cake boards

Cake Boards – Covering the Bases

Cake boards are one of the essential cake decorating tools you must have. If you look online, you would find different terms used for the base on which you place a cake.

Some cake bases are referred to as cake boards, others as cake drums and some others as separator plates.

Are they 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

Cake Boards

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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. Cake boards are primarily used to evenly distribute the weight of different cake tiers. They are useful for stacking tiered cakes.

They can also 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.

Tips for Choosing the Best Cake Board

When you have a cake decoration project, cake boards are one essential tool that you need to get right. 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 

This 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 

This simply refers to the size of the cake board. You need to have a board with the right circumference in 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 just apply icing on their cake boards so that it would form a barrier between the boards and the cake.
Based on this, you should bear in mind that the substance of your cake board is more important than its aesthetics.

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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 

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Cake drums are the solid base that cakes are placed on and  are usually wider than the cake 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 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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

cake boards
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 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 

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Separator plates are used with separators to provide additional support for tiered cakes that have dowel rods. These separators are usually pillars that separate cake tiers.

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

if you are using separator plates  alone,consider the plastic type.   They come in different designs and can hold up 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.

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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.


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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.

Final Words

Based on the foregoing, we believe that you have gained a basic understanding of cake boards, cake drums and separator plates. 

Though they are 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!

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Topics #cake boards #cake separator plates #cardboard cake boards #foam cake boards #plastic separator plates
Chisom Odimba

Chisom was raised in a home where something was always cooking or baking in the kitchen. She developed her love for baking and the culinary arts from an early age. Through the years she has undergone several formal and informal training on cake decoration. She obtained two certificates from The Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionery Arts. Her wealth was of experience spans over 30 years of hands on training and experimentation. She is proud to say that whatever tips and advice she passes on are tested and proven. She has also inspired many to great entrepreneurial heights in the world of cake decoration.

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