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  • Sandra King

Cake Layers vs. Cake Tiers

Updated: Jul 5, 2021


I decided to write about this topic after I had a customer call me to order a 2-layer cake with one layer being bigger than the other layer. The cake being ordered was for a friend’s birthday. During the conversation, she requested two flavors, chocolate on top because it was the celebrant’s favorite flavor and the other flavor was to be vanilla and it should be on the bottom. In my mind, I’m picturing this small 2-layer cake in the manner that she was describing it, and the look on my face was like a deer caught in headlights (a surprised and bewildered look).

I stopped the conversation and said 'hey, let's rewind'. I started asking more probing questions because she said one layer should be bigger than the other layer…………..so, I asked her: ‘are you talking about a 2-tiered cake?’


...........She wasn’t sure what a tier was. I then explained the difference between a layer and a tier, and I realized we were not speaking the same language and if I hadn’t stopped to gain clarity, she would have gotten something very different from what she wanted.


Here is my explanation of the difference……….


A tier is one or more cake layers. Generally, a smaller tier is stacked on a larger cake tier. Tiers can be round, square, octagonal, or a combination of shapes, heights, and widths.


A wedding cake is traditionally a round 3-tiered cake with a 10” wide cake tier on the bottom, an 8” wide cake tier in the middle, and a 6” wide cake tier on top. Generally, each tier is comprised of at least 3 layers of cake, but not always. Multi-tiered cakes are not just for weddings, they can be theme cakes for birthdays and other celebrations.


A traditional cake that grandma used to make would be a 3-layered cake (3 layers of cake and 2 layers of frosting or filling ) which is the same as a 1-tiered cake.


Here are some helpful illustrations…….



1 cake layer
3 layers of cake and 2 layers of frosting
1-tiered cake

3-tiered cake




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