zespri Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 5:38am
post #1 of

I completed my first tiered cake yesterday, yay me!! It was collected from my house, and one the way met with an unfortunate accident. Apparently the floor of the car was not as level as first thought, and the top two cakes slid sideways, causing them to collapse the bottom cake.

I know that they told me it was because of the car floor, but this is my first tiered cake, what if it wasn't?

I had a 12", 9" and a 6". I placed five dowels in the 12", and four in the 9". No centre dowel. The bottom cake was not as dense as the top two cakes, could have have contributed? Or was it simply that the car floor was not level?

I am making a wedding cake next week, this can't happen again! Would I be safer to assemble the tiers onsite?

http://cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=gallery&file=displayimage&pid=1883781

133 replies
DSmo Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 5:45am
post #2 of

You needed the center dowel down through all three tiers. That would have prevented the top tiers from sliding. If you're assembling onsite, you don't need the center dowel. But if the cake is being transported assembled, you really need it. Unlevel car (as you experienced), bumps and hills in the road, vibrations... all will cause those tiers to slip.

Chalk it up to lesson learned and make sure you put that dowel in next time. : )

mareg Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 6:31am
post #3 of

Yes I agree.

cheatize Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 6:53am
post #4 of

I looked at the pictures. It doesn't look like a slide to me, it looks like a collapse. The middle and top tier look like they are exactly in the same place. The bottom tier is squished on one side.

zespri Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 6:57am
post #5 of

Hi cheatize, yes, the top two cakes slid to one side, and nobody tried to re-position them back to the centre. So over the hours it was sitting like that it got more and more crushed on that side.

roweeena Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 8:32am
post #6 of

In looking at your pic, you cake doesnt look solid enough and you dont have anywhere near enough dowels in it. When you dowel a cake the next tier up should sit ON the dowels. What were you using for dowels? Your cake may have been too soft and the few dowels you had would have been pushed aside. If you had centre dowelled I think it would have still collapsed but those tiers wouldnt have slid.

What kind of cake was the bottom tier and what did you fill it with? When I stack I also glue them into place with royal icing. My cakes are stacked and decorated the day before so if anything happens I have a chance to fix it. It might sound like a luxury but I would never risk someones cake by decorating the day of delivery. Just the way I work. This also gives the fondant to time to set up as well.

If you are doing a wedding cake I would give yourself a 4 day decorating window. Bake one day, ganache the next, cover the next, decorate, rest, deliver. Obviously you can cut this down with refrigeration but you need to give your filling time to set and also your fondant. If you do centre dowel use the silver cardboard rounds and sharpen your dowel and bang it down with a hammer until its all the way thru your last board. I use masonite boards and drill but you need alot of skill to get the holes lined up correctly on the cakes so its sometimes easier to do it that way.

HTH

zespri Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 8:43am
post #7 of

The bottom cake was a chocolate cake filled with a thin layer of raspberry jam. No, it was not as dense as the caramel mud cake and lemon coconut cake on top.

How many dowels do I need? I have been told if I have a 10 inch cake, half that number is 5, so use 5 dowels. I used wooden dowels. Hmm.... good tip to glue them with royal icing, thank you.

I used foamcore board covered in self adhesive plastic. Hopefully a centre dowel would break through that?

I am confused about the definition of a 'collapse', as both cheatize and yourself said that. I assumed it collapsed because the top cakes slid, so there was no dowel underneath their new location to support them...?

jennicita Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 8:44am
post #8 of

Ooh, can't believe I'm going to be the first person to say this but: use the SPS system!
It's not expensive but will give you the peace of mind knowing that there's absolutely now way your cake can collapse. I've made 2 3-tiered cakes with it and was nervous every time but one was even transported over bumpy roads on a large hill without any problem. Another was whisked over to the area where we were taking pictures (she touched my cake without asking me - and was holding it crooked!!!) but nothing happened. Use it, you'll never regret it.

http://cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-603925.html

icon_smile.gif

Good luck with the wedding cake! You can do it!

zespri Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 8:47am
post #9 of

Hi Jennicita, thanks for the reply! I actually read about this system before making this cake, but the bits and pieces I would need didn't seem to be available to me here in New Zealand, so I went with the tradtional method thinking that thousands of other people use it successfully, so I would be able to as well!

jennicita Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 8:52am

I guess particularly as a beginner, I don't want all my hard work to go down the drain because of my structural support system. Look for it online - maybe you can find it somewhere? I'm in Germany and it's a bit hard to find here - the one place I've found it online (in Germany) doesn't even have all the pieces I've wanted. I might end up ordering some in the States and having it shipped - might even be cheaper that way. The markup on imported caking items is insane!

I've used the traditional method on cakes of odd shapes (house, ski jump) and that's worked well for me. Those weren't 3-tiered cakes, though, so they just didn't have the weight issues that you had.

Good luck!

roweeena Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 9:00am
Quote:
Originally Posted by zespri

The bottom cake was a chocolate cake filled with a thin layer of raspberry jam. No, it was not as dense as the caramel mud cake and lemon coconut cake on top.

Yeah it sounds as though it was too light to cope with the other tiers. Jam is also quite slippery in a cake too, the good thing about filling with ganache or buttercream is it can be chilled to solid state.

How many dowels do I need? I have been told if I have a 10 inch cake, half that number is 5, so use 5 dowels. I used wooden dowels. Hmm.... good tip to glue them with royal icing, thank you.

A 12" is a big cake, I would have used 7 personally. Are you using the thick dowels from a cake deco shop or skewers? Also make sure they are all the same length otherwise you will get an uneven surface. When you dowel do you make sure you dowel as close to the size of the next tier as possible?


I used foamcore board covered in self adhesive plastic. Hopefully a centre dowel would break through that?

Should do, I dont use it myself so I dont know. But I cant see it being a problem.

I am confused about the definition of a 'collapse', as both cheatize and yourself said that. I assumed it collapsed because the top cakes slid, so there was no dowel underneath their new location to support them...?

I think it was a combination. If the cake wasnt level and you had nothing to bind the the other cakes to the bottom then it would have slipped but if there was already weaknesses in the bottom tier then it would have gone anyway.




Its all live and learn unfortunately, I remember my first collapse and it was a 5 and a 7! I didn't know about dowelling at all then.

Personally I think the SPS system is over-rated and not really relevant for the cakes we do here. I've delivered a 7 tier wedding cake (needed 2 boys to lift it) to the mountains up and down hills and had nerry a crack.

As long as you dowel properly, glue your tiers with RI and have it on non slip matting and on a flat surface in the car (I have a station wagon) you should be fine.

zespri Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 9:17am

Thanks for all the input, I'm feeling better already about my next cake.

I used dowels about as thick as a standard pencil, bought from a cake shop. My hubby cut them for me and they all looked exactly the same height, I was impressed he got them so even!

What you said about doweling as close to the size of the next cake might be another contributing factor. I probably left 1-2cm of space that I shouldn't have.

Do you sit yours in the back of the station wagon, just placing the cake board on top of a non-stick mat? I have a station wagon, and I have a non-slip mat, so that's a good start! Actually I gave the non-stick mat to the people picking the cake up last night to use, but I have a yoga mat which would do a good job too. I tried to find a box to sit the cake in, but failed to find anything big enough. Do you use boxes, or just sit the cake on the mat with nothing around it? It's scary, the thought of it just sitting there as you drive!

roweeena Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 9:30am

OK so you've got the right dowels. Try and dowel as far out as possible next time. It gives it much more stability. My cakes go on non-slip matting, in a box, on non slip matting, in the car.

I would try and find some more non slip matting if you can, I dont know about a yoga mat... If you cant find boxes ask if you can buy some from a bakery. I got mine originally from a paper supply store and then started buying the proper boxes in bulk. I think it looks more professional but I'm also charging on average 500 for a cake so I gotta look good!

Good luck next week and if you need anymore help just let me know.

zespri Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 9:34am

beautiful!! I feel like I can go to bed now.. lol

One more quick question: What does your box look like? It wouldn't cover the whole cake, surely? I bought a box from my cake supply shop, it's only about 6" high, and comes with a lid. Are you talking about one of those, with the lid off and the cake poking out the top?

P.S. I asked at a bakery for their boxes, same as I just described, they said NO because they had their name printed on them and didn't want me passing my cakes off as theirs... fair enough!

Evoir Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 9:42am

Hi Zespri - congratulations on your first tiered cake!

I am sorry to hear it gave way. To me it looks like it moved laterally and the top layer slipped on the bottom layer of your bottom tier. ie, INSIDE the bottom tier. If there was a big enough movement of the car back or forward, (or side to side) then it would have moved at this point first. What may have happened then is the internal dowels in the bottom tier gave way (fell over) and then it was too late!

How thick were your dowels? If they were very thin then you could add more in to make up the support necessary. And did you make them all exactly level with the top of the fondant before putting the next tier on it? I think your top two tiers are entirely intact...just that slippage in the middle of the bottom tier at layer level. Like prvious posters - I also use thinned down gumpaste, fondant or royal icing to glue the tiers together.

As you know I don't dowel my 2 and 3 tier cakes at all. BUT, I DO deliver them myself, and also have them usually sitting on a non-slip stable table on my lap while my husband drives.

If SPS was cheaper and available here I might buy it strictly for tiered pick ups. But for now it is a cost (ie for delivery) I add into my tiered cakes because most folks don't know how to drive with a cake on board, LOL!

roweeena Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 9:45am

I used to use 2 of these,
http://www.brownpaperpackaging.com.au/fbx-25-100-c1-08.html

putting the base together and then tenting the top and wrapping brown paper around it to completely cover but I now use the large cardboard boxes. they cost me $15 each but if I deliver I get it back or if they pick up they are charged for it.

indydebi Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 10:59am

i will be the dissenting opinion on dowels here .... if you used 5, AND they were pencil thick, then you were fine with the number that you used. I would have only used 4. I only use 5 if I have a 4 tier cake. Otherwise, it's 4 dowels in every tier, regardless of size. Did it that way for years. Only had one slider in 30 years and that was because I had to slam on my brakes. the cake autopsy showed I had too much rasp filling, which contributed to the slide.

I had the "honor" of cutting a cake that a baker had filled with dowels. Way too many. icon_eek.gif The cake was like swiss cheese ... a crumbly mess, difficult to cut, and did I mention it was a freakin' mess???? Too many dowels will damage the structural integrity of the cake.

were you there when the cake was cut? Did one of the dowels slip out of place? by looking at it, that would be my guess. A top tier sliding can push/pull a dowel out of place, which removes the support under that spot in the cake, which can cause a collapse, like I'm seeing in the pic.

Agree with the center dowel for any cakes needing transported already assembled. thumbs_up.gif

Evoir Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 11:09am

Debi - the general guideline we are taught in Australian courses is one dowel for every 2 inches above. ie if you have a 9 inch tier above a 12 inch tier, you use 4 -5 dowels. This is what I told zespri too, before she made the cake icon_smile.gif I am glad your experience confirms this too...I have never had a cake shift like that.

neelycharmed Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 12:15pm

Only had one slider in 30 years and that was because I had to slam on my brakes. the cake autopsy showed I had too much rasp filling, which contributed to the slide.
LOL
Not at the cake sliding, but the cake autopsy... icon_lol.gif
Jodi

madgeowens Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 12:38pm

I center dowel thru all tiers everytime..........never take a chance the top layers may shift!

indydebi Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 1:04pm

P.S. while I totally agree the center dowel helps prevent sliding, it's not a sure-all cure-all. My slider had a center dowel. The cake cardboard stayed in place ... but the top half of the cake slid (on top of the slick raspberry filling) right thru the dowel.

-K8memphis Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 1:40pm

I'm respectfully dissenting toward several things mentioned upthread.
We all do things different and nobody is right or wrong. Just different.

Six skinny dowel in a 12 inch cake is normal operating procedure.

In this case I think one dowel was no longer in contact with the cake board due to the slide and the cake fell in toward that loss of support. And to me the fact of having four dowel still in contact with the rest of it kept it from fully collapsing probably one of those got wonky too. It's easy insurance to use a sensible amount of dowel.

Also, I place my dowel well within the perimeter of the cake above--there is less chance for those dowel to slip and they are weight bearing. Think about stacking up the boards and dowel without any cake. Would it be easier or harder to get it to stand if dowel are placed at the perimeter?

To me if the dowel were placed at the far perimeter and the cake slides, less dowel will be making contact with the board than if the dowel were placed within the perimeter. Using more than four dowel* is a good safety measure hedging your bet against a slide.

*unless they are 3/4 of an inch wide and lend that additional stability.

We all do things different and nobody is right or wrong. Just different.

Edited to say--while it is certainly possible to have too many dowel -- I think it is much much more common to not have enough and that those are not placed properly. Just because something weird happened once doesn't mean you need to have everyone run the opposite way to their detriment. icon_biggrin.gif Erring toward swiss cheese is safer and better than flirting with collapse. Four skinny dowel is certainly possible but it is less than the norm for bottom tiers.

-K8memphis Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 1:57pm

And so I don't think it was your fault the cake slid. But I think there are things you can do cement tiers together too. Like a blob of buttercream might have helped it to adhere and not be as prone to slide.

zespri Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 8:07pm

Thanks so much for all your thoughtful comments ladies, I have read and re-read them, and feel much better equipped to deal with the wedding cake in a couple of weeks. Though having said that, I think my confidence is still shaken, and I will take all three cakes in individual boxes and assemble them on site. My collapsed cake was for my cousins 21st birthday, so they were not angry with me. But a wedding is a very special thing, and even though it's my friends wedding I still don't want anything to be less than perfect. I guess it just means I'll have to get there early and do the borders. It will be worth it for my peace of mind as I think it will take about 45 minutes to drive there, partially on bumpy country roads.

CWR41 Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 10:07pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evoir

As you know I don't dowel my 2 and 3 tier cakes at all.




Are you saying that you don't use a center dowel in your tiered cakes, or that you don't use a support system at all?

Evoir Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 11:13pm

Ooops - I meant CENTRE dowel!! Sorry for the confusion.

Of course, I use enough regular dowels throughout my tiers...absolutely.

Zespri - I meant to mention to you also that you can get a clear perspex guide for setting the placement of your dowels. It is about 10 inches square and has holes in it in concentric rings. You place it over the lower tier and mark where you will place your dowels, remove it and then place your dowels in your cake tier. I use it for all my cakes to not only centre my tiers, but also put the correct number in.

zespri Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 11:18pm

Interesting! Do you have a link with a picture of one?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evoir

Zespri - I meant to mention to you also that you can get a clear perspex guide for setting the placement of your dowels. It is about 10 inches square and has holes in it in concentric rings. You place it over the lower tier and mark where you will place your dowels, remove it and then place your dowels in your cake tier. I use it for all my cakes to not only centre my tiers, but also put the correct number in.


Evoir Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 11:50pm

zespri - I just tried to find it online without any luck! My local cake deco shop sells them. Their website is down atm, but I will try again later and send you a pic if I can find one. or I can take a photo myself. It might be something made locally here for our shop. If so I would be happy to send one over to you if you want to sort something out?

zespri Posted 5 Dec 2010 , 1:53am

You Aussies always have the best gadgets! My friend in America was desperate for those perspex smoothers from Planet Cake, I was glad that we had them here so I could send her some.

No rush! If the website comes back up that'd be great, thank you icon_surprised.gif)



Quote:
Originally Posted by Evoir

zespri - I just tried to find it online without any luck! My local cake deco shop sells them. Their website is down atm, but I will try again later and send you a pic if I can find one. or I can take a photo myself. It might be something made locally here for our shop. If so I would be happy to send one over to you if you want to sort something out?


Kitagrl Posted 5 Dec 2010 , 2:27am

Dowels can shift and fall...I like to use Bubble Tea Straws (and plenty per tier) because they are less likely to shift, and easier to cut all the same length.

I also chill all my cakes for transport. It firms them up and makes them less likely to vibrate loose during a car ride.

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