Cake Board vs Cake Drum – What are they? How to use them?

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What Are Cake Boards?

Cake boards are thick pieces of shaped material that have the purpose of providing a base and supporting the structure of your cake. These come in many different shapes, sizes, colours and materials so knowing which is the most appropriate for your cake is important. 

Do You Really Need To Use a Cake Board?

The cake board is a vital part of any cake maker’s arsenal, whether they’re making a professional wedding cake or a simple homemade sponge cake. This is because cake boards will most importantly, help maintain the structural integrity of your cake.

However, this is not the only benefit that they can provide to bakers. A cake board will also make transporting cakes much easier since they provide a firm foundation for you to hold. The benefit of this is that the decoration of your cake is less likely to be ruined during transit.

Another bonus of the cake board is that it will provide you with an extra opportunity for decoration. Whilst it should never steal the show from your actual cake, a cake board can be decorated in such a way that it accentuates and enhances the design. 

Cake Board Vs Cake Drum: What’s The Difference?

Many people often conflate the terms cake board and cake drum. However, whilst not as different as say something like baking soda and baking powder, the do mean separate things. To put it simply, the term cake board is an umbrella term for any kind of foundation, upon which you would rest a cake.

On the other hand, a cake drum is one of these variations of the cake board. These are thicker variants of cake boards and are often used with particularly heavy cakes.

Cake Board vs Cake Drum - What are they? How to use them?

Different Types of Cake Boards

The term cake board is very much an umbrella term. As mentioned prior, cake drums are one kind of cake board. However, they are far from the only kind. Whilst there are countless variations, below are some examples of popular kinds of the cake board.

Cake Circles

These are round cake boards, that a typically quite thin in construction. Usually these kinds of cake board measure in at roughly an eighth of an inch.

Cake Drums

As mentioned above, cake drums are particularly thick examples of a cake board. Normally they will be somewhere between a quarter of an inch and half an inch thick.

Cake Pads

These are similar to cake circles, however, they are often even thinner. As such they are typically seen as the economical optional.

Dessert Boards

These are uniquely designed cake boards that are intended for smaller desserts. As such they are often smaller in size and more suitable for something like a cupcake.

Cake Board vs Cake Drum - What are they? How to use them?

Different Cake Board Materials

Cake boards also come in a variety of different materials, each of which has different uses and advantages.

The Cardboard Cake Board

Cardboard cake boards are some of the most commonly seen cake boards out there. This is because they are very cheap and intended to be disposable. The material is in fact corrugated cardboard layers with the outer layer providing stability whilst inner layers provide thickness and insulation.

Foam Cake Boards

These cake boards are made from a dense foam material. Foam cake boards will naturally be more resistant to grease than cardboard cake boards. However, it is still probably wise to cover a cake board made of foam when in use. Additionally, if you decide to cut a cake on a foam cake board then you should be careful not to cut the cake board as well.

MDF/Masonite Cake Boards

Masonite cake boards made from MDF (medium-density fibreboard) are a reusable option in the cake board world. The caveat of MDF boards however is that they will have to be covered in something like fondant or foil in order to protect the cake boards. As a result of this issue, these types of cake boards are often exclusively used for structural support in multi-tiered cakes such as wedding cakes.

Laminated Chipboard

These are laminated cake boards, as a result, grease from your cake will not seep into the material. Chipboard cake boards are fairly lightweight thanks to being constructed of pressed paperboard. However, despite being fairly sturdy, these cake boards is best suited for use with smaller and lighter cakes due to not being quite as strong as some of the prior options. 

What Cake Board Do I Need?

Different types of cake boards will be more suitable for certain types of cake projects than others. 

A Cake Board For Standard Cakes

For most regular cakes without multiple tiers, standard cake circles will do a satisfactory job of providing stability to the foundation of your cake. Typically these will be cardboard cake boards, although ones made from foam, MDF or laminated chipboard should also be easy to find.

A Cake Board For Heavier and Tiered Cakes 

However, for cakes that are on the heavier side, a cake drum is what you’ll need. This is because the extra weight would cause thinner cake boards to either sink in the middle or potentially collapse entirely. In a pinch, an alternative option is to use two or more standard cake circles that have either been taped or glued together.

A Cake Board For Square Cakes

Cake pads are typically square in shape. As such they are often your best cake board choices for a square-shaped cake. However, with heavier cakes, the rather thin nature of cake pads can pose a problem. A potential solution is to find a square-shaped cake drum or to create some thicker DIY cake boards using multiple cake pads that have been taped together.

A Cake Board For Smaller Cakes

For smaller desserts such as cupcakes or potentially a single slice of cake, a dessert board is what you’ll want. These cake boards are much smaller than the other options and as such are intended for smaller desserts.

Cake Board vs Cake Drum - What are they? How to use them?

What Size Cake Board Do I Need?

In addition to the types of cake boards you use, having the right size cake board for the job is crucial.

It is important to allow at least between two and four inches of clearance between the cake and the rim of the cake board. As a result, the cake board you use should be between four and eight inches wider than your cake.

This is because along with the cake board providing structural support to the cake, it should also assist in transit. A cake board that is wider than your cake will be better for doing so since it will allow you to pick up your cake without actually touching it. This provides you with a more secure grip whilst also preventing the icing on your cake from being smudged.

However, when using cake drums between each cake tier of a multi-tiered cake, these cake boards should be the same size as the respective tier of your cake. 

Is It Worth Making Your Own Cake Board?

With how cheap a cake board is to buy, making your own isn’t something I would see as being worth the time. For example, on cakebon.com a wide variety of drum style cake boards are on sale for as low as $3.99 (roughly £2.91) per cake board.

As such, I would only really recommend that you bother making your own in a pinch.

Should You Cover a Cake Board?

When using cake boards, an important but often overlooked step is to cover a cake board before using it. The reasons this is so important are twofold. 

Firstly, when you don’t cover a cake board, particularly one that isn’t laminated, it will absorb grease from your cake. In the case of disposable cake boards, this isn’t much of an issue. However, for reusable ones like foam or MDF cake boards, this can be a huge problem, as this grease can become trapped in these cake boards and ruin them.

How To Cover a Cake Board In Fondant

To cover a cake board in something like foil paper is quite a simple process. This is because the same principles of wrapping a present can easily be applied. 

However, the process to cover a cake board in fondant on the other hand is much more complicated. Despite this fact that though, I do believe that that added complexity is worth it because the final results can often be truly stunning.

To cover a cake board in fondant, you should replicate the following steps:

  1. Roll out your fondant into a size that is at least roughly half an inch wider than your cake board. If using a cake drum you may need it to be slightly wider. Additionally, a thickness of roughly three or four millimetres is ideal.
  1. Prepare your cake board with some piping gel. To do so brush the gel consistently but not too thickly across the surface of your cake board.
  1. As flatly as possible, lay your fondant down over your cake board whilst ensuring an even overhang around the circumference. Then use a fondant smoother to flatten it completely.
  1. Smooth the rough edges of your fondant with your fingers and carefully slice off any excess with a sharp knife.

Let it rest for two to three days so it can dry. After which you’ll be all set to use your covered cake board as a base for your cake to rest upon.