Originally the reserve of royalty and the upper classes, tier wedding cakes have been one of the centrepieces of a couples big day since Victorian times. With their grandiose and imposing appearance, they are one of the main focul points of the whole day.
In it's most basic form, a 'tier wedding cake' is one which emcompasses multiple levels, rising upwards and decreasing in size with each tier, but there are a number of techniques which can be used to achieve the tiered effect - let's take a look at each one in turn.
A Stacked Tier Wedding Cake
Stacked wedding cakes are perhaps the most popular of all of the tiered options. Essentially, the technique requires each tier to be placed directly atop one another, stacking the cake from bottom upwards.
Less intricate to produce than a pillared cake, stacked wedding cakes are compact and more subtle than their tier wedding cake counterparts, but can be very heavy and quite difficult to transport.
If you do plan to use this technique, remember that the heaviest cake should always go on the bottom tier - a dense 12 inch fruit cake stacked on top of a 15 inch sponge one could well sink as the day goes by, with disastrous consequences!
Tier Wedding Cake on a Stand
Wedding cake stands come in all shapes and sizes and were simply made for tier wedding cakes. From individual stands at differing heights, to elaborate single stands able to cater for three plus tiers, there are a whole range of cake stand options out there.
Whilst a stacked wedding cake may be subtle, a tier wedding cake on a stand is from it. With a towering appearance and imposing presence they will immediately grab the attention of anyone who sees them.
For those couples with more of a penchant for chocolate sponge than fruit and spice cake, wedding cake stands allow you to load up on the lighter cakes and go easy on the denser ones without the worry of any leaning cake tower of Pisa!
With cake stand hire or purchase to factor in, they may be the most expensive of the three tiered wedding cake display options, but they are simpler to construct and far more ideal for any amateur cake maker to have a stab at than a tier wedding cake on pillars, columns or supports.
A Tier Wedding Cake on Pillars
Not for any amateur cake maker with a shaky hand, pillared tier wedding cakes take a keen eye and good sense of balance to produce. This method requires a number of pillars or columns to be used to add height and visually separate the cake, and the pillars available range from plain or ribbed ones, to highly decorative items.
Typically only one set of four pillars is used to split to top two lightest tiers, with the remaining bottom tiers stacking on top of one another. That said, with the addition of extra pillars, it is possible (with the right cakes and a good cake maker!) to split additional tiers as well.
Dependent upon the number, style and quality of the pillars used, this method can prove a little expensive, and the cake maker may also choose to add on a little extra for the danger factor too!
How Many Tiers?
All couples considering a tier wedding cake are faced with the same conumndrum, just how many tiers to have?
For some, two is too basic, three is too common, four is too showy and five or more is just too expensive! In truth, there isn't a right or wrong answer, and in most cases the correct decision comes down to just three factors; price (the more tiers, the more cost!), practicality (OK you'd love a 10 tiered wedding cake, but can you get hold of a stand and is the roof really tall enough!) and portions (whatever you do, don't run short - work out your guest numbers then add an extra 10-20% on to be on the safe side). Bearing this in mind, rather than simply selecting your faourite number, take stock of these three aspects before making any final decision as to the number of tiers you'll plump for.
Tier Wedding Cake Shape, Flavour & Decoration
Whichever tiered display option and regardless of how many tiers you decide upon, you will still need to consider a number of other aspects up front.
Cake flavour is very much an individual preference and you are only really limited by your imagination and the skill-set of your cake maker. From a simple jam and buttercream sponge wedding cake to something more elaborate there are a world of options out there, and remmeber, each tier can be completely different from the others. If you are opting for a stacked or pillared tier wedding cake, the key thing to remember is to place the densest and heaviest cakes on the bottom to avoid that sinking feeling. For more ideas, be sure to check out our wedding cake tastes & flavours article.
Shape-wise, anything is possible, especially if you are heading down the stacked tier wedding cake route. It can be tricky to balance certain shapes, and cake stands are often expensive and difficult to come by in anything other than round and square, so you may wish to bear this in mind.
Finally, once you have determined the final shape and style of your tier wedding cake, you will need to focus on the decoration. Ribbons, flowers, sugarcraft shapes and cake toppers are always a popular option, and where stacked cakes are concerned, anything goes. For pillared and stand cakes, think carefully about the weight of any decorative items and look to avoid anything which is too heavy and could lead the cake to collapse. As with the flavour, you can decorate and colour each tier individually should you wish.
Recommended Reading: For those of you wanting to find out more, we've a whole host of other wedding cake articles on our site packed full of expert information and helpful advice, not to mention our online wedding directory that's filled with cake makers, cake topper designers and more. For friendly tips and helpful advice take a look at our wedding cakes & catering forum, or why not check out the 'pages & websites you may like' below.