Get ready for a long long post all about how I, an amateur baker with no experience, made my own wedding cake!
It was quite the labor of love. I enjoyed every minute of learning how to make it, practicing, and finally baking it.
And, I think it turned out pretty well!
If you are at all contemplating making your own wedding cake, let me tell you: It’s completely doable! Here are some of the cons of making your own wedding cake which I found to be untrue:
1. It’s too stressful: If you enjoy spending time in the kitchen and have a few months to practice cake baking, I don’t think it’s stressful at all. If you hate cooking, then maybe this isn’t for you.
2. You can’t make a cake big enough to feed your wedding party: I don’t think it would have been much harder to add another tier to my cake, which would have allowed it to serve close to 100. If you’re worried about not having enough cake but not wanting a huge wedding cake, you can always make sheet cakes to keep in the kitchen and serve when the wedding cake runs out.
3. You won’t have time on your real wedding day to worry about it: I was nervous about this one, but once I realized you can make your cakes ahead of time, I felt much better. I baked my cakes 3 weeks in advance and froze them. I made the frosting the day before my wedding. It doesn’t take more than a few hours to make the frosting and assemble the cakes, so as long as you budget in a few hours the day before the wedding, you are good to go. Some people even say you can frost the cakes before freezing them, but I wasn’t too sure about that.
4. You aren’t skilled enough to do it: Yes you are!!! I made 3 practice cakes and felt much more confident. After reading a few blogs and watching a lot of youtube videos, I learned so much! If I can do it, you can too!
I guess I should include some caveats:
- I did not use fondant on my cake. That does require some skill and I didn’t want to worry about learning how to use it (plus, it doesn’t taste that good!). I went with the rustic look of hand-frosted buttercream and thought it still looked professional.
- I didn’t care about having a perfectly white cake. If you want a super white cake, you need to use crisco or some other type of shortening which doesn’t appeal to me. I wanted REAL BUTTER in my icing, so I used a traditional buttercream. That makes the cake a tiny bit off-white, but that didn’t bother me.
- I didn’t care about lots of decorations. If you want sculptures and frosting-made flowers and lots of frills, it might be harder. I think you can still learn those techniques, but I just stayed with a simple decoration and used a lot of fresh flowers to make it easy.
Okay, here we go:
Step 1: Get the right supplies.
I actually started practicing making my wedding cake before I bought the right supplies. It’s incredible how much the right tools can help your cakes turn out! You might be able to get away without these tools, but I found them to be indispensable. They are SOOOO worth it. You will need:
- A flour sifter
- A stand-up mixer (I borrowed one from a friend because I don’t have one and can’t afford one. You probably could make a cake without one, but it would be difficult- so try to find one.)
- Good ingredients. Buy good vanilla extract, good butter, good eggs, etc.
- Pans. I ordered Wilton round cake pans from Amazon.
- Parchment paper- you need this
- Pam baking spray or something similar (I found it works better than butter for coating the pan)
- Wilton magical cake strips. You might think you don’t need these, but you DO. They make your cake cook evenly and not rise with a dome in the middle. They also help prevent hard, crusty edges. You will thank yourself when you are trying to level your cake and it’s easy peasy 🙂
- Cardboard cake rounds in the sizes your cake tiers will be.
- A leveling tool . I used this cheap one which was only okay. There are expensive ones that work really well and might be worth investing in if you plan to make more cakes. I tried to level cakes by hand with a knife and it is HARD and not worth the effort.
- Icing spatula- I bought a large and small one
- Piping bag and tips
- A rotating cake stand. I used this one and it was great!
Step 2: Find inspiration.
Pinterest is perfect for this. Find a few cakes that resemble the cake you want to make. Decide how many tiers, how many layers in each tier, etc. Find some frosting patterns you like. I decided on a 2 tiered cake with 3 layers in each tier. These were some of my inspiration photos:
Step 3: Find the right recipe.
Decide what kind of cake you want and go searching for the perfect recipe. I knew I wanted a white cake with a fresh strawberry filling.
You need a cake that is firm enough to support layers, but not too dense. The first recipe I tried was the Wilton Butter Cake recipe.
I thought it tasted amazing, but was so dense, it was almost pound cake.
Even if you don’t like the recipe, you can start to practice making layer cakes.
I had a few failures.
But, I managed to assemble a 2 tiered cake. The bottom was 8 inches and the top was 6. Once I saw the size of this, I realized I wanted a 10 inch bottom for my cake. I also decided to do 3 layers instead of 2. This was my first ever attempt (bottom- 2 layers, 8 inches; top- 2 layers, 6 inches):
And my second attempt (bottom- 2 layers, 8 inches; top- 3 layers, 6 inches):
I also made this first cake without the Magic cake strips and had a really hard time leveling my cake. It was so apparent that my cake was not perfectly flat or even, and I couldn’t have that! I think one thing that really makes your wedding cake look professional is even sides and a flat top. It’s super important. This is without the cake strips:
And with the cake strips:
For my next cake I tried a new recipe. I used the Heavenly White Cake recipe from Allrecipes. After reading TONS of the reviews, I made a few alterations to the recipe.
White Wedding Cake Recipe
- 2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (sift before you measure)
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 4 egg whites
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
1. Measure sifted cake flour, baking powder, and salt; sift together three times.
2. Beat butter with paddle attachment of mixer until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup sugar and cream together until light and fluffy. Add sifted ingredients alternately with milk, a small amount at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Mix in flavorings. Make sure you use a spatula to get butter off the sides of the mixing bowl. It likes to stick there and if you don’t get it down, it won’t get mixed in all the way.
3. Using the whisk attachment of the mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Add 1/2 cup sugar gradually, and continue beating only until meringue will hold up in soft peaks.
4. Add meringue to the batter, and mix thoroughly. Spread into pan which has been lined with parchment on the bottom and sprayed with cooking spray. Use your pan to trace out a circle on the parchment paper, then cut it out and put it in the bottom of the pan. Then spray the whole thing.
5. Bake at 350F for 25-35 minutes until toothpick stuck into center comes out clean. ***If you’re baking a cake larger than 10 inches round, you need to use a heated core.
Using those Magic cake strips also helps the cake pull away from the pan, which makes it easier to get out when it’s done baking.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes or so before flipping it out onto a cardboard cake round.
For the icing recipe, I loved the first one I tried.
Simple Vanilla Buttercream Recipe.
- 2 lbs powdered sugar
- 4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 4-6 TBS heavy cream or milk
- 1 TBS vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
Let butter soften to room temperature. In a mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add in pinch of salt.
Slowly, add in powdered sugar. If you add it in all at once you will have a powdered sugar explosion. Cream until well blended. Add in vanilla extract and milk. Continue to add milk 1 TBS at a time until desired consistency is reached.
For the fresh strawberry filling, I followed Wilton’s recipe. I pureed fresh strawberries in my blender, then cooked them on the stove with cornstarch and a small amount of sugar and lemon juice. Once cooled, the puree is firm enough to spread without running.
I layered the strawberry in each layer along with a thin layer of frosting. This was my first practice using the strawberry:
Kyle ate a lot of cake, and I brought a lot into class in March and April!
Step 4: Practice Assembling and Decorating Your Cake.
Icing a wedding cake is NOT easy. I watched a million youtube videos to help me learn the technique and it really helped. I recommend doing that if you aren’t familiar with frosting cakes.
First, level your cakes. You want the top to be as flat and level as possible. This is tricky, but you will get the hang of it.
Next, decide how you’re going to stack your layers. You want to stack them so that they make the most even and flat cake as possible. The top layer should be upside down, so that the part of the cake that was in the pan is the top of the cake. That makes it super flat. Figure out which cake makes the best bottom layer and which makes the best middle layer. Turn your cakes so that they fit together as evenly as possible. See how it isn’t perfectly even here?
Play around until it is:
Once you have them stacked how you like, put toothpicks in the sides that line up, this way you know how to line your cakes up when you re-assemble them after frosting.
Now it’s time to frost your cake!!
Start with the bottom layer. The first layer of frosting on the cake is called the “crumb coat” which is just a super thin layer of frosting that seals in all the cake crumbs. Even if you’re doing a crumb coat, still try to minimize the amount of cake crumbs you get in your frosting. Start with a huge dollop of frosting in the middle:
Then turn the cake as you spread the frosting to the sides. Having frosting hang over the edge is a good thing. It will help you frost the sides of the cake.
If you want to add fillings like I did, use a piping bag to pipe a ring of frosting around the outside edge. This will hold in your filling.
Then, spread your filling generously around the middle.
Now, add your next layer- make sure your toothpicks line up!
Repeat until you have all three layers. Then frost the outside in just a thin layer. This will seal in all the crumbs and help you get a smooth finish later. Put the cake in the fridge to harden for 20-30 minutes.
Do the same with your next tier. Layer the cakes:
And do the crumb coat:
After your crumb coat sets, you can be more free to frost your cake without worrying about crumbs. Generously spread frosting all over and use your icing spatula to smooth it out or add pattens.
To get a super flat top, dip your icing spatula in hot water and dry it off quickly. The hot spatula will melt and smooth the frosting.
To assemble your tiers, use a cardboard round to trace out where the top tier will sit on the bottom tier.
Then, put in wooden dowels to support the top tier. Make sure the dowels are flush with the top of the cake.
Put down a tiny bit of icing in the middle of your traced circle, to act as glue for the top tier. Keep the top tier on the cardboard round when you stack it, so it’s easier to remove when you want to cut your cake (or save your top tier).
Next, use your piping bag to add in frosting where you can see the cardboard. I made big pearls because it seemed easy and I liked the look of it 🙂
And you’re done!! Pick out the part of the cake that looks the best and make that the front. I marked it with a post-it so my florist would know where to put the flowers.
Another Step: Making your cake ahead of time and freezing it
I wanted to bake my cake about 3 weeks in advance so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it close to my wedding. All I did was wrap each layer 3 times in saran wrap, once in aluminum foil, and then I put them in a plastic bag.
I loved the entire experience of learning so much about baking, and finally making my cake.
Everyone told me it was delicious (and if they were lying to make me feel better that’s okay too!)
So there you have it!!
Have you ever attempted to make a big cake? Or a wedding cake? I’d love to hear about it!!