20 minutes, then wrap in Clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours to settle the cake.

If wanting a buttercream finish only on your cake:

  • Take the cake out and apply a second and third coat of buttercream if wanting a buttercream finish on your cake.  You need to ensure you chill the cake between applying each layer of buttercream. When finished put the cake back in the fridge.

If wanting to cover the cake in fondant:

  • Take the cake out and let the buttercream come to room temperature (around 30 minutes) else the fondant won’t sit smoothly on the cake.
  • Cover in fondant
  • Leave at room temperature to settle as fondant does not like the fridge much as there is too much moisture

1 day before Cake Day

  • If stacking the cake, dowel today and set up the tiers.
  • Apply the decorations to you cake whether piping, flowers or other designs.  Note that if you have a very complex cake design or a novelty design allow more time and start the entire cake process a day earlier so you have 2 days to full decorate your cake before Cake Day.
  • Finish completely so the cake can settle overnight

Cake Day

  • Make sure cake is still perfect and correct any last minutes glitches.
  • Make sure you take some nice photos before you leave for delivery as you cannot always get nice one in a venue.

 

8) One of the big questions cake designers face when making flowers for their cakes is whether to make gum paste from scatch or simply buy it premade from a kitchen supply store. Homemade gum paste is better than premade in most cases because it is less expensive and creates a product that is easier to use. Premade gum paste tends to be a little stiffer and more likely to crack. The amount of gum paste created by most recipes might seem like too much for your various projects. However, gum paste can be frozen for up to six months as long as it is wrapped properly. You simply have to let it thaw in the fridge and then allow the gum paste to come back to room temperature before using it to make flowers or other cake design elements. There are four elements to making gum paste which are ingredients, mixing, kneading and storing.It is important to allot enough time when creating gum paste because each step is crucial to the finished product and ultimately the flowers you create.

You will need:

  • A great gum paste recipe like the one developed by Nicholas Lodge
  • A heavy duty mixer with a paddle attachment
  • Spatula
  • Fine powdered sugar, sifted
  • Tylose powder
  • Large zip-lock bags

Tylose powder is a very specific cake decorating supply item which can only be bought from online sources or specialty stores. It works very well in most gum paste recipes although other gum agents such as gum tragacanth could be substituted if you cannot find this ingredient. One of the best gum paste recipes is credited to Nicholas Lodge who originally worked out of the United Kingdom but now calls Georgia home. The recipe is very simple to follow for beginner cake designers as long as they have a heaver duty mixer. Hand mixers will not be strong enough to beat the gum paste after the tylose powder is added.

The process for making gum paste is quite simple but you do need to follow the instructions very closely to achieve the correct elastic texture. Most recipes for gum paste follow a similar series of steps and use the same ingredients. The basic ingredients for gum paste are egg whites, powdered sugar and some sort of gum agent like tylose powder. Some useful tips to insure success in any gum paste recipe are as follows:

  1. Take into consideration the area you live in when adding the powdered sugar to the egg whites. You might have to add more powdered sugar if you live in a more humid place and a dry environment would require less sugar. Take about a cup of sugar out of the amount listed in your recipe so you have some room to manipulate the finished product.
  2. Always scrape the sides of the bowl down, as with any recipe, to ensure all the powdered sugar is mixed into the eggs.
  3. Do not under mix the eggs and sugar. When finished the mixture will be very thick and glossy and look like meringue. Undermixing will produce gum paste which is not pliable or easy to handle.
  4. If you are going to color an entire batch of gum paste a specific color you can add the color before adding the tylose powder when the batch still looks like merengue.
  5. Sprinkle the tylose powder into the mixing bowl while running the paddle at low speed. Do not simply dump the powder in or it will clump up.
  6. Take the extra time to scrape off the paddle and gather as much gum paste as possible because even a tiny amount can create a few flowers.
  7. Separate the gum paste into at least two smaller balls so it is easier to knead. Add extra powdered sugar in very small amounts as you knead the gum paste because it is hard to remove too much sugar if your texture becomes dry!
  8. Gum paste dries out very easily if left exposed to air so wrap the finished ball as well as the ball waiting to be kneaded tightly in plastic wrap. The finished ball of gum paste should also be placed in a Ziploc bag with all the excess air pressed out.

After the gum paste is completed it is important to store it in the fridge for at least 24 hours so any undissolved tylose powder can become active. Most recipes makes about two pounds of gum paste which is enough for an entire garden of handcrafted sugar flowers! Trying to make gum paste from scratch is completely invaluable for anyone who is serious about making gum paste from scratch. It is relatively easy and handling homemade gum paste is a real pleasure.

More cake decorating tips can be found  on the Cakedecorating.about.com website

 

9)  How do I remove bubbles from a fondant covered cake?

Sometimes there are visible bubbles on fondant covered cakes that can ruin the smooth effect. The best way to solve this problem is to insert a pin sideways into the bubble and gently smooth the air out with your finger or a glider. You can also place a design element over the flaw if that is possible.

 

10)  How do I keep my icing clear of crumbs when frosting a cake?

A very simple technique used by professionals is called crumb coating. This process consists of thinning your icing down with water until it is almost too thin to spread. Spread the thinned icing all over the cake and allow it to set for at least an hour or overnight if possible in the fridge. Then cover the cake with your finishing layer of icing with no fear of crumbs.

 

11)  Can black icing taste good?  Black icing has a well-deserved reputation for tasting horrible due to the amount of color needed to create a deep dark color. The best way to make a tasty black icing is to start with chocolate icing and tint it black. This takes less coloring and chocolate flavor is strong enough to mask the gel taste.12)  How do I know when to use gum paste, sugar modelling clay or fondant for cake decorating?Fondant and sugar modelling clay can be used for covering cakes as well as decorating elements like flowers, buttons and molded figures such as mice, fruit or even fairies!Gum paste is very hard because it is created from gum tragacanth usually. Gum paste can be rolled very thin and it can be used to make flowers or design elements that need to be very strong such as boxes or figures.13)  What’s the easiest method for making chocolate molding clay?

  • 24 ounces of good quality chocolate
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  1. Place corn syrup and chocolate chips in a medium stainless steel bowl over gently simmering water and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
  2. Stir until well combined
  3. Pour chocolate mixture onto plastic wrap and then cover it with an additional sheet of plastic wrap.
  4. Let clay sit at room temperature until it is dry and then store it overnight before using it.
  5. Knead a small amount on a surface dusted with cornstarch until the clay is workable.
    Either roll it out to cover a cake or create flowers or other design elements.

 

12)  Can you cover an entire cake in royal icing?

It is definitely possible to cover a cake with royal icing but this process takes a little time and skill with a palette knife to achieve a smooth finish. You would need:

  • Perfect royal icing (not too stiff or runny)
  • A palette knife
  • A turntable
  • A scraper
  • A sharp paring knife
  1. Place your cake on a turntable and put approximately two cups of royal icing onto the top. Cover the remaining icing with plastic wrap to prevent it from hardening.
  2. Take the palette knife and spread the icing out evenly over the top of the cake. When the icing is relatively smooth with no air bubbles pull the straight edge of the palette knife towards you across the icing surface. Do this until the cake top is uniformly smooth and then remove any icing that is on the sides.
  3. Let the cake top harden before icing the sides.
  4. Use the palette knife to apply royal icing to the sides of the cake. Then use the scraper to smooth out the sides. You should hold it at about 15 degrees and slowly rotate the turntable without stopping until you reach your starting point.
  5. let cake completely dry and then repeat the entire process with a second and third coat of royal icing.
  6. Between coats remove any rough edges with a sharp paring knife.

15)  Should the cake board be covered with icing or another type of covering?

Cake boards are often forgotten in the final presentation of your cake because it is of course the cake that should get all the attention, right? This is not untrue but creating a finished cake board can simply add to the cake and even be part of the design in some cases. Cake boards van be covered in fondant, icing, stencilled and have fondant cut outs attached to them. They can be wrapped in ribbons, lace, painted and dusted depending on the look you wish to achieve. Take a look at some options for covering your boards before you finalize your cake design.  Click here to find out more.

 

13)  Do I have to use dowels to stack my cakes?

The short answer is yes, you should always make sure your cakes have the proper support. However, there are some gray areas where you can probably get away with no dowels. If you are creating a cake with minimal decorations (nothing heavy) and the cake is a small two tier design made with dense carrot cake or a thick fudge, you can probably skip the dowels. However, since it is easy to use dowels or even thick fat straws why would you not include this step just to be thorough?

 

14)  Covering a dummy cake with fondant is not all that hard if you’re already comfortable covering real cakes, but there are a few tips that make the job easier. We’re sharing them here.

Materials Needed:
fondant (we use Satin Ice)
cake dummies in the size and shape of your choosing
fine grade sandpaper (150 or higher)
Crisco (vegetable fat)
fondant smoothers (we prefer the PME smoothers)
quality turntable (we like the Ateco  612 or 613)

 1. Sand the edges. Cake dummies’ edges can be quite sharp, and because they’re not soft and malleable like buttercream- or ganache-covered cakes, have a tendency to tear fondant. Here is our “before” dummy.
Publicatio33n1
To prevent tearing, we use fine-grade sandpaper to gently take the sharp edge off our dummies. We’re not trying to bevel the edges, just round them ever so slightly.  To sand your edges, cut a small piece of fine-grade sandpaper, 220 or higher. Gently press and move back and forth on your edge until the sharpness is removed. Here, we used 225-grade.
2. Sand the sides if needed.
3. Slather on the Crisco. Yup. I said slather. I’m generally not a slatherer, but the Crisco serves two purposes. First, it fills any cracks, crevices, or indentations that your fondant would otherwise sink into. Second, the Crisco is what adheres the fondant to the dummy. I used to use water, but found that the water evaporated too quickly by the time I’d rolled my fondant out to secure the fondant to the dummy. Crisco is sticky enough to adhere it but slide-y enough to allow some movement. It’s the perfect medium for this purpose.
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5. Cover and cut out the center of all tiers but the top. I’ve said many times (such as here and here) that I’m frugal. Okay, I’m a major cheap ass.  That’s why, when I’m doing a tiered cake and  no one is going to see the center of the tiers where the subsequent tiers are stacked atop them, I cut out the fondant. My theory (and the way I justify it) is that it speeds the drying of the fondant by allowing more air to circulate. And, since I’m not worried about keeping a real cake insulated and fresh, it has no impact on the cake. But the truth is, I’m as cheap as they get, and so I try not to waste product whenever I can. Feel free to judge.

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ericaobrien

6. Know that dummies will dry faster than real cakes. The moisture in real cakes (from butter, milk, water, etc.) will be absorbed by the fondant, keeping the fondant soft and pliable. Because there is no moisture in a dummy cake, the fondant will dry faster. As the fondant dries (and the moisture content in the fondant evaporates), the fondant will shrink slightly. Hopefully the shrinking won’t be visible, but if you notice that the bottom edge of your fondant shrinks away, revealing some of the dummy, this is why. Be aware of the possibility of “shrinkage” when covering a dummy, and have a plan in place for correcting your fondant should this happen. The dummies below suffered some shrinkage around the bottom edge.
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15)  If your cake has sunk in the middle, it may be down to one of three reasons.

  • One – the oven door has been opened before the cake has set.
  • Two – the cake didn’t go in the oven as soon as the mixture was ready.
  • Or, three – there’s too much raising agent.
 16)  How to make cake: Most common problems fixed (posted on BBC site).  However seasoned a baker, we all have those cake baking disasters that can only be rectified by strategic application of whipped cream, a heavy shower of icing sugar and/ or a mountain of fruit.

Cherry & almond cake

Having recently made a chocolate cake which looked perfect as it left the oven but not so great as it fell out of the tin in a sad and soggy heap, I decided to explore ways to avoid future tarnishes to my baking reputation. If you’ve been similarly disappointed then read on… The gripes

1. My cake has peaked in the middle and is cracked.

This happens when a/ there’s too much raising agent, b/ the cake tin’s too small or c/ the oven temperature is too high.

2. My cake has a gooey centre.

Checking if cake is cooked with a stickThe cake hasn’t been cooked for long enough. When you check the cake before taking it out of the oven, a skewer should come out clean and the cake should feel the same in the middle as it does around the edges.

3. My cake is overcooked and thin but the texture is good. 

This happens when the cake tin is too big.

4. My cake is flat and has large air bubbles on the top. 

This could be because a/ the cake didn’t go into the oven as soon as the mixture was finished or b/ the oven wasn’t hot enough when the cake went in.

5. My cake has sunk in the middle. 

There are three main reasons for this: a/ the oven door has been opened before the cake has set, b/ the cake didn’t go in the oven as soon as the mixture was ready or c/ there’s too much raising agent.

6. The sides of my cake are crunchy or burnt. 

One problem, lots of possible reasons: a/ too much fat has been used to grease the tin, b/ the cake tin’s not sufficiently lined c/ the oven’s too hot, d/ the cake’s been left in the oven for too long or e/ it contains a fat not suitable for baking.

Lining cake tin

7. I can’t get my cake out of the tin. 

Make sure your baking tin is well lined. You can’t go wrong with baking parchment on the base and around the sides of your tin. Use a smear of butter on the inside of the tin to stick the parchment in place.

8. My cake is very dense. 

This could be because a/ the cake mixture hasn’t had enough air beaten into it, b/ the eggs were added too quickly and curdled or c/ there’s not enough raising agent.

9. My cake has spilled over the sides of the tin.

The cake tin is too small. It’s always best to use the tin size stated in the recipe. If you don’t, avoid filling the tin more than three-quarters full and adjust cooking times accordingly.

10. My cake is burnt on top but still isn’t cooked in the centre. 

This happens when the cake tin is too small.

 

17)  It’s a myth that freezing cakes is bad. In fact the opposite is true because every extra unnecessary day that a cake sits in a refrigerator results in a staler product. The same goes for bread, which also keeps better in a freezer than it does in a fridge. The truth is that a stale cake texture is usually the result of a product that was left exposed to the elements for too long.

Read on How to Freeze Cake by Wicked Goodies.

 

 

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