So you have been asked to make a tiered cake.
Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! A monumental task that is almost equivalent to asking you to build the Eiffel Tower if you have never done it before!
But the warrior in you could not refuse!
You may be having nightmares about it since you agreed to do it, and that is all normal. Will it fall over? Will it collapse under the weight? Will my recipes even work in a tiered cake? Do I refrigerate it? How far in advance can I make it?
The questions are probably running through your head like mad, making you second guess your very existence in the cake world!
Ok, maybe not so dramatic but perhaps you do have some questions about the whole process, so I have made this fast (well 17 minutes fast) video on how to stack a cake from start to finish and I think I addressed every detail throughout the way and will reinforce all of it here.
When I made my first stacked cake 26 years ago I was a 16 year old wreck!
I remember working into the wee hours of the morning when the rest of the house was fast asleep; working on the intricate details.
I learned how to stack a cake in my high school Home Economics class! Can you believe that! That would never happen in today’s time!
But how lucky I was to learn this in a public school, thus sparking my passion for pastry that is burning just as strong today!
Ok enough about me and memory lane, lets get to the details of How to Make a 3 Tiered Cake!
First of all you will need some special equipment: (all the links below are clickable!)
Heavy Duty Masonite Board or Cake Drum for building the cake and supporting the weight of the structure. I will choose a size that is about 4 -6 inches larger in diameter than my bottom base tier. So for example if my bottom cake is 12″ I will pick a board that is 16″ or 18″ in diameter. *Be sure to check that the board will clear the opening to the refrigerator BEFORE you build the cake on it! yes, I have built an entire wedding cake on a board that would not fit into my refrigerator and trust me you DO NOT want to deal with that horror story!
Most standard masonite boards are ¼” thick but you can find ones that are ½” thick and could be a better option depending on the weight of the cakes. I will opt for the thicker version, or simply glue 2 or 3 together for added strength. Masonite boards must be covered with foil wrap or doilies, or ruffle edging.
Cake Drums are heavy duty corrugated cardboard that are sturdy enough to accomadate heavier cakes for transporting and displaying. All boards are wraped in either silver, gold or white decorative foils. Boards measure 1/2″ thick and presents a perfect edge for trimming with ribbons and pearl beading. They are available in rounds and squares. They are grease resistant.
Choose a board that is suitable to your specific cake considering the height of the tiers and the weight of the entire finished cake. It is always best to go heavier duty than flimsy.
Cardboard Circles in the same size as each tier as well as another one for each tier in a couple inches larger than the size of the cake. I explain in detail in the video tutorial below why I feel it is necessary as a transport of each tier in and out of the refrigerator as we are working on the construct.
Dowel Rods Dowel rods are essential to support the weight of each additional tier as you build up. There are several options and it basically comes down to personal preference.
Wooden Dowels / Plastic Dowels / Drinking Straws.
I have used all 3 and I have always gravitated back to the wooden. Straws are my second choice and I do not prefer the plastic ones whatsoever.
I use bamboo dowels and 1 pack of 12 is sufficient for the smaller 3 tiered cake as shown in the video. I use a small paring knife to cut them to the desired size and they break by hand quite easily once you have made the initial groove. Some people say, “WOOD!? in my cake?” These are food grade and made specifically for tiered cake assembly. I have never had a problem with splintering, but for those who may be wary, you can always insert the wood dowel into a plastic drinking straw for added insurance.
The drinking straws are a great cheap alternative to wood dowels, but I would recommend the thicker “bubble tea” straws also found at Starbucks, they are just larger and sturdier than the regular drinking straws you may be familiar with. I do not recommend drinking straws for cakes that are stacked over 3 tiers. All it would take is for 1 straw to have a defect or hairline fracture that could bend under the weight and well…you can predict that disaster. Straws are great for shorter cakes that are not required to support so much weight.
The plastic dowel rods are hollow, almost like giant heavy duty plastic drinking straws, but I find them cumbersome to cut and they are the most expensive too. In my opinion they take too much cake with them when they are pulled out before cutting. (The entire hollow center gets filled with cake that ends up being wasted)
Parchment Paper Circles can be cut from larger parchment sheets. They are useful as the buffer between each tier. I have forgotten to place the parchment circles in the past and when the kitchen staff removed the top tier from the next one the entire buttercream layer from the cake underneath went with it. The parchment circles will act as a buffer to keep the buttercream icing where it is supposed to be at all times. Simply peel away the parchment circle and your cake will be unscathed for beautiful serving slices.
Next we need some recipes!
What recipes are the best for making tiered cake?
Well, I get this questions often, and my answer is always the same, as long as you are building the cake correctly you can use any recipes you like! (with the exception of the traditional Tres LEches since we don’t want dripping cake layers!)
But other than that, anything goes!
I’m not sure why so many people worry that the Vanilla Sponge Cake recipe is not going to hold up to stacking. Again- if you build it properly you can use any cake really! Angel Food, Chiffon Cake like honestly anything!
Another most asked question is “Can I ice the cake with Whipped Cream?”
Well, yes you can….and many people do.
I do not, but that’s just my preference to avoid disasters whenever possible. Whipped Cream requires refrigeration pretty much at all times.
Ok, maybe an hour or two out on display won’t be the end of the world but I just don’t like to take chances like that.
I often try to explain to my clients that whipped cream as a filling will be Great!
“But how about we compromise and use the buttercream as a light icing, and here is why…..” Then I proceed to explain what I just wrote above.
Most clients just don’t realize that certain recipes can’t hold up under the circumstances that a wedding reception requires and are relieved to know that they averted a major disaster simply by opting for the buttercream instead! (I repeat some people will do whipped cream wedding cakes and have no troubles or worries, I personally do not.)
The combinations are endless so I will list exactly what I used in the video below
Cake serving sizes can be estimated with this chart
I made a 10" + 8" + 6" cake to serve approximately 60 people
- Follow along in the video tutorial below
It is optional to use the simple syrup on the yellow cake layers. It is really a nice touch to add some flavor infused syrup as a light brushing to the layers in sponge cake recipes