Stack a multi-tiered cake in 7 easy steps

The most important thing to remember when you Stack a multi-tiered cake is to support it properly to prevent the risk of the tiers collapsing into each other.

Whether you are making a sponge or rich fruit cake, each tier (apart from the top) needs to be supported with dowels. Use our step-by-step guide to ensure that your cakes are stacked properly and there is no risk of tiers collapsing.

  • Dowelling and stacking the cakes is much easier if the covered cakes have been left to settle for at least 24 hours. Bake, assemble and cover all the tiers at least a day before they need to be stacked, this gives them time to settle and reduces the risk of layers shifting or icing being marked when moving.
  • Check all the covered cakes are completely level (use a leveller) and are on their individual cake cards. To dowel the tiers, you can use food safe wooden or plastic dowels easily available to buy from any cake decorating supplier. For cakes up to 2 tiers, thick straws can also be used. You can use a long dowel  inserted in the centre going through all the tiers for 3 tiered cakes and upwards to make sure the cake is centred and stable.
  • The number of dowels to use depends on the size & shape of the cake, usually 2 dowels per inch of the cake. Use the upper tier size as a guide when determining dowel placement. To determine how many dowels will give proper support, you can check out Cake Stacker app which will give you number and positioning of dowels for each tier size when stacking tiers.
Cake Stacker App Dowels
Screenshot: From Cake Stacker App showing dowels needed per tier
  • Mark the base tier with an outline with the size of the upper tier. Use a cake board or a cake tin of the same size and press it gently on the centre into icing to imprint an outline. Now, lightly mark the outline with a toothpick or a knife.
  • To start dowelling the cake cut the dowels to tier height, insert a dowel into the tier going down to the cake card, mark the height of the dowel with a food safe pen, taking the dowel out and cut it to size. Use that dowel as a guide and cut the other dowels at the same height for that tier. Push each dowel firmly into the cake. If the cake is level the dowels will sit flush with the icing. If the cake is not completely level, you may find one or two of the dowels sit very slightly above the icing. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you cut all the dowels to the same height. Repeat this process on the other tiers (apart from the top) before assembling.
  • To start stacking the cake use a food safe thick cake drum for the base. A multi-tiered cake is going to be heavy so it needs a sturdy base to be set upon. Use Royal icing as glue to stick the tiers to the board and with each other. Apply some on the base and put the base tier in the centre of the board. Make sure the base tier is in the centre of the cake board, adjust immediately if required.
  • Stack the tiers using royal icing as glue in between the tiers and ensuring that they are levelled and adjust immediately if required. Finally to secure all the cakes together and make sure they won’t slide off take a long thick wooden dowel (just a little bit shorter than the total cake height) sharpen one end of the dowel and with a help of a hammer carefully drive it in all the layers until it reaches the cake drum. Cover the hole made on top with buttercream or a decoration to match your cake design. Let the cake rest for few hours before decorating.
Graphics Image: Inside view of a 3 tier dowelled and stacked cake

Points to remember

  • Make sure all your tiers are dowelled properly and are on their individual cake cards.
  • Use little royal icing as glue, between tiers to ensure they don’t move.
  • Always use a leveller to ensure that each tier is levelled.
  • Cut all the dowels of the same height for each tier. If your cake is not levelled the dowel will stick out of the cake that is completely fine as this will result in a complete levelled stacked cake in the end.
  • When stacking buttercream cakes, make sure they are chilled, as it’s so much easier to work with hard but soft icing.
  • If you have never stacked a multi-tiered cake, remember its individual cakes on top of each other. Give it a try, start with small-sized 2 tier cake. Make it for a family occasion than an order. This will take away the pressure of you.

Above steps and tips are only guidelines. We advise to, use more dowels rather than less!!

Happy Stacking!