Common Cake Decorating Issues and Solutions

Don’t you despise it when you spend hours in the kitchen attempting to create a cake masterpiece just to look at it and wonder, “Why doesn’t my cake look like the picture?” , or Why can’t I make this thing appear right? Believe me, I understand how irritating it is. As a result, today I’ll discuss frequent cake design issues and how to prevent them.

Let’s get started, shall we?

There are affiliate links in this post. I earn money as an Amazon Associate by making qualifying purchases. My policies are linked in the website footer.

Cake Decorating Problem #1:

When you’re icing your cake, it crumbles on you.

I believe we have all faced this issue. I’ve discovered that chocolate cakes are the worst at crumbling, and I’m not sure why. My theory is that they are simply more moist than other cakes, but I cannot confirm this.

Ways to Prevent It:

There are a handful of solutions to this issue. Choose one of these or combine them depending on how crumbly your cake is.

Cool your cake (but only for a bit). Put it in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes, or in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes. You don’t want to cool it all the way through or you’ll have air pockets (see below). You simply need the exterior to stiffen up somewhat. This method works most of the time.

Try a crumb coat first, with your icing thinned somewhat. Just take a tiny bit of your buttercream, dilute it slightly with milk, and spread it thinly all over the cake. Just put it in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes. Remember, you don’t want it to become too cold, since this can create problems later. You only need the crumb coat to firm up before applying the outside coat of buttercream.

Cake Decorating Problem #2:

Blowing out your buttercream

See that big ol’ bubble near the top? It reminds me of the old Alien film where the alien is trying to escape from their stomachs. Okay, that’s gross, and it’s not an alien exploding out of your cake, but it might as well be because it’s ruining the overall appearance of your cake, right?

Ways to Prevent It:

Moisture, in my experience, causes these air pockets to form. Of course, you want your cake to be moist, so you don’t want to make a dry cake just to avoid blowouts. That is not the solution here. Moisture becomes trapped between the cake and the buttercream. The solution? Well, I discovered that chilling your cake completely before icing it traps condensation between the cake and the buttercream.

So, in the first problem we discussed (the crumbling cake), I mentioned chilling it for a few minutes. The trick is to chill it for the shortest amount of time you can get away with. If you’re using perishable icing or buttercream, you won’t have much of a choice and will have to keep it completely chilled.

I’ve discovered that the problem occurs when it’s been chilled or kept in the fridge before being brought out to serve and left on the table for a while. That’s when the blow-out happens. Typically, you decorate your cake, spend a long time smoothing the buttercream and perfecting it, then return the next day to take it to the event and BAM! a huge blow out on the side.

I realize what I’m saying is a little controversial, and many people disagree and enjoy decorating and keeping their cakes chilled. Do what works best for you, but it has always resulted in blowouts for me. If you’re having trouble with those pesky air pockets, it never hurts to try something new.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your cake layers should be leveled, the tops should be flat, and the cake should have had time to settle (which we will discuss below).

Cake Decorating Problem #3:

Ridges of Icing Around the Cake

Okay, here’s a picture I made using Canva. It’s a lovely photograph, but the cake has settled, resulting in an icing ridge around the middle and bottom. The filling squishing out once the cake has settled or reached room temperature causes the icing ridge around the middle.

This can happen for a variety of reasons. It’s easy to overfill the spaces between the layers of cake. Your icing may also be a little thin. But I have some suggestions.

Ways to Prevent It:

Some people prefer to use what is known as an icing dam. Personally, I have not had much success with this method, but others have. To try it, simply take a small amount of icing, thicken it with confectioners sugar (if using American Buttercream), and pipe a line around the cake layer. Fill in the gaps with regular buttercream, then stack your cake layers on top. This hasn’t completely stopped the ridges for me, so I try something different, but it takes a little longer.

What I like to do is layer my cakes as usual (no dams), but I take great care not to over-fill between the layers. I’ll then apply a thin layer of buttercream (similar to a crumb coat) to the entire cake. I cover it loosely with saran wrap or press-n-seal wrap and set it aside to settle.

I don’t chill my cakes because it firms everything up and I want the cake to settle before I decorate it. Allow it to settle for at least an hour (several hours is preferable), preferably overnight. Once it has settled, return and scrape away any excess that has squeezed out of the sides. Then go ahead and cover the entire cake in buttercream and continue decorating. This is the method that works best for me.

Cake Decorating Problem #4:

Leaning Cakes and Sliding Cake Layers

Okay, I don’t have a picture of a leaning or sliding cake, but you get the idea, right?

Ways to Prevent It:

This can be caused by a number of factors.

Leveling the cake layers is required. You can use a long knife or a cake leveler to level the cake.

Each cake layer should be completely flat. This will also help to keep your buttercream from bulging. Uneven cake layers will cause all sorts of issues, and the entire cake may even move on you while you’re icing it.

Also, ensure that your buttercream is not too thin. This one should go without saying, but if your buttercream isn’t thick enough, your cake layers will slide around on you.

Cake Decorating Problem #4:

You’re having trouble getting your buttercream smooth.

I wrote an entire blog post about smoothing buttercream because it appears to be a huge issue, and I have a ton of tips to help with that. That may be found here: How to Make Silky Buttercream

That’s all there is to it! Typical Cake Decorating Issues and Solutions. I hope these were helpful, and if you come across any other issues, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d be delighted to assist!

If you’d like a free printable reference guide for this post, click here:

Download the printable reference guide here

You might also want to read the following blog posts for more information:

You Just Need a Few Dollars to Begin Designing Cakes

How to Make Moist Cake

How to Make Silky Buttercream

25 Insanely Useful Cake Baking Tips



How do you decorate a cake without making a mess?

A chilled cake crumbles less and makes getting a nice finish on your frosting much simpler. Place a small sheet of baking paper underneath the cake to avoid making a mess of your plate while icing. After you’re through icing, carefully remove the paper away from the plate to create a drip-free plate.

What do you think are the 3 most important tools when decorating a cake?

The 10 Best Cake Decorating Tools for Novices
Leveler for cakes. The cake leveler is one of the most basic yet important cake decorating tools. When it comes to icing and serving your cake, a cake turntable is the best tool.
Piping nozzles. Cake comb. Piping bags. Cake airbrush. Cake spatula. Cake scraper.
More to come…

What are the factors to consider in decorating cakes?

Be aware of the following factors that can have an impact on the appearance of your decorated cake:
Sunshine and fluorescent lights will change the color of the frosting.
Humidity can cause royal icing and gum paste decorations to soften.
Heat may cause frosting to melt and embellishments to droop.
More to come…

What are the different tips for a successful cake decoration?

Beginner Cake Decorating Tips
Tip #1: Use high-quality cake decorating tools.
Cake Decorating Tip #2: After the crumb coat, freeze your cake.
Cake Decorating Step #3: Make a 45-degree angle with your cake scraper.
Cake Decorating Tip #4: When applying buttercream, use a cake acrylic disk.
More to come…
•Jan 19, 2023

What are the four faults in cake making?

The flour was too soft.
The cake was placed in the oven before it had completely set.
The following are the most common causes:
There is too much baking powder.
Excessive sugar consumption (this will be apparent if the cake also has a crisp, sugary crust)
Excessive Fat

What are the common errors in cake making?

Cake Baking Errors You Should Avoid
You did not properly prepare your pan. If your pan is not properly prepared, your cake may come out of the oven stuck to the pan…. Using Expired Leaveners…. Using Cold Ingredients…. Not Measuring Properly…. Opening the Oven…. Oven Temperature…. Over Or Under Mixing.
Apr 18, 2022

What are the common cake faults?

Too Dense is a common cake baking mistake. If you’ve ever baked a dense cake that doesn’t seem to rise properly, there are a few reasons why. …
Cake Overflows…. A Sunken Cake…. Stuck to the Pan…. Crusty Edges…. Cake Batter is Too Stiff…. Fruit Dropping to the Bottom.
More to come…

What are the 5 kinds of cake decorating?

Spatula Icing is one of the 7 Cake Decorating Techniques Every Pastry Chef Should Know. … Piping…. Fondant Work…. Hand Painting…. Sugar Work…. Airbrushing…. Mirror Glaze. Just as a room requires a good coat of paint before its decor can shine, the first step to a beautiful cake is a flawless coat of icing.
Feb 7, 2022

Rate this post