I apologize for the length of my story, but I hope someone appreciates it and maybe even learns from it. :P
I got married a couple of weeks ago, and it had been my big project to make my own cake. I have made a few 2 tier (6"/9") cakes before with much success, and did a miniature 3 tier (4"/6"/8") once as well. I did as much research as I could before making the cake... the original plan was to have a design that I could assemble the tiers on site, but in the end we came up with an idea that required pre-assembly. The wedding cake was 3-tiers, 6"/8"/10".
Well since I'm posting in the cake disasters forum, obviously it didn't go perfectly to plan! Every time I've made tiered cakes before, I have used bubble tea straws for support. They are great for the smaller cakes, but it was stupid of me to think I could support the top two tiers on them... and I only used FOUR in the bottom tier! (ugh!) I'm sure Leah will be here shortly to tell me of SPS... which I should have gone for and will in the future. At the time I wanted to stick with what I knew, and hadn't had a chance to buy or try something like SPS.
I also intended to put a dowel through the whole cake, but when it got down to it I was scared to try shoving a dowel through and having it not go through the boards properly. We couldn't manage to get it pointy enough.
After assembly, the cake looked great in my opinion, and I was super proud of it. After the first few hours, I did notice some... slumping? on the bottom tier... like the fondant was starting to kind of pool at the bottom of the cake. I was a bit worried but not enough to completely disassemble and start over.
We transported the cake to the venue the morning of our wedding. On the last turn into the lot, I felt a shift (I was sitting beside the cake in the back of the car, with my arm around the box).
When we got there I opened it up and the middle tier had shifted about 1/2 inch and ripped right through the 'curtain' fondant, and smooshed the pearls. (This is when I began to panic). I had brought an emergency kit, but it really wasn't enough. I didn't bring extra straws for support or extra fondant! We suspected the supports in the bottom tier had given out and so we took the top two tiers off and the straws had smooshed and one of them had completely slid (it was like \). I wish I had taken more pictures of the process, but my hands were covered in icing most of the time! Seriously, it looked like a cake massacre in there - pieces of fondant and globs of buttercream EVERYWHERE!
We tried to rebuild support using whatever we could find in the venue kitchens, but in the end decided to just go with the undamaged top two tiers and save the bottom tier for serving.
Here's the BEST PART:
Once we decided that, I went to move the now two-tier cake to a clean cake drum and instead of using my lifter (which is actually a giant BBQ spatula)... wait for it... I put one hand on either side of the bottom tier and picked the cake up by it's SIDES! O_O Like trying to lift the lid off a cake carrier.
I blame my sheer panic, and I immediately went "WHAT AM I DOING?!" But by then it was too late. The damage luckily wasn't that bad, but the fondant was cracked and smooshed to heck.
I was pretty much hyperventilating at that point, and we decided to just leave the cake for now and come back to it later.
In the afternoon, I stood around in my wedding dress and spackled all the cracks with buttercream, and put a buttercream pearl border around the bottom. It actually looked pretty good after the recovery.
In the end, I was still really proud of the cake. It looked awesome before the disaster, and after the recovery I don't think anyone could really tell what happened unless they looked closely. I am certainly glad that it was my own cake and not for someone else! :)
Here is the cake before, during and after. We had a bit of a stars/constellation thing going on, and the cake was meant to look like it was opening up into space.
The damage... you can see how the one side of the cake has collapsed in on itself!
After the recovery... sorry about the quality, professional photos have not yet arrived!