Hot Time, Summer in the City – Cake Decorating at its Most Challenging

June 14th, 2010 by Gretchen Homan

I’ll never forget that morning last August walking into the Bake, Decorate, Celebrate! taping studio.  Before leaving the night before, my assistants Joann and Linda, and I had decorated the many projects needed for the next day’s tapings – all in various stages of being decorated with fondant, buttercream or both – and set them on racks in the studio. What I found the next day was floppy fondant flowers drooping off cake top borders, icing colors bleeding from soft royal icing decorations and buttercream bubbling off the sides of cakes.

Overnight, with the studio and camera lights turned off the air conditioning hadn’t cycled on and off as it had during the day. The result was a warm, humid room, not much unlike that at a July or August wedding. Summer weather spells anxious times for professional and amateur cake decorators alike, and as we found out, our on-set cakes weren’t immune!

High Humidity IcingWhen decorating a cake for summer enjoyment, first choose your ingredients carefully. If the cake will be served in a warm environment, choose fillings and icings that will not quickly spoil. Fruit or buttercream based fillings are a wiser choice than creams or custards. Buttercream and fondant icings hold up better than whipped cream, which needs to stay refrigerated until it’s ready to be served.

Decorators in the know have long added some type of starch to buttercream icing to help keep it stabile in warm weather conditions. The Wilton Test Kitchen has developed two high-humidity versions of our favorite Buttercream icing. The first High Humidity Buttercream Icing Recipe 1 adds cornstarch, an ingredient most bakers, cooks and decorators already have in their pantry. The second version High Humidity Buttercream Icing Recipe 2 beats a whipped topping mix powder/liquid milk mixture into the icing. In addition to stabilizing the icing, the topping mix contributes a fuller vanilla flavor to the icing.

But even when using stabilized icings, it’s important that the decorated cake remain as cool as possible for as long as possible before being placed on display. At best, keep the cake in a well air conditioned room. And always keep the cake out of direct sunshine. Finally, if the event where your cake is being served is an outdoor party, try to keep the cake indoors until shortly before serving. Enjoy your summer and your decorated treats too!

Gretchen Homan Gretchen Homan, Test Kitchen Director at Wilton, has been with the company almost 7 years. She is a home economist who has worked in test kitchens and for PR firms representing food clients since graduating from college, but her baking roots run much deeper. Her earliest recollections are regular Schneckenudel (cinnamon bun), cookie and kuchen baking sessions with her Oma (grandmother) who lived with the family while she was growing up. Now that her two youngest sons are off to college, the fruits of her baking sessions need to be mail-able!

76 Replies

  1. Carmelo says:

    You know what would be really good and possibly a great product to sell?

    Whipped Cream Flavor Extract!

    I use the icing recipe that is in the course I book from the older curriculum and just use the clear vanilla extract. The icing comes out great and all my friends love it (and love me because I’m not only incredibly handsome, but I feed them cake).

    A few weeks ago, I created a strawberry short… cake. I created a sort of stiff whipped cream to go with the strawberries and kept it real cold. They said it was the best cake EVER! (the pictures are on the bottom of this blog post

    I would like to duplicate the taste without having to use whipped cream. I live in AZ so its very hot out here and as you know, whipped cream don’t stand a chance out here! Icing is pretty durable, so I think a whipped cream flavor makes sense.

    • Laura says:

      Have you thought about trying flavored vodka? There’s a bazillion different flavors, and WHIPPED is one of them. Vanilla extract = vanilla beans steeped in alcohol. Usually that alcohol is vodka, because it has no real flavor on its own. Now that the cool thing to drink is a flavored cocktail, there are tons of flavor options available.

  2. Carmelo says:

    the link in the above post shouldn’t have the last end parenthesis.

    • Alisha says:

      Any chance you could give me your recipe? That looks absolutely DELICIOUS!!!

    • Tammy says:

      Could you please send me your recipe—I made a cake for the weekend and the frosting melted with the heat. Thanks much and nice looking cake.

      • Carmelo says:

        Sorry, I’m just getting back to you now. To make the cake that I have on my website . I did the following.

        1 box of Vanilla Cake mix (pillsbury)
        1 box of French Vanilla pudding (generic)
        create cake mix according to directions but substitute the water for milk
        Bake at 325 instead of 350. Bake for 1/2 hour then turn oven off but leave in oven for additional half hour. then put in fridge
        get a bunch of strawberries and cut them up, take the green stems off of them

        to make the whipping cream, I bought a generic brand of heavy whipping cream, about 2 cups, threw it in the mixer with 1 cup of confectioners sugar. A little bit of the Wilton clear vanilla extract. about a Tbsp.

        the pink on the cake is strawberry frosting. i bought it, but hardly used it.

        after an hour of cooling, i torted the cake, damned it with the strawberry frosting, then filled it in with the whipping cream and strawberries.

        the bit of chocolate on top is semi sweet chocolate that I used a vegetable peeler on.

        the decoration is simple techniques I learned in the Wilton Course 1. Shell border.

        Hope it comes out good for you guys.

  3. Lesa says:

    I tried last weekend the High Humidity recipe that uses the cornstarch. My husband had bought me a window unit for a/c in addition to the central air we already have for our house. I made the icing exactly as written using 1/2 shortening and 1/2 real butter. It was extremely greasy. Very slow to crust. I kept the cake in front of the air and out of direct sunlight. I was glad it was for my granddaughter as the borders and all started drooping and sliding away. Fondant accents were