How To: Bake A Wedding Cake


How To: Bake A Wedding Cake | A Practical Wedding

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).

How To: Bake A Wedding Cake | A Practical Wedding

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.

How To: Bake A Wedding Cake | A Practical Wedding

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 How To: Bake A Wedding Cake | A Practical Wedding

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.

How To: Bake A Wedding Cake | A Practical Wedding

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.

How To: Bake A Wedding Cake | A Practical Wedding

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.

How To: Bake A Wedding Cake | A Practical Wedding


Top photo by APW sponsor Gabriel Harber Photography.

Photo of the wedding by: In A Frame Photography

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  • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

    agreed. my mom and i (emphasis on MY MOM) baked our wedding cake, and trial and error were our best friends. and really, who minds having 5 or 6 wedding cakes just lying around, needing to be eaten?

    not this girl.

    i do wonder about assembly, though. we stacked our tiers the night before and transported it to the reception hall complete. aaand it ended up being slightly leaning to one side. did anyone else find a way to do this without letting the groom sweat all morning or leaving a lopsided cake?

    • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

      A lot has to do with being very meticulous when you level, frost, and stack your cakes. The other major major thing is having structural support within the cake – every tier should have a certain number of dowel rods through it to keep the layers from sliding apart from each other. So as long as everything’s level before the dowels, the dowels will keep it level until the next day. There are tones of tutorials on that very thing all over the internet – just search for them, and you’ll be good to go.

    • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

      I think assembling and icing at the venue the night before would work, if you’re allowed. I made a huge cake for my mom’s surprise 50th (14×14 and 2 layers; it was waaaay too much!) and that mother effer was LEVEL at home. But by the time we got to the venue it was lopsided, not due to transport (Eric was a champ at holding it level during turns) but because the sun through the car window started to melt the ganache.

      I also have to second Deb at smitten kitchen’s tutorials and recipes – I used one of her recipes and her advice is awesome. I also like Rose Levembaum’s “the Cake Bible.” she also has wedding cake recipes, and the woman did a master’s degree in cake making, so is quite possibly my hero.

      • Amy

        My mom baked our wedding cake from an old family recipe. It was just a 1-tier “cutting cake” and wasn’t meant to serve more than…well us, really. But! That approach would probably work really well for people doing a cake bar (or a pie bar). It could be really nice to have a variety of different cakes for people to try at the wedding. And nice for people who (like me) are freaked out by the idea of making a tiered cake and/or large sheet cake.
        Plus, my “tasting” was when my mom brought 4 different varieties of cake to my shower for people to sample.

      • Erika

        I second Deb at Smitten Kitchen: all her cakes are great, and she has a wedding cake tutorial.

      • Vaish

        I have to agree, if you are trying to bake a wedding cake it is worth you time to read through Deb’s posts about baking a wedding cake for her friends. (http://smittenkitchen.com/category/wedding-cake/) Yes, she is amazingly talented, but she also has step by step instructions (including pictures!) and her reflections afterwards seem like they could significantly reduce the stress that comes with wondering “am I doing this right” every two seconds

    • Cat

      Cake dowels :) Just a long, thin plastic rod thing, you can either push it into the bottom layer (right through to the board) and stack the layers on top or stack your cake and push it right through, depending how dense the cake is. Then you just cut off the top and ice.

      • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

        yes, we doweled to no avail! maybe the fates were just against us.

        • http://www.kaylaearwood.com Kayla

          For a tiered cake, you really need the plastic, hollow dowels that fit into a plastic cake plate that you separate each layer with, this way they are “locked” into place.

    • Mary

      Did you try putting the wooden sticks in the cake? I think their called dowels, but not sure if I spelled it right. That should help stop a leaning cake

    • Ajayi oredolapo

      I love 2 bake and i wil like if u can teach me cos am really impressed

  • http://i-doux.blogspot.com Hannah

    This is seriously a gorgeous gorgeous cake!

  • Emily

    Terrific post. I know not everyone will want to take this step on themselves, but I love to bake so I really love the idea of doing this part myself.

    And in my opinion, America’s Test Kitchen is far and away the best resource for baking recipes of any kind. Because their recipes go through a rigorous trial and error process, they have the strict chemistry of baking down pat. I also like how they will often explain the reason for certain aspects of their recipes (like how salt brings out the sweetness in things or why baking powder and baking soda are both necessary). I recommend their recent salty thin oatmeal cookie recipe (on their website) — might be my favorite cookie recipe ever!

  • http://fromasmallstep.blogspot.com/ Kinzie Kangaroo

    Wow, I’m not even considering baking our own wedding cake, but I still loved reading this post. What a success story!

  • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

    Your other solution, if stacking and layering and tiering scares the living daylights out of you (which is what it does to me) is this: I made 8″ single layer cakes, 16 of them for 120 guests (waaayyy too much cake, but oh darn), at the beginning of the week before the wedding. No more than four a day, which meant that no one day was full of ridiculous cake baking. We wrapped and froze them (one layer of saran, two of aluminum foil) and pulled them out two days before the wedding and frosted them. Luckily, our venue, while it wouldn’t have had room for a tiered cake, had room for 16 little cakes, so we got to take them over there two days before the wedding and just forget about them. Cake boxes from a bakery or craft shop are lifesavers for transport!

    Also, if you want more specific details on freezing, thawing, good recipes to use, etc – Deb at Smitten Kitchen put together a fantastic series while she was baking a wedding cake, and she points you to some great resources along the way. Or email me, because we made four different flavors – carrot cake, chocolate stout, flourless chocolate, and vanilla buttermilk cakes with all their attendant frostings. It was fun, to say the least!

    • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

      I’m also wondering if anyone has done multiple single cakes at their wedding and how that worked out? I’ve thrown that idea around but wonder about slicing and serving (if the venue doesn’t offer that, will the guests make a giant mess when left to their own devices?). I love the idea of the table with all different flavors of cakes and think that it might be a bit easier than trying to do a layer cake that will be enough to serve the crowd?

      Thoughts?

      • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

        we had a dessert reception, so while there was THE cake, there were also multiple smaller cakes scattered around. people helped themselves after the ceremonial “cutting” and there wasn’t a huge train wreck. but part of it was having pre-sliced perforations made into each cake. i think sometimes people feel uncomfortable hacking off a big slice unless there are designated “cut here” marks. i wouldn’t worry about mess as much as people feeling weird diving in.

        • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

          I’ll ditto having pre-sliced score lines so that your guests know where to cut.

        • milka

          Hmm, I never considered the logistics of serving a selection of single layer cakes. Thanks for making me think about it. My plan is to have various family members each make a single layer cake and bring it to the venue unfrosted. We will make then frost and decorate the cakes at the venue on the day. But I hope people aren’t shy to cut into cakes! Maybe one solution would be to slice and serve a few initial pieces from each cake and set them out so that no one feels awkward making that first slice!

          • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

            We actually just asked our caterer if they’d be willing to cut and plate – while our venue people said “Oh sure, and that’ll be $2.50 per person,” our caterer slapped a $25 cake cutting fee onto our bill and plated away. So maybe look into that – it was worth the 25 bucks not to have to worry too much about cake cutting logistics.

      • Harriet

        I am going to be making three tarts and three single layer cakes for my wedding in June. We’re having a small wedding (about 60) at my parents’ home, so I don’t think slicing and serving will be as much of an issue for me, but I can report back on how it goes.

      • sophia

        I made cheesecake cupcakes because I was afraid of dealing with the logistics of cutting and serving. They worked out great (cheesecake freezes well and I thawed in the fridge the day before). I made 50 plain the week prior and 50 regular a few days prior (for 100 guests). I had a friend bake regular cupcakes and cookies also. The trial for cupcakes was simpler than a cake (I scaled it back to 12 for trials) and I tested several flavors. So cupcakes are a lazy DIY baking option if you’re into them…

        • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

          One of my good friends baked three different kinds of cupcakes for my reception and they were a hit. Definitely another great DIT option.

      • http://www.midwestlantern.typepad.com Mel

        We had three different two-layer round cakes made by an upscale grocery store. Our caterer had no problem cutting them. Our florist put some flowers on each. It was CHEAP, people – under $300 including delivery. It fed 75 people with half a cake leftover. They were small pieces, but I was told that is traditional with weddings.

      • Bee

        I have a friend who did a cake on each table as the centerpiece at her wedding, and it worked out really well. She and her husband have big families, and they borrowed cake stands and cake cutters from family members, and tied a ribbon around each stand and cutter with a cute label indicating who the piece belonged to (and the wedding date of that person, if applicable). The cakes were a big hit, and I think most people thought it was a beautiful way of honoring their families. As to the giant mess factor, it was a bit of a mess (but most especially at the kids’ tables, and my friend has said that if she were to do it over, she would have put cupcakes on a cake stand at the kids’ tables) but overall, I don’t think it was too much of a mess, and it was also nice because people got to decide how big or small of a piece they wanted.
        One of our other good friends is a baker, and so when it came to the actual baking, a bunch of us were recruited to help, and my friend the baker just sort of told us all what needed to be done, so everything seemed really calm and organized to me, but I honestly don’t have much advice for how to replicate that situation beyond befriending a baker!

      • Other Katelyn

        I officiated at a wedding where the bride and her mom coordinated maybe a dozen single cakes brought by the bridal party and good friends who were already confident bakers. The serving worked out fine, if a little hectic (“What kind of cake do you want?” “Uhh, what kind do you have?” “… there’s 12 kinds, just point to something”) but every cake was delicious and the display of cake stands was beautiful. I brought red velvet, and since baking calms me down, it really helped to have that to focus on the day before.

      • http://notsolittlethings.blogspot.com Stephanie

        We had our cake professionally made but in order to cut costs we had a small three tier and a couple of side cakes. Each tier/cake was a different flavor, though they were are decorated the same, partially because the baker was amazing and we simply couldn’t choose just one.

        Everyone loved having multiples to choose from, and especially tasting their neighbors.

    • milka

      That’s awesome. I love SK too much for my own good :) I’m also thinking of doing a carrot cake and a flourless chocolate (for GFs) so I’d be curious to hear which recipes you used, and which you’d recommend. Was the stout cake from SK? Thanks!

      • Fab

        The winning hearts and minds cake on Orangette is AMAZING and can easily be made gluten free by swapping the flour for cocoa powder!

      • http://lizprocrastinates.blogspot.com Lizzie

        If you’re interested, I can email you a recipe for an AMAZING chocolate quinoa cake. It’s been a huge hit at several family gatherings. It freezes beautifully, but even if it’s just covered and refrigerated it is still fresh and delicious after 3-5 days.

        My mom got it out of this book:
        http://www.amazon.ca/Quinoa-365-Superfood-Patricia-Green/dp/1552859940/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1295479068&sr=8-1

        It’s great with buttercream frosting, or just whipped cream and raspberries.

        Yum.

      • Ariel

        I’m baking my own cake because I have a gluten allergy, and we can’t find a baker in our area who does GF cakes.

        We’ve decided just to use Pamela’s GF chocolate cake mix, because it’s really easy and turns out well every time (even in high altitudes!), which I can’t say about every GF recipe I’ve tried. For brave amateur bakers who are attempting a gluten free cake, I’d recommend that as an easy option.

        We’ve already made a successful practice cake, and it freezes really well too.

      • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

        The recipes I used were for the light carrot cake by Cook’s Illustrated (seriously, better than their regular one – I was surprised) and the chocolate stout cake on Deb / Smitten Kitchen’s website. The flourless chocolate cake was a Cook’s Illustrated one, probably from New Best Recipe? It’s the one that calls for a half pound of butter, a pound of chocolate, and 8 eggs. That’s it. Sooo good.

        • milka

          Thanks – good to know :)

  • http://www.ohdeerio.com smallwonder

    What a beautiful cake! The cake came included with our venue (from a local bakery, yay!) but I was seriously considering baking cupcakes instead of cake before we found that out. The assembly part of layered and tiered cakes is what intimidates me. Rock on, DIY cake bakers!

  • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

    I took a cake decorating class at my local craft store (it was a Wilton class and they are offered at a bunch of places…). Ever since, I’ve wanted to do my own wedding cake, but I fear having no time or energy to take the task on the week/days leading up to the wedding.

    Anyway, the class included information on how to stack layers, my teacher gave some tips for the cake, and I totally agree with the America’s Test Kitchen cook book – we got one for Christmas and have not been disappointed with any of the recipes we’ve tried so far (the Carrot Cake was divine!)…

    This post might have just pushed me a lot closer to take this on (or delegating someone to take it on for me) for our wedding…Now, to check out the local restaurant supply store!

    • http://love-vs.blogspot.com Vilija

      We have made the carrot cake twice and had to give most of the second one away because otherwise we could have eaten the whole thing! Divine is right!

  • Mollie

    My stepmother made my cake, and I bought her the book: Wedding Cakes You Can Make by Dede Wilson.

    It was seriously a HUGE help and there are lots of practical tips, like don’t assemble the cake until you have arrived at the venue, brings lots of extra icing… etc. It turned out BEAUTIFULLY, and this was the first wedding cake she’s ever made.

    I will warn you, though:
    1) When I asked her to make the cake, I had NO IDEA how many supplies would need to be purchased, and how much time and energy she would spend in test runs. It was all worth it in the end, but PLEASE know that this is a really, really big job.

    2) If you (or they) do a really great job, you will be asked to make cakes for every event ever from there on out :-)

    3) It is really awesome to get to taste our wedding cake whenever she decides to bake for someone’e birthday, etc., so that is fun.

    • Amy

      My grandmother was the dedicated cake baker for everyone in our family, so yes, it can easily turn into a lifetime gig!

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com/ Annie

    What a lovely cake! It definitely looks professional.

    For anyone who’s a little intimidated by the wedding cake baking process, I recommend a Pittsburgh tradition (where my fiance’s from): a cookie table. Apparently the tradition is for the ladies (the bride/bridesmaids/moms/whomever) to bake a ton of cookies for people to have in addition to a standard wedding cake. We went to one wedding with a cookie table, and it was pretty awesome. Plus, they don’t have to look perfect, and variety is even better.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      Ever since I saw a New York Times article on that tradition, I have been so into the idea of a cookie table. Last year, I even tried to convince one of my engaged friends it would be an awesome idea. I love cookies! :)

      Here is the article:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/dining/16cookies.html

      • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com/ Annie

        Thanks so much for sharing the article! The more cookies, the better, I always say. ;)

    • http://colleencentral.weebly.com Colleen

      We did the cookie table thing as well as a monstrous 4 layer cake that my mom made. We were blessed that my parent’s had a humongous deep freeze, so I took a week off in July and spent 5 days straight baking and freezing cookies.We had way too many cookies, but it was so worth it.

      The cake was great and we got a lot of compliments on it, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to test your cake baking and icing skills before that day! My mom has baked numerous cakes and thought she knew what she was doing with the chocolate cake layer, but it ended up literally falling apart as she tried to ice it the Thursday night before the wedding. She ended up going home that night to make two more cakes before we iced the cake and did the flowers the next day.

      Also, if you can, pick one, either cake or flowers. Everything turned out beautifully, but I literally didn’t shower the day before my wedding until 20 minutes before the rehearsal and didn’t eat until the dinner because we were rushing to finish the cake AND the flowers.

      • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com/ Annie

        Very good point about the cake/flower dilemma! And I’m so impressed by how much baking you got done, especially considering you did a ton of it in July (when I find it difficult to bake anything considering the heat/humidity).

      • http://love-vs.blogspot.com Vilija

        We got lucky, I had my husband in charge of cake with the boys and the girls and I did flowers. I couldn’t imagine trying to juggle both, that must have been rough. I completely understand the rush and not showering and eating due to flower arranging because I was in the same boat. Thank goodness I didn’t have to worry about a cake to top it all off!

  • http://www.twitter.com/eskaybe eskaybe

    I thought long and hard about making our wedding cake, and decided against it for a couple of reasons. I have perfectionistic tendencies, and didn’t want to experience a total frustrated melt down when things didn’t look perfect on the day of the wedding. I also decided that it would cost a lot not only in ingredients, but in buying all of the proper sized cake pans to make a cake that would feed 180+ people.

    My compromise, however, was that I made the rehearsal dinner desserts. It was a great solution, because there was less pressure to have things look a certain, particular way; I was still able to show off my baking skills (peanut butter chocolate cake and espresso cheesecake!); and it gave me a good hands-on project three and four days before the wedding.

    I know others have recommended Deb’s tutorial at Smitten Kitchen – here’s the link: http://smittenkitchen.com/recipes/#Wedding

    Happy Baking, to those who take this on!

  • http://carmarblogs.blogspot.com CarMar

    Now I’m hungry for cake at 9am!

  • Sylvia

    My wonderful sister made these beauties for my wedding cake:

    http://www.sweetopia.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/hydrangea-cupcakes-peggy-porschen1-300×450.jpg

    They were beautiful (although I suspect that making the icing flowers was a bit of a massive task – I may have felt a little bit bridezilla-ish for suggesting them after she offered to make the cakes). One of my absolute favourite parts of the whole wedding was assembling the cakes together the night before with my Mum, close friends, sister and aunt while another friend and my brother in law sang and played the guitar. It was wonderful :-)

    • http://hartandsolphoto.com Maddie

      Holy moly those are gorgeous!

    • Cat

      Those are incredible! I definitely need to learn to make sugar hydrangeas now…

    • Class of 1980

      Those hydrangeas look REAL.

    • Sylvia

      Thanks ladies, they are from this book:
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cake-Chic-Peggy-Porschen/dp/1844007103/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1295532218&sr=8-1
      It’s full of beautiful (if intricate) designs.
      In the words of my sister on finishing the last of the flowers
      “So in conclusion, Peggy Porschen; beautiful cakes, bit of a jobsworth”

      With regards to the decision of whether to go for a home-made cake, I have to say that the only reason such a complex make worked out so well for us was that there were only 40 guests at the wedding – trying to make 120 of these bad boys would have probably killed my sister. Also, having a ton of people around the night before to help with the construction-line of cake assembly was essential.

      When it comes to DIT/DIY, it always comes back to the same balance – is the extra effort/stress worth it? This will obviously vary depending on how stressful you would find doing the damn thing and how much you will notice/care about the detail if it’s there (or isn’t). In this case, for us, YES it was totally worth it! These cakes were gorgeous and would have cost a lot of money to buy from a professional. As I said though, if there were going to be a lot of guests, I would have preferred a less-elaborate but very beautiful home-made cake like the one in this post or would have just bought one to save the stress.

    • margiemive

      Whoaaaa, so beautiful!

  • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

    getting the groom to make the cake has to be the best idea ever! what a pretty cake.

    my sister made our cake, it was a 3-day process leading up to the wedding (baking first day, frosting next day, decorating 3rd day – just a few hours a day). What she did for the transport was box up each layer separately for transport and then assembled/finished frosting and decorating on-site. Took her about an hour to assemble/frost our 3-tier cake, if I remember correctly. I have no idea how much her supplies cost, she refused to tell me, but I think over the course of the year she took practicing and gathering equipment, she spent a bit o money. I didn’t have much to do with it except tasting and design input, but I did learn you definitely need dowels in each layer if you want to do tiers. and the internet can pretty much teach you how to do anything.

  • Jessilane

    My sister, mother and I have made the wedding cakes, cup cakes and deserts for the wedding of several cousins over the years.

    As mentioned already, definitely make at least one or two full on test cakes. You definitely need a stand mixer; if you can afford the good one (you know which one I mean) get it. And if you are successful, you WILL be doing it again.

    You definitely need prepare and take an on site an emergency repair kit. You never know what will happen, so have back up cake (you may need to graft on an appendage), icing, decorations, supplies, etc. etc.

    For those who want tiers but are intimidated by actually doing tiers (or can’t do them on site), there are cake stands that give the effect without the stress. We used one for a wedding that was out in a field, and therefore had little to no prep space. It was a life saver and was really pretty (we covered in ivy which really gave a nice effect).

    Also for those with outside weddings even though fondant can be a pain (definitely practice this one ahead of time!) it doesn’t melt like buttercream will and can be very helpful. There are fondants that are in fact yummy and then there are some that taste like yuck…taste testing is essential!

    Fresh cut flowers can be really nice toppers without having to have a lot of talent…just make sure the ones you choose aren’t poisonous–definitely look that shit up.

    Finally I will add that this can be a lot of fun. We always come out with great stories. The first cake we did was a riot and included teaching my mother how to drop the f-bomb, which she proceeded to drop for the very, very first time just as my cousins grandmother (the wife of a minister) happened to walk in the kitchen to inquire whether we were hungry and did we want any finger sandwiches. I would have killed for video.

  • http://hartandsolphoto.com Maddie

    While I didn’t make our wedding cake, I did have the pleasure of baking a three-tiered fondant-covered “British Invasion” cake for my grandmother’s 70th birthday and boy was that a learning experience! A few tips if, like me, you’re a lazy person who likes to cut corners without penalty:

    I hate cake made from scratch and honestly prefer the taste and ease of boxed cake (duncan hines devils food, omg). You can totally make structurally sound cake from a box! Just add an extra egg to the ingredients indicated on the box.

    If you plan to make your own fondant, marshmallow fondant is about the easiest thing to make on the planet. All you need are mini marshmallows, confectioners sugar and water and it tastes way better than the store bought stuff and is easier to manipulate.

    But yes, seriously, plan ahead. I am no longer permitted to make “project” cakes anymore because my husband fears the ugly baker in me (I didn’t sleep for three days and made him drive a fully assembled in the front seat of our car for the 4 hour trip to Maine while I snuggled in the back with our dog. He still has nightmares).

    Good luck on your confectionary endeavors!

  • Marley

    Thank you for this How-To!!!
    I’ve been toying with the idea of my fiance and I baking for the reception. Right now I’m thinking that we’ll do cupcakes and a small cake for cutting just because cupcakes are looking more prep ahead of time friendly, but the thought of transporting 100 or so cupcakes without them all falling over hurts my head.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      We transported maybe 200 cupcakes inside covered boxes and then iced at the venue. Worked great! :)

      • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

        yeah, we used like cardboard shirt gift boxes. the icing melted in a box accidentally left too close to the care heater. whoops.

    • Cat

      Tupperware (or in my case, generic dollar store tupperware knock off brand) make cupcake carriers, those things are awesome. Mine hold two dozen and I think I paid about $10 each.

      • Marley

        Thanks! I had not thought to look there, but the dollar store is awesome!

  • Other Katelyn

    Molly Wizenberg (a Seattle writer who blogs at Orangette) did her own wedding cakes, and her no-icing-required chocolate cakes looked really good: Plus, no dowels needed. http://orangette.blogspot.com/2007/07/all-so-pretty.html

    A quote: “For all the heart and emotion wrapped up in a wedding, planning it is essentially a cerebral exercise – a bunch of enormous, unwieldy ideas jostling one another, racing to be made real. Baking and brining, on the other hand, are wholly, heavenly tangible. They’re slow. They’re messy. They’re slippery and sticky. They make a girl feel like an honest-to-goodness human being – which feels a lot better, in my opinion, than being a bride.”

    • http://linseykitchens.wordpress.com Linsey

      Yep, this is the Winning Hearts and Minds cake and I suggest you do a gazillion test runs–though you won’t need them with this beaut–just so you can eat all that chocolate goodness. De-li-sh!

      Somehow, last time we commented about this cake, we went hog wild and then I made three of these cakes in a row. Hello, wedding dress…I’d love to fit into you some day–

  • http://www.smallchichome.com/ Jeannine @ Small & Chic Home

    I just had to comment on your stand mixer…about a year ago, <a href="http://www.smallchichome.com/2010/10/giving-up-on-icon.html&quot;.I sold my Kitchen Aid mixer, the one everyone raves over, that I got when I was a junior in college. I got the Cuisinart mixer that you two have and I LOVE it! What a fantastic machine…far better than my Kitchen Aid!

    I admire your cake baking skills. While I’m great at pastry and cookies, I don’t have your talent when it comes to making cakes!

  • Cat

    Mud cakes make for great weddings cakes (I say that like I’m a total professional. I’ve baked many a birthday/engagement cake but only one wedding cake that was totally flying by the seat of my pants). They don’t seem to be as popular in the US as here, but they’re very dense so they stack well and hold the weight of a cake topper no problems. Since they’re so moist you can make them a day or two in advance without having to freeze too. I baked four 20″ cakes the night before the wedding then iced and decorated the morning of.

    (Photos here, as I’m completely vain: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2022372&id=208000062&l=4d58f3c80f)

    I definitely second the person above who suggested box mixes, they’re almost foolproof and save so much time.

  • http://notsolittlethings.blogspot.com Stephanie

    My sister made the cake for a friends wedding that was held in her church reception hall. Not only can my sister bake like a mofo, she can decorate like one too. My friend wanted California poppies on the cake, but since they are the state flower you can’t pick them and even if you could they are wild so they will wilt in 2 seconds flat. So my sister made them out of gumpaste – and let me tell you they were gorgeous. There was only one baker in the state that made them at the time and she generously gave us tips, but even she was impressed!

    But here were the two big things we learned:
    1. Transport them still slightly frozen with their crumb layer in the flat bed of an SUV. Do not try to balance them on laps. They got to the venue in one piece but it was stressful for all involved.

    2. If you made a tiered cake and non-bakers/caterers are in the room and being helpful, do not – I repeat, DO NOT – let them attempt to cut the cake. Most people don’t know the architecture that is involved in a tiered cake. We figured the church ladies had been around the block enough to know there was plastic and cardboard in there holding it up. They didn’t. So while we strained our backs and our nerves carrying the cake out, you have never seen two girls move so fast running to save the cake and scurry it into the back (without toppling over) to be cut for serving.

  • Class of 1980

    Wow, that is some serious chocolate ganache going on in there! Delicious.

  • http://www.kaylaearwood.com Kayla

    My mother and I baked my wedding cake, it was a traditional three tiered round cake but was in my favorite flavor..italian cream cheese! I must say, this was one of the easiest DIT things that we did and I was afraid that it was going to be a nightmare. (I think I need to preface that statement by saying that I come from a family of bakers, no professional bakers but it’s definitely our hobby. My mother and I generally bake around 6 three-layer cakes for each holiday for all the different family events.)

    **If you are not used to baking cakes I would not at all recommend baking your wedding cake because it can be a lot of work, a lot of stress, and you’ve only got one chance to make it right.

    That being said, we did some research, talked to my grandmother who baked my mothers wedding cake and others as well and decided to go for it. We started about three weeks ahead, baked all of the layers (I think it came out to be 10 individual layers – 4, 10in rounds, 3, 8in rounds, and 3, 6in rounds), made enough icing for the crumb coat and assembled each tier. A crumb coat is a very thin layer of icing that seals the cake and allows you to put the final layer of icing on without fear of having crumbs show through. We put each tier on a cardboard round, stuck four plastic, hollow dowels into each layer, wrapped it in saran wrap several times and froze it.

    The day before the wedding, we took each tier out to thaw and made the rest of the icing. We transported them to the venue, still partially frozen along with the icing, which we refrigerated over night. The morning of the wedding, my mother unwrapped each tier, used corn syrup to stick the bottom of the cardboard round to the plastic cake support and snapped the support into the dowels, thus assembling the cake. She then iced the cake in place.

    To me, the best advice is to freeze your cake in tiers, not just single layers as it will be much faster to assemble at the reception venue and with a lot less chance of tilting. Also, unless you have lots of experience with fondant, I would suggest going with old fashioned icing. Fondant can be a pain in the butt and definitely something that would have upped the stress level substantially.

  • http://itheebake.wordpress.com Alba

    OMG I love this post so much!! I am in the process of learning how to bake my own wedding cake.
    I am planning on making it together with my mom and my sister a couple of days before the wedding day, on the day before we will decorate and on the same day we will assemble it.
    I am keeping it simple, though, and baking two tier cakes at the most. I am planning one high (ish) one, and 7 others.
    Sometimes I think I am crazy and most times I have anxiety dreams about it, but this post makes it sound so much more doable! Thanks so much!

    • http://love-vs.blogspot.com Vilija

      Remember, you can do the baking up to two weeks in advance and freeze them! This will simplify the process even more. We baked our cakes a week in advance and froze them until the day before the wedding.

  • Rachel

    I’m a pastry chef, so I want to add some cheap notes to this:

    You don’t have to bother with an expensive cake stand if you can find a lazy Susan. IKEA sells nice wooden ones that do the same job for less than $20.

    Also, when decorating your base layer on your final base, put some torn up pieces of parchment underneath the cake sticking out 2-3″ before you put the layer down. When you’re done icing, you can just take the parchment out, leaving you with a nice, clean base. Saves you 15-20 minutes of clean-up!

    If you’re making a multiple-layer cake, keep your layers on their cardboard rounds. Use grilling skewers cut to the height of each layer to support the weight of the cake. Your cake will get very heavy very quickly, and it can sink into itself if it doesn’t have some help.

    Finally, if you’re using Italian buttercream (buttercream with cooked meringue), don’t refrigerate your final product. You can refrigerate your cake after your crumb layer (very thin meant to hold the crumbs away from the surface of the decorative layer), but the buttercream will dry out and/or sweat during and after refrigeration.

    Best of luck! Let me know if you need help!

    • Class of 1980

      Rachel,

      Thank God pastry chefs like you exist on the planet. I love wedding cakes – to look at and eat … but I am certain I will never make one for love nor money.

      LOL

      This post made me want cake for breakfast! The Cake Angels must have had sympathy for me. This afternoon I discovered a Cupcake Shop just opened up in my town.

  • http://emilys22.wordpress.com emilyrose

    Though I love baking, I am totally terrified by even the idea of attempting this.. we’re hiring a friend’s-mom-who-happens-to-bake-wedding-cakes (lucky, I know). Just wanted to give a little shout out to all you peeps out there who are actually doing this. I am thoroughly impressed. Your guests will undoubtedly taste the love.

    Also, that cake is gorgeous. Literally exactly what I hope ours will look like.

    Also, this whole post & comment series are making me want cake SO BAD.

  • Margaret M.

    We (by we I mean, my dad and my uncle) baked 10 pound cakes for our wedding. Wedding cake doesn’t have to look like Wedding Cake!

    Here’s how it looked: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/6N1halr10im9mZ8djDj9Ng?feat=directlink

    I only wish I could share how it tasted! (Hint: like butter and sugar and loooove.)

    • Class of 1980

      I LOVE pound cake. Especially if it’s lemon.

    • http://bride-sans-tulle.blogspot.com Sharon

      Looks delicious!

      (I also have to admit that I first read that as “baked A 10 POUND CAKE” and went, “Holy shit, that’s amazing!” :D)

    • Christin

      I definitely read that as “cakes that weighed ten pounds” the first time. Astonishing! :D

      • margiemive

        AHAHA no!! Oh dear, that would be a project. Although that’s a good example of leading readers down the garden path.

  • Ariel

    Thank you for this post!

  • Starling

    The wedding cake thing isn’t so bad, although I don’t think I’ll try fondant again–too much hassle, too little reward IMHO. I made cakes for two sisters and a friend of the family, each one serving around 200. I strongly recommend finding a cake recipe that freezes gracefully and doesn’t crumb at all. Also, using straws instead of dowels is really a great idea. They’re colorful (easy to see) and they don’t leave any splinters. Also, you can send someone to the closest gas station to get the long straws if you run out in medias res. And you can cut them to height after you put them in, which is much better than the dowel thing. I believe the straw idea originated with Rose Levy Beranbaum, whose Cake Bible is awesome, particularly for figuring out servings.

    For my wedding (late April), I’m going to use the lemon-blackberry-rose jelly pound cake in the Gourmet cookbook, since it works like a dream and tastes AMAZING. And–the most important part–I’m going to make the cakes, freeze them, and haul everything over to a woman I know who does amateur decorating. We’ll pay her $75 or so to actually assemble the damned thing, so I don’t have to think about it. The cake uses cream cheese frosting and fresh blackberries, so it’s a bit too delicate to assemble the day before. (The blackberries would get all gross, for one thing.) This way, I have the cake I want and no one has to work on it the day of the event.

    • Jo from Reno

      Holy COW!!! lemon blackberry rose jelly? That sounds so gorgeous and oh-my-God delicious. I used to have a rose geranium plant and we experimented making pound cake with the leaves at the bottom of the pan – and it rocked!!!!! Do you have a link to the recipe, or can you tell me what month it was published?

  • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

    We baked our own wedding cake. Well, we baked half of it, and picked up a second cake tier from a local bakery for about $70.
    Both cakes were divine and got a lot of compliments – even if they really didnt go together at all! (White chocolate mud with white chocolate ganache on top of black doris plum chocolate mud with chocolate icing and coconut trim)
    They looked hilarious but tasted fantastic – and to us, that was the most important thing, that they tasted good! Because we made it ourselves and they were never going to be beautiful, they werent a centrepiece item…

    Most of all, my top piece of advice: If you dont enjoy baking normally, just DONT do it!
    And my second: wooden dowels cut to size will help hold the top layer (on its stand) up if your bottom layer ends up a bit soft. We didnt need them (thank goodness, since we didnt even know how tall our bottom layer was till the day before the wedding!), but my BM had used them to help construct a cake at a previous wedding she had been to :)

  • http://linseykitchens.wordpress.com Linsey

    Vilija, I am laughing, laughing at this: “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.”

    I use the pronoun “we” all the time, but really just mean my honey. As in “We need to fix the radiator on the Volvo.” Clearly I mean You, and so my man and I laugh and laugh about this. I’m going to read him your line so he knows it’s not just me! He he!

    • http://love-vs.blogspot.com Vilija

      When I had my husband proofread the final draft he stopped right before that line, looked at me and said, “Hey! What’s with all of this ‘we’ business?” I told him to keep reading… I hope your husband gets a good laugh out of it.

  • http://linseykitchens.wordpress.com Linsey

    Somehow that bugger posted before I had a chance to ask–what is that other deliciousness to the left of your cake in the cutting picture? Is it edible, or is that my stomach turning styrofoam into food? (Wouldn’t be the first time–)

    • http://love-vs.blogspot.com Vilija

      The deliciousness to the left of our cake is a traditional Lithuanian wedding cake. It’s called a Raguolis and it is especially tasty. Here’s a link with more details:

      http://racinebakery.com/rbBakery_6.html

  • Darcy

    My Mom lovingly made 14 dozen of our family’s favourite cookies and squares and kept them in the freezer until the day before the wedding. We bought some 3 tiered trays from the grocery store and used them as both our dessert and centrepieces. Our venue didn’t charge us extra for bringing in outside food because of the centrepiece loophole.

    Another friend of mine made fruitcake 6 months before the wedding for her cake. All she needed to do was to marinate it every few weeks until she found a baker who agreed to do the marzipan icing and assembling right before the wedding. It was awesome!

  • Cindy

    I am avid baker (read: total cake snob) and persuaded my wife to let me make our wedding cake for a few reasons. One – I hate fondant. Two – wedding cakes are f-ing expensive, and we wanted to use our food budget on dinner. Three – We both hate most frostings, and were adamant that the cake must TASTE DELICIOUS. (and look good, if possible.) Four – we wanted the cake to be super-fresh, not made a week ago and hanging out in the bakery freezer since.

    It is a HUGE undertaking. If you aren’t already a baker, DO NOT DO IT. (But do ask your crazy-baker friends if they are interested.) I did a test cake about 6 months before our wedding (conveniently, my theater company was producing Brecht’s play “The Wedding” so it was a great opening night party item.) So glad I did that – discovered that my (our) favorite flavor was not devil’s food with mocha whipped cream, but pumpkin with ginger buttercream… and therefore made that the bottom/biggest layer in the final cake (the third/smallest was white-almond cake with berry-pastry cream filling.)

    Start to finish the cake took about 10 hours. My best friend (best person) and my little sister helped (fed me, tasted several batches of frosting, ran to the store, twice, when I ran out of butter. that’s right) and I even managed to let up on my control freak tendencies for long enough that my best friend could try her hand at the fancy icing (underneath the strawberries on top, just in case). Here’s how it turned out:

    http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/a7-uzLNRpc0-35vkb3gM7EIfyPQpZl3DkzkIF9APiCk?feat=directlink

    A lot of people have mentioned freezing cake so it can be made well in advance, and assembling at the venue, but we did neither of those. As mentioned, we wanted it to be really fresh and also due to my choice of icing (my personal bastardization of French/Italian/Swiss Buttercreams) it couldn’t really be frozen anyway. I suppose I could have assembled at the venue, but I knew they wouldn’t really have a good space for me to do that, plus I wanted to be able to use their ample walk-in fridge space to keep it from melting overnight – our wedding was in July.

    So — I put wooden dowels in each layer before stacking the next on, and I *should* have put one long one through all 3 to keep it from shifting on the 5 block car ride over… but I was feeling really good about it, and also exhausted, so I didn’t… and of course it fell over in the box. Oh well, zen-wedding-me took over (from 2pm I-need-to-rebake-this-layer-because-it’s-uneven-me) and found it to be completely hilarious at 10:30pm.

    I shrugged it off, planned to bring some frosting and fix it on the way to the wedding and get some extra-awesome photos, but on the day of I still thought it was funny and totally loved my somewhat smooshed but amazingly delicious cake!

    (And made my photographer get a great shot of the damage: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/Kopv9wfiAoECN39gExfNoEIfyPQpZl3DkzkIF9APiCk?feat=directlink)

  • http://thinkingwedding.blogspot.com Rhiannon

    Oh my.

    I keep reading this post and feeling hungry.

    Hungry for cake.

  • Kate

    If you want to make your own cake (or get someone who loves you to make it for you!) I think you shouldn’t be afraid to think beyond fondant, icing and tiers. I made one cake, for cutting, and then placed it on the dessert buffet where those who were adamant about eating cake, did (there were tarts and lemon ricotta squares and lots of other goodies too).

    It was coconut cream chiffon cake, which I made the night before (total effort: ten minutes), and just before serving two trusty friends were delegated to take it out of the fridge and decorate it, which just involved putting heaps of cherries on and around it, and sieving icing sugar over the whole thing (total effort: five minutes).

    It was beautiful, delicious, stressfree, and I got the satisfaction of making my own cake.

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  • Kristin

    I work in a bakery, and we use a different icing than the traditional buttercreams. We can it a “homestyle” buttercream, but it is just a simple powdered sugar and butter and vanilla (or chocolate) icing, and it holds up quite well for cakes. You can make large batches of it, and as long as there isn’t too much heat, it stays stable (we freeze frosted cakes all the time, and it works very well. One could even assemble the frosted individual layers, and just add your borders when you assemble the whole cake. Of course, use dowels and cake boards. We always transport our cakes assembled–use some of that non-stick rug pad stuff, and use the back of an SUV or car with a hatch (trunks can be tricky). Don’t have someone keep it on their lap, since its too easy for buttons, sleeves, hair, etc. to dent your cake.

    Note about serving a fondant covered cake: Fondant is really tricky to cut without smooshing the cake underneath, so often times, you need to “peel” the fondant layer off to actually get your slices. Lots of mess and your slices won’t look like your original cake.

    We have a few flavors of cake that we don’t use to tier with, unless it is the top layer. Carrot is one of them, because the carrots actually make the cake less cohesive. Keep that in mind when planning flavors.

    For decoration, flowers, fruit and greenery are the easiest things to use to make a beautiful cake for an inexperienced decorator, but you can buy georgous gumpaste (hard candy) flowers from cake supply stores. Even those hydrangea mentioned above I’ve seen in catalogues. Or you can purchase just icing flowers from a professional bakery. Just freeze until ready to use.

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  • natasha

    Hi there,

    very informative piece of writing.

    I need a little help if anyone can help me, i want to know, that how do i come to know that a recipe i am following will yield a 2 pound or a 3pound cake? how can i measure it?

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  • Kelli

    I am so glad to see this post!

    I am baking my own wedding cake and people seriously think I am delusional. Like I don’t know what I am getting myself into, despite the fact that I was a professional cake decorator for six years. Yes, I realize the days leading up to my wedding will be hectic and crazy. No, I haven’t actually baked a wedding cake before (that was the baker’s job) but I’ve been practicing my recipe (Spicy Adobe Chipotle Chocolate) and I know all about icing, decorating, and structurally supporting my cake.

    Wedding cakes are so iconic in American weddings that people are in awe of them. I say if you want to do it, go for it! Do your homework, practice, and have fun with it. Trust me, it’s much more nerve racking to make a cake for a perfectionist bride paying top dollar than for yourself. If it’s slightly off kilter, or not the exact shade of ivory – who’s going to yell you? Your guests will love it because YOU made if for THEM and that is a gift.

  • Pingback: Let’s Talk About Cake | The Self-Catered Wedding

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  • atticwindow

    My soon-to-be-husband and I are baking our own cake for our wedding, and through a happy accident of running out of vanilla extract, discovered that you can use other flavors of extract to make differently flavored buttercream frosting – our resulting almond frosting was delicious with our triple chocolate practice cake!

  • Katebaking

    Baking has become so popular that I think a lot of people bake their own or turn to friends/family and local small businesses for their wedding cakes. Unfortunately they are not cheap and the time it takes even to make your own shows you just what goes into making a wedding a cake. Something I don’t always think people appreciate until they do it for themselves. But if you love what you do it’s worth it. A handy pro hint would be to use http://www.bakingit.com, their calculators are a great tool for working out the logistics of any cake project. I’m a fan of the “cake slicer” app as I can take it with me to show customers what they get for their cake.

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