Summer is coming! We love the warmth, the longer days, the beach and the sunshine, but sadly summer can be a very challenging time for cakes and a bad time for buttercream in particular, or maybe not. With the right precautions and the right stabilizers we can fight droopy, melted buttercream and replace it with beautiful, smooth and stable buttercream.
Since I live in Central Florida, one of the hottest and most humid climates in North America, I have learned quickly that heat and humidity effect buttercream. I will be honest and admit that I learned this lesson the hard way when cream cheese icing began melting off every tier of a five tier wedding cake as we delivered it. It makes me sick just remembering that day, but it ended well. I was three hours early, so I took all the cream cheese icing off, replaced it and redecorated the cake and finished it just as the bride and groom walked into the reception. The bride loved it, gave me a five star review and never knew what had happened. Lucky for you, with these tips and tricks for ways to use icing in the summer below, you won't run into a similar situation.
Let's begin by talking business logistics. We are cake decorators, so as such we represent the cake, just like a lawyer represents his client in court. What I am saying is you need to stand up for your cakes. Most people do not understand that heat can weaken, melt and even collapse a cake, so tell them. If someone is asking for a four tier buttercream cake at an outside event in July, sometimes you just need to say, "That won't work!"
Instead, give the client other options. Can they keep the cake inside? Can they only bring it outside at the end of the event? These are things to discuss with the client before the cake is agreed upon. I love brides, but sometimes they have unrealistic ideas about what can be done with a cake, so tell them. You can be nice, sweet and gentle about it, but I have found when they learn that it just isn't the best idea, they will change their minds and happily take your expert advice. Now, if they are super stringent and demand the cake to be outside in July, tell them that is fine, but they will need to sign a form stating that you will not be liable if the buttercream melts, or if there is damage to the cake due to it being outside. They will also be liable for any illnesses in case the cake is left out too long since they are going against your advice. That way you are covered and they cannot come back to you for a refund when your beautiful hard work melts in the sun.
In summer your best bets are Swiss Meringue Buttercream or Italian Buttercream. They tend to hold up best in the heat. You can watch Joshua John Russell make delicious Swiss Meringue Buttercream in his FREE Craftsy mini-class, Modern Buttercream.
Factor in the humidity and heat of the car during delivery. Be prepared for anything and in the summer take extra precautions (take extra buttercream, a delivery kit, etc) to make sure you are covered in case you have problems during delivery.
Make sure your buttercream will be stable. We are all different and prefer different kinds of buttercream. I prefer to add Meringue Powder to my American buttercream to help stabilize it.
I made a policy that cream cheese icing cannot be chosen between the months of May and October for any outside weddings. Your climate may be different and cream cheese icing may work better for you during those months.
Keep your cakes chilled in the fridge as long as possible, but let them come to room temperature before taking them outside. You can get condensation which can ruin both buttercream and fondant.
Speaking of cream cheese icing, I have also learned a trick that might help you stabilize your cream cheese icing. Make a batch of cream cheese icing and a batch of Swiss meringue buttercream or your favorite vanilla buttercream recipe, now mix the 2 batches together, and you now have stable cream cheese icing!
I hope this armed you a few new ideas for dealing with summer's heat and its effect on your buttercream recipes! Have a sweet summer!