Help! Disaster Transporting A Castle Cake!

Decorating By Mistyveil Updated 2 Mar 2009 , 4:19am by Mistyveil

Mistyveil Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 12:09am
post #1 of 41

I am new to cake decorating, but that doesn't keep me from stepping up to a challenge. I decided to make a castle cake for my daughter's birthday party that would be held at a party place 15 miles from home. I know some of my mistakes. Hindsight is 20/20. Could someone please tell me what I could have done to make transporting this easier and without the cake shifting? I used three 10 inch layers for the base cake, two 8 inch layers for the top tier, and used BC frosting and filling between the layers. I used four wooden dowels that were about 1/4 inch in diameter in each tier. I used a cake board between the tiers. I assembled the plastic pieces from the kit and decorated the whole thing.

I could not put the cake flat in the back of my Suburban and my husband was sick, so I had to pick one child who would most likely succeed in arriving to our destination without the cake in the floor. I drove 40 m.p.h. and eased to a stop when necessary. No sudden moves! Half-way there, the cake begins to shift on the base cake between the first and second layers. By the time I got to the destination, the cake began to look like a medival Leaning Tower of Pisa. See attached picture.

The top tier was eaten at the party, along with 1/4 of the base cake. I was not as gentle on the way home, and the base cake completely separated all three layers. (Imaging three frisbees laying together.) The dowels had torn the cake up.

I assembled the cake at home because I didn't have time to decorate it when I got to the party place. It was a complicated cake. I was heartbroken. Everyone complimented me on it, but all I could say was, "It looked much better at home!" How could I have done this differently? TY for your advice.

40 replies
enoid Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 12:23am
post #2 of 41

I am so sorry this happened to you. I don't know much about traveling with cake but do know that they say people make lousy shot absorbers. On the floor would have been preferred. By the way the picture is not attached.

tiggy2 Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 12:30am
post #3 of 41

I'm so sorry this happened to you. Here's my suggestions. For every 4" of cake you should have support (cake board and dowels). Four dowels to hold an 8" cake probably wasn't enough, I would have used at least 6. Actually I wouldn't have used dowels as they are prone to shift. Also a dowel down the center of all the layers and into the base board would have helped stablize it. Never, never, ever let anyone hold a cake to transport it. It must be on a flat or it's a disaster waiting to happen.

Kitagrl Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 1:09am
post #4 of 41

I use bubble tea straws (and I use plenty, at least 6 for a small tier)....and then I always refrigerate before transport, as it firms up the icing and cake and it cannot possibly slide if its well supported and firmed up by the fridge.

howsweet Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 3:30am
post #5 of 41

How awful. So much work goes into a cake and then this happens. icon_sad.gif

If the layers are separated by card board, a center dowel is really easy to insert. I resisted using them at first until finally tries it and realized how easy it is.

I have a 2 in foam pad I sit the cake on also.

Mistyveil Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 5:45pm
post #6 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiggy2

I'm so sorry this happened to you. Here's my suggestions. For every 4" of cake you should have support (cake board and dowels). Four dowels to hold an 8" cake probably wasn't enough, I would have used at least 6. Actually I wouldn't have used dowels as they are prone to shift. Also a dowel down the center of all the layers and into the base board would have helped stablize it. Never, never, ever let anyone hold a cake to transport it. It must be on a flat or it's a disaster waiting to happen.




If I shouldn't use dowels, should I have used straws instead? How do you get the dowel through the cake board? I don't know if I would be able to line up a pre-drilled hole unless it was in the center. I won't let anyone hold it again. I wouldn't have been able to put it in the floorboard without tipping the cake to get it in. A Suburban gets surprisingly small when you put four children in it! LOL If that ever happens again, I'll just dump everything out of the back and put it back there. I thought if he held it, the turrets wouldn't fall.

Where do you buy bubble straws? Are they the straws that come with cups that are flexible?

How many straws do you all use for every inch of cake? The top tier was 8". The base cake was 10". Should I have used 6 for the top and 10 for the base? I just don't remember ever seeing dowels or straws in wedding cakes before. I like the idea of refrigerating the cake and setting it on 2" foam before transporting it.

Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions! I'm sorry about the picture. I tried twice to add it.

Beckalita Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 9:40pm
post #7 of 41

Bubble tea straws are not the bendy ones, they are wider and made of heavier plastic ~ but still easily cut with a scissors. I buy mine at a local asian market. You will get varying answers on how many straws to use; I would have used a minimum of four to support an 8" tier, and probably a center one through all the layers to the baseboard.

tiggy2 Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 11:13pm
post #8 of 41

To get the dowel through the center you sharpen it and hammer it through the boards. Be a little gentle but not as if you were hammering a feather.

Ladyfish74 Posted 24 Feb 2009 , 10:31pm
post #9 of 41

If hammering makes you uncomfortable you can just push and twist. You can feel the dowel when it goes through. Also, if you get dowels the same size as a pencil, you can use a pencil sharpener.

mcalhoun Posted 24 Feb 2009 , 10:46pm
post #10 of 41

You have a lot of good advise here but I would like to add one more thing: When I place my cake on a cake board I always "glue" it down w/ a bit of buttercream. It just helps the cake stay put on the board.

cserwa Posted 24 Feb 2009 , 10:47pm
post #11 of 41

How far down do you hammer/twist the center dowel? Until you hit the top of base board or do you push THROUGH the base board?

-K8memphis Posted 24 Feb 2009 , 10:54pm
post #12 of 41

Why did you dowel the top tier?

Were all your dowel the exact same length?

Ladyfish74 Posted 24 Feb 2009 , 11:00pm
post #13 of 41

I push mine through all the boards and then partly through the baseboard. That is only if the baseboard is carboard. If it's masonite or wood etc.. you can push down to that point. What kind of baseboard did you use for the castle? Just curious because sometimes, if it isn't thick enough, it causes stability problems. Also, if you ever have to have someone carry a cake for you (heaven forbid), I would do it this way. Put some padding in their lap--towels, a small blanket, then a piece of 1/4" plywood about 18 to 20" square, then a piece of eggcrate foam, then the cake. Hopefully you will never have to travel that way again, but if so, that's what I would do. Hope this is some help.

Mistyveil Posted 24 Feb 2009 , 11:35pm
post #14 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ladyfish74

If hammering makes you uncomfortable you can just push and twist. You can feel the dowel when it goes through. Also, if you get dowels the same size as a pencil, you can use a pencil sharpener.




TY, Ladyfish. I was wondering if I could do that. TY

Mistyveil Posted 24 Feb 2009 , 11:38pm
post #15 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcalhoun

You have a lot of good advise here but I would like to add one more thing: When I place my cake on a cake board I always "glue" it down w/ a bit of buttercream. It just helps the cake stay put on the board.




I did. The cake base had 3 layers. I was trying to get the height tall enough so the door wouldn't look oversized for the cake. The base shifted between the two bottom layers.

Mistyveil Posted 24 Feb 2009 , 11:42pm
post #16 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by k8memphis

Why did you dowel the top tier?

Were all your dowel the exact same length?




Hmmm, it seemed like a good thing to do. I'm not supposed to dowel the top tier? icon_redface.gif Yes, the dowels were the same length, but they did not go through the cake board between the tiers. Someone mentioned hammering dowels through the top tier, through the cake board, and into the cake base. icon_redface.gif

Mistyveil Posted 24 Feb 2009 , 11:50pm
post #17 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ladyfish74

I push mine through all the boards and then partly through the baseboard. That is only if the baseboard is carboard. If it's masonite or wood etc.. you can push down to that point. What kind of baseboard did you use for the castle? Just curious because sometimes, if it isn't thick enough, it causes stability problems. Also, if you ever have to have someone carry a cake for you (heaven forbid), I would do it this way. Put some padding in their lap--towels, a small blanket, then a piece of 1/4" plywood about 18 to 20" square, then a piece of eggcrate foam, then the cake. Hopefully you will never have to travel that way again, but if so, that's what I would do. Hope this is some help.




I used two cardboard circles (criss-crossed) for the base cake and one cardboard circle for the top tier. The smaller circle was sitting on the dowels (4) on the base cake.

I just won't ever put it in someone's lap. I just didn't have time to clear out a place in the cargo area. It wouldn't have fit in the passenger floor without tilting it to get it in the car. I just didn't think it through. My husband was sick and I was flustered because I had to do all this by myself. The four children weren't able to really help. Their hearts were in the right place. icon_smile.gif

Mistyveil Posted 24 Feb 2009 , 11:53pm
post #18 of 41

So in my effort to keep the turrets from falling off the cake, I gave the cake the Kiss of Death by putting it in someone's lap. Am I right? I imagine all the things I did wrong contributed in some way. I might have gotten away with not putting in more dowels or not putting them in through the entire cake???? The filling between the layers didn't make it slippery?

Ladyfish74 Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 1:34am
post #19 of 41

Mistyveil,

I think it was a combination of things. I really think that if you had had a dowel through the whole thing and, if you had put something stickier between the layers-like cream cheese mixed with jam--you may have made it with the cake intact...provided the "official cake holder" didn't squirm too much.

I don't think having someone hold it is the kiss of death. At least not in my experience, but it does hold more risk. Having someone hold it is not a guarantee that the cake will bite the dust. It was a lot of things factoring in.

Look at it this way. You weren't doing this for someone else's birthday party and being paid. That would have been a real disaster. This was a really good learning experience for you and you got a lot of good solutions so you don't screw up your next cake. And it might be a cake that you're getting paid for.

We all make mistakes. That's the learning process. You are doing the right thing by asking the members for help so you won't make all the same mistakes many of us have made. Why re-invent the wheel? Next time, ask us before you make the cake and all will be well! We are here to help.

tinygoose Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 1:47am
post #20 of 41

What about SPS? Single plate system.

lolobell Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 1:56am
post #21 of 41

oh, this story makes me cringe as I'm transporting one of these this saturday 20+ miles to my nieces 5th birthday party. I've been worried sick about this happening!
I'm sorry that happened to you.........i know the work that goes into them...heck I've been working a little each day for 5 days already.

SOOOOO, I guess I will do a dowel through the top through to the bottom along with 6 on the bottom tier and 5 on the top? I've never used the SPS and don't have time to try something new nor to learn it so with all that said am I safe? also, all I have here are wooden dowels so I'd like to stick with that if you all think it's okay. Also, my husband is bringing it to their house on Friday night so I won't be there during transport. good lord!!!!!!! i told him 40 miles an hour or less...drive the highway with hazards on and no sudden stops....

classiccake Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 2:09am
post #22 of 41

I know some people will say this is overkill, but I transport 5 and 6 tier wedding cakes fully stacked, and moved a castle cake that served 350 for a half hour drive...it took three people to carry it, but here is how I dowel. For every inch of cake, I put in a dowel. If the base is 16" and there is a 12" cake on top, then I put in 12 dowels. I put one in the center, then about every 4 inches, I put dowels about 1" to 2" from the edge of the 12". This prevents leaning. then I fill in the "middle area with 3 or 4 of the dowels. This helps support weight. I don't have cakes leaning, collapsing, etc. Even for a 6" top, I put one in the center, and then 5 around the outer edge.

If I need to put a dowel all the way through the cake, I use 2 dowels. One dowel still allows "spinning" and the cake can still slide and tear through the one dowel. With two dowels, you have now stopped the cake from having the ability to "spin" and the security that the cake now has to slide through two dowel rods. Again, I know it is alot, but I have piece of mind...which is priceless!!

lolobell Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 2:13am
post #23 of 41

classic cake
thanks for the info but I have a question

when you put 2 center dowels through the entire cake...are they right next to one another or apart? I am having a 10 inch and a 6 inch (both tiers 4 inches high) so I'm trying to understand where there is room for all those!!!!!! i assume you are using wooden dowels???? I totally agree with the peace of mind factor so if you could just help me with these last 2 questions I would greatly apprecite it.

Mistyveil Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 2:24am
post #24 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinygoose

What about SPS? Single plate system.




I was afraid I wouldn't be able to pull it all off in time for the party. I'm very new at this. I still don't have the speed and technique down. That would have been an even better idea.

Ladyfish, yes! I am very glad I wasn't getting paid for this! It was embarrassing.

Lolabell, good luck to you! How do you keep your cake fresh if you are working on it a little each day? Can you freeze BC and/or fondant so you can store it longer?

BTW, can anyone tell me how to reduce the size. I tried this, but I don't know if you can see it. I'll try it one more time, but I think I'm missing a step.
LL

classiccake Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 2:34am
post #25 of 41

When I put in the two center rods, I place them about 2 or 3 " apart. This is what stops the spin effect. Also, this avoids the other rods. I haven't run into one yet. I don't use the full rods much, except on topsy turvy, sculpted cakes, or tall spindly cakes. Most cakes, I just rely on the short rods in each tier. I do refridgerate my cakes, and my icing has alot of butter, so the cakes are cold and firm for transporting. When I have 4 or 5 wedding cakes in a load, some are riding in the van for over an hour+ when being delivered in the hot summer temps. So far, so good. icon_rolleyes.gif

Mistyveil Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 2:35am
post #26 of 41

TY, ClassicCake! This is the info I was wondering about. I thought there had to be a rule for determining where and how to place the supports. I understand what you are saying. You are putting two dowels next to or near each other. I would probably space them about 1-2 inches apart. You don't have a twisting motion with two. If it does begin to "spin", the other dowel will stop it. Does it matter if the dowels in the center are larger in diameter? Do the cakes crack open with all these extra supports being driven into them? Do you frost the cake after you have hammered in the supports? I just don't remember seeing tiered cakes with dowels or straws in the middle of the cake. Has this always been the way wedding cakes were constructed?

Mistyveil Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 2:37am
post #27 of 41

I'm sorry, ClassicCake. I didn't realize you had answered so quickly. Next time, I'll try using two dowels in the center 2-3 inches apart. So you don't even put the center dowels through the entire cake?!?

lolobell Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 2:41am
post #28 of 41

Ah, I'm breathing so much easier getting all this info!
Okay, I'm covering my cakes with BC and then MMF on the sides of the cake..then I use a bricking mat to create a bricked look. this time around I'm covering the turrets and peak in MMF as well (bricking them also to match)........So, I made the chocolate tier over the weekend and froze that. The bottom tier the other night and froze that...I made the MMF a week ago and covered the turrets last night just covering them well with plastic. I made the 360 MMF flowers over the weekend too and covered them well.
Tonight I am making my BC (I use indydebi's) and mixing my colors ahead of time as well. I put then in the piping bags with the tip and I'm ready to construct on thursday..finish the decorations friday and send it on it's way. i wouldn't normally do this much in advance but I also have a train cake heading out that day too!

SOOOO, I don't think I can put mine in the frig with the MMF nor do I have the space for this cake. Am I still able to breath easier without refrigeration???????
Thanks again so much for all the info.

classiccake Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 2:43am
post #29 of 41

The only rods being "driven" are the center rods. I do this after the cakes are all assembled and cold. If you use an electric pencil sharpened, they go through the cake boards fairly easily. All tiered cakes have to have support soomehow. If you see only the cut cake, then the dowels have been removed. Nobody sees the dowels except the person cutting the cake, and they would (should) remove them.

I use 3/16" on 6, 8, and 10". On the larger tiers, I use 1/4 inch dowels. I cut all the dowels with rachet pruners...easiest on the hand and smooth cuts, and FAST. If I fully dowel, I use the larger dowels. If your bases are cardboard, you can even drive the point into the base board a little for added secrity.

Strong bases are a must. I use the premade foil covered bases. They are stronger then the ones you assemble yourself. They run $3 - $5 each and are well worth the investment.

Hope this helps...been doing this for over 35 years!!

Mistyveil Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 3:26pm
post #30 of 41

Do you put the dowels in straight down or do you put them in at an angle? Would you get better stability if you inserted them at an angle?

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