The Basics of Tier Stacking~Video

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In this tutorial, I will show you how to easily stack frosted cake tiers.

This popular, simple stacked construction is perfect for everything from birthday cake designs to baby shower cakes, bridal shower cakes, and more!

Whether you are going to adorn your cake with sweet accents for a child's party or add elegant sugar flowers for a wedding, you need to start with a foundation that is secure.

Basics of Tier Stacking

Stacking cake tiers can be a little intimidating at first, but it is not as difficult as you think. In this tutorial, I am going to demonstrate stacking two tiers (8 and 6 inch), and how to stabilize the structure with dowels/supports and cardboard cake circles.

*There are many ways to stack tiers, and there are all sorts of stacking structures available online. This is the simplest way for me!

Materials for Stacking Cake Tiers

I'm using a three layer 8 inch tier and a 3 layer 6" tier. (The layers of the 6" tier are thicker and therefore this is a taller tier.) These layers happen to be White Almond Sour Cream (doctored mix from our Recipes section)

Buttercream Frosting- I'm using our High Ratio recipe

2 Cardboard Cake Circles (or foam core cake circles) for support

4 bubble tea straws (or your supports of choice)

Spatula(s) of choice.

Sharp knife (used to run beneath the cake and the turntable)

Turntable (Not essential for stacking tiers but very helpful for frosting and decorating)

Long (thin) wooden skewer or lollipop stick, etc.- Used to measure the height of our bottom tier

Food coloring Pen- (Mine was americolor) to mark the height of our tier onto the wooden skewer and also onto our straws

Wilton Tip 3 or other small round tip of choice for filling in and correcting any imperfections in the icing

Viva paper towel (for smoothing over any rough spots--optional) --Hot knife method works well for this also.

Cake base or pedestal

Notes for Tier Stacking

The 8 inch tier used in this video is the same tier that you can watch me trim, fill, and crumb coat in our Crumb Coating video tutorial.

It is also the cake from our Viva Paper Towel Method of Smoothing video, if you'd like to see how we frosted it & smoothed with nice, sharp corners. 

*Make sure to chill your buttercream-frosted tiers before stacking. I tend to pop mine in the freezer for about 15 minutes (or until frosting is just firm). Just don't forget to remove from the freezer or your cake will develop condensation.

Chilling the tiers before stacking will allow you to more easily move the top tier onto the bottom, and to reposition if necessary.

*As I mentioned in the tutorial, the bubble tea straws are great for stacking 2 tiered cakes. I've only used bubble tea straws with 3 tiered cakes a few times, as I prefer to use something more substantial for heavy cakes.  

Decorating Stacked Tiered Cakes

We've decorated many tiered cakes over the years in our free cake videos. Here are just a few examples!

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  1. Hi, I was wondering if you had a video showing the best way to frost and stack a cake with a non crusting buttercream. Would you stack and then frost the whole thing or frost individual tiers and stack like in this video? Seems like it would be lots messier with damage to the frosting either way. Thanks very much.

  2. hi Melissa couple of questions, i have a cake to deliver very early on saturday, so i am planning to leave each fondant tier at room temperature, then stack the next day, before stacking i know i have to chill tiers in the freezer,
    1. do you think it may be an issue that the cake will be for at least 8 hours at room temperature before put it in the freezer to stack. I have never stack this way, so i am nervous.
    2. Or will you recommend leave the tiers at fridge overnight? If so, do i start stacking before the condensation occurs or should i wait the cake dries to start stacking?
    3. How long in advance can i stack, have you stacked your cakes 24 hours before the event?
    Thank you

  3. Hi Fanny-

    You'll see different approaches to this question and with good results either way. It's fine to leave your tiers in a cool room for 8 hours (assuming the filling and frosting is not perishable). However, I tend to refrigerate my tiers when decorating in advance and have never had an issue. So, I usually refrigerate my tiers in bakery boxes and I have also stacked my tiers a day in advance (and refrigerated). This is assuming that you are comfortable with traveling with stacked tiers.

    Are you working with a fondant that does well in the refrigerator? Fondant brands and recipes can differ in their versatility with temperature changes. Also, refrigerators can differ in their humidity levels. If you've never refrigerated your fondant cake before, I would at least place a piece of fondant in there for several hours and see how it does. I've used Liz Marek's recipe in the refrigerator as well as Satin Ice and Wilton fondant with no issues.

    If you have refrigerated your tiers overnight, I would go ahead and stack while everything is firm. If any condensation forms, it will evaporate (but you can speed things up by placing near a fan.)

    If you decide to let the cakes sit at room temp overnight, and are preparing to stack, just see what you think. Some decorators do not chill their fondant tiers before stacking. With buttercream frosted cakes, it is essential. But for fondant, it can go either way. I tend to pop them in the freezer for maybe 5 minutes or so to firm up the layer of ganache or buttercream beneath the fondant before stacking.

    Let us know if you have any more questions!

  4. Thanks for taking the time to answer me, that is valuable information, i am using Michelle Foster fondant recipe, i have never fridge tiers overnight, i am afraid the cake will dry out, i know the fondant and bc will protect cakes from drying, but i am still not comfortable fridging cakes, i guess there is always a first time, and i will have to try fridging, yesterday i covered a dummy with fondant, place it the fridge overnight in a box, when i took it out this morning it did not sweat at all, but wondering if it is because is a dummy not a cake, maybe a cake will behave different, i will have to make a test. Thanks for your help!

  5. What happens if your bottom tier isn't completely level? I know you said to cut the straws to the lowest point, but does the weight then level it out? Also, my low point (unlevel area) is actually along the rim of the tier & won't be a spot that I will put a dowel/straw (I think the book I used to settle the cake caused it) what should I do in this situation?

  6. Hi Jacqueline, generally, if the difference is very little between the highest point of the tier and the lowest, the weight should settle things out (although you could help it along with a little trimming if needed). In your case where you have a low point outside of where your dowels will be, I would just build it up with a bit of frosting.

  7. I am doing a 3 tier cake and they want each tier on its own decorated cake base because they don't want the ribbon on the cake so how would you go about stacking this cake

  8. I am doing a 3 tier cake and they want each tier on its own decorated cake base because they don’t want the ribbon on the cake so how would you go about stacking this cake. I will also need to travel with it stacked already. Thank you in advance.

  9. Hi Crystal- I'm not completely sure that I'm understanding your question. You would chill the tiers to firm up the frosting before stacking so that there's no worry of messing up the frosting. And of course, you would add supports beneath each tier, cut to the height of the tier below it.

    If you're saying that the decorated cake base beneath each tier is larger than the tier, you'll space out your supports based on the width of the cake base.

    I would also hammer a sharpened dowel (1/4 inch width) down through all of the tiers and into the cake base (assuming that your cake bases are not plastic and can accept a dowel being hammered through it). I hope this makes sense- let me know if you have any questions!

  10. I can't find your tutorial for double barrel cake stacking. I want to make your tall Christmas cake with the chocolate leaves. I want to use a six inch cake pan. Do I use two six inch cakes cut in half or do I use three cakes and cut in half for 3 tiers on bottom and add a cake board and 3 tiers on top of that? I watched SEVERAL online tutorials but they never way the size pan they used. Is six in too small? I need some guidance. Thanks. I have used many of your cake recipes and gotten great comments. This is my first tall cake.

    1. Hi Carol! I'm glad you asked- we need to make a post on this.

      When I do a double barrel cake, I divide the batter between four 6 inch cake layers (two layers sliced in half is fine also). I put a cake cardboard halfway up, and then place 4 or 5 bubble tea straws (or dowels) beneath it, cut to the height of the first two layers. then frost all as one.

      An example of this is our White Chocolate Ganache Christmas Tree Cake. The video starts right off with this.

      Another example of this is in our Carousel Cake topper Cake linked below. If you skip to around the 9:45 mark in Part 1, you'll see the process!

      Or if you prefer to see it in photos, our Cookie Monster Cookie Jar blog tutorial is a good example! :0)

      I hope this helps!! Glad you are making the Chocolate Leaves cake! ;0)