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Teired/Stacked Cake Construction

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Each level of a tiered cake needs dowel rods for support. Tiers that are directly stacked on each other with no separation by plates and pillars should be further stabilized with an additional center dowel rod to prevent shifting. With a pencil sharpener, sharpen one end of a long, wooden dowel rod slightly shorter than height of two tiers. Push sharpened dowel through top tier to cake circle, then, hitting sharply with tack hammer, drive dowel through cake circle to bottom of cake. If there are three or more tiers without separation by plates and pillars, use a sharpened dowel through the first two tiers and another sharpened dowel through second and third tiers.

*An Exception--Using Plates to Separate Stacked Tiers The type of cake sometimes dictates what is placed between the layers for support. Some decorators prefer using separator plates between stacked tiers instead of cake circles when the tiers are heavier than usual (such as fruit cake or dense chocolate cake). This prevents the possibility of the cake circles warping from the excess moisture and weight, thus causing the layers to shift. Of course, if you use separator plates instead of cake circles between the stacked tiers you will not be able to drive a single dowel rod through the stacked tiers for the extra reinforcement as above.

PART 1: Adding Dowel Rods to Support Layers of Stacked Cake
PART 2: Stacked Construction

PART 1: Adding Dowel Rods to Support Layers of Stacked Cake
Use the upper tier for size reference when determining dowel rod placement. All the dowel rods must be placed within the area you will mark (see steps below) to provide adequate support.

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1. Center a cake board the same size as the tier above it on base tier and press it gently into icing to imprint an outline. Remove. Use this outline to guide the insertion of the dowel rods*.

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2. Insert one dowel rod into cake straight down to the cake board. Make a knife scratch on the rod to mark the exact height. Pull dowel rod out.

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3. Cut the suggested number of rods the exact same length, using the mark on the first one as a guide.

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4. Now, insert rods into tier, spacing evenly 1 1/2 inches in from the imprinted outline. Push straight down until each touches the cake board. Repeat this procedure for every stacked or pillared tier on the cake.
*The general rule for the number of dowel rods to use is: the larger and more numerous the tiers, the more dowels needed. If the tier above is 10 in. or less, use six 1/4-in. wooden dowels. Use 8 dowel rods for 16 in. and 18 in. cakes; on these larger tiers, use 3/4-in. plastic dowel rods in the base tier. When using white plastic dowel rods that are wider and provide more support, the number needed may be less.
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PART 2: Stacked Cake Construction

Stacking is the most architectural method of tiered cake construction. Tiers are placed directly on top of one another and pillars are not used. Cakes are supported and stabilized by dowel rods and cake boards.


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1. Dowel rod all tiers except top tier.

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2. Position the middle tier on the base tier, centering exactly

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3. Repeat with the top tier.

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4. To stabilize tiers further, sharpen one end of a wooden dowel rod and push it through all tiers and cake boards to the base of the bottom tier.

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5. To decorate, start at the top and work down.

Comments (13)

thanks alot helped heaps
should there be a cake board of exact size under each cake for support??
Thank you so much for this article. It is just what I am looking for. Has anyone had a disaster from the stacked cake formation using the support dowels? I have been asked to make the stacked formation wedding cake for my son's wedding in the square shape. Thanks much!
how thick is the cardboard underneath each layer? I don't think the cardboard I use would be able to be prentrated by a sharpened rod to help support the entire cake
I was wondering about cake boards too. The cake board shown in picture 1 used to outline is the one I used under my cakes, and it got too wet and caused it to sink. I used the thick ones but I could not penetrate. Can u recommend boards and location to purchase.
I am making my second tiered cake in a few weeks and my first one did not turn out so well. About how many layers should be in one tier?
I'm wondering the same thing. Are the tiers from one deep pan or, or they multiple layers with icing in between???? The icing in between my tiered layers always bulge out after a while. How much icing do you use on the layers??
I like to stack two cakes for each tier. (each about 2" give or take) But make sure you level them each off flat and then you can put icing or filling in between and stack.
I cover my thinner cardboard circles in aluminum foil between layers so it doesn't absorb the moisture. Also, Hobby Lobby sells the corrugated cardboard circles, but they are plastic which would be difficult to penetrate, but I just poke a hole in them before I put anything on them. I plan where support dowels will be and penetrating dowels will be before I even start. I'm a serious hobbyist, and actually came to this forum for advice on the dowels. I just used my on wits thus far and did what I thougth might work.......which is pretty spot on for this tutorial, yay me!! Lol :) And @Babasuesue, the icing bulge can be caused from quite a few things......icing consistency, if there is any warmth to the cake when you are putting the icing on.....I've used scant amounts of icing between layers to a good 3/8 of an inch. I think its preference and what you can get to work for you. That's my take.
i tried this method.... but my rods ended up shifting sideways and the layers ended up sliding... did anyone at all have trouble with this or any advice on how to prevent this?
Do you have any advice on what size cakes i should use for a six tier stacked cake?
I think the rule is 2" between each stack. For example, 12", 10" 8" and 6". 6 tiers is going to be a large cake! I would start at 14" and work your way up to 4" maybe?
I am probably over thinking this, but its okay to keep the cake circle under the cake while it's stacked? or do I need to remove the circle in order to get the rods in?
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