Natural Disasters: Cake

This title seems a little extreme. After all, it is just cake, right?

Clients are less than forgiving (some of the time) should anything go wrong – in this article I have some tried, failed, and successful tips!

Does humidity affect the baking and decorating of cakes. Absolutely, yes. Flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and bicarb all absorb moisture, this can most definitely change the texture of the cake.  I live in a fairly dry climate, so this does not affect me often.  In very high humid areas there are a few things you can do to counteract this effect:

  1. Lessen the amount of liquid in your recipe
  2. Store dry ingredients in the fridge
  3. Use a fan or aircon (I cannot be without a fan in summer at all, anyway)
  4. Store baked caked in airtight containers or the fridge
  5. If the cake is too “liquid”, you may need to increase the baking time a bit

Humidity and heat with most décor is problematic.  Heat obviously causes melting and warping.  Buttercream decorated cakes, absolutely have to be stored in the fridge until shortly before serving, otherwise the icing will simply melt and slide down the sides.  Fondant doesn’t melt quite so easily, but there is a plethora of new problems that come along with that.  For example – the fondant will “Sweat” in heat, and more so in humidity – it can cause colours to run, figurines to droop, or change shape.  I have had little fondant people grow rather fat overnight. The tricky part, is that fondant doesn’t like the fridge, as soon as you take it out, condensation will cause the exact problems as humidity.  Again, a fan is your friend – I leave all my fondant work to airdry with a fan running 24 hours.

Johannesburg has pretty cold and dry winters (although some from real cold places in the world might beg to differ).  The cold is great, it has quite a few benefits with cake decorating.  The oven keeps the kitchen warm and toasty, so that is always helpful.

The down side to cold and dry, is fondant can crack and dry out very quickly. Of course it will also harden much quicker than it would in other seasons.  To avoid cracking fondant in the winter, I use a little “Tri-glide” which is basically a colourless fat that you can use in conjuction to your icing sugar or corn flour to roll out your fondant.

A lot of “natural cake disasters” can be avoided by careful planning, but sometimes things are just beyond our control.  Personally, my worst cake disaster, out of the few I have had, would be a lovely 3 tier wedding cake … when I reached the wedding venue, and looked, all the tiers had done a big slide to the left.  I had held my breath most of the drive there, as it was out of view, and because I generally cannot relax until I know the cake is in it’s final destination, in the number of pieces it was meant to be.  It was a very hot day. Google Maps apparently doesn’t have the option to “Calculate the best route for the least amount of speed humps”.  Although it was fairly early, it was just too hot, for the slippery, melt-able lemon meringue flavour filling.  So the “Slide to the left” dance move, didn’t not wait for the dancing portion of the wedding.  Thankfully, with some help, the cake was re-baked, and re-delivered very last minute, and the bride loved the cake, and I never told her … Stressful cake deliveries #101, don’t use slipperly, melty fillings on very hot days, and Google Maps is not ALWAYS right.  The blog about HOW TO RE-MAKE A WEDDING CAKE IN SIX HOURS, is a story, for another day.

This is the re-made cake, terrible picture, there was no time for fussing …


Another cake that I really liked, travelled to a destination wedding. A cute, personalised cake. Sadly the cake decor just didn’t survive the heat. It was taken by the couple themselves. But at least they saw it before. Tip – don’t take 3 tier wedding cake into 44 degree Celsius heat, the end.


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