How Do You (Personally) Stack A Cake? (Long)

Decorating By confectionsofahousewife Updated 5 Aug 2013 , 4:28am by janbutterfield

confectionsofahousewife Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 2:12am
post #1 of 76

Let me preface this by saying this is NOT an I-don't-have-a-clue-how-to-stack-a-cake-so-please-explain-how-to-do-it post. I *just* need some trouble shooting for what I'm doing wrong or what I can do diferently.

I did a four tier stacked (buttercream) cake over the weekend for a wedding. It turned out pretty well, but not as good as I wanted it to. I really wanted to leave it without a border around the tiers but I marred the b/c so badly with my fingers that I had to pipe a border. Annoyingly, each tier looked great before I stacked them! I have done stacked cakes before (this was probably the tenth one I've done) but not a lot and I don't feel like I've made much improvement over time. I would like to share how I do it so I can get some pointers on how to improve. My issue is that when I pick up a tier and when I go to set it on the cake, my fingers always get in the way and I mess up the bottom edge of the cake requiring some sort of not-so-small border. Here's what I do:
-iced all tiers in buttercream and decorated with fondant accents (dots in this cake). each cake was on its same-size cake board sitting on a larger board.
-refrigerated tiers to firm up buttercream
-inserted hollow plastic dowels in all tiers. left them poking up a little out of the cake so I could (theoretically) set the cake on the dowels and have the weight of the cake push them in.
-when it was time to stack, I took the cakes out of the fridge. ran a small spatula around the edge of each cake to loose it, pried it up with my spatula so I could get my fingers underneath, lifted it and set it on the dowels. my fingers made a mess of the icing, i had a hard time getting the cake in just the right spot, and the weight of the cake did not push the dowels back down into the bottom cake.
-piped a border to hide my mess!
-I also tried my cake lifter but did even worse with that. I couldn't feel what I was doing since I wasn't holding it with my hands.

Sorry this is so long. If you made it this far I would love any pointers that you have. Thanks.

p.s. I did just order sharon zambito's stacking dvd today in the hopes that it will help my issues.

75 replies
Kitagrl Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 2:21am
post #2 of 76

With a buttercream cake I find it nice to put a wax paper circle right where you want the cake to be. (Put in supports even with top of cake....add a bit of buttercream "glue"...add circle...put a little more buttercream...then put your chilled next tier on there.) If you need to scootch the cake over, just take a flat spatula and gently nudge the cake board over until its centered just right. But the wax paper (I only do it on buttercream, not fondant) circle helps you place it. Plus its a nice separator, anyway, to keep from messing up too much of the icing on the next tier.

indydebi Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 2:29am
post #3 of 76

I have some photos that I will post in this thread..... give me a minute.

indydebi Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 2:45am
post #4 of 76

I'm posting the short version here .... each pic is a separate post so this will come thru in multiple posts.
LL

indydebi Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 2:46am
post #5 of 76

Place front of cake in place (I had a barely visible 'circle' marked so I knew where the edges of the cake should be). Notice my hand is still supporting the cake .....
LL

indydebi Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 2:47am
post #6 of 76

Remover hand ... cake is supported by the spatula.
LL

indydebi Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 2:49am
post #7 of 76

With the spatula, lower the cake into place....
LL

cas17 Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 2:49am
post #8 of 76

i have sharon's stacking dvd which tells you to put your tier in the freezer (not the frig) for 10-15 min then stack. works great!! my prob is the tiers that i have to stack at the venue get messed up cos of course i cannot freeze them a bit before stacking and no way can i deliver then lift a fully stacked cake. so....i am doomed to never have a cake with a very small border icon_sad.gif

thanks kitagirl for the wax paper idea!

indydebi Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 2:53am
post #9 of 76

With a barely perceptable lift of the spatula (I mean anyone watching could NOT tell I was doing any kind of "lift" motion), pull the spatula out. Note that my fingers have been nowhere near the cake while it was lowered into place and the only thing touching the cake is the spatula. Also the spatula is positioned in the BACK of the cake, which will be explained in the next pic.....
LL

indydebi Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 2:56am
post #10 of 76

The only "mar" on the cake was made by the spatula when I pulled it out and I don't get this all the time. I was actually glad it happened on this cake, for the demo purpose! This one spot is (a) in the back and unseen (b) easy smoothed out with the piece of parchment I brought with me to the venue. (The gray heart is "pointing" to the blemish made by the spatula).
LL

Swede-cakes Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 3:01am
post #11 of 76

cas17, I know what you're saying. I pop my finished tiers in the freezer for 5 minutes and it works perfectly. I can even gently realign a tier with my hands if it's not centered, and no finger smudges.

aej6 Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 3:04am
post #12 of 76

I wasn't the OP but this could not be anymore helpful....thank you so much for all of the effort in sharing this and all that you share on here!

THANK YOU!

Karen421 Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 12:05pm
post #13 of 76

Wow Indydebi - now that's what I call visual aid!!!! Thanks!!

crazyladybaker Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 12:19pm
post #14 of 76

Thanks so much for the pics! As usual you are a great help thumbs_up.gif

confectionsofahousewife Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 1:37pm
post #15 of 76

Kita, I love the wax paper circle idea! How do you go about actually placing the cake down onto the bottom cake?

Indy, thanks so much for all the info! You are awesome as usual. Oddly, I never thought to set one side of the cake down and then lower the other side. I tell ya, its the simple things with me. I was taught to lower it as close as I could to the bottom cake holding it with both hands and pull my fingers out as quick as I could letting the cake drop onto the bottom cake. Of course, this is where my fingers get into the icing! I am definitely trying this method next time. Who needs a three tier cake? Anyone?

cas17 thanks for the info on sharon's dvd! putting the cakes in the fridge definitely firmed up the buttercream so it was easier to handle but I imagine the freezer would be better. And I had the same problem you do. This cake was four tiers and I wasn't comfortable driving it all stacked up. Made me too nervous. and it would have been soooo heavy! I stacked the bottom two cakes at home but stacked the top two at the venue. The b/c had softened quite a bit by the time we got there (didn't help that its 90 degrees) so it was more difficult to stack them.

Anyone else want to share their methods?

cakesbycathy Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 2:30pm
post #16 of 76

Indydebi -that is a great visual. Thank you!

I use SPS and also just started putting the tier into the freezer for about 10-15 minutes before I stack. It has really helped. thumbs_up.gif

cas17 Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 3:03pm
post #17 of 76

cakesbycathy- just used sps for the first time this past weekend and it went very well i'm relieved to say. i will try again on this weekend's cake. still had to place the top tier at the venue and messed up the bottom edge but i think that damage control is just part of the biz :\\

indydebi Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 8:47pm
post #18 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by confectionsofahousewife

I was taught to lower it as close as I could to the bottom cake holding it with both hands and pull my fingers out as quick as I could letting the cake drop onto the bottom cake.




icon_eek.gificon_surprised.gificon_eek.gif

3GCakes Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 9:10pm
post #19 of 76

I think the reason your dowels don't go down into the cake is because you fridged it. They are pretty much glued into place then and won't sink anymore. Go ahead and put them where you want them to be, without relying on the weight of the cake to push them in further. I don't see any reason for doing it that way. icon_smile.gif

cas17 Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 9:20pm
post #20 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

Quote:
Originally Posted by confectionsofahousewife

I was taught to lower it as close as I could to the bottom cake holding it with both hands and pull my fingers out as quick as I could letting the cake drop onto the bottom cake.



icon_eek.gificon_surprised.gificon_eek.gif




oh dear that is not good on so many different levels! yanking your fingers i fear would do more damage and then the sudden drop icon_surprised.gif well, i'd be afraid it'd do damage to the entire cake!! best to use a large, sturdy but thin spatula. i have a wilton one that is pretty big, square and sturdy. i've heard of an even bigger, heavy duty one that's called a cake lifter but i haven't looked for it yet.

confectionsofahousewife Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 9:30pm
post #21 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi



icon_eek.gificon_surprised.gificon_eek.gif




I know! See that's why I'm asking this question. I knew that method wasn't quite right but I needed an alternative. OK, you can stop looking at me like that now icon_lol.gif
Indy, what do you use to support your tiered cakes?

3Gcakes, I was thinking that too about the dowels not going into the cake because it was chilled. I think with indy's method I won't have to worry about it anymore.

For those of you who use sps, do the cakes sit on a plate that is the same size as the cake? I'm thinking about trying it but haven't taken the time yet to read all of the sps instruction thread.

RedDarlene Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 9:43pm
post #22 of 76

What's SPS? Don't know what that means.

Toptier Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 9:49pm
post #23 of 76

I use a little different method which is using a center dowel, I'll explain...I first place the bottom tier in the center of the base board, using some bc, or ganache, or piping gel, or royal icing to secure (whatever I have around). Then I place my bubble straw supports as usual, then I place a sharpened center dowel right through the center of the cake and hammer that in place. I have precut the height of the dowel so that it stops approx. halfway up the top tier. Then, I thread each cake (I have premade a hole in the exact center of each of my base boards) over the central dowel and pretty much use Indydebi's method with a spatula once I get to that point. Sometimes I do use the "leaving up of the straws" trick to get the cake to settle gently but it has to be a heavy tier to push those back in.

The central dowel does keep things from shifting and has the added bonus of helping you place your tiers in the exact center. I find it very helpful, I've tried most methods and I like this one the best.

BTW if you're using SPS it is best to order your plates 1" smaller than the cake.

Tellis12 Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 9:57pm
post #24 of 76

Housewife, thank you 100x over for asking this! I have the same issues, except I started out doing it a little bit differently than you did. I try to do it Debi's way but I find, especially with larger tiers, that the small spatula doesn't seem to give enough support. Has anyone tried doing Debi's way with the cake lifter? I was thinking about getting one and using it on the cake I have this weekend. But I always seem to have to do at least a little bit of damage control.

cas17 Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 10:11pm
post #25 of 76

toptier: great advice on the sps and using 1" smaller plates. i used the sps system for the first time this past weekend for a 3 tier and was greatly relieved that it does indeed work. i had to travel for 30 miles up some very country back roads then another 5 mi on a road that was NOT state maintained--rather bumpy and lots of loose gravel. i did travel at a snail's pace and thankfully the cake never shifted and not a single hairline crack in the buttercream. yay! i will be giving it another try this weekend for a 4 tier. i did indeed order the plates 1" smaller than the actual tier so i would not have any issues with it showing. i do wish that they had a 5" plate to put my 6" tiers on :\\

indydebi Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 11:00pm
post #26 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tellis12

Housewife, thank you 100x over for asking this! I have the same issues, except I started out doing it a little bit differently than you did. I try to do it Debi's way but I find, especially with larger tiers, that the small spatula doesn't seem to give enough support. Has anyone tried doing Debi's way with the cake lifter? I was thinking about getting one and using it on the cake I have this weekend. But I always seem to have to do at least a little bit of damage control.


I've used the spatula method to drop a 14" onto a 16". YOu can keep your hand under the cake until the very last minute.....until the cake is within one inch of being in place. Then pull your fingers out and the spatula is only holding about 1/4 of the cake (since 3/4 of it is in place and on top of the bottom tier already).

poohsmomma Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 11:34pm
post #27 of 76

Indydebi,
How do you keep from getting a dent in the top of the bottom tier where the first corner/edge of the top tier is lowered onto it?

I hope I asked that so you could understand it.

Tellis12 Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 11:46pm
post #28 of 76

That's what I was wondering too.

cupcake_cutie Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 11:48pm
post #29 of 76

I'm so happy that I found this thread. Very valuable information!

Taleesa Posted 14 Jun 2010 , 11:50pm
post #30 of 76

Thanks IndyDebi for the great info. Can't wait to try this!

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