Center Doweling Methods: Which And Why?

Decorating By vgcea Updated 29 Oct 2012 , 8:50am by vgcea

vgcea Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 3:12pm
post #1 of 14

I've almost always seen center dowels driven through stacked cakes but recently my chef instructor has us driving the center dowel into the lower tiers and then 'impaling' the top tier on the already inserted dowel. While I like the finished look of this method (no hole on the top tier), the impaling process always has me nervous as I feel the top tier might break, blow out or lawd knows what.

I noticed Faye Cahill has a method where she impales all the tiers on a preconstructed board-dowel (like an upside down T => __I__ ).

So which do you use and why?

13 replies
BakingIrene Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 3:56pm
post #2 of 14

The top tier will break or blow out only if there is that much force being applied sideways. For example, driving a hairpin road at 90mph.

Each tier has to be built to support the weight above it--meaning that whatever you are using for dowels have been cut square so that they are carrying the weight they are intended to carry.

I would personally never carry or drive with more than two tiers prestacked. I would then use two off-centre long dowels to pin a large cake AFTER I was sure about the cake table and location away from bumbling drunken elephants if you know what I mean.

So you have to learn how to factor in the force that you intend to apply to your cake. Multiply that by about 5 for accident prevention...

BlakesCakes Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 8:46pm
post #3 of 14

I prefer not to add the step of having to cut a hole in the center of the boards AND things can "spin" on a single central, for cakes that will travel long distances or over bumpy roads or be frozen/defrosted or be moved multiple times by the recipient, I insert 2 full length, sharpened dowels that are cut a bit shorter than the cake (I give explicit instructions on how to find and remove them). I then cover the holes.

I "map" my short support dowels carefully and make sure that the 2 long dowels don't hit them. With 2 dowels, sideways sheer is pretty impossible.

I also sit all cakes on at least 2 layers of 2" memory foam in the back of my van. This dampens the vibration of the car and the irregularities of the road. I swear by it.


vgcea Posted 26 Oct 2012 , 5:30am
post #4 of 14

Wow, such detailed responses. Thank you BakingIrene and BlakesCakes.
*CC doesn't send notifications anymore?*

So what do you ladies use to cover the holes created in a fondant-covered cake when you're done? With a BC cake, I can see how one can easily 'fix' the hole with more BC but for a fondant cake with no topper/flowers?

vgcea Posted 28 Oct 2012 , 8:17pm
post #5 of 14


BlakesCakes Posted 28 Oct 2012 , 8:38pm
post #6 of 14

I encourage the client to accept a deco on the top to cover the holes. They are told that it may be necessary in order to insure successful transport of the cake.

I have covered the holes using melted fondant--works OK--and tinted royal (can be tough because it dries lighter than the tinted color).


vgcea Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 1:22am
post #7 of 14

Thank you Rae!

ApplegumPam Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 2:33am
post #8 of 14

Australian decoraters do it differently.... our cake boards are not soft enough to be able to 'drive' anything throuigh - so all out central dowelling needs to be PLANNED

Each cake sits on its own pre-drilled cake board
Presentation board is drilled and a 8-12mm dowel is glued into place (height of the dowel is the height of your tiers factoring in only half height for the TOP tier)
Cakes are lifted up and over the dowel - I've found it easier to use a bubble straw or something of the same diameter as your dowel to core in a downwards motion, before trying to impale on dowel - just means less chance of fondant lifting etc.

I like to use central dowels for more than just the sideways movement - it means that your cakes are perectly centred/aligned every time.

Australian reception venues are used to this sort of construction as it is very common here - no problems with the cutting just slide knife between tiers and twist to break seal - then lift each tier off central dowel and cut each tier separately

Evoir Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 2:52am
post #9 of 14

Pam - I only use cardboard (you know the silver cake boards?) in between each tier of my cakes, unless I am using a spacer between tiers, and then I use an MDF board at the base of the upper tier.

So when I assemble my cakes, I will hammer a centre dowel right through the centre of my cake. All my interior dowels are around the edges equally spaced.

If I have a smooth-topped top tier (no top decoration) I hammer a centre dowel through everything but the top tier, then place the top tier on the cake without it being centre doweled.

I do like the idea of predrilling for centering each tier, but I am very leery of MDF. Its not something you want to be in contact with the bottom/top of a cake tier via the centre hole. DO people cover the bare hole with something before flopping a cake onto it?

ApplegumPam Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 3:31am
post #10 of 14

Not sure I understand what you are asking.....

The MDF is the presentation board and I would normally cover that with food grade vinyl (normally novelty or something that perhaps required a black base) Wedding cakes always have fondant covered boards. Each cake sits on its own separate STD silver board, even the base one (so at no time would the cake come into contact with the MDF - the dowel I use is brush box which is used to make chopping boards so it is food safe - but even then it would barely touch the cake as the predrilled boards and the coring means that there is a mm or two clearance

I still have skewers under each tier

I can't say that I have ever tried the hammer it trough the top technique but for me I think there are too many areas where it could go wrong - ie hard to work out the centre, worried about card fragments in the cake where it has had to pierce through, not being at a true 90degree to your board and not having your central dowel secured to your base board
I think it is just one of those areas where I say... if its working for you and you are happy with it - continue doing what you are doing. Same goes for me icon_smile.gif

Evoir Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 4:42am
post #11 of 14

No problems Pam...I put a silver cardboard under the base tier also (on top of a fondant or cake foil-covered MDF board).

In my post above I assumed you meant hard MDF boards can't have a dowel hammered through them. You wrote "our cake boards are not soft enough to be able to 'drive' anything throuigh - so all out central dowelling needs to be PLANNED" and I was simply saying a dowel can indeed be hammered through the silver cardboards, if desired. This is why I assumed you meant MDF was used BETWEEN tiers as well, because I can surely understand not being able to drive a dowel through that!

Anyhow, horses for courses. If I'm doing a Mad Hatter or a 3D shape, I DO use a dowel or threaded rod secured to the baseboard and then thread on the cakes, it just saves me a heap of time to do it the other way with regular tiered cakes, as there is no real reason IMO to anchor the dowel to the base board once its securely hammered through the entire cake icon_smile.gif

ApplegumPam Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 5:55am
post #12 of 14

Good to know it can be done! LOL

To be honest I have never been game enough to try - I have enough trouble trying to cut those damn boards if I have an odd shape so the thought of trying to 'knock' a dowel through them sort of freaked me out. What size dowel do you use?

Evoir Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 6:12am
post #13 of 14

I use one 9mm diameter dowel for most cakes. With Mad Hatters I use two. You need to sharpen the end though, like a big pencil icon_smile.gif

I guess aside from the time factor, I also find sometimes with my Australian-made stainless steel cake tins that they aren't exactly the correct size for the cardboard I put them on. This means that I end up sometimes with the cardboard, if its slightly larger (this mainly is an issue with my 9" and 10" round pans - I am slowly switching over to Fat Daddios), then I end up with the centre of the board perhaps being a few mms from the centre of the cake on it after I have ganached and fondant-ed...meaning if I were to use your predrilled method, I'd end up with a stacked cake that looks a bit off-kilter! Maybe one day I'll be as good as Faye Cahill or Paris C and centre things better!

My husband even bought me a proper woodworker's wooden mallet for whacking in centre dowels, LOL...I guess he got tired of looking for his favourite hammer when he needed it icon_wink.gif

vgcea Posted 29 Oct 2012 , 8:50am
post #14 of 14

Thank you for the responses ApplegumPam and Evoir.

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