Baking beauties: Tips for making your own wedding cake

March 6 | Guest post by bluebirdsjunk
My cake with bobble heads as gifts for the wedding party.
My cake with bobble heads as gifts for the wedding party.

I recently got married and I made our wedding cake. I love to bake, and I had a little previous experience making two wedding cakes with a friend, but this made it no less challenging. But making your own cake saves you a lot of money. If I wanted a cake like the one I made, I would have had to pay about £300-400.

So here are my tips for anyone who is thinking about making their own cake. It's totally possible… pinkie promise!

Be prepared
Sounds standard, but you need to make cake samples, make a timeline, and make sure you have enough time — as it will take you a while. The main benefit, and I can't stress this enough, is to make samples. Maybe take your samples to work to check if they taste good. You also need to make sure you have a good cake craft shop nearby — you will be making many trips. If you do a rich fruit cake it can be baked whenever, as long as it's fed with brandy and kept moist. My cake was two months old!

Know your cake
Certain cakes rise, certain cakes sink — make sure you practice, and make a cake you know how to make. Now is not the time to experiment. You need to know the rise and height of the cake in the size of tin you will use. If each layer needs to be the same height, get your calculator out!

Freeze cake
You need to bake some cakes before, otherwise you will run out of time. Get a cake recipe that freezes nicely. Chocolate is good to freeze — it doesn't change the taste, and it means you have a lot more time to make the other tiers. Fruit cakes do not freeze well at all. I had an apple and raspberry crumble cake layer and I had to make that two-to-three days before.

Ask friends/family for help
People were always asking me if I needed help. When offered, take it! If your mum or gran can make cake, ask them to make a tier. It takes the stress off you and you can focus on icing on the last couple of days.

214061788510198021_LUHhF3PT_cBe prepared for mess
I'm a neat-freak and freaked out a bit at the mess. Once all the baking is done it won't be as messy, although rolling out icing is a pretty sticky job. Make sure to get an apron!

Icing can be easy
YouTube is awesome for videos to show you how to ice — check them out. Also, keep it simple. Think about using different patterns so if there are any tears or dimples, you can cover them with a polka dot or other decor of your choice!

Bridesmaids/fiance/friend: Help me NOW… for 1 minute
To ice, a helping hand is needed! My favourite technique is to get both arms under the icing (take rings off) and then get someone to move the cake under your arms so the icing can be lowered. Tada!

214061788510111544_ZthyyaJ0_cCake craft shops and hardware shops
Cake craft shops are amazing — sharp icing blades, crimping tools, moulding stick things. Don't go too crazy, but all this stuff is awesome. I also bought cameo molds to make the sugar skulls out of fondant icing. Experiment away!

Layers ready to be layered
Hardware Stores
These are essential! You need to support the cakes with wooden dowels in each layer to take away some of the weight. You need:

  • Dowels: 1/2 inch diameter
  • Saw: to cut the dowels
  • Spirit level

When you are stacking your cake up, you can put your pre-cut dowels in the cake and use a spirit level to make sure it's level. If it's not level, then add a few bits of fondant/royal icing until it is level.

Enjoy it and don't stress out;
So many people said that making your own cake is a stupid idea. Trust me, it's not. Be prepared and use it as a time to escape reality. It's quite stress-relieving — smashing icing and marzipan! And in the end, it's just a cake, it's going to be eaten, who gives a crap if it's not quite straight.

On the day of the wedding
Take icing with you when you're setting up your cake up so you can make any finishing touches.

GOOD LUCK

What are YOUR tips for making your own wedding cakes?

  1. For my first wedding I made my own "cake" that was three ginormous chocolate chip cookies covered in cream cheese frosting and fondant then stacked like a standard wedding cake. It was pretty straightforward (I made a test-run big cookie ahead of time to make sure it would cook all the way through) and got rave reviews.

    For this, my second, wedding, my sister, who has since become an amateur (but awesome) cake decorator volunteered to make it. You can totally make your own cake. All it takes is a bit of patience and a bit of practice.

    2 agree
    • Giant cookie cake?? Do you have pics? omnomnom

      3 agree
  2. I made our wedding cake! I had so much fun testing recipes and taking the results into work. In fact, it's been a year and half since our wedding and coworkers still ask if I might be bringing a cake in soon.

    One thing I did differently: buttercream. It looks like bluebirdsjunk used fondant for her cake. I do not care for fondant in the slightest, so chose to make buttercream and finish frosting/assembling the morning of the wedding. (I had already chilled the tiers with a crumb coat.) If you're using buttercream, I highly recommend having a turntable to help get those frosting layers nice and smooth. I also used a small knife to add texture to the sides to help hide little imperfections. It's super easy and requires less patience than trying to get perfectly vertical buttercream sides.

    Thanks for the great post!

    2 agree
    • Yes I used fondant, underneath was a good heafty layer of buttercream though to get a smooth surface. Buttercream cakes do look so yummy as weddingcake

      1 agrees
  3. im a pastry chef, and i have made a few wedding cakes for family/friends, so here is my basic timeline:

    weeks/months before: make all "edible" decor- things like gum paste flowers, fondant figures, ect. just have these done, totally done, with plenty of extra, so you are not thinking about while you are making the actual cake

    2 days prior to event: make all components- cake, frosting, fillings

    1 day prior to event: fill, crumb coat, and frost the cakes.

    day of event: move tiers of cake to event space, build cake, decorate/pipe.

    obviously these would be modified for different kinds of cakes and different decorating techniques. if it was a very piping-heavy decor, i would do all the piping 1 day prior, for instance. i have used this basic timeline many times and it always allows for enough time in case things go wrong -ie. you have to remake a cake layer (had to do it, had enough time). also, by building the cake at the event you will have no worries about the cake falling over. its enough stress to make a wedding cake, i refuse to add the stress of moving it.

    4 agree
    • This is exactly what I needed to know! I was concerned that if I didn't make it the same day as the wedding it would taste stale, but it sounds like I have a buffer. Now I just need to convince my partner that it's not a crazy idea.

      2 agree
      • if it helps, i always wrap my baked and cooled cakes in plastic wrap overnight. from the point that they are crumb-coated, the layer of fat keeps air out, so no need for wrapping after that. store in the fridge if using dairy products like milk-based cream fillings or butter-based buttercreams. the cake will usually come to room temp very nicely in the time it sits from when you set it up to when it is cut and eaten.

        also, just as a ps for anyone else worried about "fresh" cake- the cake you would buy from a really good pro would be at *least* a day old, and if they are a not-so-good pro, they will be months old and frozen… 2 day old cake is pretty good in the industry for a wedding cake!

        1 agrees
        • katie, would you consider writing a bunch of this up as a post and submitting it? I'd love to read more about the how-to's of pre-planning and cakes. Like, what is a crumb coat and what is the point? My mother made a cake for my cousin's wedding and I would *love* for her to make mine, but I'd like to understand the process a bit more.

          7 agree
  4. Um, I MUST KNOW WHERE THE BOBBLEHEAD GIFTS CAME FROM. You know, when you have a minute. :)

    1 agrees
    • Hi it I have posted this twice sorry!
      Here is the website I got the bobbles off, http://www.bigbobble.com/
      They are so awesome you need good pictures of people, there were a few english issues but all in all they are amazing and everyone loved them!

      1 agrees
  5. Does anyone know where I can get a gear-shaped cookie cutter? Can't find any on Amazon

    0 agree
  6. yay! I love this post! I also made my own wedding cake – with considerable help from my mom and sister. I have one tip to add, especially if you are not doing marzipan or fondant. Make at least twice as much frosting as you think you'll need. Somehow when you make big layers you need more frosting…the math on that doesn't make sense to me, but it's so much better to have left over frosting than to run out in the middle. (That's what happened to me!) Also, it means all your frosting will be exactly the same color, something that can be hard to control between batches (unless you're using shortening instead of butter…shortening is all white…butter is different shades of yellow, as is mascarpone, if you were wondering.)

    Ooo – I lied – one more tip. I made this cake: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2007/11/tiramisu-cake/ for my wedding, and the frosting is a *dream* to work with. It's so much easier to make smooth and flat than regular buttercream. I piped on my decorations with buttercream – I don't think this frosting would pipe well, although I didn't even try it. This frosting (without the coffee extract) would replace vanilla frosting for basically any kind of cake – it tastes like whipped cream.

    1 agrees
  7. Great tips and a great outlook – so true, save lots of money and have fun whilst you're doing it! And too right, really does anyone mind if it's ever so slightly crooked? Adds to the charm I think :)

    0 agree
  8. Well-written article. I have a colleague making my cake. We are teachers, but she went to culinary school and has the experience. We've already practiced even though the wedding is 4 months away, and it was definitely worth it to work out the kinks. We also made a week-of and day-of plan. Being prepared is key. Making your own cake is totally fun and budget-friendly. Plus, I feel like it will be extra special actually knowing who made my cake. What a wonderful gift!

    1 agrees
  9. I'm planning to make my own cake – thanks for posting this! And thanks to all the commenters who have made their own… sometimes I get discouraged about the idea.

    Right now my biggest concern is storing it until the wedding. My wedding will be in the heat of August, and while the cakes I have been making since I started decorating this year have held up well just sitting around at room temperature (in winter) – since I don't have A/C I think that's a bad idea for the wedding cake. Which means I'm going to have to find room in my fridge for 3 tiers.. along with all the stuff for the BBQ we are hosting the day before the wedding!

    1 agrees
    • Ooooo good luck! Be carefull if your using Fondant icing as if that goes in the fridge it can absorb water from the air then it can go shines and sticky. If using ganache style icon it can go dull. What I do in summer is if you ice it and box it up but keep it in a cool bag with out ice and just leave somewhere dark, like a cupboard under the stairs or something!
      Hope you have an awesome time

      0 agree
  10. I've been considering making my own cake. I love baking, but it seems like it could be a lot of added stress. Also, we might be getting married a few hours away from where we live, and I'd be worried about storage and transportation. Tips?

    0 agree
  11. I also made my wedding cake. I first made a cake from scratch for my mom's 50th birthday. It went over so well that I'm now THE person to make special occasion cakes in the family. Fast forward a few years and I just knew I had to make my own wedding cake. The problem was that while my cakes tasted great, they didn't always look the best.

    A few months before the event, I signed up for a weekly decorating class through the local community college. I learned how to use piping tips, how to make several versions of buttercream, and how to get the icing as smooth as possible. The very last class focused on how to assemble tiered wedding cakes.

    We had planned a very low-stress wedding…well, reception actually. (We went to the courthouse in October, but didn't have the reception until June.) Anyway, to keep things low-stress, I found that detailed planning was essential. I doodled various cake designs and researched cake size in relation to number of guests. I knew I wasn't going to be able to do anything sculpted or fancy, so I settled on simple colorful dots, leaves, and vines. There were a few birthdays before our reception and I took advantage by using those cakes as practice. I looked at the recipes and wrote out a shopping list of everything I would need. I created a timeline of tasks that included leaving time to hang out with the out-of-town friends who would be arriving the night before.

    On Wednesday I baked the cakes, cooled them, wrapped them in plastic, and stored them in the fridge. On Thursday, I made several batches of buttercream icing and crumb coated the cakes. I also separated and colored some of the icing. I used orange, hot pink, turquoise, and lime green. On Friday, I applied the final layer of icing, most of the decoration, and inserted the dowels. On Saturday (party day), I transported the cake sections to the park, put it together, and added the final decorating touches.

    It ended up being a great success! The final products were a 10" x 20" yellow cake with vanilla buttercream and a tiered mango-orange cake with cream cheese icing made up of 10" and 6" rounds.

    0 agree

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