Topsy-turvy has officially invaded the world of traditional cake designs. Great-tasting cakes and beautiful decorations in a classic format may no longer be enough for today’s more demanding consumers. They’ve seen all kinds of cakes on television—those that have massive height, special effects, enormous amounts of detail and more—and their requests are becoming increasingly more elaborate. As such, it may be of benefit to you to learn how to assemble structures that can support these complex cake requests.

Courtney Clark, owner of Cake Nouveau in Ann Arbor, MI, has quickly become an industry expert in this area. She has constructed several outrageous cakes under time constraints on TLC’s Ultimate Cake-Off and Food Network's Challenge. She also makes these types of cakes for Cake Nouveau’s customers on a daily basis. Based on her experiences, Clark offers these three tips for building topsy-turvy cake structures:

1. Measure 5 times, cut once! It's really important to figure out exactly where to sculpt your cake or add support by measuring many times and only cutting when you are sure you are right!

2. Learn to love the hardware store. It can be a pastry chef’s best friend. Metal pipe, PVC, screws, wooden boards, power tools… these will all help you build a strong cake structure that will support a heavy, topsy-turvy cake

3. A strong cake = a strong design. Try not to use any loose fillings like curd, pastry cream, or whipped cream when building a topsy-turvy cake since the tipsy tiers could slide if they are not sturdy enough. Stronger materials? Buttercream, pound cake and ganache.

Clark and her husband, Kendon, just finished teaching their first cake structure class in Cake Nouveau’s new shop. (The storefront changed locations a few months ago.) “We got a great turnout,” Clark says. “Students came from Florida, New York and elsewhere.” She is looking forward to hosting another cake structure class sometime this October. Keep an eye on the class listings on Cake Nouveau’s website so you don’t miss out on your opportunity to participate!