Assembling a Wedding Cake Article -
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How to Assemble a Wedding Cake

If you want to impress your guests and save money at the same time, make your own wedding cake.

Start with the largest cake layer and tackle the base first. Finishing the bottom tier makes assembling the rest of the cake seem easy!

1. This wedding cake was created using a simple white cake filled with lime curd, a pineapple-rum filling, and coconut frosting.

2. With a long serrated knife, trim the "skin" off of the top and bottom of the cake layers. Trim the top of the cake to create a flat surface. (Wrap remaining cake rounds in plastic while you assemble one layer at a time.)

  • Start by looking down at the cake and your knife hand to make sure you're holding the knife blade level.
  • Crouch down to eye level with the cake, and turn the cake with one hand to score the outer edge and mark where you're going to make your cut.
  • (This is when cake turntables come in handy--but a cardboard cake round can be used as well.)

    3. Slice ("torte") the cake into 3/8"-thick to 1/2"-thick layers. The thicker the layers, the more rustic the look. Cutting a cake round into multiple thin layers requires more skill, more filling, and more time, but the look is very elegant and refined--think of a Dobos Torte (although those layers are actually baked individually).

    • Each cake round should yield 2-3 layers, depending upon how thickly you cut them, how full your pans were and how high the cake rose in the oven.
    • Special insulated baking strips are available that moderate a cake pan's temperature and help cakes bake evenly, without pronounced rounding in the center. Using these strips can help reduce the amount of cake you'll need to trim to get a flat surface.

      4. Before adding filling or frosting, brush each cake layer with simple syrup. Pay particular attention to the edges, as this is where the cake will begin to dry out.

        5. Spread a generous layer of filling on each cake layer. If you're using a soft filling, like mousse or whipped cream, pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of the cake to contain the filling.

          6. Carefully stack your next cake layer on the frosted or filled bottom layer. Crouch down at eye level to be sure you've stacked the layers evenly. Brush the layer with syrup, and spread with filling.

            7. When you've added the top layer, brush it with syrup, and add a generous dollop of frosting. Don't worry about crumbs; you're going to spread this layer of frosting fairly thin and refrigerate the cake to create a "crumb coat" that will seal in the cake and fillings before you frost and decorate the cake. (This stage is also referred to as "masking the cake.")

              8. Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour, until the frosting is firm to the touch. Note: butter- and cream cheese-based frostings will firm up more than frostings made with shortening. If you're using whipped cream as a frosting, you can apply a thin layer of jam to help contain the crumbs. There's no need for the extra crumb coat.

              Frost the cake round to create a smooth, even coating.

                9. Refrigerate the finished cake, and repeat with the remaining tiers. The filled, frosted cake layers can be refrigerated for up to two days before the wedding without losing quality--but it's best to use a separate refrigerator so that the cake won't absorb strong smells from other foods in the fridge.

                Ready to stack and decorate the cake? See Decorating a Wedding Cake.

                Jun. 30, 2009 8:33 pm
                Keep in mind that if you are doing more than one tier, like the finished photo, you will need dowels and cardboard or plastic cake rounds, otherwise your cake will collapse!
                Jul. 7, 2009 12:02 pm
                Hi grammaonthego. You can always use all butter in your frostings—the flavor is much better, in my opinion. But butter melts at body temperature (which is what makes all-butter frostings literally melt in your mouth) so it can get really soft in hot weather. If you live in a warm climate and are making a cake for an outdoor wedding, a shortening- and butter-based frosting will hold up better over several hours. But if that's not a concern, I'm a fan of the Easiest, Most Delicious Meringue Buttercream recipe on our site. You can also find more recipes by searching our Frostings and Fillings recipes, or you can do an ingredient search: type in "butter" as an ingredient you want, "shortening" as an ingredient you don't want, and "frosting" as an additional keyword. You'll get a list of all of the butter-based frosting recipes in our collection.
                Jul. 7, 2009 8:57 pm
                Jul. 12, 2009 8:33 pm
                oh gorgeous! I really want to take this up as a hobby!
                Jul. 26, 2009 10:21 am
                I make layered cakes often using icing and puddings. I am trying out a fruit filling today. What is the reason for a simple syrup? I have never used it. Thanks!!
                Jul. 29, 2009 4:35 pm
                N8SMOM, The simple syrup makes for a nice moist cake. I see this recipe calls for a brandy simple syrup but the syrup can be flavored with just about anything you like, it does not need to be alcohol. One of my personal faves is a chocolate cake moistened with a Grand Marnier (orange liquer) simple syrup, a classic combination. Take the extra time, it really is worth it and all your friends will wonder why your cakes are so much more flavorful and moist than theirs!
                Aug. 5, 2009 11:47 pm
                Wow i'm going to boookmark thos!
                Aug. 26, 2009 5:46 am
                What is the purpose of trimming the "skin" off of the top and bottom of the layers? Wouldn't it make it easier to ice if these were left?
                Sep. 1, 2009 4:33 am
                How do you make the simple syrup?
                Sep. 7, 2009 3:28 pm
                You trim the skin off so it is even. If it is uneven, the cake will either crack or be all wobbly (Usually causing the other layer to crack)
                Jan. 11, 2010 10:00 pm
                Another purpose of trimming off the skin is because you've put in the extra effort of making a white cake instead of yellow, but even white cakes will have a darker skin. Trimming this off is just cosmetic.
                Jan. 29, 2010 10:09 am
                I am going to try to make a large filled sheet cake and wondered if you have any hints for cutting it in half and moving it and also for a filling that won't leak out. Is it best to freeze the cake after it is cut to limit the crumbs when you spread the filling?
                Boyce D 
                Feb. 11, 2010 6:44 am
                I like to semi-freeze ( not too hard, just firm) the cake before slicing it for extra stability. I wouldn't recomend icing a frozen cake. It changes the consistancy of the icing and can cause cracks in the icing as it thaws. You can use a pasty brush to remove excess crumbs.
                Mar. 23, 2010 9:45 pm
                A very easy tried and tested technique to cut the cake into layers without using a turntable or a cake cardboard is to use a long piece of fine thread. Cut a piece of thread at least 4 inches longer than the circumfrance of the cake. Carefully wrap the thread aligned with the middle of the cake from where you wish to create the layer. Simply pull the two ends of the threads together extending at the opposite ends till the thread runs completely through the cake creating two perfect layers!
                Apr. 9, 2010 6:30 pm
                I'm not quite clear on something. The instructions do not mention using all 3 lemon curd, pineapple filling, and coconut frosting. Are these just listed on the top of the page as an option? or should I plan to use all 3? if so, in what order and how should i apply them? Thank you
                Apr. 14, 2010 12:01 pm
                v - I was curious about that too. So I decided to go with one or the other but not both.
                Apr. 19, 2010 11:11 am
                Vmgalkow and edefran: this cake did include both fillings (although it would be delicious with just one flavor). If you’re using two different types of fillings, use the heaviest or chunkiest one on the bottom layer (in step 5, the baker is spreading the pineapple filling on the bottom layer). Use the lighter filling in between the top layers (step 6 shows the lemon curd filling). In regard to previous comments: another reason for trimming the “skin” off of the baked cakes is because it opens up the “pores” of the cake, helping it absorb more of the flavored syrup.
                May 10, 2010 10:54 am
                I'm trying to find out how to make a yellow cake with chocolate icing. Then a layer if white icing so it can be decorated for my little girls wedding cake.Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.
                May 18, 2010 7:23 pm
                I do ice frozen cakes ... they taste more moist ... if it does crack take a fine sprayer with a little cold water and spray a bit before smoothing it with long icing knife (wilton preference). Then decorate. mm
                May 18, 2010 7:52 pm
                As to the simple syrup...just equal parts sugar and water...heat and stir to dissolve, boil one minute, then cool completely before using. You can mix in liqueur or other flavorings before you use it. If you make a large quantity it keeps nicely in the fridge in a sealed mason jar indefinitely. Good to have around for those mojitos too!!
                May 19, 2010 1:45 pm
                For a cake with chocolate icing on one layer and white icing on another each cake completely separate with each on cardboard rounds (covered with foil), layer them on top of each other, and pipe a boarder around the bottom of the topmost layer.
                Esing prudencia 
                May 22, 2010 1:16 am
                wao this gorgeous its so great. i like it and will try it.
                Jun. 3, 2010 12:54 pm
                I am making a groom's cake using a devil's food cake mix (Pillsbury),1 5.9 oz. instant pudding mix, 1 c sour cream, 1 c veg oil, 4 eggs and 1/2 c warm water. For a 14 inch square pan i had to use about 2 2/3 recipes. I baked it at 350 for over 50 minutes in order for the middle to be done but the edges were dry. Any suggestions?
                Jun. 14, 2010 7:53 pm
                I've been making wedding cakes for several years now. When I took the cake decorating classes they never said anything about taking the "skin" off the top and bottom of the cakes. Nor did any of the many teachers I had talk about cutting each layer into multiple layers. I'll have to make note of this for my next cake.
                Jun. 23, 2010 3:32 pm
                Oh how important those dowel rods are in a tiered cake! First, either use a purchased parchment round or create one, the same size as the cake you plan to place on tope of the cake below. Fold the parchment twice, created a triangle type shape. Using scissors, cut the tip off the triangle, and then cut a half circle about one inch from the upper edge of the triangle. Open the circle, put a little icing on the circle and place on top of the bottom cake. Then use pruning sheers to cut the dowel, using the height of the cake below to judge the length of the dowel. You'll need 5 dowels per layer. Put one dowel in the center. It is important that the dowel be absolutley flush with the cake. Use sand paper or a coarse emery board to adjust the height of the dowel to get it done perfectly. Then, make all other dowels exactly the same height. Insert the dowels into the holes in the parchment. Sprinkle a little powdered sugar or coconut on top of the parchment, then place your next cake
                Cathy M 
                Jul. 1, 2010 8:07 am
                Hi, Simple syrup to cover cake prior to dirty icing ?? Can I 'assume" it is to get rid of crumbs when icing?? I am about to embark on my first cake for lg group .. family wedding for 250.
                Jul. 10, 2010 11:49 am
                I have made several tiered cakes and always hold my breath getting them to the location! I put down that waffle like plastic stuff and nothing moves.Also I do several different kinds of cake flavors.Bottom layer can be carrot'with a pineapple,coconut,pecan,creamcheese filling. The middle cake can be chocolate with its coconut german chocolate icing.And the top a vanilla cake with lemon curd icing. I cover it completley with creamcheese and butter icing.It holds up well and looks devine. The variety of flavors is a big hit.It is so exciting to be doing a tiered cake! Have fun.
                Jul. 20, 2010 10:26 pm
                Im going to make a 2 tier cake for my co workers daughter, and I am totally freaked out, I hope I do well the only thing Im confused on is the rod thing to hold the tiers together. so they do have to stick out of the cake a little?
                Jul. 22, 2010 2:14 am
                after having had a couple tiered cakes collapse on me; I reverted to the hidden pillars offered by Wilton. the pillars are very strong plastic and have an equally strong plate attached to them that supports the tier above it. They work extremely well. Only problem with the plate and hidden pillars is that you cannot; then run the top to bottom rod through the cake for extra stability. It has been my experience; that if that bottom layer is properly supported; the rest of the tiers do not require any additonal support. The doll rods, if properly measured and enough of them are used in the layers above that bottom tier, the center rod is really not necessary. good luck!
                Call Me Alice 
                Jul. 31, 2010 2:38 pm
                Sil, If you are just making a two-layer birthday cake, you do not need dowels and all this support, just steady hands as you carry it to the party. My mother always just bakes two round layer cakes of the same size, using a single batch of cake recipe (or boxed mix). The cake with the flatter top gets inverted on the cake tray, then frosting is applied to the bottom. The other layer is placed on the first, with the top-side up (so their bottoms are together). Then the entire outside of the cake is frosted. It is quick and simple, and it makes a decent layer cake. Good luck!
                Aug. 15, 2010 9:39 pm
                I am attempting a 3 or 4 tiered wedding cake - my first wedding cake, ever! Getting the Wiltons plastic separators and pillars. Do I nee the Wiltons plastic dowel rods, too? Wiltons' separators do not have a hole in the middle - so unable to have a larger dowel down the middle. Am I missing something here? I am assuming I need cardboard or plastic rounds on top of the plastic separators?
                Sep. 26, 2010 1:10 pm
                this is a very nice guide - our wedding cake was a 3 tier fruit cake. It was middle of summer so the icing ended up an inch thick - with the fruit cake and solid icing the supports were not necessary, however if the cakes had been other types - chocolate or maderia they would have been essential or the cake would have fallen in on each other.. go to if using their products and see how to there too
                Nov. 14, 2010 9:46 am
                wow what a wonderful cake!
                Dec. 30, 2010 1:44 am
                For a simple, 2-LAYER cake, while the cake is in the pan, use a long knife, trim off excess rise by using pan rim as a guide. Turn bottom layer top down, fill center, place top layer top up. Brush off any loose crumbs, then "crumb coat" with a very thin layer of icing, let dry, and ice, using an icing spatula ("bent" blade). For a 2-TIER (or more) cake, using Wilton's products are the easiest way to assemble and support multi-tiers. If using dowel rods, they should be even lengths per layer, and not protrude above the cakes. You can purchase cardboard cake circles, also. Use Wilton cake pans to create deep individual cake layers. (Most tiers are 2-layer cakes each). Being creative/artistic is fun. Just practice on your family, first! To transport a multi-tiered cake, you can make/decorate each layer, assemble on site, and complete decorations there.
                Dec. 30, 2010 2:52 am
                For the novice, LAYER cakes should be made using (round or square) pans of identical size. My 12-yr-old granddaughter just made a square layer cake using 3 square glass pans. She used 2 white cake mixes, divided batter into 3 bowls, & colored (w/food coloring) each layer differently for a festive cake.
                Dec. 30, 2010 2:55 am
                For a simple, 2-LAYER cake, while the cake is in the pan, use a long knife, trim off excess rise by using pan rim as a guide. Turn bottom layer top down, fill center, place top layer top up. Brush off any loose crumbs, then "crumb coat" with a very thin layer of icing, let dry, and ice, using an icing spatula ("bent" blade). For a 2-TIER (or more) cake, using Wilton's products are the easiest way to assemble and support multi-tiers. If using dowel rods, they should be even lengths per layer, and not protrude above the cakes. You can purchase cardboard cake circles, also. Use Wilton cake pans to create deep individual cake layers. (Most tiers are 2-layer cakes each). Being creative/artistic is fun. Just practice on your family, first! To transport a multi-tiered cake, you can make/decorate each layer, assemble on site, and complete decorations there.
                Feb. 13, 2011 6:13 pm
                I use to do many tier cakes. Best way to dowel a cake? McDonald straws. Yes McD's has large straws and they cut quickly with a pair of scissors. I put in several, but much more sanitary than wood dowel and don't affect flavor.
                Feb. 22, 2011 7:31 pm
                ssthebest....If you do a lot of cake trimming, you should buy one of the adjustable cutters made for cutting cakes in half or for cutting the crowns off to level the cake out. Also, although I have a set of pizza lifters that I use to pick up the top half of my cakes, you can buy cake lifters in places such as Michaels and other craft type stores. They are awesome!!
                Apr. 10, 2011 8:05 am
                dear all,,i have done this recipe,,in my kitchen with my fellow chefs,,its come out very well,,any way thanks,and good luck...
                Apr. 10, 2011 1:50 pm
                Will be attempting a three- tiered wedding cake. I like the idea of McDonald large drinking straws for dowels to slide into the cake. Then cutting to size with scissors makes the job easier. Thank-you so much for the tip, Biggsy22. I will try your idea.
                Apr. 14, 2011 3:36 am
                Apr. 19, 2011 3:29 pm
                looks pretty will have to try to make it
                May 1, 2011 10:44 am
                I've been making wedding cakes for many years. Never use the simple syrup, will give it a try. Does it make a difference with the flavor of cake you are making. How much liquer or flavoring do you add? Does anyone have a recipe for strawberry cake from scratch they have used, need for a wedding cake. If you use cream chees for a stacked wedding cake doesn't it need to be refrigerated??I didn't think it would keep if not refrigerated.
                May 1, 2011 10:49 am
                What is the best butter cream frosting anyone has used? I have used the one taught through a class I took, but it using shortening,then flavored with butter,vanilla and almond flavorings?? Regular butter won't give you the white white frosting??
                May 10, 2011 7:26 am
                Everyones comments sound good. Now which ones do I follow? lol
                Aug. 10, 2011 7:18 pm
                nope butter frostings will be more off white, im not worried about the color just the flavor lol and you can use just about any flavor you want. i tend to use orange, lemon, or vanilla extracts.
                Aug. 10, 2011 7:23 pm
                do i need to worry about my 3tier square cake falling apart if it has fresh pineapple?(food processed and blended in the batter) id really be upset if my cake falls apart half way through the reception. heres hoping!
                Aug. 29, 2011 5:46 am
                I'm making a three layer wedding cake. It's red velvet. Im making the icing from scratch, this is for a senior project. I have to do two of the three layer wedding cakes. One as a rough draft. How many carton of eggs will i need? Also how much cooking oil will i need?
                Sep. 8, 2011 12:52 pm
                does anyone have a recipe for a cherry and almond wedding cake that would be soft and moist and maybe a blue frosting with roses on it made from frosting
                Sep. 9, 2011 10:27 pm
                all the comments are so helpful. going to attempt my first two tier cake this weekend
                Dec. 14, 2011 11:33 pm
                I always felt like putting wooden posts in your cake was a little... unsanitary? And doesn't it leave a funny little "shop class" taste around the dowels? The drinking straw idea sounds great though, I'll be giving it a try next time! Thanks Biggsy!
                Jan. 3, 2012 12:14 pm
                I am making a wedding cake and want the clean look of fondant. i can roll some fondant over the coconut-cream frosting?
                Jan. 21, 2012 3:21 pm
                Hello, Making a wedding cake but bride wants a plain cheesecake on the bottom and then either carmel apple cake or cherry chip cake for the next 2 layers. any ideas what kind of frosting I can cover them in????
                Jan. 21, 2012 3:22 pm
                Hello have a new cricut cake machine and thought about fondant?? what does anyone think???
                Mar. 6, 2012 9:07 pm
                my granddaughter is getting married in October 2012; and she wants her mother and myself, her grandmother to make seeing this article about how to assemble a Wedding will help alot. Thanks. She is going to wedding to serve 150 people, and she wants it to be marble....I do love to bake, and when I was younger I made doll cakes, or clown, or dragon & even made a kitten on a pillow using 7 minute frosting and daughter loved it, but that was a very long time ago. Hopefully with my daughter and myself and some of the notes I have read above I do you. wish us luck.....grin
                Mar. 9, 2012 6:14 am
                I've never made a tiered cake before and my daughter has requested one for her 9th birthday in 2 weeks. This may be a silly question, but is it okay to use spring-form pans? I have the 3 different sizes and I do want to fill the layers with a buttercream. It seems easier than using the shallow pans, but I'm not sure if it will cook the same?
                Mar. 27, 2012 6:32 am
                How moist should a wedding cake be? My cupcakes are soft and fluffy but my round cakes seem to be more dense and moist with the fillings. I haven't been to a wedding recently to know.
                Apr. 8, 2012 10:51 am
                The wedding cakes are really architecture. You need to put pins or tiny wooden dowels on each layer except the top. After you "pin" the second layer, take a "stake" or longer dowel and go through both bottom layers. This will keep the layers from sliding or tipping while you take it to the reception. Unless the reception is at home, put the top layer on after it gets to the reception. Wilton has the pins (plastic).
                Apr. 13, 2012 1:34 am
                if you want a white butter cake, use CLEAR vanilla
                Apr. 21, 2012 9:33 am
                Good tip on making a buttercream well to keep your filling inside. I have more than one time had a custard or lemon curd seep through the side. Thanks!
                Sep. 30, 2012 1:46 pm
                I need an nswer to this age old question. I need to know why my cake is not fully baked in the middle and the edges are hard and dry bcause I leave the cake longer to get the middle fully cooked?????
                Wim Leijdekkers 
                Oct. 31, 2012 12:00 pm
                I have been baking for eight years now and started decorating cakes two years ago, I tought myself everything I know today, I make all my own flowers and arrangements from sugar and made my first 4 tier shoe box wedding cake a week ago, it was agreat success. I need to make ISOMALT and can not get isomalt crystals in South Africa where I live. Can someone out there help me ? ie. how can I make isomalt without having the cristals ?
                Crossing Rebecca 
                Nov. 16, 2012 10:43 am
                For the question that has been asked a couple of times about the cake not cooking in the center while the edges are too dry, I'm pretty sure the answer is a baking core. Most of us are used to baking 8" cakes, but for a wedding cake, 10" is kind of a minimum base, and for this the other sources I am reading suggest a baking core. Thanks for all the other advice, I'm about to start trying this to see if I can do my daughter's cake.
                Dec. 28, 2012 5:49 pm
                I've been making wedding cakes for over twenty years and have always hated the wooden dowels. About ten years ago I had to make a cake at the last minute and didn't have any dowels. Inspiration struck and I used plastic drinking straws. They worked perfectly.I've done three and four layers and have never had a collapsed cake yet. The straws are easy to cut so are much easier to use.
                May 12, 2013 10:02 am
                Here is THE answer for having an evenly baked large cake. Use rose nails! Spray rose nails and place them upside down in the bottom of your pan and pour the batter in around them. 3 nails will work for 12/ 4 for 14/ 5 for 16 in cakes. The nails conduct the heat up into the center of your cake and then you can just remove them when cool. They don't upset the integrity of your cake like a baking core does and they work wonderfully.
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