A wedding cake disaster and how the day was saved.

If you are getting married, and are still looking for a wedding cake supplier, please have a read through this story. It is an example of something that unfortunately happens more often than you think! This story not only applies to cakes but any supplier you chose for your big day.

My name is Elli, and I am the owner and cake artist at The Turquoise Squirrel Patisserie, and I will share with you what happened to me.

The story begins on a sunny Saturday morning…

I had 2 wedding cake deliveries that day, the first was done and dusted, and I was getting ready for my next delivery all the way in Pretoria. One of the lovely staff at Oakfield Farm, where my bakery is based, came to me and asked if I can have a look at a cake that someone had delivered as it was starting to crack.

This is what I found:
The cake had sunken in so much that the central ‘dowels’ poked out about 10 to 15 cm above the top layer and the whole cake looked like the leaning tower of Pisa. There was no rescuing this cake. It was just a matter of minutes before the whole thing would be on the floor!

The only solution I could see was to take the cake apart, stash the layers separately in the fridge so they could be served up to the guests later; take off all the decor, and make a fresh dummy cake for them from scratch. This was 3 hours before the cake had to be up and standing and I still had to do my own delivery – which would take about 2 hours.

I disassembled the cake and it was much worse than initially expected: there were no cake boards separating the cakes. No dowels in the cake tiers to hold up the weight of each tier (I will explain that later on if you don’t know what I’m talking about at the moment). Some of the sugar foliage on metal wires were placed straight into the cake, which is totally unacceptable – I mean its inedible hardware just poking into the cake – not cool! And the most shocking: we found a MASSIVE splinter inside the cake!

I asked my assistant, Roxane, to cover some of my own dummy cakes while I’m gone, and then vowed to drive like the devil to make my delivery on time. (I ended up getting pulled over by the police… you’re welcome to read my full story on my blog: A Day in the Life of The Turquoise Squirrel. Long story short, I managed to be back in time to finish covering the dummy cake and added the decor I pulled off from the original cake. It didn’t end up looking too bad, at least it looked like a wedding cake. I added a piece of the real cake to the back and we covered it with fresh roses, so the couple could at least cut the cake for the photos.

All’s well that ends well.

Now, you might think the cake was delivered by a friend of the family or something, but you would be mistaken. It was a proper company that arrived in their chef jackets. When we phoned them to tell them that their cake was collapsing and requested they come back to fix it, they said: “Nope, we’re not coming back, we’re not in the area anymore. Just pop it in the fridge and it will be fine.”
This is shocking, but rather than point fingers, I took this as an opportunity to explain to couples out there what should be considered when booking a trustworthy and qualified supplier.

The first thing to note about wedding cakes is that they are (or at least they should be) soft and they get heavy. Often my cakes end up being 10-15 kg! Now there is absolutely no way you can stack 15kg of cake on top of each other without it compressing. A wedding cake gets stacked with support dowels in each tier, so it’s pretty much built like Venice.  The cake below is held up by solid columns that carry the weight of the cake above, so very minimal weight is put on the actual cake. To be able to be placed on the columns/dowels, each cake needs to be put on a cake board, to make it sturdy and have a level surface. What I do on top of that is place a long wooden dowel all the way through all the tiers that anchors into the bottom cake board, so even if you tilt the cake, they can’t slide off.

For further durability, I cover all my cakes in white chocolate ganache, which is semi-hard at room temperature. I easily use 3-4 kg of white choc in my ganache for an average 3 to 4 tier cake! That’s a heck of a lot of chocolate! And only after the layer of ganache do the cakes get covered in fondant or modelling chocolate. Even if it’s hot in the venue, the ganache is very unlikely to start melting.

Just to assemble the cakes usually takes me 1 hour to put it all together and make sure it’s sturdy and straight. That is not including the ganache-ing (that can take 10 minutes to half an hour per cake). Now you can see how cost and time can very quickly add up, and that’s not including any cake fillings or decorations.

Bear in mind that wedding cakes take time and a lot of materials to make them stackable into these sky-high gorgeous centrepieces you’ve always dreamed of!

Cakes made and decorated by The Turquoise Squirrel Patisserie:

What I want you to be wary of is ‘budget-friendly’ cakes. I am not saying you must pay a fortune for your cakes, but if you are unsure just chat with your baker and ask them about what they use as their preferred structure for their cakes. Further, check their credibility. Research your suppliers and check if they have ratings or testimonials and, if possible, try to verify these. Chat with people you know who may have used these suppliers as well. If your venue has a list of preferred suppliers rather stick with them, they have a good reason for being on that list! This all applies to whether it be cakes or anything else for that matter. Lastly, if you can: meet with them for a consultation so you can get a sense of who they are. If your preferred baker isn’t available ask them for referrals… they know who are quality suppliers in the industry and who are not.

By Elli Saayman – The Turquoise Squirrel Patisserie