Help !! Uneven Centering Of Cake Tiers Due To Misplaced Central Dowel

Decorating By pastrymaniac Updated 30 Sep 2014 , 6:57pm by pastrymaniac

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pastrymaniac Posted 29 Sep 2014 , 2:46pm
post #1 of 15

Hi everyone,


sometimes, not always but often enough something very strange and annoying happens to my tiered cakes which I can´t understand so anyone´s help on this matter would be much appreciated.


When I use a central dowel in my tiered cakes I have to drill a hole right in the center of  the cake boards that go under each tier of the cake because here in Europe boards are really hard and thick and we would never be able to hammer down a dowel crossing through the whole cake from the top, plus that would mean having to have a topper to cover the hole on top which lots of my cakes don´t have. So I measure the center of my boards and check again my measures and make the hole with the drill. I do this for every tier except for the bottom bigger one which I glue directly to the big cake board. 


When I am stacking I measure the center of the fondant covered bottom tier and stick the central dowel right into the middle of it, then spread a little bit of royal icing and start to stack the following tiers, with the central dowel going through the holes in the boards underneath the tiers.


How is it possible that many times one or two tiers are centered in regards to the ones below and then another one is let´s say 1 inch more to the left or to the right? Sometimes it can be 3/4 inch but it´s still so frustrating then I try to disguise it with sugar flowers or decor.


I am getting so anxious when I use the central  dowel these days but it is not safe to transport a 4 or 5 tiered cake for delivery with the tiers just glued with royal icing right?


What am I doing wrong , is this familiar to anyone? 


Thanks in avance for any suggestions.


P.S I use the double board method to ganache all my cakes (board underneath the cake and board on top) so if the board is an 8 inch one my ganached cake be exactly that so it´s not a case of having a bumpy tier

14 replies
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lunawhisper0013 Posted 29 Sep 2014 , 3:04pm
post #2 of 15

Well, at my shop, when we are concerned about a cake surviving a trip, we just assemble the layers on site and put the bottom border and whatever florals, etc at that time. We use good plastic supports and plates (which we put in ahead of time and mark the layer with the board size of the next tier) You could probably get away with stacking the first 2 or 3 and then putting on the last layers on site. I can't speak to the dowel issue as it has never been a technique I have used but I've never had a problem with on site assembly. And it gives me some peace of mind while driving too.

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leah_s Posted 29 Sep 2014 , 3:07pm
post #3 of 15

Use SPS!  get the plate and leg assembly in, centered and the cakes have to match up!  And it's easy to mark the plate on the cake before attaching the legs and pushing it in.  

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petitecat Posted 29 Sep 2014 , 3:19pm
post #4 of 15

It might help to screw the dowel onto the cake drum, which I've done once for a cake before. This is so the centre dowel doesn't move, which might be the issue?


This is what I did (or rather, asked the hubby to do!): First picture shows the underneath. Hubby used a washer (its the black circle) in between the cake drum and screw. The cake dowel was purposely off centre.




I used furniture protectors (those flesh coloured things in the corners) to stop the drum from tilting due to the thick washer. 



 Here is the wooden dowel all screwed onto the drum. I eased the fondant down through the dowel and onto the board. 




I also read this article:


HTH :)

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pastrymaniac Posted 30 Sep 2014 , 1:47am
post #5 of 15

Thanks so much petitecat that is a great tip, to be honest it had already ocurred to me but I was too lazy to try it  so I kept trying to tell myself it wouldn´t make much of a difference ;), I will sure give it a go very soon.


Leah is there a limit for height of cakes you can do using SPS. for instance can you do a 7 inch high cake or higher? Do you ice the cake on top of the SPS board/plate provided or do you use a regular board that you glue to the SPS plate? Do they also sell odd plate diameters like 7 inches,11 inches, 9 inches? Do you know any site or tutorial which explains how SPS works?


Many thanks.

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cakebaby2 Posted 30 Sep 2014 , 10:10am
post #6 of 15

Or just simply stack them on site? Transport them in groups of 2 and save yourself the worry of braking too hard,or someone else's stupidity.

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cupadeecakes Posted 30 Sep 2014 , 12:36pm
post #7 of 15

I center dowel all of my tiered cakes, but I do use the thin cardboard cake boards between my tiers.  For the bottom (base) board, I will use a cake drum, 2 cake drums, or a cake drum glued on top of a wooden board, depending on the size and weight of the finished.  I stack all my tiers first, using a sewing gauge or a ruler to make sure the cake is centered.  Then I'll sharpen a dowel using a dedicated pencil sharpener and drive it through the entire cake into the base drum.


The hole at the top where the dowel went?  I just use a dollop of buttercream or a small piece of fondant to plug the hole. 


If yours aren't lining up just right it very well could be the dowel.  I have noticed that most of the dowels I use are anything but straight.  If you have to use those hard boards for separators. maybe you could cut your center holes a little larger than the dowel, which would give you some wiggle room as you place your tiers on the cake?

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MKC Posted 30 Sep 2014 , 12:43pm
post #8 of 15

AI agree with you, it didn't matter how much measuring I did, the cakes were never lined up. I am never using them again. I'm now stacking cakes on site!

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pastrymaniac Posted 30 Sep 2014 , 2:54pm
post #9 of 15

MKC thank you so much for your reply I was starting to think I was the only weirdo in the world experiencing this, you made my day!!  Anyway I will still try again a few more times starting with the central dowel glued in the drilled big cake drum that goes under the whole cake like shown in the link provided by petitecat.  Did you also try it this way? Did the cakes still not line up?


Cupadeecakes thanks so much for your reply and great tip but here in Europe we use hard boards underneath each cake so it would be impossible to hammer through those, the idea of making a larger hole is good but I am not so happy with having to always have a hole at the top of the cake to cover though.


Thanks everyone.






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cupadeecakes Posted 30 Sep 2014 , 3:26pm
post #10 of 15

If the the hole at the top really bothers you, you can always center dowel your cake before the top tier goes on and then just cut the center dowel so that it's a couple of inches shorter than the top tier.  When the top tier goes on it won't leave a hole.

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pastrymaniac Posted 30 Sep 2014 , 3:43pm
post #11 of 15

I know cupadeecakes that´s what I have been doing so far like I wrote in the beginning of the thread.


I drill a hole in the center of each board and then stack the tiers through the center dowel but often I end up with uncentered tiers (for instance with the one above about 1 inch more to the left or right than it should be regarding the tier below or some centered and some uncentered on the same tiered cake) and I just can´t figure out why that is happening since I double check all my measurements before making the holes in the center of the boards. Maybe like petitecat suggested it´s because I am not screwing or gluing the central dowel onto the cake drum. Whatever it is it´s driving me crazy because it does not seem logical to me!


Is this familiar to anyone else that uses the central dowel method?


Thanks everyone.

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MKC Posted 30 Sep 2014 , 3:43pm
post #12 of 15

I've been using a flange to make it extra sturdy.


Last time, I thought for sure that everything would be lined up and again it didn't work. I gave up.

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pastrymaniac Posted 30 Sep 2014 , 3:55pm
post #13 of 15

MKC so if you used a flange you screwed the dowel to the cake drum right and it still didn´t go well? How is that even possible?? I have been triple checking the measurements before drilling the holes in the center of my cake boards.


I was told that top decorators like Ron Ben Israel use this method for their high tiered cakes and I have seen decorators stacking cakes with this method on the TV show Amazing Wedding Cakes so what are they doing that we aren´t? 

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MKC Posted 30 Sep 2014 , 5:22pm
post #14 of 15

I screwed the flange in press wood board (which will be covered in fondant). I usually make 3 tiers, sometimes 4 tier tall cakes (16 inches in total) so therefore, I don't see the point. If someone knocks it down once delivered, it won't be my problem. Ron makes cakes that are sometimes 7-8 tiers tall...if I ever have to make an enormous cake then I will reconsider.


It only takes me 15-30 minutes to assemble the cake at the venue but for a center dowel it would take me a couple hours to measure and re-measure to center the holes.

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pastrymaniac Posted 30 Sep 2014 , 6:57pm
post #15 of 15

I understand what you mean MKC but I would like to try and deliver finished stacked cakes whenever possible because in some venues here (where is very hot and by the beach) there is no air con but open marquees facing the beach instead so in those cases I have to face condensation issues when the cakes come out of my air conditioned van and I stack them. Plus I find that stacking the cakes when they come out of the fridge is much easier to avoid dents when I want to have a neat bottom edge without a border for instance. And I hate finishing more precise decorations at venues with all the staff running around.


Usually my bigger cakes have 4 tiers no more but they are becoming higher, I am already always making them 5 or 6 inches high and I plan to try some double barrels soon. My cakes are all covered with ganache on the outside and they are heavy so I would like to find a way of making the center dowel method work because I don´t feel confortable transporting more than 2 tiers just glued with royal icing.



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