Cake Stacking Construction System
Before stacking, consider the design of your cake and evaluate if the decoration needs to be completed before or after stacking. Here are some general guidelines.
- Measurements- Creating precise measurements marks with rulers or a Cake Marker, for example, are easier to create before stacking, since these tools need to rest of a flat surface.
- Bottom edge- If you have a design that requires covering and entire cake (such as encrusting a cake with sugars or sprinkles) or using a tool to decorate the bottom edge or a tier (such as spatula painting, spatula icing, and icing comb designs) these are best done before stacking. In general, it’s best to avoid using tools that can touch and affect the tiers above or below.
- Attached decorations- Stacking cakes require lifting and slightly tilting a tier in place. Avoid adding decorations that need to be inserted or attached to a cake (such as large royal icing flowers, fondant and gum paste decorations) that can fall off or get in the way of your line of sight while stacking. These are better attached once the tiers are in place.
- Borders- Borders are almost always best done last. This is especially true for bottom borders, since you’ll want to see all the tier seams before deciding on the size and design.
If you plan to use different types of cakes for your tiers, keep the weights of the cake in mind. For example, chiffon cakes are lighter and airier than a carrot cake. If you plan to put a denser cake on top of a lighter one, consider adding extra support to ensure that lighter layers don’t get crushed.
For easier handling, avoid stacking freshly iced, room temperature cakes. Chill cakes in the refrigerator to make the layers firm and sturdy. Additionally, the icing will set and is less likely to smudge. Freezing cakes is not recommended—this will make it too difficult to insert rods.
Support and Moving
Tiered cakes, especially tall tiers can be very heavy. If you are not assembling on a cake stand or platter, you will need a cake base (also known as a cake drum), which is thicker and sturdier than a regular cake circle. A cake base will provide great support for moving and transporting. Wilton’s cake bases are ½ in. silver cake bases come in 10”, 12”, 14” and 16”. Cake bases are grease resistant and reusable.
You can also fuse together 4-5 cake circles with melted Candy Melts to make a DIY cake base. This can be covered with Fanci-Foil for a more finished look. Fanci-Foil comes in white, gold and silver. For extra security, attach the cake to the cake base with melted Candy Melts instead of icing.
Below is a general guide for the number of Support Rods needed for the tier above. In general, divide the cake diameter in two to get the number of rods needed. For example, if supporting a 4” cake, you will need 2 rods inserted into the tier below. In some situations where the upper tier is heavier than usual (dense cakes, heavy filling, tall cake tier, or heavy decorations), extra support rods may be added for security.
|Size of Cake Tier Being Supported||Number of Support Rods Needed|
|4 in.||2 Rods|
|6 in.||3 Rods|
|8 in.||4 Rods|
|9 in.||5 Rods|
|10 in.||5 Rods|
|12 in.||6 Rods|
|14 in.||7 Rods|
|16 in.||8 Rods|
|18 in.||9 Rods|
To determine the number of Cake Support Rods needed, divide the diameter of each cake in half. For example: 6 in. cake = 3 rods, 8 in. cake = 4 rods. Add more rods if desired.
Place cakes on cake circles. Use perforated cake boards or cut a hole in the center of cake circles to the size of the Center Core Rod. If cutting cake boards, carefully measure and mark the position and size of the center core. Place each cake on same-size cake circle. Prepare cakes, covering with icing or fondant as desired. If cakes were baked with a heating core, use icing around the core of cake before inserting back into the cake layer.
Mark and cut Cake Support Rods. Measure height of iced cake and mark rods about 1/16 in. shorter than height to allow for thickness of support cap. Use sturdy scissors to cut rods at mark.
Insert Cake Support Rods. Center and gently imprint bottom cake with the next size cake board being stacked. Attach Support Caps into Support Rods. Insert rod into cake, spacing about 1 1/2 in. from edge of cake board imprint. Make sure top of cap is even with top of cake. Repeat, inserting remaining rods around the cake at even intervals. Repeat with all cake tiers except the top tier.
Insert Center Core Rods into cake. Insert narrow end of one Center Core Rod into a second rod. Press straight down into center of the bottom cake tier until rod presses against the cake circle.
Stack cakes. For the next cake, align the hole in the center of the cake board with Center Core Rod and slide second tier onto the bottom tier. Cake may displace. If needed, press cake back into place to level. Remove any excess cake crumbs.
Repeat to stack remaining cakes. Before positioning the top cake tier, be sure your final Center Core Rod is shorter than the top tier to avoid the rod coming through the top of the cake.
Serve the cake. Remove Center Core Rods and Cake Support Rods and Caps before serving.
Serving at Home vs. Traveling
If you plan to serve the cake at home, stack tiers on the serving platter or cake stand, which eliminates the need for a base. When serving at home, there’s no need to add a Center Rod. If travelling, a tiered cake must be stacked on a cake base to withstand lifting and moving. Using a Center Core Rod is essential for travelling, as this holds the layers together and prevents your cakes from shifting, which tends to happen during a car ride.
When icing each tier, take care to ice the sides of the cake circles as well. Since all tiers are placed on a cake circle, the textured edges will be visible if not covered with icing especially if it’s not covered with a border.
Giving or Selling Safety
If you are giving or selling a tiered cake to someone, for safety reasons, let them know that there are support rods inside the cake, just in case they like to get silly and smash it. Most people do not know how tiered cakes are structured, so tell them ahead of time that they’ll need to remove the support rods and before serving.
Transporting and Boxing
If possible, consider assembling the cake on location so that the cakes can be easily transported in separate boxes (no center rod needed!)
If you are transporting an assembled tiered cake, you will need a box the same size as your base board. A slightly bigger box will work as well, but not too big or else the base might move around too much. For shorter tiered cakes, try the Adjustable Cake Box, which can go up to 10 inches (you’ll wanted an inch or two of headspace, or keep the top open). Consider attaching large dimensional decorations on location. These can sometimes interfere when packaging on a box.
Do not lift and place a cake into a ready-made box as you are more likely to scrape and damage your cake design. Instead, build your box around the cake.
Use and Care: Dispose of Center Core Rods or to reuse, hand wash in warm, soapy water. Dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.