Overcoming Common Cake Challenges

Jackie Mantey
Our CupCakery made sure that Meghan and Adam Schwartz's dessert was disaster-free. (

While the newlyweds are the focus of the wedding ceremony, the cake often serves as the centerpiece of the reception. But when you're working in sugar and fondant, there's a lot that can go wrong. Here are some tricks for avoiding common wedding cake challenges, courtesy of Laura Kick Molter, bridal consultant for Our CupCakery, and Jan Kish, owner of La Petite Fleur. By keeping their professional solutions in mind, planning dessert for your day will be, well, a cake walk.

Issue: The buttercream is melting.

Disaster potential: ***

Solution: Make sure your icing comes correct, and consider the cake's placement at the reception.

Choose your icing wisely: American buttercream is more stable at room temperature than Swiss or Italian buttercream recipes, says Kick Molter. And be cautious with excessive, heavy fondant pieces or fresh floral decor.

“They won't make the buttercream melt,” she says, “but [melting buttercream] can cause those items to slide or fall as the cake warms up.”

To prevent a meltdown, many bakers will refrigerate the cake overnight so it warms up slowly at the reception.

Kish adds that it's important to “know the lay of the land.” For example, she says, the cake may look lovely by the venue's large arched windows, but if they're on the west side of the building and your reception takes place as the sun sets, you could have a possible party foul (and some melty frosting) on your hands. Another spot to avoid: near a heating vent at winter weddings.

Issue: The naked cake is dry and crumbly.

Disaster potential: **

Solution: Keep the cake's air exposure down.

Naked cakes are unfrosted on their sides. To produce this trendy, rustic aesthetic, Our CupCakery bakes the cakes in advance but waits to assemble, frost and decorate the layers until the day of the event.

“This helps prevent a lengthened exposure to the air, which can dry the cake out,” Kick Molter says.

Sometimes her team uses powdered sugar to decorate the naked cake's exposed sides. In addition to looking pretty, the sugar helps lock in moisture without losing the visual appeal.

Issue: Um … the whole thing fell over.

Disaster potential: ****

Solution: Give the cake designer your topper and stand dimensions in advance.

This is wedding crashing at its worst! Cover the basics first: Avoid heavy fruit fillings in multi-tiered cakes and make sure your baker chills the cake beforehand so the frosting between the layers doesn't melt and make things unstable.

“You also have to be careful that toppers and cake stands are secure,” says Kick Molter. “I've seen toppers fall off and damage the cake below.”

Professionals know how to properly support the tiers with internal construction and dowels. They also can offer suggestions on what types of decorations will work best with your cake's design.

“Toppers that have a wide base to sit on or have a stick coming out of the bottom, like most monograms have, is much better than the narrow feet of a ceramic bride and groom or of an acrylic sign that is only half an inch thick,” Kick Molter says.

If you're providing your own cake stand, she suggests sending your cake designer its measurements or the stand itself beforehand so he or she can prepare accordingly.

Issue: The cake doesn't “dance.”

Disaster potential: *

Solution: Be realistic.

We've all seen those stunning, intricate, “is-that-thing-really-edible?”-style wedding cakes on Pinterest and in magazines. But those confections often aren't realistic for the average couple. “Don't ask it to do something it's not capable of doing,” Kish says. “If you've got someone with a broken leg, you're not going to ask them to do a cartwheel.”

Unsure of what a cake design is capable of? Enlist a professional.

“As a baker, I don't want to set myself up for failure,” Kish says. “I'm going to take every precaution I can that nothing's going to go south. ... Having someone that has expertise and really understands what's going on is a good thing. Your wedding is only going to be as good as the vendors you hire.” 

Disaster potential key

* Eh, no one will even notice.

** An unfortunate event, but try not to sweat it.

*** Might not look pretty, but it still tastes great.

**** Dessert disaster! Anyone have time to pick up a sheet cake?