Do you use cardboard circles in addition to the plastic seperator plates (Wilton)? I have a 4 tier stacked cake for this weekend and can't decide if I should use the cardboard circles too. I have done it both ways before but wanted to know what everyone else thinks.
I use only the cardboard circles and I don't cover them with anything either.
I use both...I cover a cardbard circle with foil that the cake sits on and carpet tape it down to the seperater plate.
Since you mentioned that you are going to use separator plates, I think your decision to use cardboard circles with the plates is a wiser choice rather than without.
It's much easier to place the plate on the lower tier and push down during assembling without a cake on top, and next slide the cake on its own board onto the plate. (if you're trying to drop the entire cake tier with plate onto the lower tier, you might not get good contact between the two and end up with a gap because you aren't able to press on the top tier without messing it up.)
A couple of things to consider...
1. Do you want your plates returned to you with knife cut marks on them? (If they aren't disposable plates, and the answer is "no", use the circles.)
2. Can you ice your cakes easily directly on the Wilton plates? (If it's easier to handle them on circles instead of the plates, use the circles.)
On the rare occassions I do use the plastic plates I use the circles too. This is because I place the cake onto the circle to crumbcoat and frost/cover with fondant and then it's easy to slide my blade under the circle and move the cake for stacking. Just easier.
I actually never thought to ice on the circle THEN add to the plate. I usually crumb coat then add to the plate and ice. I always have an extra plate for marking the locations of the pillars (I learned that the hard way). I think this time I'll try icing on the circle then place on the plate after it has been added to the bottom layer. Always learning new ways to try something on here
I always use the cake circles AND plates (with the exception of sometimes the 6" tier which I will stack with just the cardboard). I put an 8" cake on an 8" cardboard and put it on a 7" plate (for stacked construction). For some of the larger tiers I'll use double or even triple cardboards to help keep it from bending. Like someone else mentioned, I frost the cake on it's cardboard and then move the bottom tier to it's base and attach it with some icing. Then I mark the cake with the plate the next tier will be sitting on, put in my hidden pillars and then place the plate on the cake. Then I frost the next tier on it's cardboard and set it on the next tier (with the plate already in place) attaching it with some icing. I always use a place one inch smaller than the cake (for stacked construction) - that way I don't have to worry about hiding the edges of the plate... plus it gives me a little adjusting room to move the tier a little bit after it's placed just to make sure it's completely centered. I've been doing it this way for 13 years and have never had a cake lean, fall, slide, tip or collapse.
I use cardboard pads, wrapped with white tape for reinforcement for wedding cakes. I use an sps for all my stacked or columned cakes. I double or triple the boards for the larger tiers. I place those cardboards on the plastic plates (same size) with some icing smeared on to make them stick together. I don't have leaning cakes or slipping dowels with the sps.