Oh humidity...why do you hate me so?

Here is the full Editorial from this months Cakes Decor Gazette, I got a little carried away and had to trim ALOT of it…sorry Michal haha!

Full March Editorial

Well good riddance February! I won’t miss your horrible humidity that storms our kitchens, moistening and pillaging, taking no prisoners and leaving soggy, sludgy messes in your wake!
Sydney has just suffered through one of its most humid months in memory and I have realised that Cake Decorating and humidity are mortal enemies!! Last weekend I had the pleasure of making an Under Sea themed Baby Shower cake for my gorgeous friend. I could see it in my mind the minute she told me of her theme…a tiny ‘merbaby’ with his shimmery, scaly tail nestled inside an open pearly clam shell sitting atop a shimmering blue tier swarming with beautiful hand painted sea creatures and billowing clouds of seaweed.
Then a double barrel tier awash with ocean coloured ombre ruffles sitting in a bed of soft, sparking sand……sigh…..can you tell I was a little bit excited to make this cake? Haha!
So I set about spending a week painstakingly making all the elements that needed to dry in time to be intricately hand painted. Everything was dry and ready to go when I got up on Friday morning to find everything droopy and soggy gasp!!! In to the oven they all went with the oven light on, 8 hours later they were all lovely and solid again so I started to attach all the coloured pieces to set in place firmly while I painted the others. I immediately wondered what I was doing wrong…each stroke I painted made the surface ball up and flake off…what the??? I turned to look at the cake only to realise the seaweed and clam shell were starting to bend in half and were now about as firm as a strand of cooked spaghetti!! So back in the oven everything went with the family issued with the standard “you turn the oven on you lose a limb” warning.
I then tackled the ruffles…I figured they would probably take me between 2 and 3 hours….there were a lot of ruffles! As soon as I put the second row on it flopped….I poked and prodded and glued and pasted…flop! Gah!! More tylose….flop….roll the fondant thicker…flop…thinner….flop! Then I had a brainstorm! I dug out my brand new packet of patchwork pins and sterilised them, then started turning the cake into the world’s biggest pin cushion. And you wouldn’t believe how well it worked! It ended up taking 5 hours but they all ended up staying where they were put.
Anyway, at about 5am I decided that the sea creatures were all just going to be pearl lustred and put everything back together, took some photos…terrible photos, thinking I would get some better ones in the daylight on the buffet table we had to set up. The cake and I were picked up at 9am (yes I was trashed lol!) and we made our way up the mountains to our destination an hour away. 10 minutes before arrival I foolishly peeked inside the box….you guessed it….everything was soggy again and the clam appeared to be devouring the tail-less baby Merman!
Upon arrival I sprang into action to save the poor tail-less Merbaby – yes it’s just a baby now – from the clutches of the Giant clam. A quick removal of the top shell and few more pokes and prods confirmed that this was as good as it was going to get and I spent the next 2 hours smiling, chatting and laughing with the chant “eat the evidence’” “eat the evidence” running through the back of my mind. Sigh…..talk about a fast way to make you feel like you know absolutely nothing! Please tell me I’m not alone….

I seem to have beaten the enemy on the home front between using my air conditioner and the good old oven light, but transportation has killed me each time. I would love to hear any of your shockers or successes battling the dreaded enemy to sugar that is humidity :)

Raewyn, Sydney, Australia https://www.facebook.com/cakesbyraewyn

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14 Replies

KellieJ75 ...

oh Raewyn! I blogged my first blog about a disaster with humidity! Ganache melting off the cake and then making the fondant reallly sticky…I hear ya loud and clear!!!

Xclusive ...

You actually can’t battle humidity, its more like coping with it. I live in a humid tropical climate (Lagos – a costal city in Nigeria), where relative humidity varies from 84% – 89 % and temperatures of 27 – 37 degress centigrade (temperatures actually hit above 40c in Northern Nigeria). We usually experience 2 batches of pouring raining season in a year (March – July & Sept – Oct). However, with the global warming issue, the raining season is now more intensive & extensive. So how do I cope?………….

Usually omit glycerin from my paste ( my sugarpaste is home made, newly introduced commercial brands e.g Satin icing are way too expensive & available colour range is limited.) In extreme weather, Iuse a blend of flower paste & sugarpaste to cover the cake.

Incorporate CMC – carboxylmethy lcellulose (synthetic version of gum tragacanth) in to my sugarpaste.

Keep my fondant colours as pastel as possible, it will be a disaster if you covered the entire cake with a dark / intense coloured paste – the cake will be sweaty, sticky, decorations keeps sliding off etc. Most gel paste colours contain glycerin – a humectant. These readily absorb moisture from the atmosphere.

Try to create a condusive atmosphere in my workstation – shut window and doors keeps the humid air out.

Keep decorated cakes in the cake box & using dessicants like silica gel to help absorb moisture.

Finally use a warming cupboard to dry out gum paste items e.g flowers, figurines etc.

Raewyn, hope you find this input useful!

Bliss Pastry ...

I battle humidity most of the year in Florida. My house is also old, drafty and temperatures inside reach 84 degrees regardless of my AC setting. Best advice is have a small dehumidifier by your work station, knead fondant on a marble slab really helps as the marble stays cool, work fast, adding glycerin to fondant will help if it is a dark color but the best thing to add to fondant in high humidity is Wilton fondant. It is the most firm of any fondant I’ve tried and although it tastes less great it always works in humidity if you can’t afford the massa that is made for high humidity. Adding just a little makes a big difference to the stability of fondant like satin ice which, for me, is very soft in the heat. Also delivering cakes in boxes sealed with dry ice inside makes a world of difference. Most venues do not have the internal humidity issues that my house has so the dry ice prevents sweating. As for ganache I make that more firm on hot days and have never had an issue with it melting off the cake. I avoid buttercream whenever possible except as a filling.

Radhika ...

That’s the bane of my life too. I have to make all my figures out of 100% gumpaste. Otherwise my figures look like jellyfish mutants from the X-men movies.
And woe betide if I assemble my figures and leave them to dry….the heads sink into the necks, the torsos start to look like Arnold Shwarzenegger’s, and I have to start all over again. sob The amount of gumpaste I go through…I make limbs and lay them down to dry. My husband says it looks like a scene from CSI.

miettes ...

Oh yes, I too live in a country that is humid most of the time, except few days far in between like today for example where it’s cold and dry… So off to do some flowers :-)
I totally relate to xclusive about not working with dark colors when it is humid because, one, I have to add more gel color to get to the strength of the color needed which makes the fondant too moist, and two, oh the shine on the fondant, looks horrible!!! I noticed that the leftover fondant I have with dark colors are much softer than the ones with lighter color. Does adding gumpaste to fondant makes things better, like the suggestion above?

Tea Party Cakes ...

I’ve had one experience with humidity and became immediately glad that I don’t normally have to deal with it where I live. Were I live it’s rarely super hot and there is no humidity. I mean non, as in if you don’t moisturize you will actually dry out and start looking like one of those shruken mummified voodoo heads. I travelled back to my hometown for a friends wedding and set about decorating their wedding cake at my Mom’s. Now normally my Mom’s house is like a deep freeze because of the airconditioner, but as it happens it was broken that weekend, so not only did I have the humidity to deal with but the heat as well. So here I am with buttercream iced cakes and I’m trying to cover them to look like a stack of books. The buttercream was melting so I had to very quickly cover them and then pop them in the fridge. Every time I brought them back out they would sweat like crazy. I had two huge fans set up to dry them while I worked. It took me forever to decorate those cakes because I would have to stop and put them in the fridge, let them firm up again, bring them out and then work as fast as I could before the cake started to melt and puddles developed on the fondant. All I can say is never again will I decorate a cake at my Mom’s, lol!

Callicious Cakes ...

I have had humidity issues too in Malta working with ganache on my very first cake ever… talk about a multiple challenge!!! Then (again in Malta) I did my son’s long-term girlfriend’s cake in humid conditions (why did I choose ganache again!!!) and the one side slumped, and then sweated like mad… then here in the UK…. but I have found a way to combat and reduce this problem by working with ice packs under tea towels to keep cooling my hands on and popping the cakes in and out of the fridge while I work, not leaving them in too long as they would sweat… it a hassle, but it does work :) … and also to try ad find the coolest room, which his not always possible!!! It is a frustration of note for us all without a doubt.. How do these people do it in heat all the year around??? I relate to Naomi … I have no air con, but would seriously consider a portable unit if a regular occurrence. Sugar-paste takes far longer to dry too, so need to allow extra time…

Great topic Rae and look how brilliantly your 24 hour cake turned out :) xxx

ClearlyCake ...

I’ve just read the CakesDecor Gazette, and laughed out loud at this bit: “I spent the next 2 hours smiling, chatting and laughing with the chant “eat the evidence’” “eat the evidence” running through the back of my mind.”
I made a cake where the party was being held in a park in the summer. Not only was it raining but it was also very windy. By the time we’d walked to the gazebo, the models had started coming apart, so I had to try piecing them back together. Then there were lots of kids wanting to touch the models on the cake. Inside my head I was just willing that cake to be sliced up and eaten :D
Last summer I made a cake with 5 ‘standing up’ sugar gerberas. It was quite a humid time, but being the UK, not what can be experienced in other countries. After 4 days they still weren’t dry, so I ended up having to dry them with the cold air on the hairdryer (air con is not a standard fitting in the UK). I still ended up keeping them in the flower formers until delivery, paranoid they’d flop.

superstar ...

I moved to Hawaii 7 years ago from Southern California where it is dry & such low humidity I don’t even think it counts! Fortunately we live on Kauai which has the least humidity of all the islands (in my opinion) but the first year here was during the time it rained practically non stop for 40 days!!!! It was just plain WET that year & I nearly gave up cake decorating for good….however I experimented & asked advice from all around the world & now I can happily say that I am not having problems. I use mostly Satin Ice fondant with 2 or more teaspoons of Tylose & 1 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar kneaded into the fondant. Of course I always tell everyone not to eat the decorations as they will taste sour from the Cream of Tartar. I also mix 1/2 teaspoon Tylose into my fondant for covering cakes & making decorations that go directly on to the cake & will be eaten. Hope this helps a little.

Raewyn Read - Cakes by Raewyn ...

Haha!! Oh I love these stories! It feels so god to know I’m not alone and I love the advice you’ve all given. I will have to try all of them. I especially love Calli’s idea of the ice bricks in tea towels for cooling hands, and Kristen the dry ice idea is brilliant! Will have to track some of that down ASAP :) And Superstar, will definitely try the Cream of Tartar idea thanks. Poor Naomi, I hear you!!
Luckily because I have installed an amazing air con unit in the kitchen (sacrificing the bedrooms…the things we do!!) covering cakes with fondant is no longer an issue…but hopefully all these wonderful ideas will solve my decor issues…no more droopy Giant Clam shells gobbling little sleeping babies ;)
Thanks everyone :) x

Sugarpixy ...

Raewyn I feel your pain! Here is Cayman the humidity is always a huge factor mostly 90- 95%, but surprisingly this week only around 85%. My trick is to subtract liquid. So for ganache I use a 5 to 1 ratio for dark chocolate and 6 to 1 for milk and white chocolate. For buttercream I only use 1/4 of the liquid that the standard recipe call for as the air will add the rest. For fondant I use a mixture of Massa Ticcino Tropical and Wilton with gumtex/tylose. The more humid it gets the more tylose/gumtex I add. I hope that this helps. x

Verusca Walker ...

I feel your pain Raewyn. I am very close to the sea here in Wollongong. The humidity is 91%
I lost a lot of my display cakes. Very sad :(

Eat Cake ...

Hi Raewyn, here in Auckland we also get high humidity (80-90%) though thankfully not all year round! I recently had major problems with some sugarveil, the humidity was at about 84% and I just couldn’t get it to come off the slicone sheet without it ripping to pieces. I tried about 5 times before sending sugarveil themselves a facebook message in sheer frustration! They were extremely helpful, answered my message from the other side of the world within a day and this was their advice: If the humidity is really high, make the sugarveil mix up and leave it for an hour or so, then when you want to spread it on your silicone sheet/mould, turn your oven on, work as close as possible to the oven and have a fan going over your work at the same time. I left the fan on the sheet of sugarveil for about three hours and it dried and I managed to get it off with only minor tearing! This was my first time using sugarveil so I was extremely happy it worked as the sheets and tools are quite expensive! I hope this might be helpful to anyone else trying sugarveil in high humidity! :)

Cake Decor in Cairns ...

Loved reading this – can totally relate. I am in Cairns Far North Queensland – this is the story of my cake decorating life most of the year. Xoxo