What Is Right Way To Stack A Cake?

Decorating By tbgramma Updated 20 Sep 2014 , 1:35am by -K8memphis

tbgramma Posted 17 Sep 2014 , 2:47am
post #1 of 26

OK - I made 4 tier cake for last Sat using one decorator advice - wood dowels under each cake - each cake just on cardboard cake board - well - cake completely collapsed in car!   I have asked many many people -- some say I need 1/2 inch foamboard under each tier --- some say its because I need to use straws under tiers - some say I need BOTH straws AND wood dowels every 2 inches - some say I used too many dowels -- HELP!!!!!!

25 replies
denetteb Posted 17 Sep 2014 , 3:07am
post #2 of 26

Can you give a little more detail to help get better advice.  How big were the tiers, how tall, did you drive with all 4 tiers stacked, were the cakes chilled, where was it in the car, was it flat in the car, how many dowels did you have in the different sizes of tiers, what did you have for the base board at the very bottom.  And any before and after pictures.  I know it is a lot of info but there are so many variables.

kakeladi Posted 17 Sep 2014 , 4:39am
post #3 of 26

As the other poster said, we really need much more info.  4 tiers is really a lot to be transporting all put together. Did you not consider putting together 2 & 2, then stacking those on site?  Why not?  What sizes were those tiers?  What icing did you use?  What type of vehicle used?  How many miles; what type of roads/terrain?  Did you take before & after pics?  Seeing what you are talking about would help us help you.

I have delivered 3 tiers as much as 200 miles and never had a problem.   And then I did 3 tiers that fell apart also so it happens to almost all of us at one time or another.


Side note:  Using a dowel every 2" is ridicules.  There would be no cake left to cut - it would be full of holes.

How many dowels (straws OR dowels) used depends on the size of the cake it is holding up.  There should be an odd #.  Example:  supporting a 12" round use  7 to 9 depending on how many tiers above it.  Supporting a 10" tier use 4 - maybe 5 if there are 2 more tiers above it.  No matter the # they should be spaced evenly around  a circle  the size of the cake they are supporting.   Never put a dowel in the center.  *Only* exception is when using a center dowel that goes through the whole cake to help hold the tiers in place.

I never used foam core board.  Always used cardboard (cake) circles and usually only 1.

Jeff_Arnett Posted 17 Sep 2014 , 1:50pm
post #4 of 26

You are going to get as many ideas as decorators on the best stacking method.


Personally, mine has never failed.


I use a base, usually 1/2 inch foam core with another 1/2 board, 4 inch smaller, glued under....this gives you great support plus you can easily get your fingers under it.


I usually order my 1/2 round board with a 3/8 center hole already drilled...there are a couple places to get these...PM me if you need a supplier.


I cut a 3/8 inch center dowel about 2 inches shorter than the finished height of the cake and glue it into the center of the base board....I also sharpen the top end with a pencil sharpener...but you don't have to....just makes stacking a bit smoother.


My cakes are always iced on same size 3/16 inch thick foam core boards with a 3/8 inch hole cut in the center...these boards I usually cut my self with a Lion Ev-R-Round circle cutter (Misterart.com)...but they can also be ordered from the same supplier as the 1/2 thick above.


I dowel each tier to the height of the finished icing.  Large cake (14 or larger) get an outer circle of 6 to 8 about 1.5 inches in from the outer edge of the tier to be added, and an inner circle of 4 dowels about 2.5 inches out from the center of the tier.  Smaller tiers get only 1 circle of 4-6 dowels.  Sometimes I use wood, sometimes just straws (for a 10-6 two tier straws work great).


When ready to stack, tiers are simply slid down over the center dowel onto the cake below, and borders or other finishing details  added.  This gives you perfectly centered tiers without having to measure and mark and trying to get them lined up.


The completed cake spends the night in the cooler so the buttercream (I don't cover in fondant but do use it for details) is very cold and solid before delivery.


The completed cake (I always deliver anything 5 tiers or smaller stacked....6 or more in two sections, not because of concerns over taller cakes but because that's the tallest cake I can get into the back the van) is delivered in a heavy duty cardboard shipping box...I buy the boxes in bulk, but any Walmart, office supply store or wholesale club usually sells them up to about 18x18x24.


Like I said, I've delivered many ,many cakes this way....several to other states....and never had the first issue.


By the way, don't sit your cake on foam padding like egg crate mattress padding...sit the cake directly on the bottom of the vehicle with just some non-slip rubber grip mat under it.  Using padding seems like a good idea, but the problem is in the physics of the material.  When you set a box on padding and as the vehicle moves, the box actually bounces on the padding (think of jumping on a trampoline)...when placed only on the floor with non-slip under it, it travels with the motion of the vehicle and does not bounce up and down as it does on padding.


Hope this helps....like I said, you will probably get many different viewpoints on this....you have to decide what works best for your situation.

tbgramma Posted 17 Sep 2014 , 2:42pm
post #6 of 26
Photo: Cake I made for a 1 st birthday party
Cakes were 12 inch 10 inch 8 inch 6 inch  with each cake I chilled then placed WIlton wood dowells 2 inches apart (used fingers like Edna does and made V   Each cake on cardboard circle Place one dowel in -- mark - take out and cut rest Then take llargers long dowel and drove through entire structure into base   Set cake in back of SUV inside one of my metal drawers from my closet  Surrounded it with pillows  As a guy pulled out inn front on me entire cake fell but more important as it fell every tier came apart from center dowell and crumbled into 1000 pieces!
AZCouture Posted 17 Sep 2014 , 6:26pm
post #7 of 26

ASo you didn't get the help you needed in the group on Facebook? You got a wealth of information, more than I've seen for a disaster in a long time.

AZCouture Posted 17 Sep 2014 , 6:28pm
post #8 of 26

ABasically, putting it on pillows, and the fact that it was already showing signs of impending doom before it even began to travel was the major issues.

AZCouture Posted 17 Sep 2014 , 6:35pm
post #9 of 26

AAnd, the person whose advice you followed is probably spot on, if it was Edna's. As far every two inches, that's ridiculous right there. But straws, dowels, poly dowels, makes no difference in the end. It comes down to the skill of the person using them, and how careful they are with preparation, presentation, and delivery. It was already going to fall just going by those before pictures, and putting the cake on pillows was basically speeding the process up. You need to put in a lot more practice before tackling something like this again. Good luck!

ellavanilla Posted 17 Sep 2014 , 6:45pm
post #10 of 26

i would add that a common mistake is to cut each dowel/straw to the height of the cake in each spot instead of picking one height and cutting all your dowels to the height. 


no cake is perfectly even, so you rely on your dowels being the same height to create a level...level.  It looks like that was your first mistake. once the tiers are uneven it's a lot easier for them to go off balance. 

tbgramma Posted 17 Sep 2014 , 7:22pm
post #11 of 26

ok -  Ive got alot of great advice ---  what is everyone's preference -- do you use straws or wood dowells or buy those plastic dowells and most important should it be right level with the fondant or above it a little?

ellavanilla Posted 17 Sep 2014 , 7:28pm
post #12 of 26

i usually use bubble straws because they are easy to see. i had a caterer serve a cake with the bamboo skewers still in it once... stupid.


put in your center support and mark it right at the top of the buttercream or fondant. pull it out and cut all your supports to that height.  you want your cake too look like each tier is resting on the one underneath


if your cake isn't even, there will be a gap at some part of the cake and you will need to pipe around the base or cover with a fondant border. the more you make cakes, the less of a gap you will have. use a small level to check your tiers as you build them. the most important part is when you are torting and filling. thats when you can make it even.

cakesbycathy Posted 18 Sep 2014 , 2:21pm
post #13 of 26

I only use SPS.

AZCouture Posted 18 Sep 2014 , 4:08pm
post #14 of 26

AI only use bubble straws, sometimes regular drinking straws.

tbgramma Posted 18 Sep 2014 , 5:58pm
post #15 of 26

ok - one more stupid questiom === for those of you that use bubble straws, when you place your center dowell in and drive it all the way through arent you afraid the straws will collapse under the pressure?  Sorry to be such a dummie    I am just so frustrated  I want to get it right  I am doing one for my granddaughter next week to practice

leah_s Posted 18 Sep 2014 , 6:59pm
post #16 of 26

I only use SPS.  Way easy.

kakeladi Posted 18 Sep 2014 , 8:59pm
post #17 of 26

.........arent you afraid the straws will collapse under the pressure?............


Absolutely not:)  A round tube is super strong.  Try putting a few straws under a cake circle & press down as hard as you can.  They do have to be straight and no sideways pressure.

AZCouture Posted 18 Sep 2014 , 11:13pm
post #18 of 26


Originally Posted by kakeladi 

.........arent you afraid the straws will collapse under the pressure?............


Absolutely not:)  A round tube is super strong.  Try putting a few straws under a cake circle & press down as hard as you can.  They do have to be straight and no sideways pressure.

I'm about as afraid of that as I am of a shark biting me in the cereal aisle at the grocery store ;) Ditto to kakeladi, they're perfectly sturdy, in the hands of a capable decorator that cuts them absolutely flush to each other and arranges them correctly. I would strongly suggest you get a system like SPS for the next few times you do a tiered cake, and get some confidence built up. Then you can step outside of that and explore other means of support if you wish. I don't care for SPS at all, but it's good experience for first time tiered cakes, and if it's traveling a long way. 

costumeczar Posted 19 Sep 2014 , 12:15am
post #19 of 26

I use wooden dowels but I use corrugated plastic plates, not cardboard. Plastic doesn't absorb moisture and soften up. I don't use a center dowel unless there's a really compelling reason. I also deliver everything cold so it won't move around.


One thought that I had is that if you used a Wilton cake drum, forget the stability issue. Those things are wiggly and I wouldn't trust them at all. Get some sturdier drums if that's what you used.

julia1812 Posted 19 Sep 2014 , 7:53am
post #20 of 26

ASeems like the above comments will sort you out. Just a quick note: If you do many tiers, you want to use a cake that is rather dense than light and fluffy. Hope you considered that too...

yortma Posted 19 Sep 2014 , 11:18am
post #21 of 26


Originally Posted by julia1812 

Seems like the above comments will sort you out. Just a quick note: If you do many tiers, you want to use a cake that is rather dense than light and fluffy. Hope you considered that too...

For me, my regular recipes work just great for stacked cakes.  I don't typically use dense recipes.  The support system you choose to use takes the weight of the tiers above, so that each cake is not bearing more than its own weight. If it works as an individual single tier, it will work in a multi-tiered cake with proper supports.  HTH!

cai0311 Posted 19 Sep 2014 , 2:04pm
post #22 of 26

AI use bubble tea straws for all my cakes. They are easy to work with, cheap and very strudy. I hammer 2 offset wooden dowels (one end sharpened) all the way through my cakes.

Each cake has 2 cardboard cake circles hot glued together under it. The bottom tier has the cake circles glued to a 1/2" thick cake drum (I get mine from global sugar art). I like 2 boards because it is sturdier when I am moving the cakes from counter to fridge to counter to fridge.... The big tiers would get small cracks in the icing when I only used 1 cake board.

I always chill my cakes in the fridge overnight before delivery. A firm cake (chilling firms the cake and icing) travels better than a room temp cake.

kakeladi Posted 19 Sep 2014 , 10:01pm
post #23 of 26

A..........: If you do many tiers, you want to use a cake that is rather dense than light and fluffy........... ......yortma said: ..... The support system you choose to use takes the weight of the tiers above, so that each cake is not bearing more than its own weight..........

Really, if proper support is used you could stack whipped cream or jello! It does not matter if the cake is light & fluffy or dense :) As yortma said above.

............cuts them absolutely flush to each other and arranges them correctly...... This definitely is right. You need to find the tallest point on your tier, measure you support (be it wood dowel or any kind of straw) and cut *all* the supports you are us9ing to that height. Do NOT cut each support flush with the top of the iced cake. Almost all cakes will have high and low points - yes, even if you have leveled it :) One also needs to be very careful inserting them *straight* If a support is even a little crocked it can be a disaster. Many times we just push them in and they are not straight. When I taught tiered cake construction I had students take time to insert supports properly by pushing it in only about 1-2" w/the cake on a turntable turn it 1/4 turn to observe how straight it is, & then another 1/4 turn etc to see that it is straight, then push in another 1" or so, etc until it is completely into the cake. . When you do the above several dozen times you will get used to the feel if it is going in straight.

If I remember one of your posts in this thread you said something about a tier not straight on top of the other and you pushed it into place. You probably caused the dowels to go crooked :(

morganchampagne Posted 20 Sep 2014 , 12:46am
post #24 of 26

AI have used it all!!! My favorite BY FAR are these bubble tea straws. I still use SPS sometimes cause I just do lol. I first started using poly dowels.

I, though, don't pull out one and cut all the same height. Never have...and never had a disaster..maybe I'm lucky? The one time I did that it was off and made my cake slightly tilt. Most of my cakes in the gallery are done that way.

morganchampagne Posted 20 Sep 2014 , 12:48am
post #25 of 26

AThere's a video of krazy kool cakes on YouTube doing it that way too...everybody has a way. None of them wrong really. As long as it works you know

-K8memphis Posted 20 Sep 2014 , 1:35am
post #26 of 26

Ai really like those hollow 3/4" tubes -- has anyone else ever tried the kind that have a screw you can adjust to the height of your cake? kinda pricey but those were fun

Quote by @%username% on %date%