Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ask Me Anything - Post 12


Ask me anything is a series of posts where I answer any questions you may have about me. Cake decorating related or not :)

So I've just realised that it's been more than a month since I last posted an Ask Me Anything. Where has the time gone?! I'm so sorry! When I first started this I actually wanted to make it a weekly thing, but then reality hit and I realised I don't have that much time, so I'm now aiming for it to be a bi-weekly/ monthly thing!

This post is dedicated to what I think is an essential part of any large cake - structure. It is so important to have the correct structure when making a cake or else when you transport it, all your hours and days of work can disappear in a matter of minutes. Think of it like building a sky scraper, you want to spend the time to calculate and get it right or it will be too late once it's built...


I read that you like to deliver your cakes ready stacked to venues and having recently delivered a 4 tier stacked cake, the main problem I had was carrying it. It was soooo heavy that I couldn't lift it and my husband had to carry it, and he struggled to hold it without having the cake lean in towards him. The bottom and top tier were fruit cake, but even so, I believe that if all the tiers are sponge cake, the cake overall is very heavy. So my question is, HOW do you carry your stacked cakes?!

I have a rule for myself which has come about from a very hard lesson learnt - four tiers of real cake is my limit. Anything more than four tiers will be made from styrofoam underneath. Why? Because a regular sized four tier cake is really heavy and it's about the maximum I can carry. I'm not in this business to break my back or strain any one else's (from the boyfriend to my clients to the waiter at the venue who may help me carry the cake on to the table) so firstly, the rule is in place for everyone's safety. Secondly, the cake board can only take so much weight before it can potentially snap in half, and I don't wish for this to happen when I am delivering someone's wedding cake.

 Equal to about 4.5 tiers, this cake weighed over 15kg...

So when you design a cake for the client you will need to consider the weight of the cakes. Now that you know from experience the four tier cake is too heavy and risky, you can offer the alternative of having styrofoam and perhaps make up the additional servings with a kitchen cake. Most clients will understand when you explain the above to them. I have not found any of my clients to be that unreasonable (yet!).

I have also invested in a trolley (best $40 I have spent!) and it has made my life a whole lot easier. Now I just have to lift from my table onto the trolley and from the trolley into the car. No more worrying about carrying it all the way into the car or the venue.

Alternatively, you can always transport the tiers separately and then assemble at the venue. Lots of decorators do this and it's not wrong or bad. I just choose not to because I'd rather deliver and not have to fuss. Plus, this means that I can also hand off the delivery to someone else if I can't make it :)

I'm a novice baker who mostly does sculpted and small cakes, and have watched numerous online tutorials on supporting a 2 tiered cake for transport. All are american and they skewer through the middle of the cakes after stacking.  This is impossible with a hard cardboard cake boards in Australia!  How do you go about this? Do you pre-drill a hole in your boards before placing the cakes on for icing?


What you are referring to is typically called a 'centre pole' within the cake community. Americans can hammer through the tiers of cake because they use soft cardboard type cake boards. But you are right, this is not possible in Australia with the boards that we have, so yes I do drill through all the boards prior to setting the cakes up on them. This is quite time consuming and if you don't drill exactly in the centre and ganache the cake evenly on the sides, there is not much you can do to adjust it after you stack it.


I find that when I stack 2 tier cakes it would look OK on the first day/few hours after that. But afterwards the bottom layer seems like getting crushed by the top layer. The bottom of the cake looks like they have excessive fondant and bend in a little at the end. Do you have idea how to solve this as your cakes always look perfect! Is it due to my rolled fondant are too thick? I am still struggling with fondant wrapping :(

It's hard to comment thoroughly without a picture, but the first thing that came into my mind when I saw your question is that there is no support on the bottom cake, which is why the top cake is sinking into the bottom cake. All stacked cakes need to have dowels in the layers below. Think of it like building a house... to build a second level, you need to have the right pillars of support or else it will collapse  If you have already been putting dowels in there, it is also likely that the dowels are too short and therefore not really supporting the top tier. If you look on You Tube I am sure you will find lots of videos showing you how to do this. The good news is that this has nothing to do with rolling your fondant too thick!

How do you work out what type of support or structure a 3D cake should have? I'm always unsure as to where I will need to put extra dowels or boards.

Generally, if the cake is more than about 4-6 inches tall or if the base is small and it needs to balance a bigger cake on top, I will add a board with support dowels. The number of dowels depends on how big the cake is but I make sure to space them out evenly. And if the cake is skinny, I will also use an centre pole.

This cake does something pretty cool :) You can watch the video here.

If you’d like to ask a question feel free to email me (classes_at_sharonwee.com.au) or send me a message through Facebook. 

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