10 Biggest Cake Mistakes

It's been roughly 25 years since I started developing my cake decorating skills.  And let's just say it's been a BIG adventure:-D.  In this post I share with you the biggest mistakes I've made and have seen with cake decorating.  My goal is to save you time (or should we say years?!!) by not have to go through all that trial and error yourself!:)

Mistake #1  Buttercream shortening is not Crisco.

American buttercream is the most popular buttercream used for cake decorating.  This recipe always calls for shortening, sugar, flavoring, and some small amount of liquid.

Ok, so, the lesson here is: don't use Crisco.

Yes you can use it but it really won't turn out the same.  The 'same' means less flavor and poorer decorating texture:-/.  The shortening that you should use is called 'high-ratio shortening'.  Different companies make it and it is made for bakeries since they sell it in 50 lb boxes.  If you are a DIYer and are looking for a small amount check out a local cake shop or see if a local bakery is willing to sell you a couple pounds.

Mistake #2  Powdered sugar sifting

I avoided this one like the plague... for YEARS!  Sifting powdered sugar takes FOREVER, makes a MESS, and really who's got time for that?!  Ok so seriously this is a tip when using small quantities:  the C&H powdered sugar in the PLASTIC bags really don't need to be sifted (hallelujah!!).  What happens is sugar that is stored in plastic doesn't let air in and therefore doesn't clump.  The sugar in paper bags or paper boxes, however does.  If you do small projects this is perfect... if you are moving into the larger quantities you will want to buy the bigger bags, however, you will definitely have to sift!:) Also, I do recommend C&H (or white satin found at Cash and Carry) over store brands.  From what I have noticed it is a higher quality and decorates best:).

Mistake #3  Whip or paddle?

Use a paddle when mixing up your American buttercream.  The whip is for things that are not so dense or heavy.  If you don't have a paddle you can use a whip however, over time it will get tired and have to be replaced:(.

Mistake #4  Fighting buttercream bubbles

Seems impossible but it's not... there are several ways people beat the bubbles.  But no need to fight them!  My way is to make buttercream a day or two in advance and store in the fridge.  This gives the buttercream time to firm (it will be full of bubbles but don't worry!).  Bring the buttercream to room temperature and stir with a 'scoop'-type spatula.  These spatulas work awesome.  Stir and stir in small areas and you will see the air bubbles disappear!!  Also, after application I clean it up further with the paper towel method:).

Mistake #5  Fondant drying time

I love working with fondant!!  But one of the biggest things with fondant is the number of drying hours required to get a nice clean look.  I know waiting can be so hard!!  But it must be done:).  If you start working on a fondant cake right after covering it it will start getting that soft/lumpy look to it.  So cover your cake and let it sit for the setting time required with your fondant.  My fondant takes about 3-6 hours of drying/firming time.

Mistake #6  Improper stacking

When stacking fondant cakes I used to use a non-skid fabric but with bumps on the road it wasn't secure enough.  So I started 'gluing' the fondant tiers together with water.  You can use buttercream as well, however, water or sugar glue hold the best.  For butterceam cakes stack your tiers cold for easiest maneuverability.  Here I 'glue' the tiers together with buttercream.  With fondant or buttercream cakes I secure them further by running a skewer down from the top into the cake board.  However, this isn't always possible from the top tier (for instance with a fondant cake that will not have a topper).

Mistake #7  Modeling with gumpaste

When modeling figures using gumpaste can be a big mistake.  Gumpaste is really intended to be used for flowers or other small objected that need to be extremely firm.  If you try modeling with gumpaste you might end up with a crackly and broken figure mess:(.  So when modeling figures use fondant with gum or Tylose powder.  For drapes/swages try using 1/2 fondant and 1/2 gumpaste, 

Mistake #8  Pink problems

Pink is a big cake color fav, however, let me tell you, pink has some serious issues!  Here's what I've found:

In buttercream 
* pink gets darker after sitting on a cake and exposed to air for about an hour or two
* pink gets lighter when exposed to florescent lighting for several hours

In fondant
* pink gets lighter no matter what

To fix:  In buttercream use VERY little pink and stick to using what is called Soft Pink instead of Bright Pink.  In fondant add a touch or red when you mix in the pink and this will help maintain color.  Also, brush on some pearl dust on fondant to protect the color.

Mistake #9  Color fading

Colors such as purple for some reason love to fade!  And on fondant fading can be more pronounced than on buttercream.  Avoid the fading by storing your purple items in a dark place like in a pantry.

Mistake #10  Drive with a wedding cake sign!

When delivering cakes avoid annoying everyone by your over-cautious driving!  Use a magnetic sign that says "Caution!  Wedding Cake"

Hope this list helps with your projects!!
Thanks for reading and happy cake making!!

Cake Couture Designer


  1. Awesome and interesting article. Great things you've always shared with us. Thanks. Just continue composing this kind of post. northern california wedding cakes


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