Cake Tale: Horror of a Cake
Have you heard me say cake structure is important? It is.
I've spent a great deal of time in cake groups. One of the most popular questions is cake structure. You can see how I stack a cake and what I recommend to use here. All too often, someone will post a photo of a cake that fell and ask what people think happened. The hard truth is there is no way to know unless we were there or we know exactly what was used for support.
When these posts appear, there will be at least a few who swear the cake was dropped or someone slammed on breaks. That does happen. I once slammed on brakes to avoid a careless driver while delivering a cake. The poor thing swayed forward and bumped the back of the seat. There was frosting on the seat and it looked like someone had grabbed the cake. I quickly repaired it and no one knew. Whew! But more often than not, the cake falls because of structure.
So, I decided to perform an experiment! I baked and decorated and stacked a cake all with the plan for it to fall. For this cake, I am using materials I would not recommend. Instead of the foamcore boards and poly dowels I normally use, I am using "greaseproof" cake boards and boba tea straws. Do you see the big differences?
This is a 7" cake for the bottom which will hold a 5" top tier. I measured the space for the top tier, used the straw to measure length, cut all the straws to size, and place them in the tripod format I typically use for a 5" top tier.
As always, I baked and cooled the cakes then placed them in the fridge. I crumb coated then chilled overnight so the cake can settle. I final frosted and chilled again. I stacked the cake and chilled. Then, I moved the cake to the top of my cabinet and placed it in a box. The room temperature was 72-74 degrees the entire time. The cake never moved again.
Look how cute! In just a few days, I'll create a tutorial on how I made this cake. What you need to know for now is that the bottom is a 7" white cake with buttercream frosting. The top tier is a 5" white cake with buttercream frosting. The little spider on top is a tiny circle of 2" tall cake also frosted with buttercream and wearing a fondant hat. The spider legs are fondant covered wire.
They were just doing fine for about 35 minutes. Then, they started to lean.
Its just a little lean but you can also see the bottom tier is starting to bulge a bit on the bottom.
The poor spider has also lost a leg.
After an hour and a half, they are really leaning.
Right after I took this photo, the spider lost its hat.
The cake stayed like this for about another hour. Then, it was over.
Now just looking at this photo, and only this photo, what would you guess happened to the cake?
Notice you can see one of the straws in this photo.
Then, I opened the box. As soon as I did, the cake fell even more!
I instinctively reached out to grab the top tier! Notice the grease spot on the side of the box? And now, there will be smudges on the top tier from my hand. Sometimes, these are quoted as "evidence" of slamming on the brakes. This cake was never even in a car!
I removed the top tier. I also removed the cake board from the bottom of the top tier and placed it back in place. I wanted you to see the center of this cake still looks mostly intact.
Notice that board is bent! Look at those straws. They are no longer straight up and down.
Lets look closer at the board. This "grease proof" board has absorbed all the fats from the buttercream and is soaked.
What about the top tier? It looks mostly ok right?
Not quite. That tiny little topper also needed some support
It's all smushed in the back.
Before you email me or comment, I will acknowledge that some people would have used more straws or straws and better boards or 100 other methods that would have made this better. Sure! The point was for it to fail! I wanted you to see what cakes look like when they fail through no ones fault but structure. One man's never is another man's always. My always is strong poly dowels and foam core boards. My never is straws. We all get to decide what we use. I explain how and why I use what I do here.