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I have baked the layers of a wedding cake and am left wondering as to my best stacking approach. It is a fairly dense sweet potato cake with buttercream frosting and I am worried about it sinking into itself. All of the videos/articles I've seen online seem to be for cakes covered in fondant.

The bottom layer is a one foot square, middle layer is a nine inch square, and the top layer is a six inch square. Each layer is 4.5 inches tall.

     ___
   _[   ]_     six inch square
 _[       ]_   nine inch square
|___________|  12 inch square

I've heard I should use dowels to support each layer (some say solid wood, others recommend hollow plastic). Also, I've received conflicting advice about using bases between the tiers -- should I use cardboard, plastic, or dowels only? I am really quite confused.

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The issue of fondant versus buttercream is one of convenience. Fondant is (relatively) sturdy, pretty, and can be held for long periods. In a wedding cake, which might be prepared and decorated over several days these are advantages. True buttercream does not hold very well (it is at its peak only for a day or so) and is much softer, and it requires refrigeration, so it is logistically more challenging.

Other than that, the fondant versus buttercream issue is not really relevent to the structure of your tiered cake.

Typically, each layer would be on a cake round (or in your case, square), supported by dowels through the layer below. These dowels can be any food-safe material such as plastic or wood. The cake rounds (typically coated stiff cardboard) are essential to the structure, as they provide direct support to each layer, while the dowels serve as structure to hold the round up.

The Wilton site has a pretty good illustration of the method.

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I did a 3 layered round wedding cake for a client and that too when I didn't have too much experience. My cake was fondanted and it had a lot of advantages, just like @SAJ14SAJ mentioned. In addition to these, as my layers were fondanted, I assembled the cake at the wedding and could transport the layers separately.

You should definitely use dowels in every layer forming a circle or a square with a cake board under every layer of cake. The dowels should be exactly as high as each layer of the cake.

If you do want to use butter cream, I would suggest stacking the cakes before starting the butter cream decoration on the cake. This would diminish that the chances for the butter cream to smudge while stacking the layers together. However, you would have to think carefully about refrigeration and transportation of the cake, unless you have enough time to stack and decorate the cake at the venue.

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Use the "cake tier stacker" calculator from https://www.bakingit.com/. This is a great tool for doweling a cake. I use this website all the time when making wedding cakes.

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