I always thought people who made their own wedding cake must be crazy; turns out that I’m one of those crazy people.
I spent our entire engagement (a year and a half) testing recipes, reading about wedding cakes and changing my mind about what to bake. There were so many things to consider.
Stress: My main concern was that I didn’t want it to become a stressful experience. I immediately decided against a traditional multi-tiered cake as I knew I didn’t want to be setting that up on the morning of our wedding but I didn’t want to give anyone else that responsibility either!
My husband hates fruit cake and was keen to have different flavours of sponge cakes. As we were going for a rustic style throughout the rest of our wedding I thought that a selection of different sandwich cakes would fit the bill nicely.
To freeze or not to freeze: I tried freezing some basic Victoria sponges. For those of you out there who are attempting to make a wedding cake, this would be a possibility and I believe what a lot of wedding cake businesses do. However, it wasn’t as good as the freshly baked cake, so for me it was a no go.
Freshness: Our wedding was in July so there was a possibility (granted it was a small possibility as the wedding was in Scotland!) that it would be warm. The last thing I wanted to do was poison our lovely wedding guests. This meant fresh cream or cream cheese icing were out (I know, I was devastated too).
Despite loving the look of ‘naked’ cakes, fully covering a cake in icing helps to retain moisture in the sponge. I purposefully looked for recipes which produced moist cakes or I made changes such as the addition of ground almonds to add moisture. I managed to source recipes that could be baked up to 5 days before the big day which allowed me time to bake around all the final wedding preparations.
Icing: I know that fondant looks pretty and neat but I wanted something that tastes amazing and in my opinion that is not fondant, it is buttercream. Mmmm buttercream… I could write a whole book about how much I love buttercream.
Flavours: My poor family, friends and colleagues had to sample many different cakes while I narrowed down my options. Thankfully most were edible but many were unsuitable as a wedding cake either because they were best eaten on the day of baking, or they were crumbly to cut, or they tasted best with cream cheese icing. In the end I chose Victoria sponge, chocolate & caramel, coffee & walnut, chocolate & raspberry and a traditional fruit cake because I knew there were wedding guests who would enjoy this.
Decorations: I like people to know what flavour a cake is by looking at it so decorations were relatively simple. I also had a small flower posy made in the style of my bouquet for the top of the Victoria sponge. I altered the look of the cakes by changing the style of icing e.g. smooth, swirled, messy.
Transport: I now have cupboards full of cake boxes most of which will probably never be used again. The best ones were the airtight boxes with secure clips. My poor husband discovered a design flaw with an old Tupperware box when packing the cakes in the car the day before our wedding. Safe to say the slightly battered fruit cake (he always had it in for this cake!) did not make an appearance on the cake table at our wedding but was able to be consumed!
I made each cake on a cake drum slightly bigger than the cake itself. This made them easier to lift and move but also provided a ‘bash barrier’ in the cake boxes.
Setting up: This was the only thing I needed to do on the morning of our wedding. The sandwich cakes just needed placing on their cake stands or log slices. The 2-tiered Victoria sponge took slightly more work. I already had dowels inserted into the bottom tier so I could place the top tier on top. I then painstakingly placed individual strawberries and blueberries around the edges of these cakes. I should really have stuck these on with icing but it did add some comedy to our cake cutting when blueberries were rolling across the floor!
Portion size: Is there anything worse than running out of cake? I worked out that each cake could be cut into 16 slices (the fruit cake would provide more than this). We ended up having just over 100 guests in the evening. I knew that some people would like to try more than one type of cake. I chose to make 1 fruit cake and 2 of all the other flavours of cakes (the tiered Victoria sponge was made up of 1 large cake and 1 small cake). This provided at least 150 slices of cake = happy guests!
Allergies: We only had one guest who was allergic to nuts. I made labels for each of the cakes and indicated which ones contained nuts. I also made sure the guest was aware of this.
I was delighted I decided to make my own wedding cakes. We got exactly what we wanted, they tasted great, it saved loads of money and I learned lots along the way. Our wedding guests were really complimentary and most couldn’t believe I’d made them myself.
I have recently been asked by a friend to make her wedding cake as she was so impressed with mine – great praise indeed!
Lainey’s top tips for wedding cake baking:
– Plan: It makes this process a whole lot easier and you’ll end up being a much calmer bride if you are prepared.
– Test: Trial run your recipes a few times so you’re confident and have ironed out any potential mishaps.
– Keep notes: It’s amazing all the little things you forget. I noted all the timings for different parts of each bake so I knew how long I’d have to do something else. I also weighed all my empty mixing bowls so I could easily calculate and measure out different proportions of my mixture.
– Take photos: This is useful when comparing decoration styles and to jog your memory – your mind will be occupied with many other things in the lead up to your big day!
You can find recipes for each of these cakes in my upcoming posts. Good luck and happy baking!