I've been decorating cakes for about 4 years as a hobby, never taking a class though...More requests for wedding cakes are coming in now...BUT...I made a 5 tier cake, buttercream, and had a heck of a time setting the layers on each other without my fingers or the spatula ruining the bottom edge of the tier. I was at the reception site and in tears as I was assembling it. I had pearls to add to hide the smooshed parts, but I have a plain cake coming up in October. Is there a trick to this trade? How do you set the layers on? Please please please let me into the secret society of tiered assembly.
Check this out:
IMHO it's all about practice!
One thing I have learned that really helped, was to not insert the dowel rods all the way into the cake. Leave them sticking out just a bit, and then place the top tier on it. This gives you time to get your fingers out of the way, and the cake will slowly set it self down. Hope that makes sense.
All my cakes are assembled at home before delivery... I stick the tiers in the freezer to firm up before assembling them. It helps keep the mess to a minimum and gives me a little time to adjust the tiers if I'm off a little.
Try this original thread on this subject. I've posted my instructions and pictures of what I use. NO DOWELS!!! NO MESS!!!
Hope this help! Every one uses different techniques. Just experiment with what works for you.