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Cake Decorating Mishaps & Quick Fixes

Wednesday 19th October 2016

Renshaw’s Emma Chamberlain explains how to fix some common cake decorating mishaps

Part of the joy of cake decorating is creating a beautiful cake to celebrate the occasions in the lives of friends and family.

It is a rewarding hobby that brings everyone together and can be enjoyed by all, whether it be making or eating.

Sometimes things can go wrong in the making process and can leave you wondering what to do and slightly stressed. Here at Renshaw we would like you to enjoy your hobby to the fullest so we have come up with some of the most common mishaps and mistakes that people encounter when cake decorating.

Air bubbles

Equipment required: Scriber, smoother.

Small amounts of air can get trapped in the paste and cause a problem when the icing is pinned out. This can cause holes or tears in the icing, or an uneven finish when used for covering.

When the icing is kneaded, this is when small amounts of air can get trapped. When it is pinned out you may see an air bubble underneath the surface of the icing as you roll over the surface with a rolling pin. Take a moment to locate them, pierce them with a scriber. Once the top surface of the bubble is pierced, gently expel the air completely, then smooth over the surface of the icing with a smoother. Continue pinning out with a rolling pin.

In the pinning out process the sooner you identify and deal with the air bubble the better.

Unevenly finished cake

Equipment required: palette knife, knife, scraper turntable.

Icing will attach itself and mirror the surface that it is placed onto. Therefore if the cake base is incorrectly prepared you won’t have a nice smooth finish.

When prepping the cake base, ensure that the layers of the sponge are level. Don’t put too much filling in the layers as the sponge can slide and become unlevelled.

When adding the last layer of sponge make sure the cake is level before you mask it. If you have not achieved this, please see advice in the next ‘mishap’ below; badly layered cakes.

Crumb coat the outside of the cake (if required) and place in the fridge until just chilled.

Place the cake on the turntable and spread the coating around the top first, then work around the sides until it is completely covered.

The last step is to go over it with a scraper and make sure it is all smoothed over and level.

Badly layered cake

Equipment required: Correctly sized cake board, knife.

Sometimes a small distraction or dip in attention can lead to a wobbly cake. But luckily this can be fixed once you add your last layer of sponge, if you notice at this point that the cake doesn’t look quite right.

To fix this, first carefully level the top as best you can if it has become wonky.

Next, take the correct sized board for the cake and gently place on top of the cake. Then trim down the sides so they are level with the board at the top.

Place in the fridge until just chilled and then coat as stated above.

Cracks, marks and crazing on the icing surface

If the icing has not been kneaded correctly the gums inside will not have warmed up and become pliable. The icing will then be hard to pin out and will crack when placed on a cake. When kneading your icing, make sure that it is pliable before using and that the side you plan to roll on has a smooth surface.

If the icing is dry and short in texture after it is kneaded, this could be a problem we need to know about. If you are unhappy with the product please retain the batch code, use by date and product name. The best way to do this is to take a very clear picture of the label on the back. Pass these details on to the supplier the icing was purchased from for it to be looked into.

Small marks or cracks can be rectified by letting down some of the icing you have used to cover the cake, with water until it becomes a paste. Make a piping bag with a no2 tube in and place the icing in the bag.

Squeeze a little into the crack and smooth over with a slightly damp flat brush and allow to dry. Please note that this is only a quick fix. On darker colour icing the mixed paste can dry darker than the original colour.

Icing torn on the top corner

There are a few possible issues here. It could be an air bubble, over stretched icing or the icing was too thin for covering to begin with.

When covering a cake it is best to have the cake on the work surface. This is so any excess icing is supported by the worktop and doesn’t pull the icing down. The excess can then be removed and the cake placed back on the turntable.

Filling can be seen through the icing

This tends to happen when the icing has been rolled out too thinly. To avoid this, roll your icing out to 3-4mm thickness which is best for covering standard sized cakes (6-10″).


I’ll be featuring some more tips like these in a future blog. If you have any questions you’d like answered then please comment below, leave us a note on our social pages, or email info@renshawbaking.com

Until next time,
Emma x