Fix-it Friday: Fixing Bulges in Sculpted Cakes
This week’s Fix-it Friday is brought to you by skilled pastry chef and Craftsy instructor, Catherine Ruehle, who’s class, Cake-osaurus Rex, will teach you how to create a show-stopping sculpted cake that’s guaranteed to be the highlight of your next birthday party!
Let’s face it, no one likes bulges, especially in their cakes. But we’ve all been there once or twice. Sometimes our cake tiers settle awkwardly, or our fillings aren’t as stable as we expect. And sometimes we just overfill our layers. Overfilling is the single most common reason that bulges occur, especially with sculpted cakes. The filling spreads out, the fondant follows suit, and there you have it, bulges! Not a good look for a cake.
Sculpted cakes are particularly susceptible to bulges because we tend to “man-handle” them a bit when carving out our designs. I always under-fill my sculpted cake tiers, usually by about half the normal filling height (see figs 1 and 2), to prevent any bulges from occurring down the road. That is, I always under-fill when I remember to do so. I admit, and maybe you can relate, I sometimes go into auto-pilot when I’m building cake tiers. If I’m up against an order deadline or I’m trying to fit the work in between running my kiddos to their activities I can easily get rushed and forget to make the adjustment.
So what’s a caker to do once you realize the error of your ways? I usually have that “what was I thinking” moment when I start sculpting the design into my tiers. The tier starts shifting and the beginnings of bulges will form (fig 3). At this point I’ll stop and regroup. Assuming that my tier was well chilled before I started to carve, I’ll let the tier sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes or until the filling is fairly soft. You might be tempted to just take the tier apart and remove some of the filling, but this can damage the cake layers and leave crumbs in your filling. Instead, once my cake has come to room temperature, I’ll use the palm of my hand to apply gentle and even pressure to the top of my tier until the filling seeps out the sides (see fig 4). If your cake texture is soft you’ll want to use a cardboard round on top of the tier to evenly distribute the pressure. Use your offset spatula to remove the excess filling and then smooth the sides. Now you’re ready to proceed with the proper amount of filling for sculpted cakes. (see figs 5 & 6)
For more helpful tips like this, be sure to join Catherine Ruehle in Cake-osaurus Rex to learn to design, carve, and decorate a fantastic cake!
Written by Catherine Ruehle: After earning a degree in Fine Arts, Catherine chose to pursue her culinary passion and embarked on a successful 10-year career as a pastry chef, working on both coasts and winning rave reviews from The New York Times. When the 3-D Soccer Ball cake she made on a lark for her son’s peewee soccer team brought a flood of cake orders from friends, her cake business, Sublime Bakery, was born. She’s appeared on Food Network Challenge, My Fair Wedding with David Tutera, Whose Wedding is it Anyway, and in national magazines such as The Knot and Food Network Magazine. Follow her on Twitter and check out her website, Sublime Bakery.