There are so many things about making and decorating cakes that give you problems. For example – the ingredients, the recipe, your oven, endless distractions from your surroundings, and even being in the right frame of mind to work on a cake.
The list is endless, but one of the main problems cake makers and decorators have to contend with is weather conditions, and I doubt that any country has perfect weather conditions all year around.
However, dedicated pastry chefs do not give up; they try their best to work around their problems, find recipes that stand up better to adverse weather conditions, and endeavor to produce perfect cakes.
Using rolling fondant to cover cakes results in a beautiful, smooth finish, unlike anything else, but if you live in an area where there are extreme weather conditions, it can be a daunting task. Here are some tips that may help and some information on turning your domestic fridge into a cake fridge.
When it’s cold…
Cold weather can make working with rolling fondant difficult, especially if you don’t heat your kitchen overnight, which is often the case if you need to keep cakes cool waiting to be delivered.
If fondant has been left in a cold kitchen or a cool pantry, then you need to bring it up to room temperature before you use it because cold fondant can be quite stiff and hard, will crumble, and be nearly impossible to roll out.
To work easily with your fondant, your kitchen needs to be approx 21C/70F, which is the standard temperature for a kitchen.
Also, if you store your fondant in a freezer, then remove it the night before you need to use it, and, keeping it tightly wrapped, make sure it thaws out completely and reaches room temperature before unwrapping it.
If by the time you need to use it, it has not warmed up enough, then placing it near a heater should speed up the process, or if you really can’t wait, then blast it for a FEW SECONDS at a time in the microwave until it is soft enough.
Note: Be careful not to overheat the fondant, or you will be at risk of burning your hands. If you overheat the fondant, it may be unusable because it’s sugar and sugar turns into toffee or burns when it’s overheated.
When it’s hot and humid…
In contrast, dealing with heat or heat & humidity can be just as frustrating. If the fondant gets too hot, it will be very soft, and if it’s humid, then the sugar in the fondant is likely to absorb moisture in the air and become sticky.
If you are going to make a lot of cakes, then it’s not worth the frustration of trying to work when you have no control over the temperature or the atmosphere in your kitchen.
The sensible thing to do is invest in air conditioning and, in extremely humid conditions, a dehumidifier. It makes economic sense as it saves a lot of bad temper and ruined ingredients.
However, if you only make the occasional cake, then it may be an expense you can’t justify. For my kitchen, I invested in a portable air conditioning unit and several fans. It works for me as the conditions where I live are not too extreme, but if your climate is more severe, then the setup I have may not be enough for you.
The best recipe…
My easy rolled fondant recipe, which you can find on my website blog, should be good to use in most climates.
The only ingredient that would melt is the white fat, but I don’t think there is enough in the recipe to affect it. Some people say you should leave it out, but I think it would change the texture and how it would roll out.
I know that some bakers who work in hot and humid conditions add ½ tsp of gum tragacanth/tylose powder to each 16oz/450g of fondant to give it a stiffer texture.
Hot and sticky
If your rolling fondant becomes sticky, it may not be just the weather; that’s the problem. If you have to work in a kitchen where cakes are baking simultaneously, it may have the same effect.
There are a few things you can do to make it easier to work with your fondant.
- You can wrap it well and place it in the fridge for 20 mins to cool down.
- If you tend to have hot hands, then cool them down frequently in cold water, but remember to dry them thoroughly, or you will alter the texture of the fondant.
- When you roll out the fondant, use cornflour/cornstarch instead of icing/confectioner’s sugar, and that will absorb the moisture more efficiently as you are working. However, please don’t use too much, or you will dry out the fondant and won’t get a smooth finish when you put it on your cake.
If you need to stick fondant to fondant while decorating a cake instead of using water, use alcohol, e.g., Vodka. The alcohol will evaporate quickly, it’s tasteless, and won’t add extra moisture to the fondant the same as water would.
When the cake is covered…
There can be problems when you have covered a cake with fondant so try to eliminate most of them from the start.
Try to make a cake with a filling that won’t go “off” quickly in the heat; for example, fresh cream will not keep long without refrigeration, and fresh fruit will go soggy very quickly.
In my blog post about Fillings & Frostings that will stand up better to extreme weather conditions, you will find recipes that are easy to make, are delicious and are easy to use.
If you need to use fillings that will perish without being refrigerated, then try not to put the fondant on until the day you need the cake.
A couple of hours before you want to use the cake, remove it from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature.
Covering cake taken straight out of the fridge is likely to cause condensation to form on the fondant and ruin any decorations.
If you have to refrigerate a cake covered with rolling fondant, then there are things you can do to cut down on the possibility of ruining it:
- Don’t put any gum paste sugar flowers on the cake before putting it in the fridge.
- It’s not wise to stack the cake before refrigerating it – also, you would need a huge fridge to take a stacked cake.
- Before you place a cake in the fridge, put it in a cardboard box.
- Place some silica-gel packs in the bottom of the box (which you can buy in craft shops or from Amazon) or uncooked, dry rice scattered in the bottom of the box to absorb the moisture.
- Close the box and cover it tightly with cling film/plastic food wrap.
- Set the fridge temperature to its warmest setting so not too much condensation forms when brought back up to room temperature.
- When you remove the cake from the fridge, leave it sealed in the box until it reaches room temperature, and you will, hopefully, prevent any condensation from forming and spoiling any decorations. The cardboard box, silica-gel, or rice should absorb it.
When you take the cake from the box, if by any chance there is still condensation left on it, don’t touch it, or you will ruin the surface and even make colors run. Leave it in the opened box and let it dry in the air.
If the filling doesn’t need refrigeration, then store fondant covered cakes in a cool place. The fondant will seal the cake, and it will stay fresh for a couple of days. Don’t refrigerate a rich fruit cake covered in fondant. Put it in a box, store it in a cool place, and it will keep for a long time.
If you have a large enough bakery, then investing in a baker’s humidity-controlled fridge would be the answer then fondant; covered cakes can be stored without any fear of being spoilt.
Some domestic fridges are also low in humidity. You can test the moisture level in your fridge by setting it to the warmest setting and placing a small, fondant covered, real cake (not a cake dummy because it won’t work) unboxed in the fridge. Leave it overnight, and you will be able to see if it has gathered any condensation. You may be the lucky one who doesn’t need to put the cake in a cardboard box.
Note: If you are using a domestic fridge for storing cakes, it shouldn’t be used for other food. Rolling fondant absorbs flavors and smells from anything it’s placed near. If you repurpose a fridge for your cakes, then wash it out thoroughly with a mild soap, rinse it well, dry it, then wipe it down with lemon juice, and that will eliminate any residue of smells, etc.
Your fridge can become a cake fridge…
Because I know how expensive buying specialized equipment can be, I have been searching the internet to find a way to convert a domestic refrigerator into a cake fridge.
During my search, I came across a company that has a product called a Polar Fresh Refrigerator Filter. It is a humidity control system that can be put into domestic fridges, and they also produce a system for commercial refrigerators.
I wrote to the company, asking for some details. Within a few hours, I received a very informative reply below from Pamela Goldstein from Humidity Control Systems, Inc., and she said I could pass the information on to you.
“Yes, we work with several bakeries and chocolatiers who have contacted us with similar concerns about the fondant cakes and chocolates sweating from too much moisture. We have successfully solved this problem with our filters for the majority of people. With our filter in place, they can refrigerate their cakes without the cardboard boxes, and the excess moisture is controlled nicely.
However, a small number of people said it didn’t help with the issue as much as they would have liked. It is hard to know exactly why it works for some and not as well for others. The type and condition of the refrigerator, how old it is, and its use can all play a factor in the outcome.
We also recommend that people let the items cool before putting them in the refrigerator because the warm and cold mixing will create moisture on the cakes and chocolates’ surfaces.
For customers in the United States with commercial walk-in and reach-in coolers, we provide a free trial for our commercial size filter, CoolerKING®, so they can see the results before signing up for the service.
For smaller residential size refrigerators, people can order our residential filter, Polar Fresh, on our website to try. We normally suggest using 2 Polar Fresh in the refrigerators used for this purpose.”
Humidity Control Systems, Inc.
It’s a bargain…
You can purchase the Polar Fresh filters directly from the company for around $30 for four months supply, which I think is a great price to eliminate the “sweaty cake” problem, and it is cheap enough to try it out in your fridge.
The company offers free shipping within the USA. Outside the USA, there is a link to a contact form on their order page where you can ask about delivery to other countries.
You can also buy Polar Fresh from Amazon for about the same price if you include shipping.
Tried and tested…
Like everything in the cake making and the decorating world, there is only one way to find out how the things you use will work for you, and that is to try them out.
Dealing with an extreme climate is no exception. If you want to produce perfect results, whether it’s a new recipe, a new method, a new ingredient, or new equipment, it is essential to have tried, tested, and practiced with it before making cakes for friends, family, or customers.
Tips for making gum paste flowers…
In my blog post about making Gum Paste Sugar Flowers in extreme weather conditions, you will find lots of tips and information that I am sure you will find useful.
I hope this article has helped you with some of your problems. I would love to hear from anyone who has made their domestic fridge into a cake fridge and also from anyone who has more ideas to offer about cake making and decorating in extreme weather conditions. Please put your comments below.