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When every cake is a disaster

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Every cake I do, I'm always so disappointed in it -- there is always (at least) one (if not more) major flaw that leaves me so disappointed and makes me want to give up.

I will admit that I only started making progress in May (couldn't smooth a cake until then, really couldn't make my own icing) -- but I bake so often (1-2 times a week) that I feel I should be making more progress than I am (I feel like I'm making none).

I look at my pictures and then see everyone else's on here, and it just makes me realize I'm so amateur and my cakes really are that awful, and I just get a sinking feeling. I enjoy decorating so much, but am just so discouraged.

I'm not an artistic person, so everything is that much more difficult for me. I took the Wilton course 1 and it did help me improve on some areas (haven't had slumping sides since, and some of my boarders have gotten better) -- and I'm starting Course 2 Monday (though with how I feel now, I'm ready to cancel and give up).


I did a golf cake for my step-dad's birthday (for today), and it's just been nothing but disaster after disaster.

Both layers of my chocolate cake ended up with big chunks missing because of sticking to the pan (which has never been an issue for me). Seeing I was about to freak out, my boyfriend's mom, thankfully, helped me remedy the situation by sticking the chunks back in (and thankfully the cake was salvageable even though it was still on the brink of breaking apart -- it still worked which was the only good thing to have come out of this).

Both layers of my carrot cake wouldn't even come out of the pan. It took 4 of us to get them out. Those were re-baked (which my boyfriend's mom did for me while I was at work to save me the time).


I made all of my icing/fillings. For the first time, I think my SMBC came out (at least, I think that's how it's supposed to come out...).

But when it came to decorating... and smoothing. The carrot cake's icing crusted beautifully (different BC than the chocolate) - though didn't taste as I expected it would.

Even though I made the BC for the chocolate cake the same that I do every time (without issue), it barely crusted. When I tried to smooth (via Viva -- the SMBC was a filling, not the icing), the icing just kept coming off. I made it the same way as I always do, yet, nothing worked. I don't get it. I even put it in the fridge to help get the icing firm enough to smooth, but it just still was not good enough. The Viva method is all I know right now. So now I have a cake that is not smooth at all -- I gave up because I figured it was better that way than ending up taking off the icing and have my cake fall apart on me (as a portion of it is already delicate).


After even putting on the remaining piping/decorations, it just looks awful. I don't even want to take a picture of it because I'm too embarrassed by it and disappointed in it. Actually I got the idea off another cake here and was very inspired and excited to do this one... but mine doesn't even make the cut. I was so upset by it last night that I just sat there crying as I decorated.

My boyfriend kept telling me it was the heat -- but I've worked in higher temps before and did not have this much issue with my BC (or baking -- though I think it was more humidity than heat as the humidity was beyond awful). And it wasn't even that (though it certainly did make it worse), but every cake I do is just awful, and it's very discouraging. Last nights cake just made me want to quit.


At what point do you decide that decorating is not your forte or keep practicing and hopefully something will click?
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post #2 of 28
You say that you've only been doing this since May? I took a look at the pictures you have posted and while there are some flaws they're really not that bad for someone who's only been caking for at the most 3 months. And you've only had one class! You need to remember that a good portion of the photos you see are from folks who have been at this a really long time so give yourself a break. Take all the classes you can and don't over reach. If cake decorating is something that you really love it will come but you have to have patience and give yourself permission to not be perfect. thumbs_up.gif
post #3 of 28
Don't take it to heart. We all have mistakes and hopefully learn how to rectify them. If cake making and decorating makes you happy and people enjoy your cakes, don't give up because you can't grasp a certain procedure. I have been providing cakes for family and friends for the last 5 years and I have also cried when things have gone wrong. I'm still here doing what I love though and as they say 'Practise makes Perfect'. Don't give up!!! icon_smile.gif
post #4 of 28
I'm sorry to see that you are feeling so discouraged! First of all, I think you are being too hard on yourself! After reading your post I was expecting really terrible cakes when I looked at your gallery, but they aren't so bad!

I have not been decorating for all that long, so I'm no expert... but I see flaws in every cake I do. But other people don't see the flaws! Usually I'm able to cover imperfections with decoration, but there have been occasions where I've had to re-cover a cake 3 times with fondant and it still didn't come out the way I'd like it to! A couple of weeks ago, I was making a cake for my MIL, it was one of the had re-cover and still didn't come out right cakes... I was going to decorate it at me destination (traveling overnight) and my daughter had to hold the box on her lap. During transit it got jostles, smashed up against the box... when I opened it the next morning to decorate, I seriously wanted to throw it away, cry and go buy a store cake! But I trudged on, did my best to cover things and brought it to the party. Everyone raved about it and it was a HUGE success... Other people don't see what we see. Like my husband says, we have different standards. We see cakes like the Awe Inspiring ones from Cake Central, we MAKE special cakes. Most people haven't ever seen a cake like this in real life, it's like "TV walking into their homes" as he said. We are our own worst critics, but if we weren't, if we couldn't see flaw in our work... how could we improve. If we looked at every cake and said "Man, I nailed it again!" How would we know what to work at, how would we have any motivation to try and be better?

Don't be so hard on yourself. Everyone has one of those days. I made a 3 tier cake last weekend. I was distracted and left one of them in the pan for too long after it baked and when I turned it out, I the bottom stuck. It was un-salvageable and I had to re-bake the the layer. It wasn't any hotter than any other day, it wasn't EXTREMELY humid. It could have just been one-of-those-days or it could have been something different in the climate.

I'm not sure if you are doing this just to be a fun hobby, or if you are looking to start a business some day. But to answer your question, as many people have said before, if you are no longer finding joy in it, then it might be time to consider giving up. BUT, just because your cakes don't come out like you expect doesn't necessarily mean you aren't enjoying it! If you want to get better, practice! When I first started (and I haven't been doing this too long) I made a few practice cakes and put pictures on my FaceBook and let my friends and family know that I wanted to make practice cakes. I thought I would be sending many cakes to work with my husband, but i think I've send a total of 2 cakes to work with him! I've been so busy with free cakes that I don't often have more than a week or 2 off in a row (and I get my license from the health dept next week so I will be in business!).

Keep at it if you enjoy it, only you can decide it is worth the trouble for you. Keep practicing, take the Wilton class... YouTube has SO much information as well as this site. There are some really great videos and books. Check out your library and see what they have! But like I said, I think you are being too hard on yourself. Without knowing how long you have been at it, I'd say you've got a pretty good start icon_smile.gif
post #5 of 28
It took me ten years to get to where I am today. I made so many mistakes over the years, but that is how you learn. You just have to get through the learning process, it takes time and patience.

Regarding the cakes coming out of the pans though, the only thing that works for me is the Wilton Cake Release. Every time I try another method (ex. shortening and flour) chunks of cake come off of my cake too. I know the Wilton Cake Release is expensive but that's the only thing that I've had success with.

Still this past weekend, I learned some things... that Fondx fondant is not for me - the fondant stuck to the mat while I was putting it on the cake, then I had to pull it off the cake and it ruined the cake, therefore, I've decided to never use anything but Satin Ice from now on. I still haven't successfully covered a cake in ganash... the first time I tried it, the ganash never hardened, so I'll be trying it again and again until I master it.

Do not be so hard on yourself, the more cakes you do, the better you'll become! Sometimes it helps knowing what tools, supplies are the best though and that you can learn from here on Cake Central. Keep at it, learn from your mistakes (I still am) and, I promise you, you'll get to where you want to be! icon_smile.gif
post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by augurey

Every cake I do, I'm always so disappointed in it -- there is always (at least) one (if not more) major flaw that leaves me so disappointed and makes me want to give up.

I will admit that I only started making progress in May (couldn't smooth a cake until then, really couldn't make my own icing) -- but I bake so often (1-2 times a week) that I feel I should be making more progress than I am (I feel like I'm making none).

I look at my pictures and then see everyone else's on here, and it just makes me realize I'm so amateur and my cakes really are that awful, and I just get a sinking feeling. I enjoy decorating so much, but am just so discouraged.

I'm not an artistic person, so everything is that much more difficult for me. I took the Wilton course 1 and it did help me improve on some areas (haven't had slumping sides since, and some of my boarders have gotten better) -- and I'm starting Course 2 Monday (though with how I feel now, I'm ready to cancel and give up).


I did a golf cake for my step-dad's birthday (for today), and it's just been nothing but disaster after disaster.

Both layers of my chocolate cake ended up with big chunks missing because of sticking to the pan (which has never been an issue for me). Seeing I was about to freak out, my boyfriend's mom, thankfully, helped me remedy the situation by sticking the chunks back in (and thankfully the cake was salvageable even though it was still on the brink of breaking apart -- it still worked which was the only good thing to have come out of this).

Both layers of my carrot cake wouldn't even come out of the pan. It took 4 of us to get them out. Those were re-baked (which my boyfriend's mom did for me while I was at work to save me the time).


I made all of my icing/fillings. For the first time, I think my SMBC came out (at least, I think that's how it's supposed to come out...).

But when it came to decorating... and smoothing. The carrot cake's icing crusted beautifully (different BC than the chocolate) - though didn't taste as I expected it would.

Even though I made the BC for the chocolate cake the same that I do every time (without issue), it barely crusted. When I tried to smooth (via Viva -- the SMBC was a filling, not the icing), the icing just kept coming off. I made it the same way as I always do, yet, nothing worked. I don't get it. I even put it in the fridge to help get the icing firm enough to smooth, but it just still was not good enough. The Viva method is all I know right now. So now I have a cake that is not smooth at all -- I gave up because I figured it was better that way than ending up taking off the icing and have my cake fall apart on me (as a portion of it is already delicate).


After even putting on the remaining piping/decorations, it just looks awful. I don't even want to take a picture of it because I'm too embarrassed by it and disappointed in it. Actually I got the idea off another cake here and was very inspired and excited to do this one... but mine doesn't even make the cut. I was so upset by it last night that I just sat there crying as I decorated.

My boyfriend kept telling me it was the heat -- but I've worked in higher temps before and did not have this much issue with my BC (or baking -- though I think it was more humidity than heat as the humidity was beyond awful). And it wasn't even that (though it certainly did make it worse), but every cake I do is just awful, and it's very discouraging. Last nights cake just made me want to quit.


At what point do you decide that decorating is not your forte or keep practicing and hopefully something will click?



Hi there, I can understand how you are feeling but even those of us who have been doing it for some time or are further on in our competence STILL have those days where we feel "is this for me"? Believe me I do! Every time something goes wrong, or you are feeling you don't like what you have done we all feel that way. If this is something you LOVE then keep at it I say. Try to learn as much as you can. Perhaps focus on one thing at a time, for example you want your cakes iced perfectly then get a load of dummies and keep practicing. Take it off, put it on again, and repeat. Practice really is the only way. I started off just on a fondant and baking course. I really didn't know where I was going and throughout that I had times when I thought "my word I'm rubbish at this" and now I run my own business from home. Is there anyone in your area who would let you go along to help them in their busy times just to get some experience/learn stuff? I'd love to have someone on my busiest days who'd like to learn the ropes in return for icing boards, cutting out flowers etc. It's worth asking around as once you have the basics you can build from there. I'm not sure about anyone else, but I have time where I think "I have no ideas, no inspiration" so I go out and look at stuff like wall paper, birthday cards, flick through magazines and it comes to you.

I'd say get your basics right. Like I said focus on one thing like this week I want to get my cake just right. I want it baked right and coming out the tin right. So go onto CC and look for the recipe, look at tutorials on baking and focus on that first and move on to something like buttercream next. Get a recipe keep working it till it goes well. It really is all practice. If you think at the end I really don't enjoy this then yes, perhaps think about where this is going but until then try to think about the enjoyment you get from it and it will come right eventually. Good luck, all the people on here are so willing to give advice and help. I've learnt lots along the way. HTH
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post #7 of 28
This post made me sad. I'm sorry you're having so much trouble but as the previous posters said, lots of these women have years of practice and it takes some of us a while.

I took the Wilton class in May with alot of women who were new to baking. Some did better than others and there were actually a few who were planning to retake the same class for the practice.

What I found myself doing after class was while watching TV I would fill a bag with my left over class frosting and start piping. It really does help to practice but even so there are things that I just don't do well and that's ok!

As for your cakes sticking to the pan, that is probably a technical problem. I recently started using Cake Release and that stuff is AWESOME! Before that if I was making a very moist cake like carrot I'd grease, line with wax paper, and then grease again and that makes the bottom release very smoothly. Don't let cakes sit in the pan too long after they come from the oven, just long enough to cool down a bit, maybe 5-10 min, then flip it over.

If it has a high dome, I usually cut it off before I flip so that the unevenness doesn't make the cake split.

I sometimes struggle with smooth frosting. This could be your recipe or your technique. Try to add less liquid and if that doensn't work try to pipe the covering on the cake. I've used stars or rosettes to cover an entire cake or make lines or basketweave instead. I always do this on carrot cake because my cream cheese frosting doesn't crust.

Don't give up on something you obviously love so much! Keep at it! thumbs_up.gif
Don't cheat yourself, treat yourself!
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Don't cheat yourself, treat yourself!
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post #8 of 28
I have always loved the thought of decorating cakes since I was very young, but try as I might, my cakes were disasters. From uneven cakes to sticking buttercream that peels off the cake, to you-name it! Disaster! But I'd keep trying. Nothing clicked until I went to work at a bakery 3 years ago when my daughter was planning her wedding.

I did not bake or decorate but I did observe and asked a lot of questions. Suddenly it all clicked. I was only there a year but there were some fundamentals that I took with me that started me off well.

First, working with a cold cake a a LOT easier than working with one at room temp. I will freeze my cakes after baking and cooling and then fill and crumb coat cold. Then it's back in fridge to harden and then I start to layer my BC on, smoothing each layer with a bench scraper and then back in the fridge to harden each time.

Don't get upset if your cake cracks or an edge falls off. All that can be cured with cake spackle (cake crumbs mixed with frosting. Fill smooth and then harden in the fridge, then ice over it.

For some reason (pretty sure it's my oven), every cake I do has a droopy corner. So I take the trimmings I've made off my cake and stuff them underneath the corner that's droopy until it's level. It won't show when the cake is cut. In fact, I've used trimmings to even out areas where the cake isn't flat on the sides. Just stuff them in and take my bench scraper and cut them even with the cake. Cover with frosting and no one knows the difference.

I saw an episode of Fabulous Cakes once and the decorator was doing something similar and she said 'cake is all smoke and mirrors!'...and it's true. Only we know what cures and fixes have been done under that beautiful exterior!

My solution for making sure cakes come out of the pan is one I came up with. I grease with Crisco, flour it (making sure that I get all the excess flour out by banging the pan) then I spray the whole concoction with Pam. The only problems I've had are with chocolate cake. For that I will put a parchment in the bottom of the pan. So far the sides have not stuck.

Now...I looked at your pictures and I see improvement with every one! You even had some favorites saved on one! I think your Harry Potter cake is smooth, looks level and you did a great job on the transfer! You do have to start thinking in terms of filling the open space on your cake so draw out a plan on paper of how you want something to look and see how it's sized.

I think the best way I learned was to pick out a cake design I really wanted to do and then I had to figure out how to do it. Asking questions here and watching tutorials on techniques on YouTube were invaluable.

Confidence will come when you lose your fear of messing up. We all mess up...it's learning how to fix it and knowing it's going to be fine in the end that counts.
I look at mess-ups as opportunities to learn. At least I tell myself that when it happens! ;D I've had many 'learning' experiences, believe me.

And have fun! Laugh at the mistakes and go on. No one is judging you but you. And if you need help, this is a great place to come for it! Ask for honest critiques and don't take it personally when you get them! They can only help you in the long run.

Good luck and as long as it doesn't make you miserable...keep caking! thumbs_up.gif

If I am ever on life support, unplug me...

Then plug me back in.  See if that works!

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If I am ever on life support, unplug me...

Then plug me back in.  See if that works!

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post #9 of 28
Agree with everything said! You've only been decorating for a few months, cut yourself some slack! I know the feeling, I am a major perfectionist and tend to obsess over every little flaw. Everyone, even the pros who have been doing it forever, have bad days. We had a wedding cake a month ago that was giving us fits- we were doing BC roses in a cascade, and they kept falling off the cake! I was FREAKING OUT! icon_smile.gif But we fixed it, learned from our mistakes, and moved on. We've been doing cakes for a few years now, and I learn something to improve on every time! Hang in there, you can do it!
Before you ask- I'm licensed, inspected, insured, and all that jazz.
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Before you ask- I'm licensed, inspected, insured, and all that jazz.
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post #10 of 28
i think your cakes are realy good if youve only been doing this since may, after just a few months i could barely do a sponge cake. dont be too hard on yourself this time next year you will laugh at this post and you will surprise yourself with how far you have came. believe me it will happen one day you will stand back and be so pleased with yourself, dont give up, if you enjoy it keep at it
post #11 of 28
I started with the Wilton level 1 class in April. I took the Level 2 and 3 classes in the following months. Everything else I've learned is from the wonderful people on this site. I think you are being WAY too hard on yourself. It's like saying you'll never scrapbook because Martha Stewart is soooo much better at it or you'll never pick up a golf club because Tiger Woods puts you to shame. There's always gonna be someone better. Who cares?? You like cake decorating so just go for it. I am in constant awe at the stuff I see on this site but I think that's a good thing. It gives me something to aspire to. Be proud of every cake you make because you worked hard on it! Hang in there.
post #12 of 28
You will have to PM me and we will find much to laugh - and cry - about!

I, too, am a beginner AND I am my own worst enemy and best critic. My oldest son is twelve. When he started school, I had never even made a cupcake - couldn't figure out how you get the cupcake in the cute paper cup - everyone knows you don't put paper in the oven so how does one make cupcakes and then get them in the paper cup - I'm a faux blonde!!!!???

About one year ago, my husband basically alluded to the fact that I was lacking in hobbies and was basically lacking a life. He was right. I had made everyone's life my life but I had no life. I decided that week that I would sign up for whatever class was available at any cost - scrapbooking, floral arranging - didn't care. The Wilton course started the following week and I was in. I have no artistic ability and was only an average cook. I had only learned how to do a few things semi-okay in the basics class. Took the fondant class and enjoyed it but found that everyone else's cake looked better. I just keep trying - and spending money.

Everytime I see one of my cakes - I see only the flaws. I lose sleep at night because I know it should have been done differently. If even one person comments that it could have had a bit more flavor, then I'm upset. Disaster after disaster is routine in my kitchen. In the end, I swear I'm not making another cake. How could anyone want one of my awful cakes????

By the next week, I'm searching CC for another recipe and another idea. I'm hooked in a good way. I have found my "ministry." I find that my EFFORTS are what make people smile. Just because you do no create severn tiered cakes of sheer perfection does not mean that you did not bring joy.

It is your effort that makes a difference. The fact that you WANT to do better and you are upset that your cake did not turn out well this time is your message to yourself. If it weren't important to you, then you would say "Oh well! My cake is a disaster and we will eat it out of a bowl and that is fine for me! I'll order from Walmart next time - no big deal."

Keep trying and definitely use the Cake Release and the baking strips. That's my story and I hope I made you smile!
post #13 of 28
I have been doing cakes for about as long as you have.. I don't know how it happend I just started one day and can't stop.. anyway I has the same problem with my cake for my wiltong class when I was trying to smooth it.. I was getting upset as well... Good thing that night it was my last class of my second course and I took my cake in to my teacher... I told her the issue I was having.. So she said to leave it uncovered for a bit and then she would take a look at it.. she started to mess with it and figured out the problem in a minute... My BC was to thin thats why it wouldnt set so I couldn't smooth it. Go look at my cakes I have a lot of flaws but i'm working on them one cake at a time.. Practice makes perfect.. Don't let the cake win!!!!
Take a deep breath and walk away for a while.. If u happen to mess up a cake .. So what your just learning, if it's not perfect your prob the only person that thinks that.. I'm the same way I criticize myself to much and get frustrated at times.. Hang in there I promise it will get better
I have a rock n roll angel watching over me... I'll never forget you and you will always be missed.. R.I.P sweet Stephen



Stressed is desserts spelled backwards... What better desserts is there than a piece of cake
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I have a rock n roll angel watching over me... I'll never forget you and you will always be missed.. R.I.P sweet Stephen



Stressed is desserts spelled backwards... What better desserts is there than a piece of cake
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post #14 of 28
Try not to be dismayed. In the beginning I felt like throwing powered sugar up in the air on my way out of my kitchen and NEVER going back. But, through the years and months, I learned something from EACH & EVERY cake!
One of the tips that has made my life the easiest is CAKE GREASE, Girl!! Equals parts of shortening, oil and flour. Mix that all together and rub those cake pans GOOD. The cakes will pop right out. I keep mine in a plastic bowl with lid. I wouldn't be without it!
post #15 of 28
Don't me so hard on yourself - you are doing a great job and its a case of having to "walk before you can run". I think you work is great for somebody that has only been doing it as long as you. I have been decorating for about a year and a half (?) and I still have a loooong way to go and am learning all the time.

Just try to breath, enjoy what your doing - we are our own worst critics icon_wink.gif
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