Cake Rookie Needs Help

Decorating By Robbbbbbin Updated 15 Jun 2008 , 1:43pm by Trixyinaz

Robbbbbbin Posted 14 Jun 2008 , 6:57pm
post #1 of 14

I am a very new cake decorator and I have promised an Anniversary Cake to my friend for her parents 50th Anniversary Party next weekend. I have a beautiful vision in my head of what this will look like when all is said and done but after reading "how to" on this forum, I feel that I am a little over my head and would appreciate ANY advice from more experienced decorators like you.

I am making a three-tier stacked cake (10", 8" 6") and my first question is how much support is really needed? I read that dowels cut to the height of the layers was all that was needed, but then I also read that I will need "plates" for each layer as well? I am a little confused. Also, are 10", 8" and 6" standard or are they to close in size?

Also, I would like each tier to be filled so do I need to make two cakes of each size and then fill in the middle or can I make one cake and just half it and then fill it? I just don't want to make too much if not needed or too little. After doing some reading as well have learned that each tier should be about 4" this correct? Does that mean my cake will be 12" tall when it's finished?

As for colors...does anyone have a recommendation on how to make a nice deep eggplant color? As well as a deep orange and deep gold color?

The party is a 45 minute drive away and my last questions is this: do I need to box the tiers separately and assemble on site? Or is it possible to transport a three-tier cake?

I am sorry if my questions are silly and immature, again I am new at this and think I am in over my head after offering to make this cake.

Thank you in advance for any help/tips/advice you can send my way, I REALLY appreciate it!


13 replies
Mandica12182 Posted 14 Jun 2008 , 7:17pm
post #2 of 14

Well since you only have a week to get the things you need, I'll say....
Use the stuff thats readily available at your Micheals or Hobby Lobby and use the wooden dowels or you could get some thick straws, like the ones that they put in slushies. Anyway, if you have 2inch tall pans you'll need to fiill each one 3/4 full with batter and make 2 layers of each and then just fill between the two cakes, make sure if you're doing somthing other than buttercream that you make a dam.

Yes, typically each tier is 4' wich means when you bake your 2 2inch high cakes you'll have a 4 inch tall cake or close to it.

Since you are using dowels or straws I'd definetly assemble on site...just my opinion though.

As far as the suggestion is to make in advance because icing tends to darken as it sits can have a chance to make it that dark eggplant color..not really sure what colors you'd need to make that color though....I'm not too good at mixing colors.

bathoryjones Posted 14 Jun 2008 , 7:35pm
post #3 of 14

How many people do you need to feed? Just make sure that if you assemble on site to allow for time and extra supplies to finish up your decorating when you assemble it all.

Trixyinaz Posted 14 Jun 2008 , 8:40pm
post #4 of 14

Hi and welcome!

1. Support: Yes, you need the support. I just made a 3-tiered cake in those exact sizes (look in my photos). I used 6 dowels for each tier and then drove a sharpened dowel down the center of all the cakes (there is a tuturial in the articles section, I advise you read helped me a lot - Stacked Cake Construction Tuturial). I just used cake circle boards for each of my cakes. I didn't go with plastic plates. If you use plastic, you can't add the center dowel for added support. You will need a 6 inch and an 8in cake circle board for your top two tiers and then get yourself a real thick sturdy 14" board (again, see my photo of the Entwined Hearts cake - see how thick that board is?). Once you get all your tiers assembled and on top of each other, sharpen a dowel (I used a regular pencil sharpener), push it down to the first cake circle, then take a mallett and drive it through. Push the dowel down to the second cake board and with your mallet, drive it through again. Push the rest of the dowel down to the bottom cake board.

2. Cakes: You will need to make two 6" cakes, two 8" cakes and two 10" cakes if you want them filled. I use 2" high pans, bake my cakes, level if needed. Then I sandwich the two cakes with filling in the middle. Each cake will be approximately 4" tall so your finished cake with all 3 tiers assembled will be approximatley 12" tall. You will need the following amount of batter for each cake provding you are using 2" high pans:

6" cake - 2 cups of batter per cake (so you'll need 4 total for 2 cakes)
8" cake - 3-1/2 cups of batter per cake (so you'll need 7 total for 2 cakes)
10" cake - 6 cups of batter per cake (so you'll need 12 total for 2 cakes

I use the Wilton Batter Recommendation Guide for my cakes and it has worked out perfectly.

3. Color: I don't have much advise as I need help in this area also. Are you using buttercream? For the red I just did, I tinted my buttercream pink first and then added my red color. I used less red by doing it this way. I'm not sure what to do about orange, gold, or eggplant. Are you using the colors for piping only? You may want to read this if you haven't already. It gives some great information - Coloring your Icing Tuturial

4. Transporting: If you use a really thick bottom board, support your cakes with the 6 dowels for each tier and then drive a center dowel through all the cakes, you will be fine transporting it all assembled. I just went through this last weekend. I am sooooo glad I assembled at home and just drove it there. It, too, was a 45 minute drive from my house. I just got some of that non-slip stuff you put in your cupboards and put that down on the bottom of my floor and then put the cake right on it. It never moved. I was a nervous wreck, but once I got there, I could see that I was nervous for no reason. This thing was solid.

5. Schedule: I'm not sure of your schedule, but this is how I did mine (I work full time in an office...I do this on the side for now until I can quit and open my own business) -

Saturday (2 weeks before event) - make gumpaste figures, let dry and paint, let dry again. Touch up as needed within the next coming weeks
Sunday (6 days before event) - bake all 6 cakes, cool and then wrap in 3 or 4 layers of saran wrap and freeze
Monday - Prepare bottom cake board (make sure it is thick so it doesn't bend when you pick up the cake), added ribbon around side of cake board.
Thursday - Make all the filling and refrigerate. Get my piping bags cut and ready with couplers and tips. Measure out crisco and powdered sugar for buttercream icing.
Friday Morning - take out frozen cakes first thing in the morning, set on counter and let thaw. DO NOT unwrap the cakes. KEEP them in the plastic wrap.
Friday Night - make buttercream, color, ice, stack and decorate cakes
Saturday - do any touch ups or last minute decorating. Load car, bring supplies in case touch ups are needed at destination. Drive to location.

Good luck! You can so do this!!!!

becklynn Posted 14 Jun 2008 , 10:04pm
post #5 of 14

There is a video on youtube that helped me a lot. It's called "Assembling a Wedding Cake". Good luck!

becklynn Posted 14 Jun 2008 , 10:04pm
post #6 of 14

There is a video on youtube that helped me a lot. It's called "Assembling a Wedding Cake". Good luck!

Trixyinaz Posted 14 Jun 2008 , 10:29pm
post #7 of 14

ohhh, that was a great video! Here is the link for anyone else. Thanks for that....

Robbbbbbin Posted 14 Jun 2008 , 11:41pm
post #8 of 14

THANK YOU so much for all your help already...I have taken a deep sigh of relief that I can actually do this! And the You Tube video is awesome, great help!

I have another hard is it to make cakes in advance and freeze or is it best to just do it the day before? Same with icing and fillings?

Also, once my cake is complete, what is the best way to store it? I will be using butter cream icing with raspberry and chocolate fillings (so no dairy or eggs). Do I just put saran wrap over it? I have decided to assemble it before hand and travel with it all together (thanks for the tip Vicki!)

Hopefully last question: does anyone have a great "high altitude" cake recipe for chocolate cake? (I already have tried the White Sour Cream Almond recipe posted on this site and it worked great at hight altitude so I am just in need of a great chocolate one). Or any other high altitude recipes would be great...I am open!

Thanks again for all your help - this site is invaluable!!!


tracey1970 Posted 15 Jun 2008 , 12:02am
post #9 of 14

Can't answer the altitude question, but as for making cakes in advance and freezing them, I do that with every cake. I rarely have time to bake right before I need the cake. I bake them, wrap them in a couple layers of saran, another layer of foil (trying to get out as much air as possible), and freeze them. I defrost in fridge for maybe 12 hours and then let sit, wrapped, on counter for a bit just prior to filling, to help with condensation.

If you are using non-dairy ingredients (except perhaps some butter in the BC), you'll be fine to leave the cake out, covered, for a few days.

icer101 Posted 15 Jun 2008 , 12:02am
post #10 of 14

on the youtube site..... what is she cutting the wooden dowels with... where do you find it.....

Trixyinaz Posted 15 Jun 2008 , 4:07am
post #11 of 14

Glad the info here has helped.

1. Bake and Freeze: Well, it depends how much time you have to bake the day before. Since I work full time, I didn't want the added stress of coming home after working a full day and then baking for 3 or 4 hours, letting them cool and then spending another couple hours filling, icing and decorating. The last cake I did was my first bake and freeze, after many CCer's advised me to do it. A lot of people swear everyone loves the frozen cakes better than the fresh baked ones. Some even went through the trouble of doing taste tests with results being everyone thinking the frozen one tasted better (more moist), of course the tasters didn't know which one was which. I was sold on that fact pretty much alone, not to mention splitting up my time so it wasn't so stressful. It really all depends on your schedule and if you can do it all in one day.

2. Icing and Filling: I've not made the icing the day before so I really can't answer that question. I have always made mine right when I need to frost....which I don't mind. As for the fillings, I always make mine the day before I fill for a couple reasons. 1. I like to fill my cakes when the filling is cold. After I make my filling, I usually keep it in the pan and put saran wrap over it. I push the saran wrap right down on the filling so it touching and there is no air between the wrap and filling as soon as I'm done cooking. Then I let it cool off on the counter before putting it in the fridge, and 2. I like doing it the night before b/c for some reason, the flavor gets stronger and it is better tasting after sitting overnight(particularly this one chocolate fudge recipe that I tried).

3. Recipe for High Altitude: I'm not much help with this area as I haven't seemed to have a problem with my cakes no matter where I live (New York, Arizona, California, Michigan). I use a fail proof chocolate cake that everyone who I make it for LOVES! You can give it a whirl to see if you like it. This is my one cake that I use my egg replacer as my daughter is allergic to eggs and this recipe works great with it. My mom uses eggs when she makes it, which is what I grew on with, and the taste is just as great. Trixyinaz's Chocolate Cake Try it out and see if it works in your altitude. This recipe makes 6 cups of batter, just enough for one 10" round cake. If the WASC (White Almond Sour Cream) cake worked great for you and you liked the texture, etc., just use a chocolate cake mix instead of the white cake mix and you will have the same results. You basically can use any flavor cake mix with that recipe. I acutally switched over to the Original WASC posted by Kakeladi. I like the texture and flavor much better than the one posted on this site. FYI.

Here is Kakeladie's recipe:

1 package betty crocker white cake mix
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3 whole eggs (even for white cakes)
1 cup water
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon almonds, emulsion (stronger than flavoring)

In a bowl, mix 1st 3 ingredients. (see notes below) Set aside.
Place remaining ingredients in mixer bowl then add the dry.

Mix on low (I use a KA mixer) speed for 30 seconds, until dry ingredients are incorporated; mix at medium 2 minutes.

This makes 1 & 1/2 times the usual batter than a 'straight' cake mix. It will fill one of the following pans: 8" sq; 12" round; 9x13x2; OR one 10" and 6" round.

Pour into pan(s) and bake as you usually do. I prefere to bake at 300 degrees F. for 20 minutes, then turn oven up to 325 degrees F. for an equal time OR until you can smell cake If it has pulled away from the edges of the pan it is *over done*. You should have a flat cake that won't (usually) need leveling & is not sticky on the top when it cools.

Special NOTES:
That's right -- there is NO oil, butter or margarine in this recipe.
Use large eggs.
If almond extract (not emulsion) is used, add 2 teaspoons or to taste.
Can use ANY cake flavor
Flavorings can change depending on cake flavor you use. Try a combination of 1 part vanilla, 1/2 part butter flavoring and 1/4 part almond.
It is important to mix the dry ingredients well especially if using a chocolate mix or you will have white spots in the finished cake. I use a wire wisk.

4. Storage: I use a crusting buttercream icing, Buttercream Dream. Once I ice and after it crusts over, I smooth it out using the Viva method. To do this, let your cake crust for about 15 minutes or so or stick in the fridge for a few minutes. Take a paper towel and lay it on top of the cake and with a fondant smoother, run over it several times (not too much pressure) until you get it as smooth as you like....repeat on the sides. You can only do this with a crusting buttercream icing. If your recipe calls for crisco, your buttercream WILL crust. If it only calls for butter in the recipe, it will not crust and you cannot use the Viva method. Then once I'm done smoothing and decorating, I just place it in the fridge. I have never put saran wrap over my cakes. If it is a smaller cake (1 tier), I put it in the cake box and put it in my fridge. If it is a tiered cake, I don't put anything over it. I've never had any issues doing it this way. However, I have heard that refridgerating cake can dry them out, but mine are usually in the fridge for 12 hours or less and I've never had a dry cake.

Okay, I think I got all your questions. Hope that helps!

Icer101 - I was thinking the same thing. The tool I use SUCKS and I have to sand down the area that I cut because it doesn't leave a nice clean cut. I want what she had....anyone know what it is?

becklynn Posted 15 Jun 2008 , 11:51am
post #12 of 14

It looks like a pair of pruning shears. You could probabaly get them at Home Depot or Lowes. I agree - it looks easier than sawing and sanding them like I used to do too! I have since switched to using the bubble tea straws - much easier! - as recommended by sugarshack's "Successful Stacking" DVD. If you don't have this DVD (or her other 2) I highly recommend them!!!

shellzey Posted 15 Jun 2008 , 12:20pm
post #13 of 14

also remember when you put filling in a cake to first do a ring of icing around the edge.

Trixyinaz Posted 15 Jun 2008 , 1:43pm
post #14 of 14

The 10/8/6 will serve about 65 people, but that is cutting it in wedding size slices (1x2x4). We had about 30-35 people at my mom's party when I made her 75th birthday cake. I did this exact 3 tier cake and believe me you, there wasn't much left and what was left was eaten over the next two days with only about 5 of us in the house. Really, who doesn't like to have cake leftover so they can eat some the next day, too.

And a big ditto to shellzey. Make sure to create a dam with buttercream icing (I use the largest round tip) before filling. Otherwise, the filling will ooze out and make a mess of your icing.

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