Cake stands excite me for two reasons, one being because they feel a bit fancy. I make so many mugs and everyday pieces, it’s refreshing to make something for a special occasion, something elevated in form and feeling. They also provide a lovely canvas. Something about this form compels me to have a central scene, framed by patterned borders, which continue over the side to a playful scalloped edge. I typically think of a memory, something that brings me comfort, joy, or makes me laugh, and illustrate it using animal characters. I try not to think too much, delighting in following my intuition, and hiding little things in the drawing for people to find as they engage with the piece. Making cake stands is also a great way to bring more dessert into your life.

Throwing the Cake Stand

We’re going to throw the cake stand in one piece, upside down, on a bat. Everyone in the studio will think you’re making chip-and-dip plates and you can surprise them all! Begin by measuring out 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of clay and wedging it. Center, cone, and mound the clay before flattening it into a low puck shape. Open from the center and pull toward you to create the inner floor of the cake stand, keeping the base about ½ inch (1.3 cm) thick and compressing well (1). Use your finger to split the mass of clay that would usually become the walls into two sections (2). Throw the outer section to make the plate top, then raise the outer edge an inch or so to create a lip (3). Raise the inner section to make the pedestal base (4). Work between these two sections until you are happy with the proportions and angles, and have a consistent thickness on both sides of the base. You’ll trim the top later, but only really to level it out, so leave the base just slightly thicker than you ultimately want it. With that said, I find that erring on the side of thick here never hurts! Compress everywhere with a hard rubber rib, and hit the rims with a chamois (5). 

1 Working on a bat, center a ball of clay into a low puck shape, and then open. 2 Use your finger to split the wall into two sections leaving base 1/2 in. (1.3 cm) thick.

3 Flatten the outer section to make the top plate, then raise the edge to create a lip. 4 Raise the inner wall section to make the pedestal base.

Run a wire under the cake stand and let it dry slowly under plastic. You can change up the personality of your cake stands by exploring different proportions, such as the height, width, and angle of the pedestal base (6). 

5 Compress everywhere with a hard rubber rib and smooth the rims with a chamois 6 Run a wire under the cake stand and let it firm up under plastic.

Scalloping and Trimming 

When the clay reaches a soft leather hard, move the bat to a banding wheel and use a cheese cutter to scallop the edge of the lip (7). If you care deeply about them being perfectly even you could break out a measuring disk here, but I like to just spin slowly and bounce the wire up and down. 

Next, compress the scallops, focusing on the V-shaped part between them to discourage any cracks from forming. Continue to dry the piece under plastic until you can flip the cake stand without the top slumping. This is where patience and that extra thickness come in handy. Use lugs of clay to secure the cake stand base right side up on the wheel head and take away any unevenness with a Surform rasp (8). Trim to remove any texture, then smooth and compress with a rib and a damp finishing sponge (9). 

7 On a banding wheel, use a cheese cutter to scallop the plate edge. 8 With the stand secured on the wheel, use a rasp to remove any unevenness.

9 Trim to remove texture, then use a rib to smooth and compress the top and edge.


Back to the banding wheel the cake stand goes. Use a fluffy brush to apply slip over the top and edge of the cake stand (10). To get an opaque white, you want the slip at an almost yogurt-like consistency. Apply 2–3 generous coats, waiting a little in between each one. Allow the slip to set up to a hard leather hard. 

10 Paint slip over the top and edge of the cake plate using a fluffy brush. 11 Sgraffito your linework, sketching lightly beforehand with a pencil if you like.

Use a pointed tool to sgraffito linework designs, I like the angled side of a Kemper K20 Recess Smoother or a tungsten-carbide-tipped scribe (11). If you like, you can sketch lightly with a soft pencil beforehand. The slip should be hard enough that this won’t make an impression and the graphite will burn away in the kiln. Keep a light touch when you sgraffito, scratching through the slip layer, but not going too deep into the clay. Your lines will come out nice and crisp if you dial in the timing and pressure. Most of the burrs will fall away easily, but you can gently scrape with a metal rib to clear any stubborn ones (12). 

12 Gently clear away burrs from the sgraffito with the flat side of a metal rib.

When drawing, I always have the most success when I just go for it. Too much planning throws off the energy in the drawings, and they feel too tight and careful. Know that in the process of drawing on clay, you won’t like some of the drawings you make, and you’ll love other ones. Make lots of pieces so that nothing is too precious; if you feel dissatisfied, pick up another and go again. Allow the cake stand to dry completely. 


Set up a watercolor palette with some dabs of underglaze, diluting them with a bit of water (13). Load up your brush with the now translucent watercolory underglaze, adding more water as feels right, and paint in your color using confident, quick strokes (14). Bamboo brushes work well for this because they can hold a lot of water. The bone-dry slip will absorb the color almost immediately. Avoid staying too long in one place or reworking areas because the slip will get saturated and start to degrade. If you get color somewhere you didn’t want it, don’t worry, just gently scrape it away with a rib. 

13 Set up a watercolor palette with dabs of underglaze, diluting them with water. 14 Load up your brush, adding more water as feels right, then paint in your color.

Finishing and Firing 

Place the cake stand upside down on a foam bat on your wheel head. Brush 2–3 coats of terra sigillata on the underside (15), allow it to soak in but not dry completely, then use a soft piece of plastic to burnish it as the wheel spins. 

15 Add 2–3 coats of terra sigillata to the underside, allow it to soak in, then burnish.

Bisque fire to cone 05, dip the tops in a clear glossy glaze and fire again to cone 03 using a drop-and-hold firing schedule. The drop-and-hold schedule helps to eliminate glaze imperfections. If the tops are warping, try making the pedestal base wider so there’s less overhang, longer and slower drying, and throwing thicker. 

The above firing schedule was adapted from Digital Fire’s “04DSDH” Firing Schedule Low Temperature Drop-and-Hold (

Optional but highly recommended last step, make a cake or get one from a local bakery . . . user testing is very important! 

Celia Feldberg is an artist living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born in England and raised in Massachusetts, she earned her BFA in ceramics from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston in 2019. She makes illustrated pottery, teaches, and maintains an active involvement at craft schools. She is currently a resident artist at The Clay Studio of Philadelphia.