With the popularity of television shows like "Ace of Cakes" and cake building competitions, more and more people are attempting to build multi-tiered, decorator-style cakes at home. Although building these sky-high cakes may look easy on television, without a proper support system they can tumble quite easily.
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To keeps the three or more tiers of a cake from squishing the tiers below, use cake separators between layers for support. These cardboard or cardboard and styrofoam discs slip on top of each layer before they are covered with a top layer of cake and frosting. These are essential for providing a base of internal support and should be at least 3/16 to 1/4 inches thick.
There are several types of internal supports including wooden dowels, plastic straws and even PVC pipe. The heavier your three tiers, the more heavy-duty your internal supports will need to be. Choose the proper support--for three tiers, dowels or plastic supports are probably your best choices--and cut them to size so that they fit into each layer, approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inches in length. Push them down into the cake in a circular pattern before icing or covering with fondant.
Some three-tiered cakes may also use external support systems. These may include pillars, push-in legs or decorative supports such as champagne glasses or silver-plated separators. It is important to use these supports along with internal supports such as dowels or PVC piping; using external supports alone will most likely put too much pressure on tiers.
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