Wedding cakes and large celebration cakes typically feature several tiers. This is often the last thing clients think about when it comes to executing their vision, but stacking cake tiers is a very important part of the process. If a cake is not properly secure, it will not hold up well during transportation or when displayed at the event.
Before you can stack a cake, all of the layers must be leveled, even and finished with buttercream or fondant. Every tier should be on a cake board (cardboard round or other shape), and the bottom tier should be on a thicker cake board to support all of that weight. You should not be able to see any cardboard except for bottom cake board that the cake is sitting on. All of the piping should be done once the cake is already stacked, to avoid thumbprints or cracks.
You will need chopsticks, straws or plastic dowels to begin stacking. For the bottom tier, insert the dowels of your choice in a small-scattered circle towards center of the cake, leaving 1 to 2 inches on the outer perimeter of the cake without any dowels. You want to use about 6 to 8 dowels per tier. Tap or press the dowels in, to make sure they hit the cake board on the bottom, then cut the dowel with scissors to ensure it is not sticking out or showing; they should be level with the top of the cake.
Once all the dowels are put in place, place the next tier on top. All tiers must still be on their cardboard supports. Insert dowels the same way for this next tier, and so on.
After you’ve reach the top, you can use one long wooden dowel hammered through the entire cake to finish. Start at the center top, press it through the top tier and it will hit cardboard. Hammer it through and keep going down through all the cakes and cardboard supports until you get through the bottom tier. This will keep the cakes safe from moving or slipping. Once the cake is fully stacked, all decoration and/or piping can then be placed on the cake.
If you accidentally make some cracks or dents in your cake while stacking, don’t worry! There are always ways to cover that with your decorations or extra buttercream. You saved some, right? Always have some extra frosting in the same color and flavor for just this purpose. Alternatively, stick a flower in the damaged spot or use that area to pipe a decoration. If a cake is stacked securely, it will be that much easier to transport and deliver to your customers – and most importantly it will look perfect for your bride and groom when the time comes to present your creation!
This article is part of a week-long series by Culinary Institute of America student Stephanie Zauderer on wedding cakes, from the beginning stages through delivery to the event. Check back for more tomorrow.
Image: Stephanie Zauderer