It was my friend’s first wedding cake, and after setting it up on site, everyone was pleased with how wonderful it turned out. A few hours later she got a call from a panicked bride. The cake was leaning to the point of collapse! My friend rushed over, and after a few calls realized the problem and how to fix it: dowels.
A support system is crucial for a multi-tiered cake. If you’ve ever lifted a fondant cake, you know how heavy it is. Without a support structure in place, those top tiers will squash the life out of the bottom tiers. Below is a guide for doweling your cake. (By the way, my friend was able to salvage the cake, but it took a few years off her life.)
Dowels are either of the plastic hollow tube variety, or long thin wooden stick variety. You can use which ever you prefer. You’ll use more wooden dowels, but they take up less cake than the plastic dowels. Both are reliable. They will go in each tier that supports another tier on top (basically, the top tier will not be doweled).
2. Trim the dowels
Place a cake board on your tier that equals the size of the next tier up. Very lightly trace an indentation around the cake board. Place a dowel inside the imprinted circle, leaving no less than an inch between your dowel and the circle. Mark the dowel where it is flush with the top of the cake. Remove the dowel then trim with clippers or wire cutters (find what works best and only use them for dowels) at the mark. If your cake has not completely settled yet, there will be a small gap between the top of the cake and the next tier after settling.
3. Place dowels
Add dowels to form a ring no less than an inch inside the circle. The amount of dowels you use is up to you but a general guideline is a dowel every 1 to 2 inches. The plastic dowels can be spaced even further apart. You will soon get a feel for what is necessary. If you have a large tier (such as a 14 inch), you might want to form 2 rings of dowels. If you are putting a large dowel through the center of your whole cake, then leave the center undoweled at this point (more to come on that), otherwise, dowel the center as well. Below are some examples of what a 6 inch tier might look like as well as a 14 inch tier (without the middle dowel if you are going to do a long center dowel):
4. Stack tiers
Once all of the tiers except the top one are doweled, stack the tiers. At this point, you can sharpen a dowel like a pencil and run it through the center (the sharpened tip will cut right through your cake boards). One dowel will work for every two tiers, trimming it as necessary.
*If you do not use a long dowel in the center, then I suggest using royal icing in the center of your doweled circle to hold the tiers together. This will help prevent sliding.
2. Trim dowels
3. Place dowels
4. Stack tiers
Now the fun part… DECORATE!
I hope you have putting these tutorials into practice. It’s addictive! Once you start, it’s hard to stop. Enjoy!
To see all of the Cake Basics Articles, click here.