Planning A Dessert Table, Part 1: The Making of A Cupcake Stand

by Lori on March 17, 2010

As I was planning out the details for a party I was hosting, I decided I needed a cupcake stand that would accommodate at least 40 cupcakes.  There were options and I considered them all (rent, buy, borrow, make).  I made a list of what I wanted, and I apparently require a lot from a cupcake stand.  It had to have three tiers.  It had to have the ability to break down for storage.  It had to be white (because the dessert table would have a red and white color scheme).  It had to be made out of wood.  I figured a custom stand was the way to go.  So, I knew I had to pitch my idea to my husband.  He used to work in construction, and he’s got a garage full of tools.  If anyone could bring my idea to life, he could.  I rattled on to him about the tiers, the color, the need to have the whole thing collapse down, the wood pedestals linking everything together.  What I didn’t know was how to make it all happen.  I needed my husband’s expertise.

A couple of days later, my husband came home with this and a bunch of different screw-like things called threaded lag bolts and threaded wood inserts. We talked.  I thought.  I stared.  I envisioned.  I had concerns.  I wasn’t sure about the pine circles which were actually prefab table tops.  I was hoping for the wood to be a little thinner because I was looking for a stream-lined look.  I also wasn’t thrilled that the sides were completely rounded.  I planned on attaching ribbon around the rim of each tier.  How was I going to get a flat ribbon on a rounded edge?  You know, serious stuff.  But there is a little thing called trust, and I went with it.  I turned him loose.

One of the pine discs needed to be trimmed down to make the smallest, top tier.  I suggested tying a piece of string to the nail, measuring the string to 6 inches and tying the other end to the pencil.  Simple.  But no, my husband tries to make some gizmo with fishing line and a small nut.  I think he was trying to impress me with his skills.

But there was a little slippage going on with his circle drawing contraption.  So as only a good wood-worker would know, he hooked his tape measure to the nail head and used it to guide him.  Now I’m impressed!

See those little sideways ‘v’ marks?  Those are his indicators so he will know which line to follow while cutting.  Nifty.

The pine disc is ready for cutting.  I love these little clamps.  They make it so easy to anchor things.  Just pump the little handle like you would with a bottle of Windex and you’re anchored!

Time to cut the wood.

Once the piece has been cut, a quick sanding of the sides is needed.

A router is used to shave the edges.

Both sides need to be done.

Then lightly sand the entire piece to knock off any rough spots.

An unfinished coffee table leg was used to make the pedestals.

It was measured and cut to show off the interesting portions that would be seen on each tier.  (Side note: we had some difficulty with this part.  It was very hard to get the cuts completely level which resulted in having to buy another unfinished table leg in order to complete the stand.)

We took a test drive to see if the roughly 6-inch distance between each tier was enough.  It was.  I was beginning to dream of yummy cupcakes on the stand until I saw Chewbacca’s arm…
Time to set the threaded lag bolts (aka “screws” in my limited knowledge of such).

On the top and bottom of each pedestal piece, you need to measure from side to side so you can mark the center.  This is where you need to set your lag bolts (in one end) and your threaded wood insert (in the other).  Using a hand-held drill, carefully drill into the wood keeping the drill and wood straight (a vice is good for this).  Take an Allen wrench and screw the lag bolt into the end of the pedestal.  (Now, this is where you will notice a big jump in the photos.  We had to stop the filming of The Cupcake Stand Chronicles and depart for a birthday party.  It was my husband’s plan to finish up the stand at work the next day which meant that I wasn’t going to be able to give you the full step-by-step through the remainder of this tutorial.  So I tried my best to recreate as much of it as I could by disassembling the finished stand for the purposes of this post.)

On the other end of the pedestal, you will need to drill another hole and add a threaded wood insert with pliers.  This is a threaded wood insert.  The other end of your pedestal looks like the photo above.  Okay.  Are we together?  (I realize this is technical stuff, and I’m totally out of my comfort zone now.)

Repeat these steps on each pedestal piece except the very top piece which will act as your finial.

Are you with me?  I’m not even sure if I’m with myself!  Those three little stumps on the left are little legs that we added.

You will need to drill a hole into the center of each pine disc.  The center is marked for you by the factory, so no measurement needed for this step.  For the bottom (the largest pine disk), you will need to put a threaded wood insert on the bottom side because the last pedestal needs something to be screwed into.

If that little insert wasn’t there underneath, there would be no way for this pedestal to be secure. Make sense?  Now for the easy part.  Primer and paint!  I don’t have any photos of these steps.  Both the primer and the paint were from a spray can.  The unfinished wood is very porous and took about 2 cans of primer.  I recommend spray primer and spray paint so you don’t have any brush strokes.  The typical rules apply: spray lightly to avoid drip marks and let each coat dry thoroughly before adding the next until total coverage is achieved.  When every painted piece is completely dry, spray on a clear finishing spray and let dry over night.  We used a flat white spray paint and a semi-gloss finishing spray.

The finished product can easily easily support 50 or more cupcakes.  There are 46 on the stand in the photo.  Did you notice I forgot to attach the ribbon to the rim of each tier?  It would have been so cute!  But no one noticed but me.  Part 2 will feature the recipe for these red velvet cupcakes with cinnamon spiked cream cheese frosting.

This is how the stand gets stored, and it fits perfectly inside a plastic kitchen garbage bag for protection.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

jlgraff March 18, 2010 at 2:43 am

What a great idea!! Okay, so when are you and Jack going to start selling these beauties?
I can just imagine them in a few colors and mixing and matching. And wood makes them user friendly for those of us that seem to break and chip glass!


Lemons and Lavender March 27, 2010 at 2:48 am

Thanks jlgraff! Jack has committed to making some more. Just need to get him to make the time to get them done.


Anonymous June 11, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Do you sell these! I would seriously love to buy one:)


Anonymous September 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I having been trying to make this exact thing! I have found candle sticks I want to use for the legs, but I can't find those "Ponderosa Panels" (wood circles) that you used. Where did you buy them? (


Lemons and Lavender September 9, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Hi Cherissa,
I will comment here and also email you in case you don't check back. The Ponderosa Panels were purchased at Lowe's, and I recently saw them at my local Home Depot. I hope you can get your hands on some soon. Good luck with your project and thanks for stopping by!


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