Sorry I have been MIA from the blog for so long… *checks notes* …apparently it has been nearly two months since I last posted here! *shocked face*
Like many of you, I have been scrabbling around for a while now, trying to find any and all work that I can to stay afloat during the uncertainty of lockdown and it has certainly kept me busy. If you’d like to know more, then I’d be happy to put together a dedicated post to let you know what I have been up to over the last-however-many weeks, but that’s not what I am here to talk to you about today.
No, today – as the country continues to be engulfed in one of our rare, but not entirely uncommon heatwaves – I want to talk to you about baking and caking when temperatures soar.
When you compare the UK to many other parts of the world, we are generally pretty lucky when it comes to cake-friendly weather, but (and it’s a big but) when our inevitable three days of summer hit, it can be a struggle – British people just aren’t built for coping in a heatwave – so throw cake decorating into the mix and all kinds of turmoil ensues…
I don’t know about you, but when the thermometer is pushing into the thirties, the last thing I want to do is head into the kitchen and start baking – and we all know how much buttercream, ganache, sugar paste, modelling paste, etc hate the heat. Whether it’s melting buttercream, deflating bakes, random air pockets or tricky deliveries, the summer brings with it no end of challenges. But, when paid clients are waiting for their special cakes, many of us don’t have the option of just choosing not to bake and create, so what do we do instead?
Well, after seeing a LOT of posts from people struggling to cope over the last couple of days (and while I await the annual arrival of the inevitable Bear Grylls memes), I figured I would reach out to some of my bestest cake chums and see how they ‘keep on keeping on’ when the warmer weather hits.
So, without much further ado, I present to you our (hopefully useful) guide on How to Survive Caking in a Heatwave – featuring some of your favourite cake talents…
Suzanne Esper – Suzanne Esper Cake School
If you can afford it, invest in an on the wall air conditioning unit. Effective models can cool a room in under five minutes. I also added reflective window film to my six full-length windows to keep the temperature down too. Not only does this help to keep the room cooler, it also offers privacy too! You can have a rave in your underwear while making your cakes and your neighbours are none the wiser…
Suzanne Thorp – The Frostery
If it is especially hot, change your working hours to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. I find it easier to work earlier before the temperature really starts to really creep up.
Zoe Hopkinson – Zoe’s Fancy Cakes
Use the hotter part of the day to catch up on your admin (or your sleep!) and work early in the morning or late at night.
Rosie Dummer – Rosie Cake-Diva
If you are finding that your ganache is melting, increase the ratio of chocolate to cream in your mix. And keep your cool. I recommend drinking plenty of gin. With ice.
Zoe Hopkinson – Zoe’s Fancy Cakes
I avoid buttercream and tend to stick to chocolate ganache in warmer weather. I’d also recommend investing in a really good quality fondant as some cope better in heat than others.
New to chocolate ganache? Find the recipe here.
Molly Robbins – Molly’s Creative Cakes
I get really hot when I am caking, which means my hands end up hot and melt everything. I find that placing a desk fan on either side of my work station ensures I stay cool, calm and collected.
Shawna McGreevy – Cakeheads
Try to avoid using modelling chocolate for any part of your cake project during a heat wave. Modelling chocolate softens easily in the heat and it also sweats (a lot!) when taken from a cooler/fridge into higher temperatures and humidity. Stick with gumpaste or modelling paste for decorations and straight fondant when covering tiers, otherwise you may find yourself fighting off a sudden urge to throw your project at the wall… ahem… so I’ve heard.
Rob Baker-Gall – Mr Baker’s Cakes
In recent years, modelling pastes made from cocoa-butter have become more and more popular, however these can often struggle in warmer weather. If you are struggling to work with cocoa-butter-based pastes, you can try switching to flower paste or gumpaste instead – or, if these aren’t available, don’t be afraid to place your model in the fridge for short bursts to help everything stay nice and firm.
Corinna Maguire – Lovin’ from the Oven
Work with an ice pack wrapped in a tea towel to cool down your hands as you work. And if you normally work with 100% modelling chocolate (like me) mix it with some fondant to stop it from melting so quickly.
Vicky Teather – Yellow Bee
My tip is to wrap a freezer block in a tea towel and place it into a freezer bag. Place your hands or the model on the bag while you work to keep everything cool.
Suzanne Thorp – The Frostery
Occasionally, when it is especially hot I will keep a cake in the fridge overnight, but place it in the cake box first as this prevents condensation forming on the cake when you bring it out of the fridge. I would never put a cake in the fridge with sugar flowers on it though – leave those until the last minute.
Carol Smith – Cakes by Carol
After a bit of a disaster a few years back, I now have an insulated box that was created just for transporting wedding cakes. It is large enough that I can place a whole stacked cake inside it and it’s honestly one of the best things I have added to my caking kit. And the best part? It only cost around £40, including the insulation.
Accept that things inevitably won’t go to plan… and learn from your mistakes!
Paul Bradford – CakeFlix
Just to reassure you that disasters happen to the best of us, thank you to Paul and David from CakeFlix for sharing this cake-related horror story with us all…
“My biggest disaster happened as a result of not giving the warm summer temperatures, the respect they deserved.
“It was 2005, I had been running my cake shop for 3 years and everything was going smoothly. We were in central Scotland, so warm temperatures are not something that happened all too often. However, I had a phone call from a bride who was travelling up from London and was concerned about her cake for the Saturday. I reassured her that I had never had a problem with a cake yet!
“Oh dear… how I would come to regret those words.
“Fast forward to Saturday and David went out delivering the wedding cakes throughout central Scotland. It was a warm day, but we assumed that, with the air conditioning on in the van, everything would be fine. The first five cakes were delivered early in the morning, but this final one was a two and-a-half hour drive away. We had been recommended by a well-known outside caterer, so we were keen to make the right impression.
“When David turned up, the catering manager came out to greet him. David opened the back door to the van and… well… the cake had totally melted. In fact, the only things that were still recognisable were some modelling chocolate roses.
“The catering manager went berserk! There was no time to get a replacement and it was too far away for any other company to help out. The only thing we could do was give a full refund and send a bouquet of flowers to the bride with a humble apology.
“The key lesson from then on was to change our working and delivery patterns in warm weather. We had air conditioning in the van, but it was certainly no match for the build up of heat. On any days that the temperature was due to be above 18°C, we started filling sealable plastic boxes with ice cubes, storing them in the van. This was enough to keep the internal air temperature lower for a while.
“When it was due to be over 25°C, we switched our working patterns entirely, sometimes even at night, to decorate the cakes. We would also strongly advise our customers to have dark chocolate ganache as an outer support covering. The cakes would be kept in as cool an area of the shop or bakery, which again had lots of trays of ice close by.
“When the cake was being delivered to a venue, David would always phone a couple of days before to find out where the cake was to be displayed and work out any storage arrangements. You would be surprised by how little wedding co-ordinators know or even care about cake storage.”
Have we missed anything? What is your top tip for coping during a heatwave? Be sure to head down to the comments and let us know! Perhaps I can curate some of your best suggestions together for a follow up post…?
Remember, stay cool and, until next time… happy caking! xx