Some of you know that I have been eagerly trying to stay ahead of the curve in an evolving small home cake design & decorating business. Over the holidays I was able to make some really fun designs including a sculpted re-election fund raiser cake for a county Supervisor, a three-tiered anniversary cake, and a replica of a clock from A Christmas Carol at South Coast Rep in Orange County. You can see these on my blog at
However, the cake I made yesterday is the one I want to share with you b/c it was quite an experience! Do you remember the old Wide World of Sports TV program….the skier tumbling down the mountain and the sinking feeling one felt while watching?....well, this was my experience today.
I got a call from a friend on Tues. about making a cake for her daughter’s sweet 16 party today. They wanted a Mad Hatter/musical theme Cake and her daughter has some allergies that eliminate any milk or butter in uncooked icings. The Crisco American buttercream was what she could eat, so I naively said I could do it.
Now backing up a minute, my favorite buttercream is Mousseline in taste, texture and decorating. But interestingly enough, most of my customers & friends want the Americanized buttercream. (I have given many a taste test b/c people seem to feel so strongly one way or another, and most still choose the Crisco/butter buttercream!) Apparently I run with an unsophisticated crowd , and they are unaware of the great trends in pastry arts.
So anyway, I like to do all my baking within 12-24 hours of the event, so I finished that yesterday. I got 3 hours of sleep and then spent from 1 am to 7 am this morning creating (my favorite part!). After 25 hour of work in total, I was very pleased with the final result & took pictures. Well, an hour prior to them picking up the cake, I started noticing that the frosting was “cracking.” It was mild enough that I wondered what it could be from, but didn’t worry terribly. But as I waited for him to arrive, the cracking got worse and worse….the tumbling down the mountain began.
When he arrived, I cautioned him that the icing was not what I usually use and that there was some cracking/separating. He was very laid-back about it and noted that it was their issue regarding allergies and not to worry. As we were putting it into the back of his SUV, I saw it looking its worse. I was very concerned he would even be able to get it to the restaurant.
As my family was assuring me over breakfast, we got a call. The back of the top tier (1/3 of the top cake) had fallen completely off and onto the back of the second (piano tier). It was everywhere and a total mess (although my friend was trying not to panic and being very gracious). I was completely sick.
My dear family and I went into high gear to make another top (6” Perfect All-Am Choc cake) tier. We were racing the clock to try to get it over to the restaurant prior to dessert. We started at 10:45 and I was out the door with new tier in hand by 12:45 calling my surprised friend to find out where they were. I did damage control once there with my tool box in hand like a doctor making house calls.
There is always much to be learned, and this is definitely one of those times. I have noticed that most bakeries these days do not even offer the Am buttercream, and I may well join the club after this! My question is, however, what about all those people I would like to sell cakes to that don’t like real Buttercreams? (Which are many in my case.) I’d appreciate any of your thoughts or experiences regarding this. I am expecting my Satin Ice Fondant from Kereks any day now, and look forward to learning how to work with that. Fondant is sounding really good to me right now!
Anyway, I thought I’d share my horror experience with all of you who may be able to sympathize in some way. I am finally going to bed now after I started seeing hallucinations from being so tired…of American Buttercream! Maybe I can sleep it off.