So, as you may or may not know, I (somewhat stupidly) decided to make my own wedding cake. It was time consuming, and it was a steep learning curve. But you know what? If I could go back in time I would do it all again. I honestly enjoyed planning and making that wedding cake more than any other part of the wedding prep, and even though there was some serious stress and logistics involved, it was 100% worth it.
I guess you’re reading this because you are considering following my lead and making your own wedding cake too. You might have read hundreds of posts online, and had countless conversations with your parents/friends/partner, all of which telling you that this is a mistake, telling you not to do it. And maybe for some people, taking on the making of your own wedding cake is a bad idea. But for other people it will be an incredibly rewarding experience, and one which you can look back on with immense pride and satisfaction. I guarantee there is no one out there who had a cake made for them who looks back on the photos of their wedding cake with the same heart-eyes that I do.
I honestly am going to frame a picture of it and put it up in my kitchen when we finally get on the housing ladder.
It’s almost been a year since I tied the knot, and I’m feeling ready to start telling my wedding cake baking story. Hopefully within the next year or so I will put together a complete how-to guide that will tell you everything I learnt and every mistake I made, along with the entire recipe for my four tiered wedding cake. But for now, I just wanted to share with you some things you really should think about before you decide whether this wedding cake making business is for you. Plus, on Sunday I will be sharing my recipe for the almond layer cake tier, which you can also just use as a standard 8 inch layer cake for birthdays, christenings, Saturdays…
Don’t run before you can walk
If you’ve never baked a cake before, then this definitely isn’t the time to start. Or maybe it is, but you’re going to need plenty of time to practise, practise, and practise again. I’ve baked countless cakes in my life, and I still made at least ten practice cakes (not full size) in the run up to the big day. If you’ve baked cakes before, but you don’t find it all that fun, then maybe this isn’t the thing for you. There are plenty of other crafty ways you can add some personal touches to your wedding – trust me, we pretty much did them all.
Making your own cake will NOT save you money
If you are looking into baking your own wedding cake to save money, then I’ve got some bad news for you. Yes, the massive list of ingredients for your actual wedding cake won’t cost anywhere near as much as a professionally made cake, but that’s not all you’ve got to think about. Have you got the right equipment? You’re going to need a stand mixer, or at least an electric hand whisk, and that’s just the start. Cake tins are expensive, and you probably don’t already have deep, loose-bottomed tins in all the various sizes you’re going to need.
Then there are the practice cakes. Good ingredients are expensive, and you’re going to need to practise with the good stuff to make sure your cake turns out exactly how you want it. Don’t know what flavour you want? You’re going to have to make a batch of test cakes to sample. Never stacked two cakes on top of each other before? Well, you’re going to need to get endless cake boards and cake dowelling, because you can’t just place one cake on top of the other without support.
Yes, you’ll still have a stand mixer and cake tins once the wedding is over, so it’s not all bad news. But the outlay on this wedding cake is probably going to be a couple of hundred pounds, at least. So do it for the love, not the money.
Practice makes perfect
I’ve mentioned practice like a hundred time already. But there is no way you are going to be able to make the cake of your dreams without any experience. Seriously. Do you have a recipe you are happy with already? Then that’s great, but you’re still going to need to make test cakes. Don’t have a recipe? Then you’re also going to have to make little taster cakes to make sure you’re happy with the flavour and texture of the thing. What works as a single 8 inch birthday cake isn’t always going to stand up to the stress of holding three more tiers above it. You’ll need something sturdy, but also light and tasty, right? Be prepared to trial a good few different recipes before you land on the one you’re in love with.
You don’t necessarily have to make a full-size test cake. I mean, if you have the time, the money, and the inclination, then go ahead! But it’s not required. What is required though is to have made every different sized cake at some point, so you know what works as a 12 inch cake and as a 6 inch cake. Write down your baking times for each size of cake.
I found it best to make an 8 inch tier and a 6 inch tier, and then have a go at stacking them. There are plenty of tutorials out there on how to stack a wedding cake. YouTube has some great videos too, that really show you how to get it perfect. You really don’t want the first cake you ever stack to be the day before your wedding. That’s a recipe for a wonky cake if ever I saw one.
Find the perfect recipe – and use the right method
You might already have the recipe you are going to use for your cake, but you probably don’t. If you do, then please make sure it is right for a wedding cake. This is not the time to use incredibly light, fluffy, and tender cakes. Yes, you want something that tastes fantastic, and not a cake with the texture of a brick. But, you are ideally looking for something that’s a little bit more dense than usual. After a year of experimenting, I found that adapting most recipes to use something called the ‘reverse creaming method’ will help give you something a little denser, with a tighter crumb. Which is what wedding cake dreams are made of.
If you’ve not heard of the reverse creaming method, this is where you start with the flour and sugar, then add the soft butter, and mix together well until you’ve got something that looks like sand. To this, you add the eggs and any other liquids you are using, and then gently mix together until you’ve got your cake batter. I’m not a scientist, so I can’t give you the background on how this works, but it does. Give it a go!
Use a recipe with endless flavour combinations
As well as making sure you’ve got a cake with a great texture, you’re probably also going to want to have a different flavour for each tier. By all means, if you want to keep things super simple and use the same flavour for all tiers, then go for it. But if you’ve got the right recipe then you can easily swap from almond to vanilla to lemon without much trouble.
For example, the basis for all the tiers of my wedding cake was the almond layer cake recipe that I’m going to share at the weekend. This is a great recipe for a wedding cake, as you can just switch out the almond extract for a bit more vanilla extract and you’ve got a vanilla layer cake. Fill it with some strawberry buttercream, and you’ve taken an almond layer cake and turned it into a vanilla and strawberry layer cake, without much effort what-so-ever.
You can even change to a chocolate cake by eliminating the almond extract, reducing the vanilla, and switching out some of the flour for cocoa powder. This can be a little more temperamental than switching out extracts, but it can work. And if it does, you’re going to end up with every tier of your cake being similar in texture and look, which is going to help turn your wedding cake into one cohesive cake, rather than four entirely different layer cakes that just happen to be stacked together.
Plus, knowing you can make one cake is easier than knowing you need to learn how to make three or four different ones. And making things easy for yourself is a big win in the wedding cake process.
If you’ve got this far, and you still want to make your own wedding cake, then maybe it’s something to keep exploring. Get in the kitchen and start testing out some recipes. And be sure to come back on Sunday to get my almond layer cake recipe, which just might be the one for you.
And if you have any questions that you think I might be able to help you with, then please do leave them in the comments below. Or drop me an email – click on the contact me link on the menu at the top. I would love to help!