Help In Engineering & Dowel.. When? How? Why? Where?

Decorating By Bakki Updated 8 Mar 2009 , 2:10am by Bakki

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Bakki Posted 7 Feb 2009 , 4:44am
post #1 of 10

Calling ALL Cake Wizards out there! Im just a NEWbie in the whole cake creating experience & I need answers! FAST!!
I need to learn all I can in a small amount of time as Im taking on a HUGE project & have but 4 weeks to prepare!

When 2use....How 2use....Why you use....Where 2use....DOWEL!!?

Im planning on making THIS for my sons Birthday in exactly 4 weeks time. Any tips would be VERY HELPFUL!

Im thinking I will create the main building out of 3 stacked choc cakes of varying sizes having a layer of frosting in middle of the two lower cake [the top cake will be too thin to slice in half] Covering each one in a pale orange fondant. The two buildings behind will be rice cakes Or Styrafoam? Ala mock cakes covered in the same fondant. The trimmings I will pre-make in gum-paste and leave to dry & stiffen & then to be glued on with CMC & water /paste.
- [I cant PIPE to save myself!? {not yet?!} icon_wink.gif]

I want to learn how to use a spray gun effect...So I can get a rendered finish in a darker orange. {I will post up a new topic for that one methinx!! LOL}
Yes I want to throw myself in the deep end & I think I can JUST pull this off! I just need basic swimming guidance! Haha icon_wink.gif

But I DO NEED to know the BASIC engineering of stacking 3 cakes. WHY do you use dowel & HOW do you use dowel & What exactly needs support? Where d you place it? How many pieces & Where do you buy it!? Does it go through the whole 3 cakes or just strengthen the supporting cakes?

And if anyone has any tips on the engineering of this cake project I WOULD BE VERY GLAD to hear ANYTHING that MAY HELP in my quest & Eternally grateful!!!!!!!!!! Im starting to softly panic but not at the tear-out-hair stage yet! LOL

Im a perfectionist with certain things sometimes & I wont let a lil thing like lack of experience, hinder me! Hahaha I MUST be Obsessed !! Ive caught the cakebug!!! I feel confident that I can get a decent result! ..Who ME??? Oh dear! :S LOL


9 replies
kakeladi Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
kakeladi Posted 7 Feb 2009 , 4:05pm
post #2 of 10

........will create the main building out of 3 stacked choc cakes of varying sizes having a layer of frosting in middle of the two lower cake.........

Will you be using mud cake recipes? As I know, they are a dense cake....not anything like the American 'regular' cakeicon_smile.gif They are also heavier than the American cakes.

General rule of thumb is after every 4" of height you add support for anything over that height.
So if your 3 stacked cakes are 2" tall each you would put together w/filling then put the next one on a cake board w/support in the bottom 4". Support can be plastic drink straws or wooden dowels.
Or put the wooden dowels into the straws if you can find thick enough straws.

........WHY do you use dowel......
Without any support the cakes would crush the bottom ones.

........HOW do you use dowel & What exactly needs support? Where d you place it? How many pieces......
If you are using straws you get them in supermarkets (at least here in the US). Just be sure to find the ones w/the biggest hole in the center and ones that do not bend (here we have 'bendable' straws that have an accordion like part that allows one to bend the straw for easier drinking if one is like sick in bed and can't raise up). Usually if I am making only one cake I pick up a couple extra at a fast food restaurant like McDonalds.
Once the cake is iced and ready.....stick one into the cake making sure you get it to go in perfectly straight. Mark where it is above the cake; remove, and cut all you other straws the same exact size as that one with scissors being sure to get the cut straight.
These straws support the weight of the upper layers/tiers of cake so it does not crush the bottom cake. You get more strength by using odd #s of support. It depends on the sizes of the cakes as to how many you place. For a 10" round (as an example) I would use 7-9 straws places in a circle 1" smaller than the next layer going on the cake. If the next layer is another 10" then mark a circle maybe 8 1/2-9" (or 1" in from the edge) and space the 7 or 9 straws even around that circle. Of course the larger the cakes the more support needed; the smaller the cake the less straws used. Some people (*ME!*) do not like the taste wooden dowels leave in the cake so you can put wooden dowels inside the straw if the cake is really big/heavy. Wooden dowels are round sticks that you can buy in most cake supply shops. Usually they come in 3' length that you have to cut w/a small saw into the length you want. They also come in different 'widths' - like 3/8th"; 5/16"; 1/2" etc, etc. Wilton also sell some about 12-16" long. If you have stores like Michael's crafts take a look at them, see what they are , how thick etc.

........Does it go through the whole 3 cakes or just strengthen the supporting cakes?.....

Putting one thru all 3 cakes helps some if the cake needs to be transported. Not necessary. Some feel it give a false sense of security......and won't help if you are in an accident.
One thing that is necessary if this cake needs to be transported is to make the base board big enough to support the height. The wider the base the more chance of it staying together.
O.k. I've written a book already. If you have any other ?s don't hesitate to askicon_smile.gif

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bizatchgirl Posted 7 Feb 2009 , 4:25pm
post #3 of 10

I would say you were crazy to try this as a newbie, but I just looked through your pics and you have some fantastic stuff!! You really do go out for the hard stuff, don't you?

I think you're one of the people who find they have an inborn cake talent and things just come to you. Sadly, I'm not one of those peeps and I think your newbie skills have already exceeded mine icon_cry.gif

I know you will do a great job at this and really I've just commented so I can bookmark this post and see who awesome it is after icon_cool.gif

And what is it, by the way? Guessing a cartoon, but not anything I recognize.

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Rocketgirl899 Posted 7 Feb 2009 , 11:01pm
post #4 of 10

I highly suggest you get sugarshacks stacking DVD it is less than $30 to help understand things.

good luck!

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Bakki Posted 7 Mar 2009 , 2:40pm
post #5 of 10

ok Thanx Heaps Guy!! for ALL the great support & advice & compliments too!
Kakaladi I took the advice of using the straws! icon_smile.gif THanx YOU so so SO MUCH for all that info!! I didnt do mudcake cos I figured it would be HUMUNGUSLY heavy! And too rich for most kids! I think I used about 8 or 9 Straws going a round in circle & a Cardboard circle on top of it where I placed the 2nd level! The 3rd top level rested between some buttercream & jam n the top of the second!

The back towers were cheap bought sponges from the Supermarket [very light & untasty] & werent sposed to be for consumption anyway. Just wanted to see if I could achieve this look for son's 9th today.

YES Bizatchgirl its NARUTO a Japanese cartoon series & video game that my son absolutely loves! icon_smile.gif & WOW thanx for the vote of confidence!

I cant tell you all the ins & outs Of EVERYThing that went wrong last night! BUT I can show you the final result!
It wasnt too bad considering ALL the hassles & heartache I had with this project!
I stopped fussing over it when everthing started falling apart! And ended up with a less detailed version of what I wanted to do. Cos i fell out of love with the creative side of it when things started falling apart [literally] ....But I think it went ok & the kids all were impressed! My boy was happy & thats the main thing!
But OHHHHH do I have Qs NOW! ...Fondant pieces with CMC powder thats sposed to harden & DID days b4 ...SUDDENLY GOING SOFT ON the DAY?? ...WHAT WAS THAT!?? icon_sad.gif( Weather? Humidity?
So when I went to stab in the tiles into the cake as planned....THEY ALL bent &/or BROKE or just abouts!! OH WHAT a HEART ACHE this was!
Nothing seemed to work! And it kept on getting worse as the night went on! I had EVERYTHING propped up with toothpicks & spaghetti and then on the way to the party in the car ... OMG!! You can imagine what happened when the car Went over a few Bumps! icon_sad.gif(

Anyway we DID get there & I fixed But it was so full of lil broken bits! Most ppl didnt notice but I DID! But MAIN THING 1st & boy was happy!

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niccicola Posted 7 Mar 2009 , 2:45pm
post #6 of 10

pictures! pictures! I'd like to see how that cartoon transformed into cake and how well you did with all the advice given!

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Bakki Posted 7 Mar 2009 , 3:06pm
post #7 of 10

The pic with candles at the back, shows the lil plastic figures I bought on Ebay for my son! The one without the candles has two extra larger icing figurines standing there:- One of my BOY on the left in Black ninja outfit & the other 1 of his fave Naruto characters, Neji!

[I only put the candle on after I packd the icing ones ready to go in car so never got a shot of the final without the toothpicks & all figurines & candles!]...But you get the idea!

Everything had to be reinforced with toothpicks & spaghetti at this point!

The floor was brickwork. THIS WAS fun up til the point when it felt like it could all go horribly wrong!! Lucky I got away with it! ...{I think??!!!} :S

Just wanna say Thanx for ALL the great tips guys!! Now HOW to KEEP icing STIFF!!?? ...And what is Pastillage?

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Bakki Posted 7 Mar 2009 , 3:55pm
post #8 of 10

I MUST point out that the STACK situation was...[scuse the pun!], a piece of cake!! Straws & cardboard & voila! The back towers had NO support & were 4 small cheap nasty dry & super LIGHT sponges bought from Supermarket stacked with just jam as cement! I carved 2 very convincing spiral paths up those buildings too! SO GREAT ...when it works how you want! icon_smile.gif

BUT the dilema I had was not in the stackig dept...more so my CMC powder not sticking or stiffening as it should!

Ok Q..... If a use a different brand of fondant ...would that have a different effect on the hardening process you think? Or maybe the weather factor...

I have to confess I did not prepare as much as I'd have liked! This week has been hell! Son got a bad chest infection, been home sick ALL week and Ive been nursing him back to health so as to get him well enough for his own Party today [now yesterday]! And now it would seem I have a cold coming on as well! I feel exhausted! But I shall try get more pix up when able!
So all considered I think I got away with it this year! Just wished I had more time to do a more complete job!

......NEXT year he wants the DEATH STAR!!! - EIKEY RHUMBA!!!

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IcedTea4Me2 Posted 7 Mar 2009 , 4:19pm
post #9 of 10

You did a great job. If you don't say you're a newbie, no one will guess it. icon_smile.gif

What did you use to make the yellowish -- is that like a roof part or whatever? I'm not sure what to call it -- the yellowish part that sticks out. What is that made of?


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Bakki Posted 8 Mar 2009 , 2:10am
post #10 of 10

Tar Muchly IcedTea! icon_smile.gif
Yes the Yellowish part [wooden roof tiles I called them] was the headache...was SPOSED to be STIFF & HARD but on the night putting together it was like a middle aged MAN!! LMAO HAhaha Sorry but I have to laugh now!

It's fondant with Tylose or CMC powder [I think you guys call it gumpaste or sugar paste?] The powder hardens the fondant [USUALLY!??! LOL ]...and then you can model with it! But you have to work fast which I did!
I mixed as instructed 1/2 teaspoon with 200grams fondant [I usually throw in a hint more to stiffen faster] I usually work fast with it when I model stuff; then I painted the colour on! {Maybe thats where I went wrong; too much water in the painting perhaps?} Mind you, it HAD dried & WAS hard the day b4! - I cant work it out?

Anyway I measured the cake tins, made templates and took great lengths to make all the right size for each section, AND they ALL fit PERFECTLY! They just didnt wanna play nice in the end! {Maybe I had hot hands?!!} *scratchin head* Dunno! I blame it on the Cosmos & the Powers of the Universe! LOL

SPEAKING OF, I HAVE to mention...T'was funny cos we actually had a recorded 4.7 EARTHQUAKE in my city the VERY night & time I was doing this AND I WAS SO angry with this NOT working that I got ANNOYed at the...."Removalist Truck at this time of night???!!! Bloodee Nora!!...." when the house & windows all rumbled & shook! LOL HAHAHAHA!!

THATS how INTO my cake I was!! SERIOUSLY - AN EARTHQUAKE and I never broke focus!! Thats gotta be a record in obsession!! HAHAHA! Oh Dear!!!

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