Fondant and/or Cake Issues
Posted: 30 October 2009 06:58 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve found some great advice here and am looking again for a bit of help. I have had some issues with a few cakes recently that are driving me nuts. I love the white cake recipe from Collette Peters and the Devil’s Food cake from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes. I follow the directions for both exactly. After they’re done, I usually either freeze or refrigerate them so that I can level and trim them easily. After I fill them (usually a basic buttercream filling), I chill again and give them a crumb coat and then put homemade marshmallow fondant over them. Not every time, but a few times, I have come back the the next day and across the middle is a noticeable slight bulge from the middle filling layer, like the cake has settled under the weight of the fondant and the filling is squishing out. I try to keep the fondant less than 1/4 inch so it’s not too thick (I believe Collette Peter’s book recommends 1/4 inch thick, but I may be remembering my sources wrong), but still thick enough to not tear when I smooth it. The bulge doesn’t show up immediately; the cake sits for several hours before it shows up. I don’t thin the buttercream, so it should stay firm. I’d estimate I put the filling about 1/4-1/2 inch thick, at most. Is it that these cake recipes are not meant to be dense enough to hold fondant? The white should, since almost all of Collette Peter’s cakes are fondant covered. Should I not chill them the way I have been? I’d really appreciate any tips on this. Thanks!

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Posted: 30 October 2009 07:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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How long are you chilling after you assemble the cake?

When you say basic buttercream filling, does that mean the mousseline (aka italian meringue) buttercream or another type?

How much (thin or thick) of a crumb coat are you doing?  Can you see the cake beneath the crumb coat or is it barely noticeable?

I’ve never used marshmallow fondant before, but I can’t imagine it is any heavier than the commercial fondant I buy and that holds up well.  The only time I ever had a problem is when I was using a room temp cake.  Usually I assemble the cake, let it chill overnight or at least 4 hours (I have a commercial walk in - I wait until the buttercream filling is rock hard) then crumb coat and let it sit another few hours until the crumb coat is rock hard, then I put the fondant on.

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Posted: 30 October 2009 08:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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One reason might be that your cake layers are still partly frozen, and have not completely settled by the time you put on the fondant. Even partially frozen layers are still somewhat rigid. If you have already applied the fondant while the layers are still frozen, they will continue to settle onto the contours of your filling as they thaw, and create that bulge. This has happened to me with fondant cakes, and even with a buttercream-frosted cake or two, but I have learned to let the cake completely thaw and settle before I apply the final outer coat, and I have not had this problem since. (I have had no problems with layers that have been frozen and thawed and then re-frozen as a completed cake.)

This, anyway, is my theory. I’d be interested to hear from those who have a different explanation—especially those who are far more experienced with fondant than I am.

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Posted: 30 October 2009 11:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The buttercream I use is not a cooked one, just one made in a stand mixer with butter, shortening, meringue powder, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla (or other flavorings). I’ve seen several contradicting recommendations on how to frost it before putting on fondant, but what I’ve been doing lately is just putting on a crumb coat (enough to cover the cake so that you don’t see through spots, but very thin). Once that’s on, I roll out the fondant and put it on as soon as that’s done. I use smoothers to get it as smooth as possible and then let it set (preferably overnight) before decorating. I can see how I may well not be letting the cake defrost enough. My husband recommends letting the crumb coat harden or crust and then brush it lightly with a syrup so the fondant has something to adhere to better. Like I said, I’ve had luck with it several times before, but it’s different lately and I’m trying to figure out what I changed. Jeanne, do you ever have issues when the fillings soften? Does the cake settle as they do? And if I understand Jeanne and Christine right, it sounds like you do more than one coat of buttercream under the fondant, right? Am I not putting on enough buttercream? Sorry for so many questions, but I really appreciate the advice of those that know more than I do. Thanks!

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Posted: 31 October 2009 12:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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If you want really excellent suggestions and tips on how to cover a cake with fondant, I highly recommend you get Rose’s “Cake Bible.” She goes through the whole process, in detail, and offers tips and pointers on how to keep the fondant pristine white and how to make it adhere successfully to the cake. For example, she recommends that you first practice covering the cake by covering the cake pan (turned upside down and greased on the outside) as many times as it takes to get a smooth finish. As you know, you only get one shot with the actual cake—you can’t lift it off the cake and try again, you’ll end up with all kinds of crumbs in the fondant.  It sounds as if you don’t need practice in this particular area, but “The Cake Bible” does discuss what to cover the cake with before the fondant is applied, and it discusses what kinds of cakes work with a fondant covering.

It sounds as if the powdered sugar frosting you’re using might not be as stable as a buttercream. I like powdered sugar frosting (I also like milk chocolate—I guess I have a real sweet tooth!), but I have noticed that sometimes powdered sugar frosting can go slack after a few hours, especially if the air temperature gets hotter. Another problem is that unless kept airtight, it dries and forms a crust on the outside, which might not be the best surface for applying fondant.

You really should check out “The Cake Bible” for frosting suggestions, especially those that work with fondant. On the subject of taste alone, if you did a side-by-comparison, you would find that shortening in frosting, as opposed to all butter, tends to have a greasy mouthfeel. Another thing about powdered sugar frosting is that it is grittier and sweeter than a satiny-smooth buttercream or ganache frosting. I’m not trying to tell you what to do—if you really love your frosting recipe, keep it! I’m just trying to open your mind to other possibilities, in case you are up for expanding your cake horizons. smile I grew up with powdered sugar frosting, I still make it for children’s cakes, but after trying several of the frostings in “Cake Bible,” my adult palate has awakened to ethereal possibilities! Many of my guests have been floored because they have never tasted anything like, say, a Mousseline Buttercream subtly perfumed with Grand Marnier, or a Dark Chocolate Ganache.  (You mentioned you have “Heavenly Cakes.” I highly recommend the caramel ganache on a non-fondant chocolate cake—super yum!) 

Let us know how things turn out. Good luck!

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Posted: 31 October 2009 12:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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This is defenitelly and issue with too thick or too soft layer of filling, too fragile cake structure, and the weight and thickness of the fondant.  You need to play with these 3 factors and triangulate a balance.

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Posted: 31 October 2009 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I don’t usually have good luck with fondant on a crusting buttercream (like cream cheese icing); it doesn’t want to stick.  Usually what I do is cover the cream cheese icing with regular meringue buttercream and then put the fondant on.

I would try to chill the assembled/crumb coated cake for several (more than 4) hours or overnight before applying the fondant and see how that goes.

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