Today, in this step by step video tutorial, I show you how to stack a cake successfully. Whether it's two, three or more tiers. I will show you the types of dowels to use, as well as the do's and don'ts to successfully stacking.
Some of the most common questions I get asked by newbies are: Why do I need to dowel a cake? Do I need to dowel a cake? Can I give you a simple answer, Yes!!
It is best to be safe than sorry. Right? Can you imagine going thru all the trouble of making a cake, but not stacking it only to be embarrassed at the event that the cake fell over or sunk?
So why do we dowel a cake? To add stability to cakes. So that the weight of the bottom tier will be able to support the top tier.
When you stack a cake you are not just placing a cake on top of a cake, you are actually placing the cake on top of those dowels, straws, or supports. So, it's not the bottom tier that's actually bearing the weight of the top cake. It is the dowels that are bearing the weight of the cake. This means you need to make sure you use dowels that are suitable for the task.
How do you decide which cakes to dowel when stacking?
Cakes are meant to be delicate and delicious not designed to carry weights. However, as long as you have a cake on top of another cake, you need to dowel. This ensures the bottom cake will not have to sustain the weight of the top cake.
Types of dowels used to stack cakes
- Wooden dowels - Make sure you buy the firm wooden dowels as some dowels sold at craft shops are too delicate and will not hold under multiple tiers.
- Plastic Dowel - These plastic cake dowels are the most popular in the UK and can be easily found in most cake shops.
- Bubble Straws - These bubble straws are thicker than the usual straws and are usually easier and cheaper to buy. Most often, it's best to use a few extra of these just because they are more flexible than the firm wooden straws.
- PVC plastic straws - These are the thick water PVC pipes that are usually used in cakes that have more structure. These are considered acceptable because they are used for water.
How to stack a cake with dowels?
As explained above, no matter which dowels you use, the process and precautions are the same.
- Always chill your cakes first. Dowels go in straight better if the cake is chilled.
- Use the same size cake board to make the center of the cake.
- Then, use the cake board for the next tier to mark the circle where the cake will go (I put this cake slightly off-center but you can center it).
- Use the first dowel or skewer as a guide to cut the other dowels. That way you can ensure your cake is not slanted (even if your bottom tier is not straight).
- Put the dowels in as shown in the video.
- Once you finish dowelling the cake, make sure the top surface is clean so the crumbs won't' stain your cake.
- Do the same with the next tier or as many tiers as you have to stack.
- Never forget your center dowel in tall cakes. It ensures that the cake is all centered and doesn't move while being transported.
My easy method for stacking chilled cakes
I live in the Middle East. It's hot and humid in summer here, which makes my cakes harder to handle. So, I only stack my cakes when they are thoroughly chilled. This means that a chilled ganache cake is heavy and hard. Putting the bubble straws into the cake can be difficult.
This is the method I use for stacking my chilled cakes with bubble straws.
- Mark the center and top cake the same as always.
- Use the first dowel or skewer as a measure to cut all the dowels.
- Now, instead of struggling to put the straws into the cake, I use my wooden dowel (similar size as the straws).
- Put the wooden dowel in the cake, take it out.
- Then, put the bubble straw in the same place you removed the wooden dowel from.
- Watch the video to see me do this and the above method.
How many dowels do I need to stack my cake?
This guide for dowels works if you use strong dowels. If you see in the video, I am using more than the required number. That's because bubble straws are not really cake-dowels. They are softer and flexible compared to wooden straws, which is why I use more.
Frequently asked questions
yes, as long as you have cake on cake, you need to dowel. So the bottom cake will not have to bear the weight of the top cake.
If you can't get dowels, you can use regular drinking straws. It's something better than nothing. Right?
No. The center dowel is usually anchored to the cake board which ensures that the two cakes don't move. This is added security for your cake. But, you decide how critical it is. For example, if the cake isn't going to travel skip the center dowel.
Yes! Every cake must be on its own board when you are decorating it. It's the cake board that sits on the dowels preventing them from sinking into the top cake.
Exactly the same way you stack a fondant or ganache cake. You will follow the exact same process. The only difference is that you need to be extra careful with buttercream cakes not to ruin the smooth cake while stacking.
The ganache, buttercream or piping gel used between cake tiers works as a glue to hold the tiers in place once chilled.
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Very nice! now I know the importance of putting dowels in the cake.
Hello Veena thank you for a straightforward tutorial but ive got a question..sorry if its sounds silly.if each top tier sits on a card on its own how do i enter the long centred dowel down to each cake? Thank you!
Nicoletta. The job of the center dowel is to keep the two cakes in place which means it needs to go through the two cakes and right into the board. That is what anchors the cake in place. Now, if you not going to move this cake around much like travel with it, you can skip the center dowel. So, yes, it goes through the cake boards in the two cakes and anchors in the bottom board. I hope this helps.
My questio is do i make a hole in the cake cards in advance ? I think its skipped in the video this section. Thank you for your help
Nicoletta. Again that depends on the type of board. In some cake circles, you can just push the pointed dowel and it will make a hole in the board as it goes down.
For some boards, I had to make the hole ahead of time.
For example, For most of my wedding cakes, I used MDF boards instead of cake circles so for those I always make the holes in advance.
If in doubt, make the holes ahead of time Just make sure to keep the hole in the center.
Thank you for all your tutorials. I really learned so much from you.
Thank you, Safi. So happy to hear that.
Now that makes so much sense. Thank you, Veena for explaining so well. Love your blog
Thank you, Gemma. happy to hear this tutorial worked out well for you. Thanks for coming back to write this feedback. Love to hear from people who try my recipes. Have a nice day. Thanks