Struggling with condensation, piping bag fails, messy lettering and crumbling cake? Read on to find out how to avoid and fix these common cake mistakes!
#1 Poked cakes
I think this one has happened to everyone! You put lots of time and effort into getting really smooth frosting and then - oops! You poke a finger into the cake by mistake!
Spread some more frosting over the damaged area to cover the hole or holes. Don't worry about adding even more texture to your cake for the moment.
Now scrape around the cake with a cake comb to smooth the frosting again. This will make the sides neat but it will push a bit of buttercream up above the top edge. Swipe sideways with an offset spatula or cake comb to tidy that up. Your cake will look as good as new!
#2 Dented cakes
If you poke or dent the frosting after it sets you can add a detail over that area. This cake mistake has happened to me countless times when I try to squeeze too many cakes into my fridge!
A texture detail is ideal because spreading fresh frosting completely flat against frosting that has set is almost impossible. You’d never know there was a big dent underneath this textured frosting and sprinkles!
#3 Ugly borders
If you pipe a border onto a cake and decide you don’t like it, there’s an easy fix. This solution only works if the frosting on the cake has set. (It’s always a good idea to chill the cake before piping a border so that the frosting gets firm and can support the weight of the piped border without drooping.) When the frosting has set you can easily scrape off any borders you don’t like. The frosted cake will hold its shape and won’t get damaged but the freshly piped border will slide straight off! Now that the cake mistake is removed, you can leave the top of the cake plain or pipe another border.
#4 Piping tip bursts out of piping bag
If the hole in your piping bag is too big for your piping tip, the tip might burst through it. This is especially likely if the frosting is stiff so you have to squeeze the bag quite hard to pipe it.
A quick fix for this cake mistake is to drop that tip into a new piping bag with a slightly smaller hole cut at the end. Then drop the entire piping bag (the one filled with frosting) into the new piping bag and continue piping!
#5 Frosting squirts through holes in the piping bag
If you reuse your piping bags you’ll notice that eventually they get holes in them. Your frosting will squirt through those holes while you’re piping.
To prevent this, wipe the frosting off the outside of the piping bag so that the bag is clean. Then stick tape over the holes and the tape will stick to the clean plastic or canvas.
Sometimes you decorate a cake with details or a design you don’t like or a stencil doesn’t work properly. This is a homemade parchment paper stencil, which I show how to make in this ice cream cake tutorial. It peeled away from the cake before I was ready and it smudged the edge of the shape:
As long as the frosting on the cake has set you can scrape the design off without damaging the frosting underneath. Then you can try the stencil again or use a different design to decorate the cake.
#7 Messy lettering
Writing on cakes can be tricky. If you don’t like your letters you can tidy them up with a toothpick. Nudge the letters to lengthen or adjust lines or widen the holes in letters like E or A.
Always do lettering on a cake that has been chilled so the frosting is firm. That way, if you don’t like the letters you can scrape them off without damaging the frosting underneath.
#8 Imperfections in frosting
If you have air bubbles in your frosting or an obvious join in a stencil design, cover them up. You can be strategic with where you pipe details to hide those imperfections. Here I’m using piped flowers to cover up the messier parts of my stencil design:
#9 Buttercream dries out
Buttercream dries out when it’s exposed to air. If there’s a gap between preparing piping bags and using them, the frosting at the tip of the bag will crust. It won’t be sticky anymore so it won’t work for piping.
There’s a very quick fix for this cake mistake: squeeze the bag to push out that first bit of hard buttercream. The buttercream left in the bag will still be soft and sticky and ready to pipe with! To prevent this from happening, cover your piping tips with cling film or Saran Wrap when you’re not using them for long periods of time and the buttercream won’t dry out.
#10 Cake crumbles
If your cake layers crumble or pieces break off, use buttercream as glue to attach the broken pieces back onto the cake. After pushing the piece where you want it to go, put the cake in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Buttercream gets very firm when it sets so it will secure the broken piece there while you frost your cake. The frosting will hide the cake mistake. By the time you’ve finished decorating you’ll never know it’s pieced together like a puzzle inside!
#11 How to fix condensation on cakes
One of the most common problems for cake decorators is condensation on their cakes. These tiny droplets form for two reasons. The first is a drastic change in temperature. This happens if you move a cake from the fridge or freezer to a hot room. Dab the condensation gently with a paper towel to absorb it and as the cake warms up the droplets will stop forming.
To prevent condensation, change temperatures gradually. Move cakes from freezer to fridge for 24 hours before moving them to a cool room.
The second cause of condensation is the moisture in the fridge or freezer. After chilling a cake to set the frosting, wrap it in cling film or Saran Wrap to seal the cake. This will protect it from moisture in the fridge. When you take the cake out of the fridge, unwrap it straight away while the frosting is still cold and firm and you won’t damage it.
I hope these quick fixes for cake mistakes have been useful! Learn more techniques, designs, tips and tricks on the British Girl Bakes cake school. Tell me in the comments about your cake fails that you’re ready to look back and laugh at!