If you have a 4 or 5" tier that's plain white, it looks like a toilet paper roll. A decorated one doesn't, but a plain white one can bring it to mind. Why this seems to enrage people, I have no idea.
"That cake is Beautiful! How DARE you suggest that it looks like a toilet paper roll? I would NEVER think of that! Quick, go get the hot tar and pitchforks!" (Puts hands over ears) "Nah nah nah nah nah I can't hear you!"
Well of course you wouldn't think of it, because you're looking at it and thinking "cake." But if someone pointed it out, you'd have to admit that yes, it can look the same. I've had several clients look at the display cakes I use to show cake sizes and say that the 4" tier looks like a TP roll and they want something larger. Okay, then.
I once did a cake that had black ribbons with pink roses on the ends hanging in a scalloped pattern at the top of the tiers. A client was looking through my album and said "Oh, that one looks like a piano!" I swear to God, until that moment I hadn't even thought of that, even through the entire process of making the cake. But I could see what she meant when she said it. I wasn't insulted by it, I could see how she could see that.
If I did a 4" square top tier that was the brown color of a packing box, people would think it looked like a packing box. So why is it such a stretch to think that a plain, white 4" tall cake cylinder might resemble a roll of toilet paper, which is also a plain, white 4" tall cylinder?
Here's a cake I did last weekend in the process of being decorated. I had the top tier set aside and was planning on putting it on at the reception site. This left a handy way to illustrate what I'm talking about. The "top tier" in this case is an actual roll of toilet paper. (Don't worry. Amanda, I put a piece of waxed paper on it, the TP didn't touch your cake!)
As you can see, the toilet paper roll is approximately the same height as the cake tiers, so the proportions are right. So yes, a plain, white tier can look like the that. Whether you want to admit it or not. Don't be mad, bro.
Now here's the finished cake...Not so TP-esque anymore, because it's decorated. Oh, plus, it's cake, I did remember to take the roll of toilet paper off before I delivered the cake.
Here's another 4" top tier, which isn't so toilet paper-y. Again, this one isn't white, so the shape is offset by the color. I can still see the TP roll shape, though, since I'm looking for it.
Here's a white one that has piping on it, so the design is the focus, and draws your attention away from the shape. But I can still see it if I'm looking for it.
However...(I was going to say "but" then decided against it, haha!)...When the top tier is plain, white, undecorated, it can look like a roll of toilet paper. Which this top tier was. Don't kid yourself and say that you don't see it, you have to see it because that's what it is. Toilet paper. On the top of those dummies. (I smoothed out the styrofoam bumps for you there.)
I think that in the case of someone who wants a plain white top tier I'll point this out to them. If they don't care, great. If they want to decorate it, that's fine too. It's just a courtesy to let them know that the groom's drunken frat brothers might get a laugh out of the toilet paper cake if one of them notices the resemblance. And you don't want to give drunken frat brothers any ammunition at all.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA