More Straw Vs. Dowel

Decorating By amysjustpeachy Updated 28 Feb 2005 , 12:09am by amysjustpeachy

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amysjustpeachy Posted 23 Feb 2005 , 4:41pm
post #1 of 17

I've been reading through some posts and the straw v. dowel post caught my attention. What is more popular? I just assumed that straws were more commonly used, and I'm curious to know other people's experiences. I'm making a wedding cake with 16, 12, and 8 inch layers. Is it unwise to use straws for a cake that big?

Has anyone ever read Rose Beranbaum's "article" about this in the Cake Bible, and have any opinions?

Now I'm curious, and am interested to hear what anyone thinks. Thanks!

16 replies
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tcturtleshell Posted 23 Feb 2005 , 5:06pm
post #2 of 17

I'm also making a large cake 12",14",16" round. The wooden dowels are better to use because they are stronger & will hold the weight better. Squirrelycakes has helped me out so much w/ this subject. She's very wise when it comes to stacking. Maybe you could PM her & she will be happy to help you too.

I'll have to look for the cake Bible.

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amysjustpeachy Posted 23 Feb 2005 , 5:57pm
post #3 of 17

I've never bought or used wooden dowels before- most of my cakes have been two tiers. I have some wooden barbeque skewers- are they the approximate diameter, strength, etc?

Wow- a whole new world of dowling! icon_biggrin.gif

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Carriemyvoice Posted 23 Feb 2005 , 6:07pm
post #4 of 17

I would not recommend using the skewers. They are not quite thick enough in my opinion. I would rather be safe than sorry when it comes to stacking. You can purchase wooden dowels by Wilton. They come in packages of 10-12 I think. You just cut them to the size you need.

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kate Posted 23 Feb 2005 , 6:09pm
post #5 of 17

I've never used straws, the thought really scares me. I've read that many people have success with them though. I've used wooden dowels and the wilton plastic dowels that are hollow. I prefer the wilton plastic dowels because I have never had a problem with them slipping or tipping. I have had the wooden dowels tip and the cake leaned because of it. I've transported up to six tiers stacked with the plastic dowels and didn't have any problem. I always use the long 1/4" dowel through the whole cake and that helps too. I've seen cakes done by other decorators slide and fall because they didn't use that center dowel.

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tcturtleshell Posted 23 Feb 2005 , 7:18pm
post #6 of 17

I would never try to transport any kind of stacked or tiered cake. Too much could go wrong... a dog running out in front of you, someone slamming on their brakes, bumps, a wreck... a while lot of stuff can happen. I will be transporting my layers in seperate heavy duty carboard boxes (w/ the wooden dowels in them but not down in the cake all the way) I will also use the non-stick shelf liner to keep the boxes from sliding around, then when I get to the church I will be stacking my cake, then fixing the icing if I have to. I'm planning on doing a practice cake this week or next. I'll do the transporting part too. That way I can work out all the loose ends....

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kate Posted 23 Feb 2005 , 7:50pm
post #7 of 17

tcturtleshell, I don't blame you for not transporting cakes already stacked. The reason I've had to do it is I worked at a bakery where I had up to six wedding cakes to deliver on the same day so there was no time to assemble on site. Before I worked there I usually assembled on site. It can be really unnerving to transport those big stacked cakes, but thankfully I've never lost one. I worked there for a few years and delivered most of the cakes I made. You are much safer to transport the cake apart and then assemble when you get there. I have to say it is really nice to have the cake all finished and just set it on the table though. I much prefer to work in my own environment with all my tools handy and no one watching me.

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tcturtleshell Posted 23 Feb 2005 , 8:13pm
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I totally agree. The wedding isn't til 2pm that day so I'm planning on getting at the church around 10 am when (hopefully) no one will be around!!!!! I will be way too nervous to have someone watching me!! icon_redface.gif If they try, knowing me... I will tell them to leave... in a nice way of course! I am also doing the groom's cake so I will be extremely busy & don't need people around!

Let me ask you a question since you sound like you know your stuff..
I am making a 2 layer full sheet cake w/ a 1/4 sheet cake or a square cake or round ontop of that (haven't decided on what to put ontop yet). It will all be basketweave. The question... Could I stack that & transport them? What do you think? Once this wedding is over I'll be sooooooo happy!!!! I am planning myself crazy!!!! Not wanting to forget anything!! The wedding is around 120 miles away so if I forget anything I'm in big trouble! Thanks for your advise.

How was it like to work in a bakery? I want to get a job at a bakery but not a retail one (like a grocery store). The cakes there look so thrown together! I wouldn't want anyone knowing that I made those cakes! I always look around at the bakery's. The cakes are ugly!! I can't believe I actually bought cakes there before I could do it myself!!!!! It sure changes things when you decorate doesn't it! icon_biggrin.gif

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kate Posted 23 Feb 2005 , 8:35pm
post #9 of 17

I think you would be better off to transport the cakes apart and assemble on site. 120 miles is a long way to go with a cake assembled. I've found the wilton plastic dowels are much more reliable for transporting assembled cakes. They don't tip like the wooden ones. If you use wooden dowels make sure you use enough. I chill my cakes really well, overnight, and that helps too. A full sheet would probably be too big to get in your refrigerator though. Make sure you think through the process of stacking your cake and plan your repair kit well. It can be stressful to get to the site and not have everything you need.
About working at the bakery, it had pro's and con's. It was a small one where we did nicer cakes but I worked under another decorator who had the final say over things. That can be really frustrating and limits what you can do. I really wanted to do fondant and gumpaste work and I couldn't do that there. I didn't always get to meet the brides and I really enjoy that part of the process most of the time. I love what I do and like to know who the cake is going to. It's easier when you take the order to really understand what the bride wants. This probably sounds crazy but I prefer to deliver my own cakes too. I really missed seeing the final product all set up in the reception hall when they had someone else deliver my cakes.
I did learn to work a lot faster though. I really improved my skills through the volume of work that I did there. I can smooth cakes a lot better which really comes with practice. I think it's really a worthwhile experience to work in a bakery before opening your own buisness.
Let us know how your cake turns out. That first wedding cake is really nerve-racking! My mom did cakes so I was fortunate to have her with me when I did my first.

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tcturtleshell Posted 24 Feb 2005 , 4:22am
post #10 of 17

Good advice! Thanks
I'm making a practice cake this week & weekend, having it ready by Tues. My family & I have Fire Dept training that night so I can take the cake to the FD earlier that day & set it up & then that night at training there will be lots of firemen & women there to eat it! This will give me a chance to practice getting it to the sight, stacking it there & getting it ready. I want to get all the bugs worked out early!! That way I can ask more questions if I need to. Thank goodness for cakecentral!! thumbs_up.gif

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tcturtleshell Posted 24 Feb 2005 , 4:37am
post #11 of 17

I forgot to add.... the more people tasting & seeing my cakes... the more business I will get !! icon_biggrin.gif RIGHT!! I'm thinking for the future~ thumbs_up.gif

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kate Posted 24 Feb 2005 , 5:03pm
post #12 of 17

I think that is a good plan to do a trial run. It will give you more confidence too. I did a lot of cakes for cost or free when I first started to build a portfolio and it gave me the confidence in my work so that I felt comfortable charging for it. Have fun with it!

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tcturtleshell Posted 25 Feb 2005 , 12:53am
post #13 of 17

I just hope I'm not going to mess the whole thing up! If that's what happens on this trial run..... I'M QUITTING til I get more experience on wedding cakes!!! No, I'm just stressing. I'm not going to quit! If I mess up I will know what to work on a little more!!

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MrsMissey Posted 25 Feb 2005 , 3:03pm
post #14 of 17
Originally Posted by amysjustpeachy

I've been reading through some posts and the straw v. dowel post caught my attention.

The straws might offer the support you need but I wouldn't suggest doing that. I just think that when someone cuts into a cake and sees a straw it just doesn't look very professional! Just my opinion! icon_biggrin.gif

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amysjustpeachy Posted 26 Feb 2005 , 4:59am
post #15 of 17

That's a good point- about it not looking very professional. I was able to find wooden dowels yesterday, so I used those when I set up my cake tonight. I even put one through the center of the cake through the layers, just so I could get a much-needed good night's sleep!!

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tcturtleshell Posted 26 Feb 2005 , 5:04pm
post #16 of 17

Poor amysjustpeachy icon_sad.gif I know you are exhausted from worrying! I am doing the same thing!! Is the wedding over now? Please let me know how it turned out. My first wedding is in April. I'm going crazy trying to plan everything so I won't have to worry the week before the wedding BUT I know I'll still worry. I will worry about the wedding after the wedding LOL icon_cry.gif I hope your cake was a wonderful success!!! thumbs_up.gif

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amysjustpeachy Posted 28 Feb 2005 , 12:09am
post #17 of 17


This cake was the most frustrating one I have ever one example, I found out when I was able to take the cake to the reception hall and arranged with a bridesmaid (also a florist) to do the flowers when I set up the cake. When I mentioned that to the (very young) bride earlier in the day, she giggled, saying that the bridesmaid THOUGHT she could do the flowers with me, but that the couple were going to surprise the wedding party with a Hummer ride. I was frustrated, but couldn't change my time.

Pardon the venting icon_smile.gif, but I got the cake layers there and assembled it rather quickly and was even complimented on the cake by the reception hall staff. It stayed firmly in place overnight and was a great success, so I've heard. There wasn't any cake left, which bothers me, but that's not really my fault, and is sort of a compliment.

One of the nicest things about doing cakes is that complete feeling of relief and satisfaction you get when it's over, after you've worried yourself sick for days. At least that's the case with me!

Hang in there, you'll do fine!!

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