Luxury Wedding Cakes – Why are there dowels in my wedding cake?

Welcome back! Today we are going to go inside your luxury wedding cake to explore what makes it stay standing, and keeps it structurally sound.

Dowels.

Something you may have noticed when cutting your luxury wedding cake (or any tired cake) is the presence of dowels.

Dowels are usually some form of plastic or wood, and are inserted into each tier of cake to support the one above. I prefer to use a recyclable plastic straw, that is hollow. This is because the solid ones can cause issues with displacing the cake, causing cracks on the outside.

white and gold luxury wedding cake with sugar roses
Every wedding cake needs to support itself

Why have dowels?

The main function of dowels is to provide stability and support. Even though sponge cakes aren’t really that heavy compared to fruit cakes, they are quite delicate. A sponge cake won’t take the weight of another cake for very long.

If you have ever watched Bake Off when they haven’t used dowels, you’ll have seen the collapsing results! And their tired cakes are only out for a short time. Many times my husband has laughed at me for shouting ‘DOWELS PEOPLE!!!!!’ at the tv.

I have occasionally been asked why the dowels have to be there, as they get in the way when the cake is being cut up. Well yes they might, but if you didn’t have them, then you wouldn’t have a three or four tier wedding cake for very long!

Do dowels cut down the amount of usable cake?

I do take this into account when working out how big your wedding cake will need to be for the numbers it’s got to serve. In reality you’ll only be losing about six or seven servings in a three-tier wedding cake because of the dowels. And as we recommend ordering the cake for 10% less than the full number of guests, then it won’t make any difference.

You will also notice that there will be a cake board of some kind between each tier of your wedding cake. Again I have been asked why they are needed when the tiers sit on top of one another.

luxury wedding cake sizing chart
This is the chat I use to work out the size of your wedding cake

But the board it there for two reasons.

Firstly if there wasn’t a board, then the dowels would just push up into the tier above and wouldn’t give enough support. By having the board, you are giving something solid to rest on the dowels. Secondly the cake will need to be handled, and having a board means it can be lifted and carried safely, without fear of damaging the cake.

Types of dowels

I mentioned above about the types of dowel I use. But there are different kinds, and each cake maker will have their preferences.

I prefer a thick, hollow plastic straw type. Sometimes called pollydowels. And a wider straw that the pollydowel sits inside. I see this as a ‘belt and braces’ method.

Now I am aware that plastic isn’t the most popular thing, and I try hard to limit the amount I use. The cellophane I use to wrap some cakes for transport is 100% compostable for example.

I am always on the lookout for a better option for dowels. But, for now, the only other option is solid wooden or solid plastic dowels. And these come with their own issues.

The main problem with a solid dowel is that it displaces the cake as you push it in. Where the hollow straw type doesn’t, the cake simply fills the void and creates extra stability. The other problem with the solid wooden ones is cutting them to the correct height. A dowel needs to be cut to a whisker above the top of the cake it is going into, and this is a lot harder to do with wooden ones. They have to be sawed or cut with heavy duty cutters, running the risk of sawdust and splinters. Not ideal I think you’d agree! And the solid plastic ones are not much better.

luxury wedding cake with glass separator
Even with a separator the cake will still need dowels

But what about the thick paper straws I hear you ask?

Sadly they are not an option as cake dowels at the moment. Although they may work for cake pop sticks.

This is because paper absorbs moisture. So paper straws will start to absorb the moisture in the cakes and the fillings. Eventually becoming soft and they then start losing their strength. This defeats the purpose of a dowel.

I very much hope there will be a paper alternative, eventually, that can be used without going soft. But, for now, I will carry on using the pollydowels. They can be pulled out of the cakes and recycled, which is something. And you can speak to your venue or caterer and ask them to do that for you. I am also always looking for a compostable/biodegradable plastic option. So of they do get thrown away they will at least do minimal harm.

If what the dowels in your wedding cake are made of is important to you, then do discuss it with your wedding cake maker. We will always be happy to go through all the available options with you.

To discuss dowels with me, or any other aspect of your luxury wedding cake, click HERE

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Luxury Wedding Cakes Cornwall and Devon: Having a Wedding Cake at an Outdoor Wedding.

It’s early April 2020 and we are all on lock-down/self-isolation. But it’s a glorious day outside, which got me thinking about having a wedding cake at an outdoor wedding.

 

In the UK you can’t, as things stand currently, have a fully outdoor wedding. There must be some kind of permanent structure, with a roof, that will hold at least the minimum 5 people needed to legally marry. This is why many wedding venues have pagodas etc in their grounds, usually open sided so that it’s as outdoors as possible.

Or you can do the legal marriage somewhere else. Then have a fully outdoor blessing, hand-fasting, or celebrant led ceremony.

However, I’m a wedding cake maker. And so my focus is going to be on the cakes with these kinds of weddings.

 

Can you even have a cake at an outdoor wedding?

white fondant wedding cake
A wedding cake outdoors needs some though

Unless there is an extreme heatwave, then yes you can, with a few considerations.

Now I’m not going to say that you can’t have a certain kind of wedding cake if you are having an outdoor wedding. It’s your wedding, you can have exactly the cake you want! But there are types of wedding cakes that will work better than others.

 

Firstly I would avoid the fully naked wedding cakes.

 

These are the ones with no icing or buttercream at all on the outside, just the bare cake on show. This type of wedding cake dries out quit fast at the best of times, put it outside and it will dry out even faster. And no one wants a dry cake.

Semi naked wedding cakes will cope a little better, but not if it’s hot. Buttercream, of any type, wants to melt. It’s why I won’t set a cake up by a heater or open fire etc. Or directly in front of a window getting full sun. you’ll have a sticky mess in no time.

Plus it’s only buttercream on the outside, and buttercream can get sticky. If you’re wedding cake is set up outside then there will be dust, pollen, grass or even sand floating around. If this sticks to the buttercream, then you’re going to be eating more that just the cake.

 

buttercream cake outside
Buttercream cakes outdoors should be kept cool and protected

Your best option is a fondant covered cake for an outdoor wedding.

 

Think of the fondant (sugar paste) as armour. It will be protecting the cake inside from the elements, and anything floating in the air. Once the cake is cut the fondant can be pulled off, and the cake inside will be perfectly okay. Of course you can eat the fondant too.

 

This is not to say you can set a fondant wedding cake up just anywhere outside.

 

The ground needs to be level. If it’s not, then the cake will look wonky. And you may have stability issues too. If the cake table is standing on uneven ground, then it’s going to be unstable too. The same goes for log slice cake stands. You’ve seen me mention them before. Make sure they are properly prepared and level or you’ll have a wonky looking cake.

The cake needs to be set up in the shade. Even with a fondant cake it will still need to be in the coolest place you can find. Fondant is sugar, and sugar doesn’t like heat. I always keep all wedding cakes as cool as I can before delivery, and will often travel with ice blocks in the car with them. Once it starts to warm up though, the cake will start to soften, the fillings will start to soften, and we need to avoid that for as long as possible. Even though the cakes will have their supporting dowels, this won’t guarantee that nothing will move if the cake gets too hot.

fondant wedding cake
Bring the wedding cake out at the last minute if possible

 

THINK WASPS!!!

 

I hate wasps, and it’s mutual (is there actually any point to a wasp??).

A wasp sting will knock me off my feet for a good 24 hours. And wasps LOVE sweet things. Therefore they are going to love your wedding cake! I have seen a whole swarm of wasps on a cake before (not one of mine, but online) and it wasn’t nice. You certainly won’t be able, or want, to eat it after they have finished with it.

Again, a fondant covered cake will offer some protection. They will only be touching/attacking the outer covering, and not the cake itself. So if the worst happens you can pull the fondant off and the cake beneath will be fine.

It’s the same with flies.

Okay I know I sound like I’m raining on your parade, sorry about that. That’s not my intention. I want you parade to be as glorious as possible!

 

If you want to have the wedding cake outdoors, then I would recommend having it brought out just before you want to cut it. This way it is not out for too long. Discuss this with your cake maker, and make sure you have someone on hand to carry the cake out at the appropriate time who knows what they are doing.

The other option would be to have the cake table set up under semi cover. Which brings me to my next point.

 

black wedding cake
Having an easily movable cake table is a good idea

 

It might rain.

 

Yep, it’s the UK. Rain is highly likely let’s face it. So having the cake set up outside will mean someone has got to try and quickly get a heavy wedding cake under cover, without dropping or damaging it! I certainly wouldn’t want to do that!

Some kind of semi cover is a good compromise. Maybe a small, open sided marquee or gazebo. Or if the venue has a summerhouse or covered patio, that would work well. Even under a large tree. Plus, there will be somewhere for everyone to shelter should the great British weather do its thing.

 

Wedding cake under a tree
Under trees can work too

 

 

Here are my top tips for having a wedding cake outdoors.

 

1/ Have the cake in the coolest, and shadiest place you can find. In semi cover is best.

2/ Make sure the ground is level before setting the cake table up.

3/ Be aware of wasps, flies and general air borne dust and dirt.

4/ Have a fondant covered cake to help protect the actual cake underneath.

5/ If the venue has a room that looks out over the site of the wedding, where the cake can be set up, but everyone can still see it, that’s the best option of all.

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Luxury Wedding Cakes: How to choose the best cake stand.

You have found your perfect cake maker and have ordered your dream wedding cake. You know it is going to look stunning. But have you thought about what you are going to put it on? Today we are going to talk about how to choose the best cake stand and the cake table.

Cake stands

There are as many designs of cake stand as there are cakes. And this can make finding the perfect one a bit of a minefield.
Some cake makers will have a selection of cake stands that they hire out, so it’s always worth asking. I don’t hire out cake stands myself. This is because I deliver my wedding cakes so far and wide that it can be an issue getting them back.

Classic glass cake stand
A classic and simple glass cake stand.

It is also always worth asking your venue if they have any cake stands. Quite often hotels and dedicated wedding venues will have a cake stand you can arrange to use.
If you are having a wedding stylist then they might have a cake stand available that will match up with the rest of the décor.

A cake stand that's also a table
Cake stands don’t need to be ‘cake stands’ This is a trolley!

But why not buy your own? They can become a keepsake of the day, and something to keep and use. One of my couples had a glass cake stand and had it engraved with their names and wedding date. Something like that will become a family heirloom. And wooden log slice stands can be burned with the same thing. And why not put one on your wedding gift list?

Before you buy a stand there are a few things you should do

1/ Ask your cake maker what size the bottom cake board will be. Whatever stand you buy will need to be big enough to fit the cake on!
2/ Ask your cake maker roughly what the height of the cake will be. This is because you may not actually need a cake stand. If your cake is going to be tall, then a stand may not be necessary. You don’t want it to stand so tall that it makes cutting it difficult. Nor do you want to make it unstable, and height = instability.
3/ check out the cake table, or space, at the venue where the cake is going to be going. You want to make sure that it is going to be big enough. Often I find that my couples want to have other things on the cake table.

Wedding cake without a cake stand
When a cake has height, it doesn’t need a stand.

Choosing a cake stand

Cake stands come in a huge range of shapes, sizes and materials. And, like everything else, you can get lost down that internet rabbit hole looking for what you want.
Now not all cake stands are created equal, and it’s a case of you get what you pay for. I would recommend going to a supplier you trust, a major department store or cookware shop for example (I won’t name any names, but you know the places you trust and like to shop with.) It’s good to be able to see the stand if possible.

If you’re looking online then be sure to check the measurements. Like I said before, you need to make sure the cake will fit. Also see if there is a weight limit given. This may seem strange, but a fully decorated and stacked wedding cake can be really heavy! I have found that metal cake stands with a foot, for example, are not very sturdy, and inclined to warp and buckle unless they are very good quality.

Glass and ceramic are really your best bet if you want the classic stand with a foot/stem and a plate on top.

Simple ceramic cake stand
A simple ceramic cake stand always looks elegant.

If you want metal then the solid, low and wide ones are the best to go for. These style of cake stands are the ones that hotels and venues often have.

Classic silver cake stand
The classic and vintage style silver cake stand.

Something else I would say about cake stands is to avoid the ones with a lip or rim around the edge. This makes it hard to get the cake onto the stand. And even harder for whoever is then going to have to take it off again. It’s very easy to get your fingers trapped!! These kinds of stands are better for small cakes and pastries to be displayed on.

And if you are having a log slice cake stand then please buy a properly cut one. One wedding I delivered to the log slice was literally just that. The groom had gone to the woods with a chainsaw! It was so unlevel that I had to pack a load of folded kitchen paper under the cake to try to stop it toppling!

Log slice cake stand
I love log slice stands, as long as they’re level.

Cake tables

Almost always the cake is displayed on a separate table in pride of place, which is as it should be!
But is it that simple?
Sadly I often turn up to find a small table with a basic white cloth, and that’s it. Now I get that you want the cake to be the star, I want that too, and you don’t want too much distracting from it. But you also want the cake table to tie in with the rest of the wedding décor. So why not ask your wedding stylist to dress the cake table too?
A few times there have been other things on the cake table besides the cake stand. Usually photos of either the happy couple, or family photos. One couple had the wedding photos of their parents and grandparents, which was such a beautiful touch. But if you want to do this, then you need to make sure the cake table will be large enough. So let your venue know your plans and ask them to provide you with the right size.

traditional cake cutting
This lovely couple had family photos on their cake table.
burgundy and gold wedding cake
Or you can have the bouquet to display beside the cake.

NOTE: Make sure the cake table is level and doesn’t wobble!! You’d think that was obvious, wouldn’t you? But I have turned up to a few cake deliveries to find a wonky or wobbly table. Once it was so bad that I had to ask for it to be replaced because the top was loose!!

Top tips

1/ Before buying a cake stand, ask your cake maker, venue or stylist if they have ones you can hire.
2/ Before buying your stand, ask your cake maker for the base measurements of the cake. You need to make sure the cake stand is at least the same diameter as the cake base, if not a little bigger.
3/ Do you even need a cake stand? If your cake is going to be tall, then you may not need a stand. And remember, adding height adds instability.
4/ Think about decorating the cake table to match with the rest of the wedding décor. And also adding some special, personal touches.
5/ Make sure the cake table is level and wobble free!! Ask your wedding planner or co-ordinator to check this for you on the morning.

To find out more, you can get in touch HERE