Taking On A Tiered Wedding Cake

Baking By octoberc Updated 31 Jan 2016 , 6:36pm by leah_s

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octoberc Posted 30 Jan 2016 , 7:08pm
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Hello all! New to Cake Central & found lots of great info! 

I'm in the research phase of deciding to bake my own wedding cake, don't worry though, we're having a very laid back wedding and the reception is 3 weeks later so I'm not worried about that but I have tons of questions, lol! I'd appreciate any advice I can get to help with this undertaking. 

As of now I've chosen 4 flavor and calculated I should have 5 tiers, 4", 6", 8", 10" and 12". I plan to use 2" deep pans cut & filled into 4 layers, covered in buttercream.  The cake itself will be very simple, smooth finish as close in appearance to fondant as I can get it and able to hold up to an outdoor reception as a park in northern Ohio on August 27th. It will be decorated with a ribbon around the base of each layer and possibly topped with real touch bird of paradise.

so with all of that info, my first question is.... I have roughly calculated the ingredients for my cake at about $100... I'm considering that it will be wise to make some practice cakes in advance to get used to the techniques. I'm not a baking novice but I have no practice of the skills needed so I would like to know everyone's advice on how to get the best practice without making a whole cake twice.... Are there shortcuts I can take and still feel confident that I'll be able to pull it all together the day of? Thanks!

15 replies
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.eat.cake. Posted 30 Jan 2016 , 8:06pm
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Wow! A 5 tier cake is a big undertaking. Have you made any tiered cakes before? 

Did I read correctly that you are going to halve a 2" cake? Creating 4 layers to each tier? If so your biggest challenge is going to be stability.  I would start with researching and practicing stacking and supports..

Good luck..

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leah_s Posted 30 Jan 2016 , 8:38pm
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I'm hoping you meant two, 2" layers, torted to four layers per tier.  That's pretty normal.

I would strongly advise using SPS as your support system.  For one thing, its incredibly easy to use, and very sturdy.  You can also slide the tiers into place.

I think the other thing I'd suggest for consideration is a rough textured cake.  A smooth surface (close to fondant) is difficult for even people with quite a bit of experience.  Personally, I love that look.

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-K8memphis Posted 30 Jan 2016 , 8:43pm
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your biggest problem will be the heat in the park late august --

there's a very fine flour called 'wondra' it comes in a blue colored round container like a small oat container or a large salt container  -- if you add a quarter cup of that per recipe of icing assuming you're using an american buttercream (butter, cream, confectioners sugar) you might have a better chance of it not melting -- but butter melts in the 90's and while shortening has a higher melting point this will be the biggest challenge for you because butter tastes better 

the heat and the bugs -- the gnats and ants and etc.

so what time is your event? high noon?  :)

*Last edited by -K8memphis on 30 Jan 2016 , 8:45pm
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octoberc Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 1:47am
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Thanks for the replies! I kept looking for alerts so I had no idea anyone had spoken, lol.

Lol, I have not made a tier before I so do plan to attempt it in practice first, lol. I have watched a lot of videos and at least feel confident in practice it. I do plan to tort the layers into 4's and have seen the videos about using dowels or straws.  What is SPS though?

I am all about the smooth sleek look so I'll have to fail at trying it before I back down, lol.  I'm planning to follow a recipe from cake supplies plus website for her buttercream, which calls for sweetex and butter flavor because her video for smoothing it out was quite convincing, but I'm open to suggestions and would even consider fondant if it is absolutely necessary though even if I had to make it myself but I'm against it for the most part because it takes more skill, adds unnecessary cost and tastes awful

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octoberc Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 1:53am
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So the weather here on the same day last year was overcast and 70, but anything can happen, lol... I did read the key is to chill the cake nearly to death and the BC recipe is a crusting one, so that should help.... It seem so I'll just have to try it out and maybe set it outside a few hours once summer hits and see what happens, lol, I'm determined!

It would probably help to have a sheet of tulle to protect it too : )

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Vanessa7 Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 3:10am
post #7 of 16

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!  Very exciting times ahead for you.  :-)    You are definitely are jumping into the big leagues with a 5-tier cake as your first endeavor.  A quick question - why 5 tiers?  Do you just like the look or are you wanting the serving sizes?  It might be worth considering a 14" - 12" - 10".  That would give more cake but possible less stress with the number of cakes to do and the stacking.  

A huge challenge will be transporting and/or putting it together on site.  That might take more time than you think so allot for that.  I wouldn't recommend transporting a complete cake that tall.  You might want to consider setting the bottom three tiers and then set the last two once you are there.  The SPS system Leah_s mentioned is called single plate separator system.  I always use this method with a cake over 3 tiers and would highly recommend it too.  Here is a link for you to check it out.  http://www.bakerycrafts.com/DynamicContent/OtherPages/EZCUT/Bakery%20Crafts%20SPSSystem.pdf  It isn't always easy to get everything leveled and aligned so be careful.

With the Ohio August temperatures, you will need to be careful with your buttercream choice.  Buttercreams with butter are going to struggle to maintain integrity in the heat.  My go to buttercream is indydebis found here on CC (http://www.cakecentral.com/recipe/6992/indydebis-crisco-based-buttercream-icing).  It is an awesome crusting buttercream which is what you need to smooth the finish.  Don't worry that it uses only crisco, it tastes wonderful.  I use the liquid french vanilla coffee creamer instead of milk and 3 tbsp of vanilla.  I vary the flavor with different flavored coffee creamers.  My customers always love it.  Use the Viva Paper Towel method to get a smooth fondant looking finish.  http://www.cakecentral.com/tutorial/21675/perfectly-smooth-buttercream-icing

Being outside you will need to consider bugs and dust.  You might want to consider some kind of netting to protect it.  Otherwise, I would recommend covering it with fondant.  I'm thinking that since you said it tasted nasty you've probably eaten Wilton's.  If so, you are so right.  Wilton's is awful.  However, you might change your mind with another choice.  I always make my own from a CC recipe - http://www.cakecentral.com/recipe/7432/michele-fosters-updated-fondant.  This fondant tastes like a yummy nugget and is fairly easy to make.  Fondant will do a better job of protecting your cake from the elements.

If you are going to finish your cake with buttercream you will need to protect your ribbon so that the grease doesn't leak through.  You can just put a strip of wax paper or parchment paper down first and then your ribbon.  Be careful using Bird of Paradise flowers directly on your cake.  Various parts of this flower are poisonous so you don't want them to come into contact with the cake.  Heat and real flowers are not friends.  You might be smarter to find a real pretty silk Bird of Paradise and make an arrangement from them.  You won't have to worry about the real ones coming into contact with the cake or wilting.

As far as practicing goes, I would recommend you start off making a single cake and getting proficient with tiering, icing, and smoothing your buttercream.  Once you've had a little practice at that I would recommend stacking a 6" and 8" cake together using the SPS.   That should give you an idea of how to use them and a little practice.

Good luck!  Let us know how it goes.

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octoberc Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 3:33am
post #8 of 16

Hi! Thanks so much! So far we have about 150 guests on the list if the number drops a bit ill save the 4" for our anni, if it drops quite a bit I'll reconsider the layers... SO FAR what I've read says the layers I have chosen will come close to that number so I feel I've come to a decent guesstimation, lol... For now anyway...

I was planning to assemble there and I don't think I'll have much choice, traveling with a fully tiered cake only happens in the movies and usually with horrible results, lol.... After I do the practices I'll have more idea about what that's going to entail and what temp I might be dealing with... Sometimes the end of August is sultry and sometimes it's mild... Time will tell, lol, get it as close to freezing as possible and drive with max air?? Lol

As for the rest of your tips I've read about most of those so I know I'm on the right track ; ) in your opinion though, how does the SPS system compare to using straws? I was kinda banking on that for support since I don't really want to buy a ton of pro tools I probably won't use again...

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Vanessa7 Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 3:42am
post #9 of 16

Straws are great for cakes up to three tiers but I would not recommend them in a 5 tier cake.  Cake is extremely heavy and you stand a much greater chance of a catastrophe.  

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julia1812 Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 7:30am
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There are so many good tips here already so I'll just take it a step down to the hands on stuff ;)

1) Invest in a good turntable and icing smoother and off set spacula. 

By a dummy and make a batch of bc. That gives you the chance to practice icing and smoothing a cake over and over again without wasting too much. Scrape it off when you are done and start all over (non crusting bc). Keep bc in zip lock bag and toss it in the bin once you had enough of practice. 

2) make a few 2 tier cakes for family and friends. 6 and 4 inch is a good size not to be wasted and icing a 4" cake is good practice too.

3) invest in some anti slip mats to rest your chilled cakes on during transport and a cake lifter for assembly. 

4) Personally I would bake, torte, fill and ice the tiers a week or so in advance and freeze them to avoid the stress on the day of or before your big day. Put them on the anti slip in cake boxes, wrap tidely in Safran wrap and put them in the freezer. Then you don't need to drive with ac on full blast and worry about fridge space at your wedding location because they can slowly thaw. Cut Safran off at location, assemble - done.

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octoberc Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 4:46pm
post #11 of 16

Oh Vanessa, I am really not looking forward to investing in SPS : ( so if straws are iffy, certainly wooden dowels would be better, lol... I wasn't planning on investing in a lifter but that's only because the vids I saw didn't use one but now I'm thinking it will probably be a good idea : /

Julia! Thank you so much for your suggestions! That's exactly what I was looking for, the suggestion of icing a dummy cake and re-using the icing is a great idea since the final amount of icing I will need is going to add up $$. Do you have any suggestions on where to get a dummy or I should be able to find one with a quick search?  I was looking into the Wilton plastic turntable since it's about $20 or less... I'd love a higher metal one but only if I'm lucky enough to find one second hand, those things aren't cheap by any means, though I'm sure they're worth it.  An offset spatula seems like the only way to go since i have a straight one & am already well aware of the difference it will make : )  I've seen others use a dough scraper, a thin hand-sized flat metal piece with a curl on the hand end to smooth the icing and that looks the easiest so I plan to get one of those. Non-slip pads a go! Lol

As for the freezing of the full cake, I don't think I can remotely manage that much freezer space and I have read varying comments about whether the cake sweats as it thaws unless you transfer it to a fridge first... I could probably manage fridge space if it could be stacked but not more than a few days and I can manage freezer space for the cake part if its unfinished so I guess I had in mind that I would ice and fridge the day before... I could probably fill and re-freeze/wrap the torts the weekend before or so.  

The actual reception should not be too difficult to prepare for, icing the day before should be no biggie because its very laid back, it's more like a backyard BBQ or family reunion, I won't be fussing with getting hair, nails, make-up, that sort of thing like the actual wedding... All I have to do it make sure the caterer does his thing, get the favors and cake there and all set up and decorate.... Lol, ok, that does sound like a bit to do but I'll have help, not like getting hair & make up done, no one can sit in the chair for you so hopefully I can manage.

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julia1812 Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 5:15pm
post #12 of 16

I have the wilton turntable which is okay for up to 12" cakes.

The "thin hand-sized flat metal piece with a curl on the hand end to smooth the icing" is an icing smoother and a MUST have!  If I understand you correct you want to look the bc smooth like fondant. You have to use a smoother.

Get a cheap dummy. You might have to tape it down with double sided tape if it shifts too much.

Could you trust your parents, future in laws or someone to keep it in their freezer?

Oh and the sweating issue is mainly in regards to fondant covered cakes. 

It's great that your wedding will be so relaxed, but take my advise...nervs will kick in! And you don't want to spend the night before your big day in the kitchen rebaking or something :/

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octoberc Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 6:02pm
post #13 of 16

Oooohh, re-baking, lol, hadn't considered that, that would be a very big boo boo.... I'll have to keep that in mind and see how the test runs go, lol... 

Does anyone have ideas on how long it takes to get to room temp? I was just reading some stories about cakes still being to hard at disassemble time even though they were outside weddings in summer.   Most said 6 hrs but didn't mention if that was out of the fridge or freezer... Is it common knowledge that means out of the freezer? And does number of tiers have an effect on that or just the size of the actual layer?

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julia1812 Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 6:09pm
post #14 of 16

It depends on the size of the tier and the hight and the outside temperature. If you consider freezing make a test run with a small cake. That will give you an idea.

I live in the tropics and it's always hot. Normally fridge is enough for me. I use smbc not ambc (which should be worse!). 

And hopefully you don't have to rebake! That's just like the worst case scenario. ..

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-K8memphis Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 6:14pm
post #15 of 16

i would not deliver a frozen cake myself -- i've done it several times and the only real problem is the edible ink marker i used ran like a water faucet but really everything else was fine -- 

but climate control is very important -- i deliver my cakes sealed in corrugated cardboard boxes -- it's amazing how much they hold the temperature especially when the cake has already been refrigerated and is cold through and through -- i often put a freezer pack in there to help keep things even more temperature stable -- works great -- 

don't worry about the temperature of the cake being too cold -- your only concern is keeping the icing from melting as i mentioned upthread -- sliced frozen cake comes to room temp in literally minutes -- it's just no problem

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leah_s Posted 31 Jan 2016 , 6:36pm
post #16 of 16

Just to clear up a misconception about SPS - It's definitely not a "Professional product."  It was designed to be used by bakeries that do not offer delivery.  It was designed specifically for regular consumers to be able to transport tiered cakes safely.

The parts for a 5 tier cake, using SPS for your 6/8/10 tiers costs $11.60 from Oasis Supply .com plus shipping.  You'll need to use straws or dowels and a regular cardboard for the 4" tier.

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