Cake boards are the base on which you place a cake either before decorating or after you have decorated the cake. You can either decorate your cake on one base and display it on another base or use the same base for decoration and display. Cake board is a broad term that covers this essential component of cake decorating tools.
Cake boards are therefore one of the essential cake decorating tools that you must have. We know that when you go shopping, you would find that different terms are used for the base on which you place a cake. Some of these terms are cake drum, stacker board and separator plates.
Do these terms refer to the same thing or are there differences between all these cake bases?
They are not the same although they are all used as cake bases. This article would help clear up any confusion you have experienced. It would also help you know which one to use per time.
Understanding The Difference Between Cake Boards, Cake Drums and Separator Plates
What Are Cake Boards?
Cake boards are primarily used to evenly distribute the weight of different cake tiers. They are useful for stacking tiered cakes. They can additionally be used to separate cakes from cake drums. This comes in handy when you don’t want your cake to come in direct contact with the cake drum.
Some manufacturers and marketers refer to cake boards as cake rounds. This isn’t quite accurate because cake boards come in different styles and shapes.
Tips for Choosing the Best Cake Board
Here are a few things to consider when choosing your cake boards and some tips on how to use them.
Configuration of the Cake Board
The configuration of a cake board refers to what the cake board is made of; some are made of cardboard while others are made of foam.
Cardboard and foam cake boards would perform the same function but most cake decorators prefer foam boards.
The reason for this choice include (a) they offer more stability than the cardboard cake boards (b) they do not sink as easily as the cardboard cake boards (c) foam cake boards have more resistance to grease than the cardboard cake boards. They would not absorb icing as you decorate your cake.
You can use contact paper to cover your cake boards; some decorators even put their cake boards in the freezer before using them. If you are using cardboard cake boards, you should cover them with foil or a food safe material that’s grease proof.
Thickness of the Cake Board
When working with cake boards, you would require boards with different thickness. A sponge cake can be safe on a cake board that’s just 1mm thick, but a heavy fruit cake would need a thicker cake board.
That’s one of the reasons why professional cake decorators make their cake boards from plywood. That way, they’ll be sure of the strength of their cake base.
Circumference of the Cake Board
The circumference of a cake board simply refers to the size of the cake board. You need to have a board with the right circumference with reference to your cake. This means that your cake board has to be the same size with the cake that would be placed on it.
Remember that the cake boards are primarily meant to evenly distribute the weight of your cake. They have no aesthetic value but some decorators still like to have decorated boards. This is so that when the cake is cut, you won’t see a plain board.
Some cake decorators apply icing on their cake boards so that it would form a barrier between the boards and the cake.
Based on the above, you should bear in mind that the substance of your cake board is more important than its aesthetics.
Shapes and Styles of the Cake Boards
When choosing a cake board, you would want a shape that corresponds with your cake. Although the style of the cake board is not important, the shape is vital. Ready to use cake boards come primarily in circles, square and rectangles of all sizes. However some specialty stores offer exceptional sizes and shapes of cake boards.
You have to consider the number and size of cake tiers that you’ll be making when buying your cake boards. Each cake board has to match the shape and size of the cakes. So your boards would most definitely be in graduated sizes.
If you cannot find the shape and size of cake board that you need you might have to DIY. Cake boards are simple to construct; there are many tutorials that would help you out.
Cake Drums Versus Cake Boards
What are cake drums?
In contrast to cake boards, cake drums are the solid base that cakes are placed on and are usually wider than the cakes on them. They are different from cake boards that are used to distribute the weight of the cakes evenly. The main purpose of cake drums is to hold the overall weight of the cake.
They serve different purposes that include (a) providing stability for the cake during transportation (b) enhancing the aesthetics of the cake.
You need the right cake drum to ensure that your multi tiered cake is presented properly. So let’s look at some factors to consider when choosing a cake drum.
Tips for Choosing the Best Cake Drum
The following are tips on what to look out for when choosing your cake drums:-
The thickness of your cake drum in respect to your cake cannot be overemphasized. Heavy cakes such as fruit cakes need thick cake drums. Cakes that have a good amount of filling and tiered cakes also require heavy cake drums.
The reason why you should get the right thickness for your cake drum is because that’s what would provide the stability needed for your cake. Even if your cake is not heavy, as long as they are tiered, they need cake drums. Cake drums help to elevate your cakes and add to its beauty.
When you have a multi tiered cake project, you have to get all the materials you need in advance. This includes having cake drums with different thickness. This would ensure that you are ready to change any cake drum that’s not adequate.
There are two types of cake drums; the disposable boards and the reusable boards. The disposable cake drums are made of cardboard while the reusable ones are made of Masonite.
Disposable Cake Drums
Disposable cake drums are made with cardboard which is why they are not reusable. You can not easily achieve the right thickness for a cake drum with cardboard.
To achieve the right thickness of cake drum required with cardboard, you might need to pile up many cardboard sheets. This makes the cake drum cumbersome and more difficult to manage.
Cardboard works fine for cake drums but if you want beautiful and less cumbersome cake drums, you should consider the ones made of Masonite.
Reusable Cake Drums
Masonite is a kind of engineered wood that’s manufactured with wood fibers that are steam cooked and pressure molded. They are also known as pressboard, karlit, Quart board, torex, Isorel, hernit or treetex.
Cake drums made of Masonite are usually stronger than the ones made of cardboard. And they don’t have to be as thick as the cardboard cake drums.
Some cake drums are also constructed from plywood; they work as well as those made of masonite.
You can get cake drums made of all these materials in a cake specialty store. You can also DIY in situations where you can’t get cake drums of your specification.
Your cake drum should be at least two inches wider than the cake that would sit on it. Apart from the fact that this would give the cake more stability, you also have more room for your decoration.
If you would be placing flowers and large decorations at the base of your cake, please factor that in when choosing the size of your cake drum.
More space around the cake after placement on the cake drum gives you decorative liberty. But bear in mind that the space has to be commensurate to the cake and decoration that you want to make.
Cake drums are usually covered in foil or contact paper. Some foil or contact paper are already decorative but most decorators would still want to decorate their cake drums.
There are many ways of decorating a cake drum; this includes the following:
(i) Covering the cake drum with fondant and embossing designs on the fondant.
(ii) Sticking ribbons or rhinestones on the edges of the cake drum.
(iii) Adding icing sculptures or fondant figures on the drum.
Tips For Covering Cake Drums
You can use decorative contact paper if you are not particular about decorated cake drums or just want to keep it simple. This is especially easy if you are making the cake drum yourself; you can match the color of the contact paper with your cake.
Note that whatever type or design of contact paper you choose, it has to be food safe. There are many beautifully designed contact papers available in the market. But the likelihood is that they are made with dye and ink that are not food grade. This makes it harmful for consumption.
Consider buying plain contact paper when using the foil variety to avoid using materials that are not food safe. You can also use edible colored markers to decorate your contact paper.
There are lots of ways you can jazz up your cake drums; run with your imagination.
Styles and Shapes
There are different styles and shapes of cake drums to choose from; square, round or novelty shapes.
Whatever style or shape you choose, always remember that your cake drum must be wider than the cake. For round and square shaped cake drums, you can easily determine the extra width you’ll need.
However when working with uncommon shapes such as hexagons and petals, this may be more difficult. You would have to get exact sizes to ensure that you have the extra space on all sides of the cake drum.
Unlike cake boards, your cake drum would be visible so in addition to providing stability, they would impact on the overall aesthetics of your cake. For this reason you have to carefully consider which style and shape would best suit the cake.
Separator Plates Versus Cake Boards
Separator plates are used mainly for wedding cakes and they are functional and versatile. This means that they serve the purpose of both a cake board and a cake drum. They are usually larger than the cake that sits on them.
Some cake decorators use separator plates as the base of their cake but some of us do not. We prefer to use them in combination with cake boards and cake drums. This is because cake drum especially allows you more artistic liberty.
Just like the cake boards and cake drums, there are different factors to consider when buying cake separator plates.
Tips for Choosing the Best Cake Separator Plates
Most cake separator plates come with separators or pillars and can be used alone for tiered cakes. Since they can be used alone or in combination with cake boards and cake drums, here are factors to consider before making a choice.
Cake separators are made of different materials ranging from plastic to glass or crystal. The most popular material for cake separator is plastic.
The decision of which kind of separator plate to buy rests largely on three things (a)whether you are using them without cake drums (b) what kind of cake you are making (c) the sturdiness of the separator plate.
When to Use Plastic Cake Separator Plates
The situations that are best to use plastic cake separator plates are when you are using separators alone. They come in different designs and can hold up cakes with decorations better than other types.They also work well with butter and royal icing decorations but are not popular with other kinds of cake decorations.
When to Use Glass or Crystal Cake Separator Plates
If you are making fondant covered cakes or other similar recipes, you should consider the glass or crystal types of separator plates. This is because of the level of their “invisibility” in relation to the fact that you may want to use a cake drum as your base.
If you use a plastic cake separator plate with a cake drum, one would detract from the other. This is because most cake decorators would always do extra designs on their cake boards and the separator also has its own design.
The separator plate should also be made of very sturdy material because it has to bear the weight of the cake. This is very important since separator plates are mainly used to tiered cakes.
Just as with the cake boards and cake drums, the size of your separator plates must be commensurate to the cake. Remember that the right size of the separator plate should be at least two inches wider the cake. This is if you are placing the cake directly on it without a cake drum. If your cake is on a cake drum, then the separator should be the same size with the cake drum.
Most separator plates come in graduated sizes for the different sizes. The same rule above applies to all cake tiers.
Shape and Style
The most common shape for separator plates are round and square. It doesn’t matter what shape your cake is, this two shapes would work well for you.
If you are making an unusual shape of cake such as the hexagon or petal you would need accurate measurement. This is very necessary if you are placing the cake directly on the plate; ensure that you have enough space all around for your decoration.
If you are using the separator with a cake drum, you can get an exact fit for round and square cakes. But for unusual shapes, you may have to work with the nearest size.
Your separator plates should be beautiful because they would be either fully or partially visible. If you are using them without cake drums then they must be fine and tie in with the theme of the cake. You don’t want something that would diminish the beauty of your finished product.
If you are using them with a cake drum, you would want something that won’t detract from the beauty of your presentation.
Some cake separator plates are designed in form of chandeliers and these help to add elegance to the cake. They are most appropriate for cakes that don’t have over the top decorations.
In looking at the aesthetics of the separator plate, you should consider its overall effect on the finished product.
Based on the foregoing, we believe that you have gained a basic understanding of cake boards, cake drums and separator plates.
Though these tools may appear to be simple tools, they are very important cake decorating tools that make or mar your cake.
Do not take for granted the effect an ill fitted cake board would have on your cake tiers. Neither overlook the fact that a cake drum without enough space for decoration would cramp your creativity.
Most times it’s safer to have a wide range of cake boards and cake drums. Having different sizes and shapes handy at all times would help you avoid costly mistakes in your cake decoration.
Since separator plates are not as cheap as cake boards and cake drums, you have to ensure that you have your specifications right before purchase.
Planning ahead for every cake decoration project keeps the margin for error slim therefore always plan ahead!
We also recommend the following articles for more tips on cake decoration, recipes and tools:-
- Cake Piping Kits – A Newbie’s Guide
- Fondant Decorating Tools-Next Level!
- How To Stack A Cake
- Best Food Processor For Dough
- How To Use A Bundt Pan
- Best Toaster Oven For Baking
Cake Boards – FAQs
What Can I Use Instead Of A Cake Board?
You can use a plate, platter or charger instead of a cake board. This is a simple hack for those times when you had to bake an emergency cake and do not have a cake board handy.
Just look in your kitchen cabinet for a plate, platter or charger that is about 2 inches wider than the cake. Even though you can use a plate that has rims, it is best that the plate/platter or charger be rimless. Note however that this would work for cake that is not too heavy or high; maybe a 10 inch wide and 5 inch high cake at most.
Place a little frosting on the plate/platter/charger before placing the cake on it. Then go ahead to frost and decorate. You can use a plate that has colourful designs and border if you are using white frosting. But for colored frosting, a white plate or plain pastel colored plate would do.
Are Cake Boards Necessary?
Cake boards are very necessary for cake decoration. This is because they give you a base on which to place the cake and also provide stability for the cake. There are also several reasons why cake boards are necessary and we have enumerated them in the main article. So we recommend that you go back and read the article if you haven’t done so.
Do You Leave The Cake Board On When Stacking?
Cake boards are left on when stacking multi tiered cakes. This helps to distribute the weight of the cakes evenly and provide stability. Do not confuse cake boards with cake drums; cake boards are thinner than cake drums.
Read the segment on the different terms used for the base on which a cake is placed in the main article. You would have a better understanding of the different terms and why you should leave cake boards on when stacking your cakes.
Are Cake Boards Reusable?
Cake boards can be either reusable or disposable. The material that a cake board is made of greatly determines whether it would be disposable or reusable.
Some store bought cake boards are made with materials that cannot withstand moisture. Those types of cake boards should be disposed once they are used. This is to avoid the growth of bacteria on the cake board from residue of cake decorating ingredients.
Cake boards made of durable nonporous materials however, can be reused. This is because they do not absorb moisture and would not have any hiding place where bacteria can grow.
Can I Cover A Cake Board With Paper?
You can cover a cake board with paper but before you do so, ensure that it is food grade paper. If you cannot find or do not like the plainness of paper that is safe for contact with food, you can use scrap book paper. But ensure that you clean the paper properly before using it to cover your cake board. Also ensure that the ink on the paper does not run because some moisture from the cake must surely seep into the paper.
There are some decorative papers that have a glossy decorated side and a plain side. These types of paper are better for covering cake boards because they would not absorb moisture. This would further enhance the prevention of contamination.
How Do You Cover A Cake Board With Paper?
Covering a cake board with paper is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Just follow these simple steps:-
Place the cake board on a sheet of paper that is wider than the cake board. Place the cake board face down (that is the presentation side) on the back of the paper.
Fold in the edges of the paper around the circumference of the cake board and mark the point where the paper meets in the middle of the cake board.
Remove the cake board from the paper and trim the paper to size (from the points that you marked).
Place the cake board back on the paper as at first and then using any adhesive of your choice, gum the paper to the back of the board.
And as simple as that, you have your paper covered cake board!
Do I Need A Cake Board Between Tiers?
You need cake boards between the tiers of your cake. This is especially true for heavy cakes such as wedding cakes. Most people like to have fruit cake recipe in their wedding cakes (especially the top tier). Therefore you need to balance out the weight of the top tiers of cakes on the bottom tier. This can only be achieved by using a cake board between tiers.
How Much Bigger Should A Cake Board Be Than The Cake?
A cake board should not be bigger than the cake. This is because the cake board would serve as what we call stacker boards. However, this applies only to multi tiered cakes.
If on the other hand, you are referring to the base on which your cake would be displayed as the cake board, then it needs to be at least 2 inches wider than the cake. We say at least 2 inches because some frosting and decoration might require more space than 2 inches.
When we make fondant covered cakes that have elaborate decorations, we use cake boards (properly known as cake drums) that are 4 inches wider than the cake. This allows us to have creative liberty both with the cake and on the board. But for buttercream covered cakes, a 2 inch diameter clearance would do.
How Thick Is A Cake Board?
A cake board can be as thick as 4 mm or as thin as 1mm. The thickness of the cake board you would require depends on the cake recipe. Refer to the main article for a more detailed answer.
How Do You Transfer A Cake To A Board?
Transferring a cake to a cake board can be a risky business if one is not careful. Carefully place a cake lifter under the cake to be transferred and gently lift it up and place on the cake board. One important thing to remember is to let the cake sit for a little while so that it sets. However, do not let the cake sit for too long before you move it. If you do, the cake would be more difficult to move as some parts would have adhered to the cake board.
This is important for cakes with multiple layers because if you lift the cake immediately, the layers might shift. For fondant covered cakes, this would prevent the cake from getting smudged by fingerprints because you might have to touch the cake a bit in the course of the transfer.
Finally, remember that you have to move the cake before putting finishing touches to it.
Can You Stack Cakes Without Boards?
You can stack cakes without boards. Before you decide to stack your cakes without boards, first ensure that the cakes at the bottom are heavier than those on top. Then secondly, use some dowel rods or bubble tea straws.
Dowel rods would help give your cakes stability and prevent the weight of the cake on to from sinking into the cake below.
We have tried different methods of stacking cakes with boards and dowel rods and also with only dowel rods. We find that a combination of boards and dowel rods gives us a higher sense of confidence; you can rest assured that you cake would remain stable especially if you have to travel a distance for delivery.
How Do You Stick Cake Boards Together?
You stick cake boards together by following these simple steps:-
Remove the backing of one of the boards while you totally denude the second one (remove every form covering from the board). You can also decide to denude both boards.
Use any adhesive of your choice and cover the back of the one that you removed the backing.
Then place the second one that you totally removed all the covering on the one that you have covered with adhesive.
Follow the instructions on how to cover a cake board with paper to cover both boards to become one.
How Can I Hide My Cake Board?
The simple trick to hiding your cake board is using decorations. These decorations can include but are not limited to the following:-
(i) Piping some designs all around the borders where the cake board might show.
Placing decorative accents such as edible lace, or even inedible satin ribbons around the border of the cake.
Using fondant pearls, borders and such cutouts to cover the space that might otherwise expose the cake board.
How Do You Make A Homemade Cake Board?
To make a homemade cake board you would need thick cardboard sheet (also known as corrugated cardboard) or old cartons, adhesives, strong scissors, cake pan or flat plate and marker.
When you have assembled these materials, follow these simple steps:-
If you are using old cartons, spread them out flat as flat as cardboard sheets
Next place the cake pan or flat plate on the cardboard sheet or carton and mark the circumference of the cake pan or plate.
Remove the cake pan or plate and cut out the circle you marked.
You can mark and cut out as many of the circles as you want. It all depends on the thickness of cake board you want.
Follow the instruction of how to stick cake boards together to join 2 or more of these circles to get the thickness you want.
Can you Cut a Cake Board to Size?
You can cut a cake board to size by using parchment paper to measure out the exact size that you want. Then place the parchment paper on top of the cake board then mark off the circumference. You can choose to tap the parchment paper to the board.
Finally, you remove the paper (if you just used it to mark off the circle) and using a sharp craft knife or a heavy duty scissors; you cut the cake board to the size you want.
Note that this is only for thin cake boards that are made with materials that you can easily cut with a craft knife or scissors. You would need a heavy duty cutter to cut cake boards made with plywood or Masonite.
What Are Cake Cards?
Cake cards are another name for what we call stacker boards. Stacker boards are cake boards that are used to stack cakes. Refer to our article on how to stack a cake.
They also come in handy for light cake recipes such as sponge cakes and light gateaux. Note that cake cards are really flexible and lightweight and so should not be used for heavy cakes. So even if you are making a light sponge cake, you can only use a cake card as a base only for small cakes.
Most of the fancy cake bases that we see in store fronts for displaying small cakes can be referred to as cake cards.
What Do You Cover A Cake Board With?
There are a number of things that you can cover a cake board with and they include the following:-
Foil Paper- it used to be traditionally silver foil but these days we have many colors but most common remain silver and gold.
Contact Paper – Contact paper is made from food safe materials and can be used for cooking or wrapping up different kinds of food.
Scrapbook Paper – Although not made with food grade material, most scrapbook papers are safe enough to be used to cover cake boards.
Fondant- You can cover your cake board with fondant. This is actually one of our favourite methods of covering cake boards. This is because it prevents the cake from having direct contact with the board while giving you a canvas for additional decorations.
Do You Ice Cake On Cake Board?
You can ice your cake on a cake board and then move it to the cake drum on which it would be displayed. On the other hand, you can decide to ice your cake directly on the cake drum on which it would be displayed. If you are confused about the two terms we have used here (cake board and cake drum) then please read the main article for clarity.
For those who choose to ice their cakes on a cake board before moving to the display board we have some tips for you. Refer to the answer to how to transfer a cake to a cake board.
Do You Have To Cover A Cake Board?
We would categorically tell you that you have to cover a cake board. If by cake board you mean the display board on which you would showcase the cake then it is of utmost importance that you give the board a professional finishing touch.
If you are referring to the board that would be used to stack the cakes, then you do not need to cover it. However, you need to ensure that the cake board is well hidden from sight. This means that the board must be the exact same size with the cake that sits on it. We also have some tips on how to ensure that the board is completely hidden refer to this segment in this FAQ section.