Graham is a former magazine stylist with a passion for crafts. She writes for various magazines and blogs when she's not playing with glue.
Simple and Budget-Friendly Elegance
There are easy craft projects and then there are EASY craft projects. This is the latter.
I have always loved cake stands. They are, in fact, one of my many obsessions. There is something special about cake stands. Perhaps it's because they can make the most humble of foods look special and celebratory.
Years ago, I began making my own cake stands for my catering business. I didn't have the resources needed to buy the cake stands and serving pieces from the restaurant supply companies. Once I learned how easy they were to make and the variety of styles I could create, I began crafting them and I haven't stopped yet.
Years later, as a ceramic designer, I learned how much it really costs to make most cake stands and what it would cost me, as the consumer. I couldn't justify that expense when I could just as easily make my own.
Later, when I no longer catered and had a plethora of ceramic cake stands, I began to give them as hostess gifts. I would buy some cheese and breads and place them on a stand. On occasion, I would wrap the entire gift in cellophane. Other times, I would simply tie one with a ribbon. It took very little time to make a beautiful gift, and my friends and family loved them.
The gift itself wasn't costly, but it looked so much more expensive than it was. More importantly, the hostess thought it was wonderful. I liked that when the evening was over, our friends could use the cake stand again and again.
A One-Piece Cake Stand: Why It Costs So Much
While making your own cake stand may cost you a few dollars, buying a cake stand at retail can be much more expensive. The reasons are understandable once you know how cake stands or other pedestal items are made at the factory.
Depending, of course, on the type of clay being used, there are a few methods typically used today. The first method requires the clay to be poured into a mold. That mold includes both the plate and the base. When the clay is dry the hardened clay cake stand is removed as one piece. This is a costly method for the factory and therefore for you.
The second method may involve forming a plate and a base piece which are later held together using a liquid-like clay (sometimes called slip paint). The liquid clay will eventually dry and the two pieces will be permanently held together as one.
A third method, which is in essence the same method that you will be using, requires two pieces to be glued together. The factory will create a clay plate with an indent on the bottom. The base will then be glued to the plate. The adhesive will be applied when the ceramics are finished being fired and have been painted.
Most of the ceramics that you shop for are made in China. When you purchase a cake stand made in China, it will, most likely, be less expensive than a cake stand made in another country. The reasons are many and can be rather complicated. If the cake stand you wish to buy is made in Italy, for example, you pay more.
Below is an image of one of the cake stands that I bought years ago. It is a single-piece cake stand. In other words, it was crafted as one piece. It is a 12-inch stand with no embellishments (meaning there is no fancy design). It is also a plain white glaze. This cake stand cost me $50.00.
As you can see from image #1, It is a rather plain cake stand. The base has been carved slightly. From looking at images #2 and #3, you can see there is no seam between the plate and the base. This cake stand was created using a mold. Image #4 indicates that this stand was crafted in Italy. Ceramics made in Italy will be stamped as such. Ceramics made in China will also have some kind of stamp, including the tiny gold "Made in China" sticker.
One reason cake stands are adored by so many people is that they are made in different shapes and sizes. By making your own, you may, in fact, be able to make as many different shapes and sizes as you wish.
Why not host a make-your-own-pizza party? Make a few cake stands using large plates or platters and serve each pizza on a stand.
For your seafood-loving friends, make a stand with a large platter. Purchase seaweed from your local fishmonger and place the seaweed on the platter. Top with fresh-shucked oysters and lemon wedges.
Lay a bed of mixed lettuces on the platter and top with shrimp. Add another small stand and serve cocktail sauce.
Next time you host Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a birthday party, think about using individually sized cake stands. Rather than one birthday cake, serve each guest a cupcake on a stand.
Don't think that you can only use plates, either. Bowls are very useful. Choose different ceramic bodies and let your imagination go. Use a mug as the base for one of your cake stands. It's whimsical and easy to carry.
How to Use Various Sizes of Cake Stands
|Large Plate - Stand||Small Plate - Stand||Bowl - Stand|
first course appetizer
piece of fruit
shelled, mixed nuts
There are so many places where you can find plates and bowls for your cake stands. I have found some beautiful vintage pieces while antiquing. Most towns have at least one thrift shop. Here are a few other suggestions on where you may find just the right item to make your cake stands:
- Building 19
- Salvation Army
- Family Dollar
- Christmas Tree Shop
Once you have a plate and a bowl (or whatever ceramic shapes you choose), be sure that the plate fits snuggly into the bowl.
Some plates (generally, this is true for larger ceramics, like platters) have a ceramic foot on the bottom which is used during the firing process. Be sure your bowl rests flatly on the bottom of the plate. Otherwise, your glue will not create a firm hold. I have tried to chisel these off and I've had some success. Other times, I have managed to destroy the plate.
Now, you are ready to make your cake stand.
You can use different glues to make your stands. I prefer using permanent glue, and I like to use marine glue. If you only want to use your cake stand for a single event, try using poster putty.
I use marine glue because it dries quickly and is waterproof. I recommend that you not soak your cake stands in water to wash them. Hot soapy water is just fine, I just don't soak them.
Before you attach the base, you could measure the plate to be sure the base is centered. I generally wing it. You have a few moments to adjust the ceramics before the glue begins to set. If there is excess glue on the plate, carefully wipe it away with a clean cloth or paper towel.
I like to let the new cake stand set overnight. The glue dries much quicker than that, but I prefer to be certain.
In addition to using different shapes and sizes of ceramics, consider gluing a ceramic flower on the edge of the stand for an added touch.
Pier 1 (another great source for plates and bowls) very often sells chopstick rests. They are small ceramic figurines. Glue one or two to the edge of the plate or to the base.
Check eBay for vintage ceramic flowers.
Before Gluing, Consider a Personal Note
Ceramic pens can be found at craft stores and they are sold in various colors. With them, you are able to write a message on a plate and then bake it in an oven to make it permanent.
Think about drawing a picture onto a plate and penning "Happy Birthday" with musical notes. Don't think that just because you don't have drawing talent you can't do this. I have seen a cake stand that was embellished with what amounts to be scribbling and it was adorable.
- Muffins - These or cupcakes always look so enticing perched atop a cake stand.
- Cookies - Why bring a platter of cookies when stacks of them look so amazing?
- Loaf of Bread - Tie a ribbon around the loaf and place it on the stand. Makes a lovely centerpiece as well.
- Cake - Well, it is called a cake stand is it not?
- Pie - Beautiful pies placed on a stand at the bakery always look so wonderful.
- Cheeses - Cheeses, olives, tapenade...you could afford this gift and a nice bottle of wine.
- Fruits - Pears, figs, etc. I brought a dish of lemons once to an outdoor gathering . . . simple and well received.
- Chocolates - There are so many different kinds of chocolates today. This is a nice dessert gift with port.
- Fruit Salad - Make your stand using a shallow bowl. This is a great brunch gift and looks fabulous.
- Mojito Ingredients - For a summer BBQ, I put limes, a bunch of mint, sugar cubes, rum minis from the liquor store, and a muddler. The stand was made using a platter-sized plate.
- Donuts - Pile your stand high with donuts for the next time you show up for a coffee date.
Add a Glass Dome
While scouring my area thrift shops, like Goodwill and Salvation Army, I've unwrapped dozens of these small glass domes. Typically, these domes come atop a wooden base, however, it's the glass dome that captures my attention. I've picked up two or three of these (they cost a few dollars) and etched on them for a more personal gift.
Glass etching cream can be found at your local craft supply store and is easy to use. Cutting the template is what requires a bit of practice, but once you have the template perfected, it only takes a few minutes to etch your hostess' name or sentiment.
If you don't have a steady hand and cutting a template is out of the question, you can buy transfer sheets (also sold at craft supply shops). There is a bit of work required for this method, as well, however, there are endless possibilities. This method also requires that you place your ceramic or glass in the oven to bake briefly.
Here are a few additional ways to transfer your image or sentiment to your cake stand.
Here are a few more of my favorite DIY cake stands.
- DIY: Cake Stand | Green Wedding Shoes Wedding Blog | Wedding Trends for Stylish + Creative Brides
Make a cake stand from thrift finds. Only your imagination can slow you down! Search your attic for treasure that may make a perfect cake stand. Buy several plastic animals and hot glue them in a standing pile. Be sure they hold your plate firmly.
- More DIY Wooden Cake Stands
Make a cake stand using wooden parts from your local craft store. I've always loved the simplicity of these cake stands. With a little acrylic paint sold in hundreds of colors, you can paint these stands to suit whatever need or occasion.
Cleidy on April 23, 2020:
Thanks for opening my eyes, I was about to spend $75 on a cake stand m, I am glad I found you !
Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on June 05, 2015:
Hi Judy, I'm pleased you found this article - perfect timing! Don't forget to stop off at various dollar stores, as well. Many times those stores have whiteware that work well for this project. I hope your event goes splendidly!
Judy J on June 04, 2015:
What a wonderful idea! I've just been asked to do a dessert table at a wedding and was wondering how to afford to add interesting serving trays and this will be perfect. Going to hit the flea markets to see what I can find. Thanks so much for sharing!!
Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on April 19, 2014:
Hi Laura, thank you for taking the time to stop by. The font is called "zapfino" and it is one of the fonts in Photoshop C3. It's a tricky font to etch, but the results are beautiful.
Laura on April 18, 2014:
Where did you find the beautiful font for "fromage"?
Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on February 25, 2014:
Hi Cindy. That's for reading about my cake stands and YES, glass candle holders also work great! I love scouring various junk shops and finding little treasures to make stands. They make everything a little bit more special. I appreciate you stopping by. Have a lovely day.
Cindy on February 21, 2014:
Love these! You could also use glass candle holders for the base from the second hand shops.
Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on March 14, 2013:
Kelly, I just love your enthusiasm!!! I KNOW - I felt the same way. Are you familiar with Building 19? You may have one in your area and I often find single pieces there that work quite well. It's amazing - for about 3 bucks, you can make a cake stand, make a treat, wrap a ribbon around it and it truly looks like a $50 dollar gift (and that is fabulous if you always bring a hostess gift or have lots of gatherings to attend) Have Fun ;)
Kelly from New England on March 13, 2013:
Yes, yes, yes!! Voted up - I'd vote up more than once if I could! I absolutely love this. I like a cake stand to put cupcakes and cakes on, and this is such an awesome idea. I can't wait to try this - they have so many nice bowls and plates at our local Dollar Store. My husband is going to be sorry I found this Hub today because we're soon to be overrun by cake stands!!!
Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on March 12, 2013:
Thank you, Thelma, for the Vote Up and Pin! I made a dozen or so cake stands for a women staring her own catering business last summer. People will love your cake stands with your desserts. Best of Luck to you!
Thelma Alberts from Germany on March 11, 2013:
Beautiful! Great ideas, too. I´m sure I´ll be making your cake stands as I bake cakes and cupcakes for orders. Thanks for sharing this. Voted up and pinned;-)
Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on March 11, 2013:
Hi galleryofgrace! I know - I've begun to make a few for Easter.. In the past, I have piled sweets and candies atop a cake stand, rather than in a basket for a few family members. They looked amazing and it was so easy! Good luck with your cake stands. Have fun. Best Regards,
Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on March 11, 2013:
I have made so many of these, Rajan. I've put everything from pie, cake, homemade breads, cheeses, you name it - people seem to love it! I like that the host/hostess can use it again and again.
Gracie L Sprouse from Virginia on March 10, 2013:
What an out standing idea. This is great. thank you much. I have to do a few of these as gifts especially for the upcoming holiday.
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 10, 2013:
This is just beautiful and an awesome gift idea as well. They are so attractive to look at. Thanks for sharing these tips.
Voted up and beautiful.
Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on December 19, 2012:
OK - I hope that you do ;)
Cynthia Lyerly from Georgia on December 19, 2012:
OK...I might have to try this.
Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on December 19, 2012:
Have fun at the flea market, vespawoolf. I hope you find the perfect ceramics to make your cake stand.
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on December 19, 2012:
What beautiful ideas! My cake stand bit the dust and I'd been thinking of replacing it. Now I'm going to head to the local flea market and find the bowl and plate I need to make one myself. I hope to find a beautiful plate like some of those pictured here. I love your list of other uses for cake stands, as well. Love this hub--thanks!