Using straws instead of dowel rods as supports for your cake is a quick, easy, and cheap way to make your cake strong.
That Rose Levy Beranbaum is one smart lady. This is another tip that I learned from her book The Cake Bible and it has saved my butt like a million times. Use straws instead of dowel rods to support your larger cakes. Her theory is that the straws displace less cake and so therefore can support as much weight as a dowel rod.
It works great for me because straws are cheap, easy to find, and disposable. I pretty much always have them around whenever I have a cake that needs a little extra support. I use them whenever I am making a tiered cake or when I am using a slippery filling like lemon curd.
To use straws for supports:
Insert straws into cake before frosting but after filling. Where you place the straws is going to depend on what you need to support. For tiered cakes, I insert the straws in a circular pattern the circumference of the next tier with some in the middle for added support. If I am using them for slippery filling, I place the straws all around the cake. I like to use quite a few straws.
After inserting the straws, pull them up just a bit and cut them off at the spot where the cake mark is on the straw.
Push the cut off straw back into the cake. Cut the remaining straws to length. Frost as usual.
To Avoid Using Plastic:
Since plastic straws are basically ruining the earth, I’ve been trying to avoid them when possible. I was extremely pleased to find out that paper straws work just as well as plastic to support a tired cake and to hold a layered cake together. They’re a little more expensive but will not kill all the turtles. Seems like a worthwhile trade-off to me.