When we re-launched the APW How-To series, one of the first things on the menu (pun intended, I am totally hilarious) was to get a How-To bake a wedding cake post. It couldn’t come from me, since my version of how to bake a wedding cake is “Find local bakeshop that will quote you something under $500. Order.” So we turned to the lovely wedding grad Vilija of Love, V. Her husband baked their (stunningly and simple) cake, and her Lazy Girls How-To is excellent (and never boring).
Baking a wedding cake is not something that we undertook lightly. When my husband told me he wanted to bake our cake I was skeptical at first, but he had the time, the baking skills, the desire and was convincing. If you are contemplating baking your own wedding cake here are some things we learned and some tips we have to make it through the process.
Start early! We cannot stress this enough. This will give you enough time to get your equipment, find a good recipe, to bake test cakes and to practice your frosting skills.
Get a good recipe – baking is science and other people have already figured it out. It is just a matter of finding a recipe you like. We highly recommend the The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book” target=”_blank”>America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. Not only is the recipe tasty, but the section dedicated to wedding cakes has instructions including a timeline, equipment and pictures that make the process less intimidating. You can determine how much cake you need using one of many online calculators. We baked a two tier cutting cake and a sheet cake for our 100 guests.
Having the proper equipment is key. Knowing that we were undertaking a wedding cake, my mother gifted us with a stand mixer. We wouldn’t have succeeded without it. Even considering in the cost of buying a stand mixer, we calculated that we still saved money by baking our own cake. Make sure to purchase and practice using your equipment. Most of our aluminum baking pans came from restaurant supply stores and were fairly inexpensive, yet high quality.
Here is a short list of supplies we found invaluable:
- Stand mixer
- Quality Aluminum pans (sheet & rounds)
- Parchment paper (save yourself the hassle & buy pre-cut rounds
- Cake boards (for storage)
- Industrial sized plastic wrap
- Cake decorating stand
- Frosting bags & tips
- Icing spatulas
- Cake display stand
Practice! We baked two test cakes. At first we thought that we wanted a chocolate cake with buttercream filling. After our second test – a yellow cake with chocolate ganache filling we quickly changed our minds. Not only should you practice baking and assembly, you should also practice freezing, thawing and assembly. One thing we would have done differently is to practice thawing our icing. The first batch we thawed on our wedding day separated because we tried to rush it in the microwave. It is also fun to practice your icing skills on test cakes to get an idea of how you might like to decorate. Purchase high quality ingredients, the devil is in the details.
One thing we learned was assembly under pressure. Ideally, we would have assembled and decorated our cake the day before the wedding to experience less stress. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the cold storage to accommodate this and were worried about transporting an assembled cake. On the morning of our wedding I was experiencing a leisurely breakfast with a friend, while my husband was assembling and frosting our cake under pressure at the reception location. This is one thing he would have changed. He was especially glad to have extra icing and filling because his first container of icing separated.
My husband proudly grins when he remembers all of the compliments he received for the cake. Some of our guests said it was the best cake they had ever tasted; his sister used the recipe for her own wedding cake. I asked him if he would ever do it again and he said yes. I also want to add, although I used the pronoun ‘we’ throughout this post, all the credit goes to my husband. He baked & I tasted.
Top photo by APW sponsor Gabriel Harber Photography.
Photo of the wedding by: In A Frame Photography