Saving A Cake From Disaster

in Cakes, Desserts

Purple Roses Cake

This post is all about overcoming adversity, cake decorating adversity. I came thisclose to having a cake worthy of a spot on Cake Wrecks. It all started when Martha’s people were super nice enough to send me an advance copy of their issue of Cakes & Cupcakes. There was a technique in the magazine that caught my eye; it was technique using acetate strips to create a pretty striped pattern. The pictures in the magazine showed glittery pink stripes and bright yellow stripes. I had dreams of creating a cake inspired by my favorite French shirt, the breton. White frosting and navy blue stripes. How spring and easy!

It didn’t go so well, guys. Not at all. So this is a story, not about making a pretty cake, but rather about saving a cake from decoration disaster. It’s a story about how I panicked, looked at the wilting roses on my bedside table and improvised the shiz out of the next move. Ready?

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

When I first started I have to say I was feeling pretty confident. My cake layers were flat, I had a bunch of coffee in me, I was feeling good!

And look at that pretty meringue! Things were going my way.

I put the crumb coat on. Stuck the cake in the fridge and tended to other things like email and

After the crumb coat, I cut my acetate into 1/2-inch strips. See, the idea was to lay them on the cake and then sprinkle the glitter atop. If it worked according to plan, you’d remove the strips and have perfect stripes.

Okay sooo, turns out I can’t cut a straight line, so there’s strike one. Secondly, the damn acetate stuck to the frosting and messed everything up. There was cursing.

And to top it all off, the glitter wasn’t navy. It’s like this carribean blue. Ugh. I swear the picture on the packaging made me think it would be navy if there was a lot of it. Lies.

Also, it was 85 degrees yesterday in Los Angeles. WHY!!!

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I kinda freaked. I mean, I did freak freak, because failures happen all the time to me. They’re a bummer, a waste of ingredients, a waste of money, but sort of part of the deal.

But I knew the cake tasted good and the frosting was delicious so it just felt like a big waste to just give up and not try and save it some how, some way.

That’s when…I noticed these pretty things.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I’m not really a roses girl, but when they’re crazy colors like this baby lavender situation, I change my tune.

So, I scraped off most of the icing, dug into my pantry, found my food gels and added one drop of red and two drops of blue. I somehow remembered that red and blue make purple. And ta-daaa! Matching frosting.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I clipped the roses, stuck them into the center of the cake and that’s it.

I still think a breton-inspired cake would be pretty neato, but I think this was sort of an ok save.

White Cake

Print this recipe!

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
3 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for pans
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter cake pans, line with parchment. Butter parchment; dust with flour, tapping out excess.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir vanilla into milk. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until very smooth, about 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add sugar; beat until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of milk mixture and beginning and ending with flour. Beat until just combined (do not over mix).

4. In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium speed until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Gently fold egg whites into batter in 3 additions.

5. Divide batter among prepared pans, smoothing tops with an offset aptula. Bake until tops spring back when pressed and a cake tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes for 8-inch round layers.

Basic Swiss Meringue Buttercream

3/4 cup sugar
3 large egg whites
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 drop red food gel
2 drops blue food gel

1. Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves (mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingers). With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk egg-white mixture 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form and meringue has cooled (test by feeling bottom of bowl), about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and drops of red and blue food coloring. Adjust food coloring until you reach the desired shade of lavender.

Recipe used with permission from Martha Stewart Living. Copyright © 2013, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Originally published in Cakes & Cupcakes.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Betsy May 3, 2013 at 2:42 am

Nice save!!

Reply

this is lemonade May 3, 2013 at 3:09 am

Sort of a really gorgeous save. Those beautiful roses would make me eat any cake!

Reply

Tieghan May 3, 2013 at 5:31 am

Such great tips!!! And this cake looks awesome!

Reply

Belinda @themoonblushbaker May 3, 2013 at 5:32 am

I have also saved a few cakes in my time as a baker. Merginue icing is always so forgiving when you make a big boo boo. I tell you secret, when I was making my Rainbow icing ombre type cake: I misjudged the stability of having 6 layers to it and the firmness of the Swiss butter cream. It almost tipped over!

I think it looks so chic now.

Reply

Adrianna Adarme May 3, 2013 at 9:59 am

Swiss butter cream is soooooft. It definitely needs to chill. Not ideal on a warm day. :)

Reply

Hannah @ All-Purpose and Semi-Sweet May 3, 2013 at 6:33 am

Too pretty to eat…almost! P.S. Hearing about your recipe fails makes you even more likable.

Reply

Adrianna Adarme May 3, 2013 at 10:01 am

HA! Oh there are a lot of them.

Reply

Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) May 3, 2013 at 6:37 am

Oh man–I would have been so annoyed! But you made a great save, and it looks great. I’m curious about the sticking of the acetate, did you think it had to do with your frosting, or were the instructions just totally off?

Reply

Adrianna Adarme May 3, 2013 at 10:01 am

Instructions weren’t off. I shouldn’t chilled it for longer, I think. I chilled it for 30 minutes, like the instructions told me to, but my refrigerator runs kinda warm so I think it needed more like an hour. It also didn’t help that it was 85 degrees yesterday and the icing was literally melting away. Grrr.

Reply

Stacey May 3, 2013 at 7:51 am

Super gorgeous! I’m proud of you for being patient and a grown up and powering through! Usually when something like this happens to me (more often than I’d like to admit), I throw a hissy fit and chunk all the things. So wasteful and NOT COOL.

Reply

cindy May 3, 2013 at 8:07 am

It takes me FOREVER to ice a cake. I get all OCD and end up spinning it around on my turntable stand for like 20 minutes trying to make it perfect. Way to save the day!

Reply

christin May 3, 2013 at 8:15 am

i would have never, ever known. and it’s BEAUTIFUL!

Reply

Abbie May 3, 2013 at 9:49 am

I think the after is way nicer than the before even could have been. What does Martha know anyway!? (hahahaha, she’s a God, I joke.)

Reply

Adrianna Adarme May 3, 2013 at 9:59 am

HA! She’s a total god.

Reply

Karla @ Foodologie May 3, 2013 at 10:19 am

Good save! Loooove the idea of putting flowers on a cake. I’m totally stealing your idea for my Dad’s bday cake… flowers are gender neutral, right?

Reply

Holly Henderson May 3, 2013 at 10:33 am

I think it’s super cool of you to share an almost-fail with us. Part of genius is thinking fast and being willing to compromise when the chips (or cake) are down. Nice job!

Reply

NicoleD May 3, 2013 at 11:21 am

Honestly, if you hadn’t said this was a cake save, I would not have known! It’s so girly and pretty and I even love that the roses are a little wilty. I had pretty sterling roses like those in some of my wedding arrangements. I’m not usually a rose fan, either, but that color!!

Reply

Alexandra @ Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker May 3, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Ok so, you totally made me feel a little better when you said that you have kitchen failures all the time, because sometimes I feel like it’s only me! And honestly, decorating cakes can get STRESSFUL once you realize that things aren’t going quite as perfectly as you envisioned in your mind. I love what you did with this “failure” though – so cute! I would have never thought to stick roses in my cake, and the frosting color is spot on!

Reply

lamia May 3, 2013 at 1:41 pm

love the color of the cake

Reply

Liz @ Tip Top Shape May 3, 2013 at 2:55 pm

It sure ended up looking beautiful!!

Reply

karen May 3, 2013 at 4:35 pm

ahhhhhh SMB is gorgeous and delicious but so temperamental! it’s such a diva frosting hahah. Regardless your cake is pretty! If I ever get married I want my bouquet to be like those roses. idk what color you’d call that. I saw an arrangement in a martha stewart magazine once and I just clutched it to my heart, so breath taking! also I’m super dramatic hahah.

Reply

Rebecca May 3, 2013 at 8:29 pm

My goodness- if that’s a disaster I don’t even know what to say. It turned out beautifully! :-) I’ve done a number on quite a few baking ventures and vow only to buy baked goods from now on to save myself and everyone else from my attempts! :-)

http://thisfineday.com

Reply

Rebecca May 4, 2013 at 2:10 am

That cake looks far away from being a disaster :) And ehm… I really don’t want to spoil your fun, but store-bought roses are highly treated with pesticides… :( Unless you have bought biological roses? Just saying, that this might not be the healthiest option… But I have to admit they do look fabulous:D

Reply

Jayne May 4, 2013 at 3:56 am

Clever save! I killed a cake couple months ago because the frosting totally melted and pan all over the table. Added to that bahooloo, the cake turned soggy because the melted frosting got absorbed into the soft sponge. Gah! Life.

Reply

Tina May 4, 2013 at 4:59 am

Seriously this is beyond gorge! Is there anything u can not do??? I love you :) happy weekend.

Reply

Becky May 4, 2013 at 7:19 am

Way to go Adrianna. I had a cake disaster back in January and it all went into the trash. I had studied and studied how to make a layered cake and decided to make one for my mom’s birthday. I also had studied online some reputable blogs of how to do ombre icing. I gave it a go and was feeling secure and confident. But it collapsed. And the frosting looked hideous! Thankfully I laughed instead of cried. I ended up baking cupcakes instead and it was all good the next day at her party. I have yet to attempt any layered cake since. Maybe someday now that I’ve read your previous post of how to bake even layers. Cool tip. Peace to you from Tulsa :)

Reply

Whitney @ The Newlywed Chefs May 4, 2013 at 8:16 am

It’s stunning! Love the meringue buttercream recipe- we’ll have to try that one soon!

Reply

Alison May 5, 2013 at 1:55 am

I love the rustic icing look! It looks pretty without being completely fake and unrealistic. Well done! I’m a terrible baker, so I’m impressed with anything baked that even remotely turns out. :)

Reply

Francesca May 5, 2013 at 4:39 am

Nice save Nicole! Have you ever made icing with roses? Petals can be crushed into icing, or you can use them to make rose water, which is also delicious in icing :) Next ‘diaster’?

Reply

Dana May 5, 2013 at 10:05 am

Love the lavender!

It seems to be the color I’ve really fallen in love with this month. Gorgeous cake!

Reply

Lindsey May 6, 2013 at 6:12 am

i agree, recipe testing and baking/cooking fails feel pretty bad. it’s hard to come back from feeling that way sometimes, especially when, like you said, you’ve wasted ingredients, time, and money. nice recovery though, the cake and colors are beautiful.

Reply

Miss Kim @ behgopa May 6, 2013 at 10:46 am

Been there done that! Cakes disasters can be a major pain in the a$$!!! But what a creative way to fix it! And thank God the weather here in socali has cooled down. The rain last night was so refreshing.

Reply

Katie @ Blonde Ambition May 6, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Epic save indeed! At least you kept your wits about you in your moment of baking-fail…I usually just start crying and yelling at my boyfriend (for no reason)…I’m a real catch ;)

Reply

Sequoia May 8, 2013 at 8:37 pm

i LOVE the lavender frosting. nice work!!

Reply

Erika September 4, 2013 at 9:20 pm

I really want to make this cake but I just want to make sure the recipe only calls for 1 1/4 teaspoon milk. I don’t bake much but it sounds like a little bit of milk. I just want to double check.

Thank you so much!!

Reply

Adrianna Adarme September 5, 2013 at 9:30 am

Yep! It’s correct. I just checked the issue of Martha Stewart that this recipe was in! You’re all good.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: