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Hawaiian Buttercream


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11 replies to this topic

#1 chefpeon

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Posted 13 March 2005 - 08:14 PM

Hello everyone......

As I've said many time in previous posts, I'm lucky to live in the Pacific NW.......it makes so many things easy as far as pastry and cakes go......I don't really have to worry much about
humidity and heat.

One of my cake decorating friends recently moved to Hawaii, and is starting his own cake
biz there. He's already noticing problems regarding stability in his buttercream, and he wrote
me and asked for my advice. Gosh. If there's anything I don't know a whole lot about, it's
doing cakes in harsh environments.

I know there's a lot of you who work in environments much harsher than mine.....like the
South or East or Midwest...not to mention Hawaii. I ask you, what are your tips and solutions for warm weather buttercream?

It's all much appreciated!!! :wub:

#2 chiantiglace

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Posted 13 March 2005 - 09:24 PM

I probably live in the harshest of climates so I might be able to help you a bit. Really any little thing will help the cake. May I suggest lighter sponges and superior suport structures. Any filling you use should be stiff at room temp and practically solid at refrigeration.

Royal icing, gumpaste and fondant are very difficult to keep set up.

Fondant is a real pain. A lot of my friends who have used it swear against it especially for outdoor weddings because the fondant ends up peeling away and or sliding off the sides.

And decoration in which gravity has a definate roll I would either exclude from or prepare at last minute for dryer products such as royal icing and pastillage.

Any pulled sugar or cast sugar should be done the day of the event and should NOT at any time go under cooling stages.

I suggest buttercream with elaborate piping designs and fresh decorations (flowers, fruit, etc)

Also be careful of tilt. I've seen a few cakes in production working under another pastry chef that have "sloped" during production due to mis treatment + humidity.
Dean Anthony Anderson
"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This
Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

#3 pastrymama

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Posted 13 March 2005 - 09:53 PM

If he is using French or Swiss meringue buttercream he can replace up to half of the butter with a high ratio shortening that will help it be more stable. Adding the shortening won't change the flavor much. If he is already making a shortening based buttercream there is a powdered stabelizer that can be added. It can be bought at cake decorating supply shops and on line. Also if the cake is to be set outside, he should have a contract that specifies it has to be in a covered-shaded area or he won't be responsible for the outcome.
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#4 chiantiglace

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Posted 13 March 2005 - 11:14 PM

you mean swiss or italian?
Dean Anthony Anderson
"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This
Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

#5 simdelish

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 02:37 PM

Having made literally hundreds of specialty cakes over the years, many in the notorious high humidity of DC (after all, it IS built on a swamp!) or on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, or even on moving boats on the water, I feel I can speak with some authority on dealing with humidity.
I agree on these points,

May I suggest superior suport structures.

Any pulled sugar or cast sugar should be done the day of the event and should NOT at any time go under cooling stages.

Any filling you use should be stiff at room temp and practically solid at refrigeration.


but I disagree greatly on the following:

May I suggest lighter sponges 
Royal icing, gumpaste and fondant are very difficult to keep set up.

Fondant is a real pain. especially for outdoor weddings because the fondant ends up peeling away and or sliding off the sides.

And decoration in which gravity has a definate roll I would either exclude from or prepare at last minute for dryer products such as royal icing and pastillage.

I suggest buttercream with elaborate piping designs and fresh decorations (flowers, fruit, etc)

View Post


The firmer the cake, the better it will hold up. Yes, weight is an important consideration if you are stacking several heavy tiers, but if your supports/dowels/whatever are strong enough, the heavier cake just helps keep them in place better. If you use a light sponge cake, I would increase internal support.

In the summer, I really try to sway customers from fillings like lemon curd. Yes, it is delicious, but it is slippery, more so than buttercream. Even if you use a bit of gelatin to help solidify, the gelatin can actually make the filling come away from the cake, in my experience. I definitely make my "filling layers" thinner in humid weather.

I have never had any problem with gumpaste or fondant in heat and/or humidity. In fact, I PREFER to do fondant cakes in the summer, as they will hold up better. I tell my brides buttercream cakes served outside are very risky. Buttercream can slide off in no time. I have never once had a "peeling away problem" with fondant.

Ditto for "elaborate piping designs"-- those are the first things to slide off or go crooked. particularly elaborate overpiping!

i haven't had problems with royal or pastillage either, but then I don't put things like that on until day of, or the night before when the cake is still in a protected/less humid environment.


one extra note: it is VERY important to take a photo when delivery is completed, so there is not trouble later. Sometimes, if I see potential bad surrounding activitywhen I am setting up the cake... like people lifting and moving chairs/tables around the cake, or small children running around, orchestra carrying in lots of big equipt right next to the cake, or whatever...I will get someone of "authority" to sign off on my successful delivery, verifying that the cake has been delivered and set up and I am released of responsibility. That action alone makes people sit up and take notice to be careful around the cake, as THEY don't want to get blamed for a problem!

more advice: if the cake is outside, under a tent, whatever, not just what pastry mama said about a tent... but i recommend having the bride sign off on a release about the cake being put in risky situation is also a good idea. Sometimes I have had to go to great lengths about where it is appropriate to place the cake... I have to talk to and meet the tent guy, having him show me EXACTLY where the tent will be, and then the caterer or bride as to where she wants the cake table, and then I see just exactly where the sun is during the exact hours of the party, and before. Sometimes the sun may be no where near the cake an hour before the reception, but then 3 or 4 hours later when it is finally being cut... whoa! it's sitting in direct sunlight! :sad:

he can replace up to half of the butter with a high ratio shortening that will help it be more stable. Adding the shortening won't change the flavor much

Yes, it will help the stability, but I disagree... it WILL change the flavor. But sometimes you don't have a choice, so don't even make an issue about it with the customer!

Hope this helps, Annie! (and here I thought when I first opened this thread I would be posting my yummy pineapple buttercream recipe :wub: )
I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

#6 KarenS

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 03:26 PM

I live in Hawaii. I use Italian meringue buttercream almost always. I sometimes use gelatin in the buttercream. I find that it is more a question of refrigeration/ freezing/ transportation. I very often freeze the cake overnight before the wedding (wrapped, boxed, and in a bag). It will thaw by the time it is needed. I do fondant only occasionally- it will get very sticky and soft. When I lived on Maui- I had to assemble cakes in the walk-in some days!

#7 chiantiglace

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 03:37 PM

Ha, I have never seen piping designs or buttercream much affected by humidty. I'd like to see some examples of what you are reffering to.

But I have seen rolled fondant slip from the very crease on the edge of the cake and gradually fall down. It doesn't happen often only when somebody doesn't make the actual fondant just right.

Pastillage is resiliant if dryed right for a couple days. But just like florentines they will begin to absorb moisture after a little bit.
Dean Anthony Anderson
"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This
Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

#8 Woods

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 06:53 PM

Hello everyone......

As I've said many time in previous posts, I'm lucky to live in the Pacific NW.......it makes so many things easy as far as pastry and cakes go......I don't really have to worry much about
humidity and heat.

One of my cake decorating friends recently moved to Hawaii, and is starting his own cake
biz there. He's already noticing problems regarding stability in his buttercream, and he wrote
me and asked for my advice. Gosh. If there's anything I don't know a whole lot about, it's
doing cakes in harsh environments.

I know there's a lot of you who work in environments much harsher than mine.....like the
South or East or Midwest...not to mention Hawaii. I ask you, what are your tips and solutions for warm weather buttercream?

It's all much appreciated!!! :wub:

View Post


I second the use of Italian meringue buttercream. I live in DC and have lived in Florida and North Carolina. It will soften somewhat but will not run or droop.

#9 chefpeon

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 08:28 PM

Thanks for everyone's replies so far!
I really didn't want to tell my friend he might have to resort to using a percentage of
shortening in his buttercream, although that is an option.
I just can't bear to use shortening myself, although sometimes you do have to compromise.

I had heard from another friend of mine who decorated a lot of cakes in Massachusetts,
that fondant was a problem for her also. The humidity turned her fondant to goo.
Now, as to why some folks have problems with it, and others don't......could it be the
brand or formula of fondant used?
This thread raises as many questions as it answers! :unsure:

#10 Deborah

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 08:35 PM

A friend of mine who recently moved to Hawaii from Washington still uses Italian Meringue Buttercream w/o problems. Due to humidity problems, I know she did have to change her gumpaste recipe and wants to try Albert Usters (sp?) fondant which is supposed to be less prone to moisture problems.

#11 simdelish

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 10:11 PM

A friend of mine who recently moved to Hawaii from Washington still uses Italian Meringue Buttercream w/o problems. Due to humidity problems, I know she did have to change her gumpaste recipe and wants to try Albert Usters (sp?) fondant which is supposed to be less prone to moisture problems.

View Post

Years ago I was using different kinds of fondant, but settled on the kind from AUI, as i can get it fast, and without paying shipping. They reformulated it a few yrs back, and now it is even better. It definitely holds up with high moisture!

Chianti... if we're talking about only covering with fondant, not additional decor stuck to sides, like swags,bows,roses etc, then there IS no seam or crease anywhere if it's done properly... so not sure what you mean! You never want to see a crease or seam on fondant! It should all be one piece and molded to fit the cake. I can still attach the extras with royal and still no problems with humidity.

Maybe you've never seen elaborately piped cakes, CG. By overpiping, I mean swags done in 2 or 3 diff star tips (like a 21 then 18, or an 18 then 14), then a top of a round tip like a 3 or 2. Or... upper edge borders again using 2 or 3 diff tips, like ruffles and ribbons, with buttercream roses perched on the edge and hanging loops or bow tails. Also, I would consider basketweave an example of overpiping, it can definitely get droopy in heat/moisture! Anyplace where you go over a second, third or even 4th time with your bag on someplace previously piped is overpiping.

Italian meringue is by far the best for anything on the iffy side -- as it holds up the best of buttercreams.
I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

#12 JeanneCake

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Posted 15 March 2005 - 03:15 AM

Albert Uster has a location in Hawaii (in Honolulu), so getting their fondant would be easy for your friend; and that's the only brand I use. Bakels is pretty good too, but I don't like the taste of the white but their chocolate fondant is good! When you're paying shipping for every little thing that comes into the island, your friend is better off with the Massa Grischuna from AUI!