by Sharon Wee

When I first started cake decorating the most impressive cakes were mad hatters and topsy turvy. Everyone wanted to know how to make those and I remember trying to make a few myself 🙂

Fast forward a couple of years and cakes start to defy gravity, they got crazier and their structures more insane. Sometimes it seems like you may need a degree in engineering, industrial tools or a personal tradesman to be able to build gravity defying cakes. But really, it’s all about good planning, a little common sense, a visit to the hardware store, being realistic and a little creativity with what’s available to you.

The very first gravity defying cake i made almost 4 years ago. The jug on top is cake too :)
The very first gravity defying cake I made almost 4 years ago. The jug on top is cake too 🙂

Below are some tips and hints to get you started but here is a little disclaimer – of course if you want a super gravity defying, floating, spinning, musical, jumping, dancing cake, you do need more professional equipment or advice. An option is to arrange a private consultation or class with an experienced decorator if you can afford the time. However, the below is a good way to get started and are the tips that I live by.

1. Plan and draw diagrams before you start! It is advisable to enlarge the picture of what you are planning to make to actual size to work out your structure strategy and which parts should or should not be cake.

If you want to learn more about using templates and planning out structures, you can check out Mike's Craftsy class here.
If you want to learn more about using templates and planning out structures, you can check out Mike McCarey’s Advanced Sculpting Craftsy class.

Based on the actual sized picture you will also be able to work out how much cake you need for the project and how many servings you will get out of it. Allow for a loss of about 10% of servings. If you are in doubt about the servings, you can always provide a kitchen cake.

2. The hardware store is your friend. If you bring in pictures of what you want to create, most people there will be kind enough to help you work out the best way.

3. Make sure you have a strong base board like MDF wood to support your structure.

4. Always be realistic and consider gravity. Don’t try and fight mother nature. Also ensure you have enough weight at the bottom to balance out the weight at the top. Top-heavy cakes are possible but more stressful when it comes to transportation! If you want some tips on cake transportation, check out my blog post on 11 tips for stress-free cake deliveries.

The elephant is almost all cake which makes this project a lot harder to transport.
The elephant is almost all cake which makes this project a lot harder to transport.

5. When planning your cake design, think about small corners or odd shapes – how will you cover it? How will you hide the seams?

This cake is by Kaysie Lackey and you can learn how to set up and cover a complex shape like this one in her Craftsy class.
This beautiful cake is by Kaysie Lackey and you can learn how to set up and cover a complex shape like this one in her online video Craftsy class.

6. Ensure you use a dense cold cake. This makes it easier for carving and will ensure it does not fall apart if you need to build it around complicated structures. I love using a chocolate mud cake. You can find my recipe and more through my online recipe calculator.

7. Consider the size of the finished cake to determine what materials to use. If it’s smaller or not too complex you can get away with using wood or foam core. Have a more complex structure? Consider using metal or thicker pieces of wood.

This was a relatively simple cake so I only used a wooden dowel and armature wire (for the arms - it can be found in art stores) for support.
This was a relatively simple cake (a sitting bear) so I only used a wooden dowel and armature wire (for the arms – it can be found in art stores) for support. This is one of the projects from my book Playful Party Cakes.

8. It is advisable to weight test the structure. Place buckets of fondant on it overnight to check that it will be able to hold the weight of the cakes, ganache and fondant.

There is a 7kg bucket of fondant inside that bag.
There is a 7kg bucket of fondant inside that bag.

Then once you have built the structure or put the cake on it, give it a shake. Go on! A good nice shake too. If it falls apart, better it does that when you can fix it rather than during the delivery. Your structure should be able to withstand a good shake or two. If it can’t outlast that how will it deal with potholes, speed bumps and sharp turns?

9. It is far more important for the cake to get there in one piece rather for every single element to be edible – if you feel the need to substitute with styrofoam to give yourself peace of mind, do it.

IMG_6073
You can see the full tutorial for this t-rex cake in The Creation of Mr. Rex blog post.

10. Make sure you seal the structure to protect against the cake. You can do this by painting chocolate over the structure or wrapping with floral tape or cling wrap.

Because the top was going to be all cake and much bigger and heavier than the bottom, I used a metal structure inside.
This was wrapped with floral tape and cling wrap. See the full Hello Kitty Cake Tutorial here.

11. Hot glue is king! Invest in a good hot glue gun from a hardware store and glue the joins if needed as they sometimes can spin loose.

12. Make sure you take a picture of the structure or create a drawing for your client so they know how to cut the cake and what is edible.

IMG_7956

I hope you find the above tips helpful and a great starting point for creating your own gravity defying cakes. Feel free to add your own below. Above all, don’t be afraid to practise and just give it a try! For now I leave you with the most recent gravity defying cake I made 🙂

It moves! So the guests can play around and mix and match their own cake design :)
It moves! So the guests can play around and mix and match their own cake design 🙂

If you love learning online, the below classes by Marina Sousa and Lauren Kitchens on Craftsy is a great start to gravity defying cakes. There are lots of techniques within those classes which you can adapt and use for lots of different projects 🙂

Fondant Techniques: The Sweet Treat Tower - Learn more and get a discount!

Gravity-Defying Cake Designs - Learn more and get a discount!

Some of Sharon's favourite tools

9 Comments on 12 Tips and Hints for Gravity Defying Cakes

  1. Rachel
    May 16, 2016 at 11:08 am (1 year ago)

    Hi Sharon! I have a question for you, that relates to both gravity-defying and regular fondant-covered cakes. I was told in a cake decorating class that you have to make your ganache a day early and leave it to set in the bowl/container overnight before re-softening and covering your cake with it (to use under fondant). Something to do with the crystallisation process enabling it to set correctly if you do it this way. This has always stressed me out no end – because what if I run out halfway through covering my cake, and have to make more and wait a day to use it?! This has happened before, and it’s totally thrown out my schedule, but I’ve been too scared to risk using fresh ganache because I was specifically told not to. So… Do you also rest your ganache overnight before using it? Or do you make ganache and use it straight away on your cakes? Would love your insight! Thanks 🙂

    Reply
    • Sharon Wee
      May 16, 2016 at 1:39 pm (1 year ago)

      Hi Rachel, I also think it’s better to leave it overnight but I have also used fresh ganache before. So if you run out half way it shouldn’t be a problem. Just focus on the important areas first 🙂

      Reply
  2. Rose
    June 16, 2016 at 3:48 am (1 year ago)

    Thank you Sharon,this is very helpful.

    Reply
  3. elizabeth
    June 16, 2016 at 5:15 am (1 year ago)

    sharon i love ur creativity,i will like to have u as my mentor.wat are d possibilities .am from nigeria

    Reply
    • Sharon Wee
      June 20, 2016 at 4:59 pm (1 year ago)

      Hi Elizabeth, I don’t really offer mentoring at the moment but I do have some online tutorials, books, and videos on my website at http://www.sharonwee.com.au 🙂

      Reply
  4. Oluyemisi
    August 19, 2016 at 9:11 pm (1 year ago)

    Perfect finish.very inspiring!
    Am more than impressed!

    Reply
  5. Veronica
    December 2, 2016 at 5:10 am (9 months ago)

    Sent from my iPhone

    I am wondering whats your opinion/ expiriencd with “cake frame” brand for cake structure. I have invested quite a lot in to it cuz it does dounds like an awesome and supa universal tool. In reality though it is great for small /narrow cakes (20 cm in diameter tops i would say). But it is very complicated to use it for wide cakes and you end up having a complex web of frame tubes and plates which leaves mut much space for cake and makes it complicated to cut. Now this is not only my expirience, i saw lots of complains in comments about it on youtibe. To me it has great potential but needs an improvement. Besides that, the owener of the brand sugest constantely to play around in order to come up with strurdy structure. Great advise BUT barrly makes that product a money saver. Think about it : if you have to spend few days playing around with a structure for one cake only.. you will have to charge your client for that time because you have to decline all other orders. And i doubdt most of people want to pay that much for s cake! Now wooden board and iron pins might not be reusable but at least they can hold the cake with just one piece instead of a web of pipes. The only problem is thst you might need to drill or cut wood which requires tools snd space and that was the main reason i was investing in to cake frame.

    Reply
    • Sharon Wee
      December 3, 2016 at 10:51 am (9 months ago)

      Hi Veronica, I haven’t personally used cake frame yet but I think it’s probably best for beginners and smaller projects. For larger and heavier projects I would just use a different structure like I do now.

      Reply
  6. Veronica
    December 2, 2016 at 5:13 am (9 months ago)

    Sorry for misspells ..not easy to see when typing on a phone

    Reply

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