4 Tiers

Decorating By kamill Updated 27 May 2015 , 2:54pm by powers4god

kamill Posted 18 May 2015 , 10:54pm
post #1 of 20

Hi cc I have a Question, so I have a 4 tier cake due soon and my client wants the tiers to be 6 inches tall, how many dowels do i use? Will this hold up? I use wedding cakes for you buttermilk chocolate cake recipe, my client wants the chocolate to be the last tier is it strong enough, any advice would be greately appreciated 

19 replies
SquirrellyCakes Posted 19 May 2015 , 12:03am
post #2 of 20

The number of dowels depends on the size of the cake tiers and what kind of dowels you are using.  By last tier do you mean bottom or top and what are the other cakes and what are your cakes covered in?  What are the cakes filled with?  I am not familiar with the recipe you mentioned but in general buttermilk cakes have a more delicate crumb.  Proper dowelling, boarding and plating along with level cakes with sturdy fillings and icings can usually accommodate many different kinds of cakes.

Happyfood Posted 19 May 2015 , 12:30am
post #3 of 20

Wilton has some good general information on cake construction.  Can this help answer your questions?


SquirrellyCakes Posted 19 May 2015 , 1:39am
post #4 of 20

Additionally, I can tell you from experience that it is sometimes an issue to plate these 6 inch cakes.  Personally I prefer the 4 inch tiers.  Hope the bride ensures that the venue's dessert plates will accommodate.  I find that most brides have gotten away from the 6 inch high cakes that were more popular about a decade ago but that may depend on where you live.

kamill Posted 19 May 2015 , 2:39am
post #5 of 20

@squirrellyCakes they want a 14", 10", 8" and 6". And this isn't a wedding  it's a birthday party and they asked for it to be 6 inches tall , thsnks @happyfood

SquirrellyCakes Posted 19 May 2015 , 7:58am
post #6 of 20

Remind them that their plates need to have an inside the rim are of inches to accommodate height. 

You didn't say what kind of dowels you are using. That also determines how many. You use more wooden dowels than the plastic hollow tube type.  If you are using bubble tea straws for dowels that is different too. Also the type of cakes, fillings and frosting will will have an impact.

Will the cakes be on boards or a plastic plate system and are you using a centre dowel?

What are you setting the whole cake on?  Plywood, chip board, a silver cake plateau?

SquirrellyCakes Posted 19 May 2015 , 8:35am
post #7 of 20

The above should read"...an inside rim area of 6 inches".

kamill Posted 19 May 2015 , 9:07am
post #8 of 20

They want the 12 inch to be chocolate the 10 inch vanilla the 8 inch red velvet then 6 inch carrot, I was thinking of using wooden dowels and for the board I'm not quite sure

SquirrellyCakes Posted 19 May 2015 , 1:34pm
post #9 of 20

Generally when you have a cake of more than 3 tiers, when using wooden dowels it is recommended that on the bottom tier you use some 1/2 inch dowels towards the centre of that cake. That is in addition to the regular wooden rods ( which I think are 1/4 inch in diameter).  You need to use hardwood dowels if using wood.  I am pretty sure that the Wilton ones are still 1/4 inch diameter by 12 inches high.  Not sure if they offer the 1/2 inch.  I get the 1/2 inch (may actually be 5/8 inch) at stores like Home Depot or lumber type stores. Leave a space in the centre area of each cake for a centre dowel. These I get at the same type of store. The centre dowel can be 1/4 inch or larger in diameter.  You will need one that is at least 26 inches long.

 People cut the rods with various tools including pet nail cutters, electric knives, utility knives and various saws.  I tend to use a steak knife. This will dull a knife though.  You also need sandpaper to smooth ends. Clean the dowels after.

So, you need cake boards that are sealed against moisture on both top and bottom. Generally the cardboards you buy only have foil on one side so you need to also seal the underneath.  If moisture gets into the board you get problems,  so seal them. Some people use the waxed cardboards and seal the ends with food-safe tape or white electrical tape but I am not certain electrical tape would be food-safe.

You also need at least a cake drum for the main base that your bottom tier will sit on that is strong enough to support all of the cakes.  Or 1/2 inch covered plywood or a silver plateau or something solid.  If using a cake drum, people usually pound the centre dowel through all cakes and partly into the drum.

So here we go. Everyone will have different ideas about how many dowels and where to place them as it isn't an exact art.  I would rather be too cautious than have issues. Make sure you have levelled all of your cakes and that they all sit on sealed boards the same size as the cakes ( except for the 12 inch which should sit on a base at least 2 inches larger. So...

1.  In the bottom 12 inch cake I would use three 1/2 inch dowels towards the centre remembering to leave about 1 1/2 to 2 inches clear in the centre and spacing them evenly from the centre of your cake.  I would also use likely  five of the 1/4 inch dowels spaced out fairly evenly so all areas have support.

I place a dowel in the cake and mark with a food safe marker where the top of the cake is.  Remove the dowel and I cut  slightly below so that when the dowel is inserted, it is slightly below the height of cake.  Cut all dowels to the same length.  Cut parchment  the same size as the cake board that will sit on top. So in this case, 10 inches. Place the parchment on top of the dowelled 12 inch cake. Some people put powdered sugar or sanding sugar before the parchment if their icing isn't a setting type.

 2. For the 10 inch cake, you could use two of the 1/2 inch dowels towards the centre and 4  or 5 of the 1/4 inch dowels or 7 of the 1/4 inch dowels. Again, cut  parchment  to match cake that sits on top. So, 8 inches.

3.  Place 8 inch cake on top.  For this cake I would probably use 6 of the 1/4 inch dowels because carrot cake is often heavy especially if it has nuts and or raisins.  Again, cut parchment to match cake on top which would be 6 inches and place on top

4. Place top layer on.  Measure centre rod against cake. If a decoration will cover the cake top, I just pound the centre rod through the middle using a  plastic mallet. First I sharpen the rod then sand the end more rounded than pointy. Clean it. Then push firmly through centre.  If on a cake drum, I pound it slightly into the drum.

If the top of the cake will show, then I cut a small hole through the centre of the cake board that will hold the top layer prior to boarding that cake.  So in that case I push and pound the centre rod into the bottom three tiers.  Then I look under the plated top cake and line it up to the dowel.  Then I feed the top layer through the dowel so it sits on top of the second layer.

You need to use more dowels with a 6 inch high tiered cake than with 4 inch high tiers so that is why I added so many.

Some decorators would use bubble tea straws instead of wood (different numbers for those).  Other decorators feel they are best used for three tiers and under.

Happyfood Posted 19 May 2015 , 2:35pm
post #10 of 20

If all of your tiers are going to be 6 inches tall then your cake will have a high center of gravity.  If you are going to be assembling it then transporting it, I sure would have someone sitting right next to it to make absolutely sure it arrives standing up.  Bet it will be pretty with all of those tall layers.

Happyfood Posted 19 May 2015 , 2:43pm
post #11 of 20

Forgot to add - because I am not sure how you are going to be transporting your cake, you could always leave the anchor dowel slightly higher than the top tier so your assistant can have a place to steady the cake.  When you get to your destination, you can then cover the dowel with some sort of decoration to disguise it. 

SquirrellyCakes Posted 19 May 2015 , 3:47pm
post #12 of 20

I got so caught up in the dowels and boards I forgot the last part.

Happyfood gave good advice. If you are stacking before driving, it is a good idea to have someone near the cake.

 I always have mine on the floor of the vehicle sitting in a large carton lined with non-skid mat (shelf liner). You cut the front as a flap that folds down so you can put the cake in easily.  Moving boxes work well, just tape the sides up and cover the top with plastic and tape that too.  Or tinfoil on the box top works well too.  Ensure that your vehicle can accommodate the height.

Otherwise, pack each cake layer in boxes the same size as the boards/drum.  Assemble with centre dowel at the venue.  

kamill Posted 19 May 2015 , 3:59pm
post #13 of 20

Thanks squirrellyCakes and Happyfood for so much advice I will give updates on the cake and put pics up once done I'm so nervous about it wish me luck lol thanks again 

SquirrellyCakes Posted 19 May 2015 , 4:45pm
post #14 of 20

Best of luck.  You will do well!

Happyfood Posted 19 May 2015 , 6:33pm
post #15 of 20

You will be awesome!  Looking forward to seeing the photos!  :)

kamill Posted 27 May 2015 , 12:59pm
post #16 of 20

Hey ladies just want to say thanks.I really appreciate you guys taking the time to help me and even all of my tiers weren't 6 inches tall the client lover it.

kamill Posted 27 May 2015 , 12:59pm
post #17 of 20

How do you add pics on here lol

carolinecakes Posted 27 May 2015 , 1:11pm
post #18 of 20

Click on Gallery, a drop down menu shows "Add a Photo"

powers4god Posted 27 May 2015 , 2:52pm
post #19 of 20

This was the perfect thread for me to read today! You ladies are awesome! I have been a hobbiest decorator for friends and family for several years and am getting ready to make my first four tiered wedding cake for a friend's wedding in June. I know the basics of construction, but am so nervous about it stacking just right. Also, I will be transporting the layers I stacked to the venue which is 2 hours away and assembling the cake onsite. My friend wants the cake to be on display inside for the evening wedding and then moved outside for the outdoor reception. I am terrified of moving the cake! It will be on a pedestal. Any suggestions?

powers4god Posted 27 May 2015 , 2:54pm
post #20 of 20

*should say: transporting layers unstacked 

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