Wooden Vs. Plastic Vs. Straw Dowels

Decorating By tptmom Updated 15 Apr 2016 , 5:03pm by HollieN

tptmom Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 3:26am
post #1 of 40

I am setting up my first weeding cake (3 tiers). I have heard all 3 examples. Can I get a few comments on what worked best for you? I understand the getting the right straws works wonderful, but does that compare to actual dowels? This is my first wedding cake and I really can't afford to go wrong.
I appreciate [/b]ANY info!!!!

39 replies
modthyrth Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 7:21am
post #2 of 40

How does using straws compare to dowels? Let's see:

harder to cut
I never get a clean flat line unless I use powertools
more expensive
splinters! (ok, unlikely, but a possibility!)

strong as heck end to end
cheap as dirt
easy to cut

Straws get my vote, obviously. icon_wink.gif

cake2decorate Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 7:59am
post #3 of 40

I liked using the dowels and masonite cake boards, talk about sturdy... I was able to totally construct and decorate the cake before delivering, which made it easy and less stressful for my first BIG cake . It didn't budge, and my customer was very happy!
As for the cost, I got a small miter box from the hardware store for $4.99 and a saw for for $3.75, the dowels are sold by the foot, I used 4 larger diameter dowels in a square pattern and filled in between them with the smaller size (like the ones in the cake stores-which I already had icon_rolleyes.gif ), should have waited and bought them at the hardware store and saved the money. Be sure and level your surface with a small level before you start and as you assemble each layer, and smear icing on each masonite board before placing the cake on it.
Now I have all of the tools and have been using them to dowel all of my larger 4" cakes together. I have seen so many unlevel cakes at weddings- I was very happy with putting in the extra effort to avoid an unlevel cake.
Good luck, hope your cake is wonderful!

freddie Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 9:46am
post #4 of 40

I too like straws, although I use the juice box straws made by rubbermaid they are way stronger plastic than regular straws and yet real easy to cut. Walmart sells a knock off of these for 1.99 so they are very affordable. I have never had any problem with these !!!

playingwithsugar Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 10:05am
post #5 of 40

It's all a matter of personal preference.

I prefer wooden dowels. I found a dowel cutter at AC Moore which cost about 8 dollars with the coupon (it's back in the wood section, right near the dowels). With this tool, I have no problem cutting my dowels straight.
I cut the dowels for the lower tiers just a hair longer than needed, because the weight of the extra tiers on top will cause the bottom dowels to settle into the cake board or cake drum.

My good friend, Kim, prefers straws. In some ways I agree with her about them, as they are individually wrapped, and therefore sanitary. I just can't get the knack of using them.

I have read on this forum that some people use the straws in combination with skewers or dowels.

Is the cake going to be stacked or tiered? That decision will also determine how many choices you have.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

GeminiRJ Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 12:01pm
post #6 of 40

Has anyone ever tried "cake jacks"? I bought some for a stacked cake I had to do, and have used them only a couple times, but they were great. They come in 3" and 4" lengths, and instead of cutting them, they have a screw top that you adjust to the length you need. I included them in the "return for deposit" charge, and they came back with the plates. You can use them over and over. Like I said, though, I've only used them a couple times. If there aren't plates to return, I don't use them because I probably won't get them back!

pooker Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 12:07pm
post #7 of 40

I've never done a wedding cake, but I prefer using straws for stacked cakes over dowels. I cannot get the dowels cut straight, and I too worry about splinters.

Straws are so much easier to cut, and if you mess it up, its so easy to cut another one!

The only time I use a dowel is if there is no cutting involved! icon_lol.gif

MissBaritone Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 12:57pm
post #8 of 40

I always use plastic dowel.
I worry that straws won't be strong enough to take the weight of the cakes
Wooden dowels I'd worry about slinters so I use food grade plastic dowels. I have a pair of garden secateurs that I keep just for cutting the dowels and they work perfectly every time

cowdex Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 1:06pm
post #9 of 40

I like wood. If you have a rough end - sandpaper or nail file!

lsawyer Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 1:11pm
post #10 of 40

My husband is an engineer (including structural analysis) so we've talked about this a few times. He says to use the wooden dowels. All is takes is for one straw to bend, and it's all over. I want to use straws because it seems so much easier, but he's not convinced, so I'm not, either. A lot of people use straws and swear by them, but I'm too chicken to take that chance! The large plastic "hidden pillars" are strong, too. Straws would be my third choice.

karensjustdessert Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 1:17pm
post #11 of 40

I use wood dowels usually. (And I got my first splinter last weekend!..don't ask, I'm just clumsy that way.)
To cut the dowels, I use a pruning shear; a little unwieldy, but it was one of those "necessity is the mother of invention" moments, and I haven't purchased a saw yet.
I have a few times used the large clear plastic columns also, when I was extremely nervous about the size of the cake. My advice, really, is to overcompensate if you're even the slightest bit anxious about the internal structure.

flourgrl Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 1:26pm
post #12 of 40

I too use straws....currently I'm using the lovely green ones from Starbucks as they are free, food safe, very sturdy, easy to cut, and did I mention free???
I've only ever done it with a 3 tier, but I've not yet ever had one issue and I've transported cakes for over 1 hour in the car plus made them stacked up to 3 days before the event. And I don't centre dowel from the top either (that's too scarry to me!)
I too have talked to an engineer and he said the opposite, that a hollow tube has more strength than a solid or something to that effect.....engineer mumble!
You still need to make sure that the cake is properly constructed no matter what you use as a dowel support.
I find wood dowels a pain to deal with and cut short of having a band saw!

arosstx Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 1:33pm
post #13 of 40

I vote for wood dowels, which surprises even me because I would prefer to go the 'cheaper' route. Second goes to plastic, third to straws.

I think when you can buy a package of 12 of foot-long wood dowels for $1.99 (or less if you have a coupon), then cut them up and use them over time, it does not cost that much. They go a long way.

I spend too much time and care to 'chance it' and have something bad happen because I was trying to save a few pennies. It's worth the piece of mind.

Of course the ultimate support is probably the system endorsed and sold on Earlene's site, but I'm afraid I wouldn't get it back!

My two cents before heading off to cake class (yahoo!),

McMama Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 7:02pm
post #14 of 40

I have always used straws - probably because I didn't know any other way. I read Rose Levy Beranbaum's explanation in "The Cake Bible" and just figured it would work for me. Now I'm kind of wondering if I have just been lucky all these years. I do know that you really need to keep your straws completely straight when inserting them in your cake. Do not get them crooked!

AMW Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 7:31pm
post #15 of 40

I have been using straws for 7 years. I have never had a cake collapse and I deliver them already assembled. It even worked quite well with a 6 tiered cake covered in fondant with chocolate appliques on 50% of the surface cake (so heavy, it took two people to carry just 3 of the tiers that were stacked). It stood tall and proud.

arosstx Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 7:41pm
post #16 of 40

Wow, that is cool. I guess I am afraid 'the worst' will happen to me when it comes to using straws over wooden dowels.

So what kind of straws do you use? regular drinking straws from the store, or what?

dmaam Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 7:52pm
post #17 of 40

I cannot answer because I am a newbie... but, I would like to say that the one cake that I have done that was tiered - the woman forgot to take the dowels out and someone bite into one. It could have been much worse... luckily the man just laughed it off. He could have broke a tooth or choked on it.... etc!!!! It freaked this newbie out when the lady told me what happened... Also, in my small town - I cannot find dowels - it seems that they fly off the shelf. When I do find them - I cannot cut them worth a crap - kills my hand. They are never even and they are sharp!!!!
So, to you - straw people - have my vote - though it does seem like they would make a cake collapse. But, I am all for easier solutions to anything.

What kind of straws do you buy? Exact brands would be appreciated!!! I do not have a Starbucks nor do I drink coffee so I do not know what kind of straws they have.
Please, help - and if this is a repeat question I apologize for your time.

jillchap Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 7:57pm
post #18 of 40

I use the thick plastic bubble tea straws, they're awesome and cheap as heck!

MissyTex Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 12:31pm
post #19 of 40

I've done very few stacked cakes, but I've always used straws, except on my treasure chest cake where I used 2 wooden dowels to hold up the lid and skewers as a much needed afterthought because my lid was sliding. I only used the skewers because they were pointed and I needed to poke them through the board. I hate skewers and would never use them again, though, because they splinter when you cut them.

Please note, DO NOT USE WOODEN DOWELS FROM HOME DEPOT OR THE HARDWARE STORE. From what I understand that wood is treated and is not food safe!

MessiET Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 1:02pm
post #20 of 40
Originally Posted by dmaam

I would like to say that the one cake that I have done that was tiered - the woman forgot to take the dowels out and someone bite into one.

Must have been quite a large bite of cake that person took to not see a dowel on there icon_eek.gif

cupcake55 Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 1:17pm
post #21 of 40

I have used both wooden dowels and straws. I prefer to use the plastic bubble straws. They are much easier to cut than wooden dowels. They work just the same. Cost is not the issue as far as I'm concerned. I had a hard time cutting the wooden dowels and I am not sorry I changed to straws.

Chefgirl Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 4:26pm
post #22 of 40

I also learned from the Cake Bible to use straws. I've done many tiered cakes and have never had a problem, so easy to use. I've also never used a center dowel. That just scares the heck out of me! I've always used grocery store straws, but I'm curious about the bubble tea straws. What are those and where do you get them?

flourgrl Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 4:31pm
post #23 of 40

Another person from another forum just sent me some bubble tea straws as she is curious to know what I think of them since I always use straws. I will use them on my next cake and keep you posted!

I have no idea on where to buy them

dydemus Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 4:34pm
post #24 of 40

Where do you guys get the 'bubble tea' straws. I've seen them at Panera, and they look really cool. I was at an ICES day of sharing and one of the instructors there suggested also using these to hold flowers for your cake (way cool) and to press the end into a piece of fondant to create a "bottom". Better than those picks you have to buy!

prettycake Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 4:37pm
post #25 of 40

Any drinking straw will do, BUT if you are using the straw as your support, it's not meant to be tall.. only for short cakes, with a skewer inside the straw. icon_smile.gif

Chefgirl Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 4:39pm
post #26 of 40

Okay, i just did a google search and they are sold all over the place online. They are the straws used for bubble tea, which has tapioca pearls or something in it so the straw has to be thicker so you can drink the tapioca. They look much stronger than regular drinking straws. I bet you can find them at Asian grocery stores.

mconrey Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 4:50pm
post #27 of 40

I use straws too - but have never done anything more than a 2-layer. I also do a center dowel if the cake is being transported. I got my straws at Wal-Mart. If you're going to try them, I'd suggest finding the largest in diameter that you can (like the bubble tea straws). Another plus about straws...you can get them in bright colors so people will see them in the cake and know to pull them out. Then you won't have the problem of someone biting into one! icon_surprised.gif

prettycake Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 5:28pm
post #28 of 40

Get those big straws at McDonalds.. get a handful or at Seven Eleven. icon_smile.gif

AMW Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 5:35pm
post #29 of 40

Straws are so inexpensive regardless where you get them from that I can't see advocating stealing them.

cupcake55 Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 7:22pm
post #30 of 40

Chefgirl is correct. You can find them at Asian grocery stores. You can also buy them on the Internet. There are about 40 straws to a bag and should cost around $2.

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