Cake Decorating Community - Cakes We Bake

Hello- I have made quite a few cakes but never a tiered one. My daughter wants a 2 tiered cake for her b-day and I have no idea where to begin! I don't know what pan size to buy and if I should dowel it. I want it to look very sleek and clean-I will be using buttercream. Are there any techniques out there that will make a great 2-tiered cake? I would love all the input I can get! Thanks so much!

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Two tier cakes are easy once you've done one. You need to have at least 2 inches difference in the size of the 2 cakes but I like 3 inches. Fix your bottom tier just like you normally would - this tier needs to be as level as you can get it. For your top tier cut a cake board the same size as the cake and prepare your top tier just like your bottom except obviously no bottom border yet. Cut a piece of parchment or wax paper the same size as the top tier. Place it on the bottom tier to figure out your placement of the top tier. Once you have the paper where you want the tier you will need to mark the dowel spots. I use bubble straws as dowels. Big straws from McD's or Hardee's work also. For the dowels, you will need no less than 3 but probably 5 dowels placed evenly under the second tier. Be sure to place one in the center of where the top tier will sit. Measure the highest part of the cake under the 2nd tier - I do this by sticking the straw in the cake and marking the top of the cake icing. Pull it out and trim all of your straws or dowels the same length. Insert your dowels into the bottom tier where you have marked it and then place your wax paper back in position over the straws. Use your offset spatula to lift one side of the top tier and your fingers under the other. Place the top tier on the bottom tier (remove your fingers first and then the spatula). Fill in the gap with a border.

I'm assuming you are not traveling with the cake but if you are you can run a long dowel through the center of both tiers. This will have to be a sharpened wooden dowel because you have to poke through the top tier's cake board.

See, nothing to it!
Thank you so much, Deah! You make it sound very easy-that's encouraging! :)
I'll have to go get some McD's straws tomorrow and practice.

Deah said:
Two tier cakes are easy once you've done one. You need to have at least 2 inches difference in the size of the 2 cakes but I like 3 inches. Fix your bottom tier just like you normally would - this tier needs to be as level as you can get it. For your top tier cut a cake board the same size as the cake and prepare your top tier just like your bottom except obviously no bottom border yet. Cut a piece of parchment or wax paper the same size as the top tier. Place it on the bottom tier to figure out your placement of the top tier. Once you have the paper where you want the tier you will need to mark the dowel spots. I use bubble straws as dowels. Big straws from McD's or Hardee's work also. For the dowels, you will need no less than 3 but probably 5 dowels placed evenly under the second tier. Be sure to place one in the center of where the top tier will sit. Measure the highest part of the cake under the 2nd tier - I do this by sticking the straw in the cake and marking the top of the cake icing. Pull it out and trim all of your straws or dowels the same length. Insert your dowels into the bottom tier where you have marked it and then place your wax paper back in position over the straws. Use your offset spatula to lift one side of the top tier and your fingers under the other. Place the top tier on the bottom tier (remove your fingers first and then the spatula). Fill in the gap with a border.

I'm assuming you are not traveling with the cake but if you are you can run a long dowel through the center of both tiers. This will have to be a sharpened wooden dowel because you have to poke through the top tier's cake board.

See, nothing to it!
Deah said: ....Be sure to place one in the center of where the top tier will sit....place your wax paper back in position over the straws...

I *strongly* disagree with this ^^ adivse.
Most of what she said is right on but not the use of wax paper. Also do NOT put any support in the center. It has to do with dispersing weight....info from an engineer :)
Instead wrap the cardboard that is used under the top cake with foil . wrap completely covering the circle top and bottom The foil tends to 'sink/bite into' the straw and helps hold the plate/cardboard in place.

I prefer at least 3 or 4": between tiers ie: 6 & 10; 8 & 12 OR 6 & 9 etc. It also makes for a more stable finished cake especially if the cake is being transported.
I also like a small round on a med sq ie: 6 round on 9" or 10" sq.
It mostly depends on how many you want to serve and the design you need to complete :)
Becky, just figure out what works for you and do it. We all have different ways to acheive the same goal. I've tiered cakes with and without wax paper. Can't tell a structural difference. Only that when I lift the top tier off the icing on the bottom tier doesn't come off with the top tier cake board when I use wax paper. I can peel the wax paper off without loosing the icing on the bottom.

Lynne Salmon said:
Deah said: ....Be sure to place one in the center of where the top tier will sit....place your wax paper back in position over the straws...

I *strongly* disagree with this ^^ adivse.
Most of what she said is right on but not the use of wax paper. Also do NOT put any support in the center. It has to do with dispersing weight....info from an engineer :)
Instead wrap the cardboard that is used under the top cake with foil . wrap completely covering the circle top and bottom The foil tends to 'sink/bite into' the straw and helps hold the plate/cardboard in place.

I prefer at least 3 or 4": between tiers ie: 6 & 10; 8 & 12 OR 6 & 9 etc. It also makes for a more stable finished cake especially if the cake is being transported.
I also like a small round on a med sq ie: 6 round on 9" or 10" sq.
It mostly depends on how many you want to serve and the design you need to complete :)
Thanks for all the helpful info!! I cannot wait to see how this is going to come out!
I have always placed a straw in the center of my cakes and NEVER had a problem with it.....like Deah said find something that workd and stick with it....besides engineers dont make cakes :P
Thanks Karen! :)

Karen Marie said:
I have always placed a straw in the center of my cakes and NEVER had a problem with it.....like Deah said find something that workd and stick with it....besides engineers dont make cakes :P
............besides engineers dont make cakes ..........

Granted! But.....they know structer building and that's what dowels are about.
I was just kidding Lynn :D

But do they take into consideration that cake is softer and has a much weaker tensile strength than steel or concrete and may act differently plus you are adding fluids (icing and fillings) which cause the cakes to shift differently...just sayin'....

I always thought the dowels were there to make sure that the layers didnt crush each other when you stacked them....I guess I am a simple girl sometimes....

Lynne Salmon said:
............besides engineers dont make cakes ..........

Granted! But.....they know structer building and that's what dowels are about.
Check out my discussion," Help prevent another cake disaster" , I got a lot of tips on structure from people on this site! the size of your cake is largely based on the # of servings you want, I usually estimate the # by the pan size, 6 inch round feeds 6-8 people and so on, if you want 2, 3-4 inch tiers then you should definitely use cardboard in between ( at the bottom of each cake and dowel only the bottom every 2-3 inches, take the cake pan from the smallest cake and flip it bottom side down on top of your bottom tier to get a good idea for placement and make sure your straws or dowels are hidden! Good luck! Hope this helps!
karen marie said: ......always thought the dowels were there to make sure that the layers didnt crush each other when you stacked them....

Yes exactly. that's what this whole discussion is about - preventing the cake tiers from crushing and/or falling.
Internal support aka dowels or pillars or SPS or whatever is there to *support* the weight of the upper tiers so they don't cursh the lower ones. So why would not an engineer know something about that? In the end *all* the weight is spread over the base that the largest tier is on. How it is spread can solve/prevent or cause problems.

I have been in this business for over 30 yrs. Have had many problems in that time and my suggestion are based on my experiences and how they were fixed. Yes, new 'toys' are introduced all the time. Granted I don't have experience with many of these new items but I try to keep up with what is introduced even if I have not used them.
I tried adjustable dowels. They are a slightly thicker plastic(?) rod w/a screw in the top that you can raise or lower so you get completely level - didn't think they were very stable (the bottoms were slightly rounded) and I never got a single one of them back even though I had a hefty deposit on them. With SPS you 'build' the cost into the price of the cake and don't worry about getting them back. If they come back WONDERFUL - they can be re-used a few times.
I've had Wilton cake plates crack w/cakes on them. I've had cakes dowel w/wooden dowels shift and fall.
Yes, I've been thru it all in 30+ yrs and hope to help others advoid those problems.
It is all about finding what method works best for you! I too have been doing cakes for right at 32 years now... and would not touch the wilton plastic plates to save my life anymore! I have a box full of them to put in my next yard sale. They have been stored for several years now. May they rest in peace :-) I don't think there are any Right or Wrong methods unless you don't support your cake at all! Just find what works for you. There are several good videos here for free or you can purchase DVD's from several very good cake artists that are super informative as well.

Just try and try again and figure out what method you like best... what works for one might not for another but it does not make it right or better just another option to look at! Best of luck!

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