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!
When 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!