How To: A Trio of Grocery Store Wedding Cakes

turning grocery store cakes into wedding cakes

Sometimes you want to do something slightly non-traditional for your wedding. Maybe it’s to save money or maybe it’s to make things simpler. You tell your mom/sister/best friend/mother-in-law your fabulous idea, and a grim look passes over their face, and then they shut it down. “No way,” they say, “It’ll never work. It will look terrible.” Well, this post is for those of you who want to buy grocery store cakes for your wedding cake. (Because there has to be a happy medium between buying a fancy cake and making one from scratch, right? Right?!) Bookmark this, and instead of explaining your idea to your mama, show it to her.

Last week we showed you how to turn a dubiously decorated grocery store sheet cake into a hip wedding cake, because let’s be for real: not every town has fancy gourmet grocery stores (we then endured enjoyed the great cake controversy of 2013). But should you find yourself in the land of the fancy grocery stores, know that they are the untapped magic land of affordable cake. We got our cakes at Whole Foods (who will decorate cakes for you with just forty-eight hours notice and have quite the menu). For this tutorial, we assumed that you had to work with what was in the cake display. I picked (in photographic order) a Tiramisu cake, a Chantilly cake, and a Strawberry cake, because the sides of each one had an interesting texture or pattern that helped take a little pressure off when it came to decorating. In retrospect I would have picked all Chantilly cakes because PUT IT IN MY MOUTH SO GOOD DEAR GOD. Whole Foods claims that each of these cakes serves ten to twelve people, but I want to clarify that would be ten to twelve people with enormous stomach aches, because these three layer cakes are huge. No one on set managed to eat more than a very thin slice, and we all love to eat. I’d say these three cakes would pretty easily feed sixty, and that Whole Foods is out of their minds.

The keys to this tutorial are this:

  • If you want a cake to look fancy, put it on a cake stand.
  • If you want three different cakes to look fancy, put them on matching (or coordinating) cake stands.
  • If you put flowers on a cake it looks all wedding-y.
  • Mmmmm cake.

If you want to replicate the cakes below exactly, you’ll need the following spring flowers:

  • Purple Stock
  • Two Pink Garden Roses
  • Hanging Amaranthus
  • Sweet Pea
  • Pink Peony
  • Yellow Garden Freesia

Once you remove the extra frosting, fruit, and decorations from the top of each cake, eat it, and smooth as necessary—you can affix your flowers. We played around until we found the right balance, but as a general tip, putting a few smaller flowers underneath one of the big flowers is basically what takes it from looking like, “Oh hey, that’s a flower on a cake” to “Oh heyyyy look at that pretty cake with the flowers on it!”

Then serve and eat. Your mama won’t know what hit her.

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Photos: Allison Andres / Flowers: Belle-Flower 

How To Make A Grocery Store Wedding Bouquet

How To Make A Wedding Cake

How to Self-DJ Your Wedding

How To Set Up and Break Down Your Wedding

And the whole APW How To section

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  • Ellen

    This is FANTASTIC. I am totally trying this with the Costco All-American Chocolate Cake that I bought over the weekend inspired by last week’s post. I have been trying to convince my family that just because a cake isn’t made as a wedding cake doesn’t mean it can’t be a wedding cake! This might just do it. Thanks APW! YOU WIN AGAIN.

    • Emmers

      And the matching cake stand thought is helpful. Totally makes sense, and totally something I wouldn’t have thought of w/o tutorial.

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        Yes! And excuse to buy cakestands which I’ll reuse vs cake that is more expensive. I like this plan.

      • Kestrel

        Even better if you’re serving 3 cakes, try to find cake stands at three different heights. It will add visual interest and look really fancy!

        • JEM

          Or you can put the cake stands up ON something (even a box under the table linen!) for extra wow factor.

  • Moe

    So lovely and pretty!! Go ahead and troll this, I dare you.

  • Katy

    Love it!! Will definitely be trying this myself :)

    Downside (or maybe upside?): Now I really want to eat some cake!

    • B

      I’m sitting here eating the apple from my lunch and hating that it’s not cake.

  • Nashville

    Holy shizz pretty cakes! I mean wedding cakes just… Gah! Now I want grocery store cakes!

  • LOVE LOVE LOVE this if I hadn’t just ordered my cake (and if TeacherMan didn’t have his heart set on a specific bakery) I would do this in a heartbeat!

  • Catcat

    I just got caught up on this Great Cake Controversy and I am … flabbergasted. Seriously, who are these people who go to a wedding and only remember the cake? At our (awesome) wedding in April, we literally called a bakery, ordered two medium sized cakes of different flavors, sent them to the caterer sight-unseen and said, “Put these out with dessert.” Guess what? Everyone ate the cake, everyone enjoyed the cake because it was delicious, and our wedding/marriage was not ruined. Success!

    However, if I’d had the time to do this self-decoration, I TOTALLY WOULD HAVE because this is 100% fantastic. I especially love Cake B with the giant flower. So pretty, so practical, so wonderful. I love it!

    • meg

      I mean, I love me some cake. I super love me some fancy ass tasty cake. But I don’t even KNOW what kind of shitty friend I’d be if that was all I remembered about your wedding.

  • These look great! For someone trying to find the flowers in this post to recreate the look, the purple flower is spelled stock, not stalk, btw. :) (And it smells like cloves! One of my favorites.)

  • Class of 1980

    Why does my work life not involve cake? ;)

    These look good. I guess it goes without saying that you can pre-order any cake as plain as possible in order to put your own stamp on it without having to remove anything first.

  • KC

    And again: to brides doing this, please check online and choose non-toxic flowers and non-sprayed if possible (’cause floral pesticides aren’t the same as food pesticides).

    Alternate options for the same general idea: you can buy sugar flowers, you can stick bows or puffs on top of cakes, you can add fruit, sparkly confetti sprinkles, etc. Always have a bit more decoration material available than you think you need in case of mishaps, though, since elbows sometimes meet cakes accidentally.

    Also, I bet that you could take basically any fancy cake with enough space on top, leave the all decorations and frosting in place, plop an appropriately-sized bride-and-groom figurine on the space on top (on a little platform if the decorations are tall-ish rather than flat-ish), put that cake on a slightly higher cake stand, and surround it with identical cakes on shorter cake stands.

  • Lauren

    So, on the original cake post, my thoughts were:
    “Wow, that is a hideous cake.”
    “Wow, Meg and the team really improved on a hideous cake. But it is still not my style.”
    “I can’t understand Cakemageddon, but that cake was pretty rough.”

    Now that I see this tutorial my thoughts are:
    “Wow, those are nice cakes!”
    “Wow, Meg and the team really imrpoved on those lovely cakes. They look scrumptious!”
    “I WANT CAKE.”

    • Kate

      YES! This was my EXACT thought process!

    • meg

      It’s funny. It’s all taste (rim shot). These cakes tasted better. I VASTLY prefer the previous cake in style.

  • Hannah K

    reading these posts just makes me want to buy any old cake and COVER IT in edible glitter for my private viewing/eating pleasure. ahahahaha!!! wonderful.

    • Blimunda

      You should do it, and wear your best formal jewelry as you eat it in your pajamas :)

  • Now I want cake. I have wedding cake left in the fridge at home. Problem: cake is at home, I am not.

    Solution: cake for dinner.

    ETA: and those are gorgeous :-). I love the colors!

    • Aw, man. That’s how I’m feeling right now. I made some carrot cake this weekend (from a box, don’t judge me) and I wish it was on a plate in front of me right now.

    • Ah, leftover wedding cake. I’ve heard about brides who have post-wedding let-down, which wasn’t me at all. (Yay, that was great and thank God it’s over and we never have to do it again!) But the day the leftover cake was gone, well that was a sad day indeed.

  • Emmy

    Thank you for these tutorials! I’m making our wedding cake, but it’s good to know that if those three tiers get the best of me, we have a viable back-up plan.

  • These are so pretty. I have never had much emotional energy to spare over wedding cake – it’s pretty, and nice, but not a priority for me, I guess. Actually, what I really want is wedding pie, made by our moms, because they make the best pie. But for the cake lovers in my circle, this is totally what I plan to do.

    • Breezy

      My partner and I are pie people too. For our wedding, we ordered pies from our favorite pie baker, Big Skye Bakers. I know this is a thread on cake decorating, but I thought I would share some photos of the pies they made us. There was serious pie prettiness going on (and we ordered them because they taste fantastic!) that is totally DITable:

    • Rachel

      I have never cared much for looking at wedding cakes either…until I did. Like a month ago, when I realized that we were definitely having cake, it hit. Now I freaking love looking at pictures of cake!

      But your wedding pie sounds amazing. <3

  • Rachel

    You’ve done it again! So adorable!!

  • Samantha

    I was at Whole Foods yesterday to order a cake for my birthday. I saw there sign mentioning they do wedding cakes, and I thought about how how awesome that would be. There huge 9″ delicous layer cakes were $30… I wanted a deconstructed non-weddingy cake anyway, so depending on the quote from the baker, I might just go the Whole Foods cake route. And um, I ordered smores cake for my birthday Saturday. Yum!

    • LikelyLaura

      Happy Early Birthday!

      • Samantha


  • Teresa

    I LOVE that you did this! Here are my thoughts on wedding-ish cake:

    1 – Is having a “cutting the cake” photo really important to you?

    If yes – then make your cake look awesome. But don’t spend a lot doing it (see above).

    If no – then serve cheesecake and chocolate cake from Costco to your wedding guests. It’s 1/4 of the price, and tastes so delicious!!! No one will notice that you didn’t cut the cake, or who cut the cake, because their mind is blown with how delicious the Costco bakery cakes are.

    • meg

      The cake cutting photo was our most important photo (for my side of the family). We cut it with my grandfathers Marine Corps saber, which is family tradition. Because of that, we had a big cake. You can’t cut into some scrawny cake with a 30″ saber. Nuh-uh. Had we used a regular knife, however, we would have done this.

      • Class of 1980

        This is one tradition I never tire of … I love cake cutting photos.

        I guess because it’s so symbolic and joyful.

      • Amber Dawn

        Cutting a cake with a SABER?! :D That is the coolest cake-cutting tradition I’ve ever heard!

  • All I have to say is:

    Why must you post delicious cakes in the middle of the afternoon, right when I’m starting to get hungry again from lunch? And I’m still at work, so there is no cake to be found?

    This is torture, torture I say!

  • APW shoots look like so much damn fun. Also, mmmmmmcaaaaaaakkkkke.

  • We already have a baker lined up for our wedding cake, but this definitely gives me ideas for other special occasion cakes when I just don’t feel up to baking.

    But I must say, this is so not fair. Not only do these beautiful cakes make me want cake like everyone else, but it has been storming off and on all day, so going to the store is not an option AND I can’t check back constantly to see if the Great Cake Controversy II is happening. Now I need to decide if making cookie dough truffles is worth the mess they will make in the kitchen.

  • Abby Mae

    I’m having an internal struggle with myself over these gorgeous and yummy looking cakes!

    Should I or should I not try to attempt these for my wedding this Friday? I wish this was posted sooner so I could have worked out some time for myself to arrange these this week. Oh well.

    However, this is a great How-To for any type of party, really! So, thanks Meg!

    • meg

      I normally don’t say this on how to projects. But you can do this for your wedding on Friday. The tutorial probably makes it look more complicated than it even is (and the tutorial makes it look easy).

      • nony-mouse

        Actually this discussion brings up a good point—when is the ideal time to do this? Two days before? more? How long does a cake even last? And if you do it several days in advance, should you freeze it, refrigerate it, or neither?

        As you can probably tell, the lifespan of a cake in my house is typically around 3 hours or less. I’ve never kept one overnight before.

        • LMN

          Hi, Non-Mousy–avid amateur baker here. If there are professionals on the scene, or you find other info on the internet, please feel free to contradict me. :) I don’t have any experience with freezing cakes, but I have made lots of layer cakes cake cupcakes in advance for events. I think, the fresher the better, so I try to make them no farther out than 1-2 days before (then I fill/frost/decorate them the day of, unless they have to arrive crazy early in the morning).

          Whether you should refrigerate a cake or not really depends on the cake and the filling/frosting and on how hot the weather is where you are. Some frostings completely collapse in the heat and do better chilled; some fillings may need to be chilled for health reasons (if it’s a mousse with eggs in it, for example). Others will be fine at room temp. The bakery where you buy it or the recipe you make it from can tell you what to do for any given cake/filling/frosting.

          In my experience, the most important part is keeping the cake from drying out. No one likes dry cake! Or dry frosting. Invest in a few airtight cake savers; they’ll keep cakes from drying out on the counter and especially in the fridge. As a bonus, they make transporting much easier and less nerve-wracking.

          I recommend this cheapo round one by Sterilite and this more expensive (but so versatile!) rectangular 3-in-1 Cake Caddy from Wilton:
 (I’ve found this one for under $10 at Target)

          Happy experimenting!

          • Rachel

            My follow up question to this is: how do you transfer the cake from the transport container to the cake stand without it all falling apart? Any tips?

          • I love cake

            Rachel, I can’t reply to you, but re: moving it, if it comes from Whole Foods or another store that is a step above an average grocery store, it is probably on a round piece of cardboard that has a nice edge and sticks out an inch or more beyond the cake allowing you to pick it up and move it. Check that this piece of cardboard (cake round) is there and it will be smooth sailing.

          • Maddie

            Yes, if you look closely you’ll see our cakes are all on a gold support piece that came with the cake!

        • When I was a pasty chef assistant we froze all our cakes. It locks in moisture. When I decorate (mostly for birthdays) a cake with flowers I do it day of. Usually within a coule hours.
          An air tight cake saver is pretty crucial if you intend to buy cakes before the big day. Now if you freeze it with frosting on it may be a bit unpredictable as to how it defrosts. I’ve lightly dabbed the cake with a paper towel before to help with that. Just don’t blot too hard so you don’t leave indentations or marks. If you do, go get some sliced almonds and you can cover the side of the cake with those!
          Cake round are essential! And lovely. Generally the baker or decorator will put frosting on the cake round before setting the first layer on it. This helps keep the cake in place and prevents it from slipping around too much. I personally transport my cakes on a round and then in the air tight cake saver to parties.

          Super great advice from LMN.


  • Erin

    I love, love, love that you are posting these tutorials. Growing up with a Mom who was a professional cake decorator I can remember watching her put together beautiful creations for many a bride. But when it came time for our own wedding, I:
    (a) didn’t want her having to spend her day worrying about a cake
    (b) no longer wanted something all frilly and girl but something more clean and simple
    (c) and most importantly, could NOT justify the outrageous price tag that most bakers were quoting for flour and sugar!

    So we did two things. I purchased a simple white round cake and a tinier white round cake from Wegman’s (a NorthEast chain), had my Mom take some frosting and dye it blue and green and put a simple pearl border around the top and bottom, and put it on a blue and white polka dot cakestand I got at Marshall’s for $5 on clearance. We used that for our cutting cake and everyone raved on how it looked. Then I hit up Costco and bought three sheet cakes which the caterer cut up in the back. All in my cake bill was under $100. Even better? There wasn’t a single piece of cake leftover (people actually asked to take some with them).

    Compared to my sister in law’s wedding three months prior where the cake bill was $1,000 plus and they didn’t realize the function hall served a dessert prior to the cake cutting (though this didn’t stop them from charging a cutting fee of $2 per the 225 guests), meaning they had 95% of the cake leftover for the next week on my inlaws kitchen counter? Yeah, I think we lucked out.

    Turns out you can have your cake and eat it too. You just don’t have to get suckered into thinking it has to be from a wedding shop!

    • KC

      Cutting fee of $2 per slice of cake for 225 guests? That is Insane. (yes: there will be extra plates that need to be washed, so there might be a minor cost associated with that, plus the time of the people cutting and serving needs to be reimbursed, and cutting giant tiered cakes into even, pretty, “wedding-sized” slices does take more skill/charts than the uninitiated might think, but STILL: if it’s an add-on, that is absolutely ludicrous.)

    • Emily

      Ouch on your SIL’s deal. And great you came up with a compromise with your mom! Great that she was able to roll with that too.

      My MIL is baking and decorating (simply) our cake (freezing it in advance); I’m really excited about it, since I’ve had her cake before and it’s delish. But I’m also worried about her stressing and that stress spreading…

      But luckily, I learned that we can cut dessert from the caterer’s bill, saving us big bucks. Yay!

    • meg

      G-D cake cutting costs.

      • Remy

        I am TERRIBLE at cutting cakes well, so I pulled a slightly snotty move and handed the cake knife over to my mom after we did the cake-cutting photo. She and my wife’s mom cut and plated, and we helped pass plates. It was more like a birthday. :)

        Protip from my mom: for a round cake, cut out the center core (cut in a ring a few inches from the edge) and then you can slice smaller piece of the outer ring, and regular cake wedges OR rectangles(ish) from the core. You can do it more than once, for a really big cake ( Smaller pieces are easier to handle, the cake goes farther, and maybe not everyone wants a huge piece after a meal (or other dessert) but they can get seconds later.

        • RF

          German tradition is that the couple cuts the cake and serves the guests. I haven’t been to weddings with more than 70 guests, but it’s actually quite a fun part.

  • Personally, I would have left the store’s toppings on and worked the flowers around them… Except for the 3rd cake. Love how the flowers swoop, so I would have put the strawberry slices off to the side, kind of like little exclamation points.

    Whatever. It makes sense in my head. Either way, those cakes look delish. And yes, the stands make it look all fancy.

  • Stephanie

    I love them!!! Also, WF cakes are amazingly yummy.

  • Caroline

    YES! We did exactly this. We ordered five different-flavored undecorated cakes from a local bakery (Cake Cafe for any NOLA brides out there) for ~$30 each, stuck some flowers leftover from making centerpieces to them, and put them on matching cake stands. They looked great, and tasted way better than most wedding cakes do in my opinion. Our total cost was less than a fourth of what we were quoted for a traditional wedding cake, and we got to eat five different kinds of cake!

    • Caroline

      OMG Cake Cafe. That’s all I really have to offer, but I’ve moved away from Nola and I miiiiss it…

  • heres_a_llama

    My work is blocks from WF in SF and we always have these for “Happy Birthday/Marriage/Child!” occasions. There’s 12 of us, and we *always* finish these cakes -apparently my coworkers and I are piggies!

  • EKWhit

    We got married 2 weeks ago, and our venue’s menu included dessert. Since we wanted to cut a cake, we bought an 8″ cake ($30) from a bakery we really liked. We made it look “wedding-ish” by stacking two matching but different sized cake plates on top of each other, and putting the cake on top.

  • Amy

    I got married last August and had 8 Whole Foods cakes of that size, and 8 regular sized pies for 100 people. (4 kinds of cake, 4 kinds of pie, 2 of each.) (My husband and dad didn’t want to run out).
    A: This was beautiful. I borrowed cake stands from friends, they were all different and it looked awesome. I even used WF’s regular decorating (although I might have attempted this if I had seen this a year ago!). We had TWO identical dessert tables.
    B: Meg is ON THE MONEY about WF’s “per person” amounts being insane. My mom was giving away whole cakes and pies to local guests at the end of the night, and there was still a ton of cake and pie in my parent’s fridge the next day. The moral of the story is, my husband and dad don’t get to have an opinion on serving suggestions anymore.
    C: I should note, buying this many desserts didn’t save us as much money as we thought, I believe it ended up running about $400 total. I didn’t do too much research on what a “fancy real” wedding cake would have cost but I’m guessing we saved a little bit.

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  • Great post! I’m glad I stumbledupon it :)

  • Rebekah

    These are beautiful, but it’s “stock” not “stalk.” :) Will be doing this for the dessert table at our welcome dinner.

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