My latest project is making a cake stand. Once I had the idea of making a cake stand in my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I was in stores I found myself looking at cake stands; but instead of inspired, I felt disappointed. They were not like what I envisioned in my mind’s eye. The mass produced ones generally have skinny pedestal bases with a flat plate, defying gravity on top. These seem precarious. My first thought was, if there are kids in the house, that cake is going down.
When I step back and think about it, I understand those pedestal stands are designed to do what cake stands are for: display a cake. They are beautiful and delicate, and display cakes nicely. My problem is I live with a “nice cake, let’s eat it” family. The stand’s display function tends to be short-lived and its practicality becomes more important. Another factor for me is that half of the time when I make a cake, I then have to transport it by car to somewhere else. With a skinny stand, I’m going to have to come up with a contraption to keep it stable during transport. So, I’m looking to make a practical stand that won’t topple when a child tries to pull it closer, and will survive a longish car trip.
One stand had a cake plate which could be used with or without the pedestal base. I liked this idea, but I questioned the stability of the model I was looking at. I envisioned disaster when someone cuts a slice of cake and puts pressure on the outer edge of the cake plate.
Physics trumps cool idea. I will keep the two piece idea on file, but my base will be wide and substantial. I’d rather not fight with physics.
For some commercial stands, it was obvious the base and the plate were made in two parts and adhered to each other later. Ideally I’d like to glaze fire the stand as one piece, but this two piece technique might be a good idea if I decide to make one of those precarious looking skyscraper stands in the future.
My first try…
Thinking about how I want to make a cake stand, my biggest concern is that the plate portion will droop in the high-fire environment I use. I needed the base to be wide enough to support the flat cake plate through the whole process.
Here is my first try at a cake stand. I made it upside-down in two parts: the plate, then the stand. The plate portion was slab built. I rotated and flipped the clay for several passes through a slab-roller. Once I was down to a good thickness, I placed the slab onto a flat circular support form so I could create the dropped edge. Working right-side-up, I compressed the clay over the edge of the form, then I wrapped the plate in plastic and set it aside, in order to form the base on the wheel.
I threw the base upside-down on the wheel starting with about an eight-inch cylinder. When I was happy with the form, I left the base out to firm up a bit and returned to the plate.
When the clay on the edge of the plate was firm enough to hold the edge, I flipped the plate upside-down to remove the support form and trim the edge design.
To make the template for the edge, I measured the circumference of the plate edge. Luckily for me it was a convenient, round number of 40 inches. I divided the circumference (40 inches) by the number of repeats (10) of the pattern I wanted. The result is the length of my template (4 inches). Using a four inch strip of paper, I sketched out the arch I wanted.
I’ll be honest and admit that I made a mistake when I first started putting in the scalloping on the edge. I got turned around because I was working upside-down. I had not intended to have a pointed edge design. I realized right off that my template was in the wrong orientation, but I had already made a couple of deep marks on the clay, so I continued with the pattern. Not what I had planned, but I liked it in the end.
At this point I needed the base and plate to firm up to a similar consistency. So I wrapped them both upside-down under the same plastic together, but still as completely separate pieces. A lot of patience was needed at this point. I knew trying to attach them while they were at very different consistences could lead to cracking or warping. So, many hours later, I scored and slipped to attach the wheel-thrown base to the plate while they were both still upside-down. I left the finished plate, upside-down, wrapped in plastic. I flipped the completed stand a couple days later to finish drying slowly, upright under plastic.
I tried again…
My second try, I was more careful to keep track of up and down, giving me the scalloped edge I was looking for. I made another template. This time, the pattern repeats 20 times around the edge of the plate.
I made both cake stands in mid December and I’ve been drying them very slowly over the holiday break. They will be among my first pieces of the new year. If I was careful enough in the making process, and if I’m a bit lucky, they won’t slump later in the glaze firing.