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How to Make a Multi-Tiered Cake

We're going to follow the steps required to make a three tier cake. To add further tiers, simply repeat the relevant steps, ensuring that you are using enough dowels. As mentioned on the last page, a good rule of thumb for how many dowels you'll need is: 1 dowel for every 2" of cake diameter and 1 centre dowel running
through the whole cake.

Step 1:

Pick out the largest pre-iced cake board (the one that's the same size as your base tier) and cover the central area with a decent amount of buttercream. Then sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar, cocoa powder or coconut powder onto the area to prevent the cake sticking to the board (make sure your guests know if you're using a powder that isn't an ingredient in the cake you're using).

Then with a spatula or similar pointed tool, put scores/criss-crosses into the buttercream you've just spread onto the centre of the board. This will help air get into the icing and improve the quality of the drying process.

Place the base tier cake firmly onto the board, ensuring it's flush with the board itself. Carefully place this onto the centre of your cake drum.

Step 2:

With the base now down, you're ready to take the middle cake tier's cake board and gently place it onto the top of the bottom cake tier, making sure you are directly in the centre.

With a paring knife or other sharp utensil, mark an imprint around the cake board and onto the top of the base-tier cake's icing. This will become the area where your middle cake tier sits.

With the same utensil, take this opportunity to cut away the icing that is visible through the centre hole of your middle tier's cake board. You'll want to do this to avoid any problems when placing the centre dowel through your cake.

Note: You'll find the odd website/guide suggesting that a centre dowel isn't entirely necessary for 3 layer cakes. For a cake that sits loud, proud and without any wiggle, we recommend that you ignore this.

Step 3:

You're going to need to know where to put your dowels. Whilst the centre dowel is obviously, well, central, the rest of your supports are equally as important. A good way to do this is to invest in a cake top marking template. They come in a variety of sizes that will suit all cake sizes, and it will show you where to mark your dowel's positions.

If you don't have this, don't worry. A good guide would be: about 1.5" on the inside of the imprint's circumference, spread out at even intervals. Mark this out lightly with your support dowels, using a tool to make an imprint on the top of the bottom tier cake's icing.

Step 4:

The next stage  cutting your support dowel rods  will depend on whether you've invested in coordinating support caps.

If you have, you'll want to measure each dowel up the side of your base tier cake, and cut them to around 1/16 of an inch shorter (e.g. if your base tier is 4" tall, you'll want your support dowels to be 3 and 15/16" tall). By doing this, you'll ensure that once your support caps are added, your middle tier cake will sit evenly on top of your base tier cake.

If you haven't, cut your supporting dowel rods to the full size of the cake. (The top tier is slightly different and will be covered later).

For the central support dowel, you'll want to cut this to at least 80% of the cake's total height. For example, if all three of your tiers are 4" tall (12" total), your central support dowel will need to be at least 10" tall. Ideally, you're looking for around 11" to ensure maximum stability.

Place your dowels into the areas marked earlier. If you're doing this without support caps, you'll want to apply a touch of buttercream icing onto the top of them to make sure the middle tier's cake board can grip onto something. Once you've pushed far enough for them to hit the cake board/cake drum, your rods should be flush with the top of your base tier.

Step 5:

For the middle tier's support rods and dowel markings, repeat steps 3 and 4, adjusting the measurements and amount of support dowels accordingly.

Then repeat step 1's formula when you want to ice the middle tier. However this time, apply a small-to-medium amount of icing and powder to the bottom of the middle tier cake board as well as the top. This will assist with the two tier's stability.

After this, gently glide the middle tier cake down the central support dowel, ensuring that the middle tier is completely central before allowing to set.

Step 6:

As in step 4, place your pre-cut dowels into the middle tier cake's template markings, ensuring they fully hit the cake board. Should you wish, this can be done before setting the middle tier.

Step 7:

Repeat step 1's formula for icing the middle tier cake  but this time, you'll only need the bottom of the top tier cake (assuming you are creating a three tier  otherwise, repeat step 5 in its entirety). Being the top tier, this cake won't require any support dowels/marking above on its top-side.

Step 8:

Place your top tier through the central support dowel. As you cut this slightly shorter than your three cake's height combined, you should now have three majestic tiers of cake standing before you.

Step 9:

Don't start moving it about too much just yet! While the icing settles, you only want to be moving your masterpiece to the fridge. Dependent on the type of icing you've used, leave it there for roughly 24 hours.

And that's it!

Final Example

You've finished your first multi-tiered cake and everything has gone according to plan (right!?). Don't worry if not though. The more you practise, the better you'll get. We've left a couple of tips at the bottom to sign off with. And if you are experiencing problems next time around, come back and read this or one of our other comprehensive Baking Guides.

Things to Remember When Making a Multi-Tiered Cake:

  1. Ensure all your dowels are perfectly cut to ensure maximum stability.
  2. Royal icing can be used as a substitute for buttercream icing.
  3. Ideally you want to have each of your cakes iced 24 hours before take-off.
  4. If you're struggling with 3 tiers, give a 2-tier a go first to practise.
  5. If you need to make a multi-tiered cake for a big event, have a couple of trial runs at home first.

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