DIY Display Cakes

DIY Fake Cake Tiers
When you work in bakeries, sometimes you get requests for fake cakes or dummy cakes. It may be because someone wants a super huge cake even though a small number of guests are attending their wedding. It may be because they heard it’s a way to cut costs (see the end of this post to read about pricing fake cakes). Or maybe your bakery got asked to make a cake for a magazine photo shoot or submission but the cake doesn’t need to be real, so you don’t want to waste your best ingredients on the inside part. 

DIY Fake Cake Tiers DIY Fake Cake Tiers OR perhaps you are trying to improve your frosting and piping fundamentals and would like some realistic cake dummies on which you can practice your techniques over and over. Or perhaps you’re working on some books.

DIY Fake Cake Tiers

Most bakers use styrofoam cylinders or blocks to make fake cakes. 

The problem with fake styrofoam cake tiers

  • You have to buy them.
  • The synthetic material is hard/messy to cut.
  • They don’t get cold so it’s harder to frost them.
  • They are so light weight that they slide around on the turntable while being decorated.

The Solution

Consider baking bread to use as fake cake tiers. Bread is relatively cheap and easy to bake right into cake pans for square, round, or any shaped tier. It’s stable yet easy to carve if needed, and has some weight like cake does, so it will act just like cake on the turntable. It usually doesn’t require much infrastructure compared to real cakes, especially when it’s stale. However it’s spongy enough to withstand being penetrated by wooden dowels for interior support when needed.

Fake Cake Recipe

To make fake bread cakes, use this bread dough recipe but use the cheapest flour and oil you can find since the bread won’t be eaten. Omit the salt, since that only inhibits yeast growth. Also if you substitute sugar for honey, that will reduce the cost of your fake cake dough.

Fake bread tiers should each be prepared with a cardboard base just like within standard stacked cakes; That makes them easier to maneuver around. They may be frosted and decorated exactly as per a real cake, using the refrigerator to keep the tiers cold before, during, and after the stages of handling. Do not attempt to frost on top of plastic wrap as that won’t work. The bread cakes in the photos here were only wrapped because a whole bunch of them had been jammed into my fridge.

DIY Fake Cake Tiers

DIY Fake Cake Tiers

DIY Fake Cake Tiers

Pricing Fake Cakes

Fake cakes should not get much of a discount since the only savings involved is on the ingredients for the inside part. The amount of labor and the ingredients for the outside part, however, remain the same. I wouldn’t discount more than 5-10% of the overall price of a fake cake tier.

DIY Fake Cake Tiers

Long Term Display

Eventually bread grows moldy, so this method is not suited for prolonged display. You can extend the life of the bread by drying it out in a low temperature oven until it’s crispy like a crouton, just make sure to carve it beforehand. For permanent fake cake display, I recommend using materials like styrofoam, royal icing, fondant, and gumpaste.

I hope this idea comes in handy for those of you who sometimes get the request for fake cake tiers!

Feel free, in the comment section below, to share photos of any fake cakes that you made successfully using this or a similar method. Your input is always welcome.

Follow this link to get the Bread Dough Recipe Easy Bread Dough Recipe Another thing you can do with that recipe
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DIY Display Cakes — 37 Comments

  1. Great idea! Two questions:

    1. Do you need to bake in 4″ tall rounds to make tiers? Most of my round cake pans are 2″ in height.

    2. Can you provide separate ingredient amounts for a 12″x4″ round “dummy” bottom tier, a 6″x 4″ round “dummy” middle tier and a 4″ x 4″ round “dummy” top tier?

    Thanks a million!

  2. Hi, Can I ask how much sugar I would substitute for the honey in your bread dough recipe?

    And thanks for this post! It’s a great suggestion as my client did have some concerns with using Styrofoam and I was just thinking how to get around it


    • You can substitute 1:1. Any natural sweetener will do. The sugar acts like food for the yeast, maximizing your leavening potential and helping speed the process along.

  3. Just wondering how many dough recipes are required for a 12 in round 4in high. PS is post is genius and couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time for me.. Thank yoy

    • Charity,
      I’m glad that I could be of help to you! The exact volume that you achieve with bread depends on the performance of the yeast. Variables in the environment and your execution can also affect the end size of the bread. I would estimate 1.5 – 1.75 recipes for that sized cake. I think I used two pans + two recipes for a 12″ and ended up with a 5″ tall cake.

  4. HI I cannot find the bread dough recipe. can you please give me a new link cos the one above is not working. thanks

  5. Hi! Thank you for that helpful tip! I have another concern. There is a couple who will get marry this month, asked me to make them 3 tier cake (1 is real, other 2 layers are fake). Which prt should be real, and why? Thank you soo much!

    • Joanne,
      That would depend on how much cake they actually need for dessert. The bottom tier will supply many more servings than a top tier does. Given the choice, I would make the top tier the real one since it’s easier to cut into. Also, it’s easiest to build and transport that way. But in bakeries, this decision usually depends on what the client actually requires in terms of number of servings.

  6. Can you use any bread recipe? The recipe is not coming up on the website. Or can you e-mail me the recipe? I’m planning on using this idea for the topsy turvy cake I’m doing for my niece in 2 weeks.

  7. Thank you for this brilliant idea… You have no idea how helpful this is for me. I am doing workshops for a local cake club; we host at least one workshop every month and present a different project at each monthly meeting. The sample cakes need to be transported from home to meeting location to home to workshop site…real cakes as well as styrofoam present different problems; I have a feeling that this bread idea will be a perfect solution! I will send you a follow up. Btw., here is a tip I have used for my club..instead of wasting fondant/gum paste/modeling chocolate for practice, use colorful ‘Play Doh’. Once technique and skills improve, move on to the real thing.

  8. I would like to try the oresevative addition to porolong the bread ” life”. Can you suggest one please. Thank you for this great posting.

    • Hi there,
      We’ve gotten good feedback on the method of drying out the bread until it is as stale as a crouton. So far no reports of that sort of thing going bad.

  9. so if i made bread could I wrap it in plastice wrap before i cover it? i want it for practice so it will only be on long enough for me to decorate and take pictures for my portfolio. then i will take it all apart and redesign it.

    • I would not recommend decorating a fake cake over plastic wrap. Frosting doesn’t stick to plastic very well – it needs a dry and porous surface like cake or bread to cling to. Also, air pockets are too easily trapped within the folds of plastic wrap and those can be pesky. So I recommend frosting directly onto the bread. You can still reuse the bread over and over this way however. It just needs to be scraped off and then stored in the fridge or freezer so that it doesn’t spoil.

  10. I do this all the time for display cakes. However, I always thoroughly dry the bread before I frost it. I have never had them go moldy. You do need to be careful to have the pieces cut before you dry them as the don’t shape well after being dried.

    The ‘cake’ I attached to this comment is actually 6 months old at the time of the photo shoot…lol

  11. This is absolutely BRILLIANT! Simple, but so ingenious. Thank you so much for sharing this idea!

  12. I recently did a small wedding cake with a fake 7″ top . It actually worked pretty good. It was not that difficult to obtain either. I am posting a picture of it. It turned out awesome!!

  13. I know the bread is not good for long term display, but how long do you think it would hold up, if kept in an air tight display case? I normally use Styrofoam as you suggested, but since my employer would like a new display cake more often, I am wondering if this would be a cheaper way to go? I’m an instructor at a local craft retailer, and display cakes, or other sweet treat displays are required as part of our job, to promote our classes, and products.

    • For long term display of fake bakery items, there is something called salt dough, which uses a high amount of salt that acts as a preservative. You can’t use yeast in salt dough though, since salt is a yeast-inhibitor. So salt dough is usually only used for smaller display items like scones or muffins. As for larger cakes, you would have to make a lot of salt dough for a permanent display so I’m not sure if it would be as cost effective.

      I’m not sure how long regular bread can last in an air tight display case if it were sealed in something like fondant. You can extend its shelf life by drying the bread tiers in the oven. There is also the option of using a preservative although that would require an extra purchase. It sounds like this concept is a good one for your needs as it will give you more options in terms of the shapes cakes you could display.

  14. What a great idea and great for practicing skill techniques. Styrofoam dummies are so expensive! Interesting question above regarding show cakes. I would think that cake competitions wouldn’t allow anything that might spoil but it certainly would be interesting to find out.
    thanks for the great post! Sandie

  15. Is Fake Cake allowable for cake show entries that allow Styrofoam dummies?

    • That’s a good question. I didn’t have that kind of event in mind here but I checked out the rules at the San Diego Cake Competition around where I live and it looks like you probably could use bread. Styrofoam is encouraged but not required it seems. I’m not sure how long the cakes remain on display there and that would be something to consider but then stale bread could probably last for quite a while. I have not tested its shelf life yet. It would probably depend on how dry the bread is to begin with. After baking it and carving off any bits off that you didn’t want, you could toast it, whole on a low temperature in the oven, allowing it to get more dry like a crouton. Then it would probably last a lot longer. But the more you toast it, the lighter weight it will become. Looks like this topic could stand some more research.