By Melissa Kipe
Do you know that it’s possible to save a ton of money, not to mention have a fabulously tasting DIY wedding cake, if it’s made at home? You can make a simple wedding cake in your own kitchen which looks amazing. Plus you will have the satisfaction of knowing you made the cake yourself and didn’t go with a cheap wedding cake from Publix, Costco or Walmart. Do I recommend, after a decade and a half experience, that a bride should make her own cake? Absolutely not. That would be a terrible idea. She will only experience this day once and should relax and enjoy it. But most brides know someone who would be glad to help them with this challenging, yet exciting, project. After all, baking a wedding cake draws on existing skills in the kitchen. Finding the right person is important. She needs to be organized, a fearless problem solver, and excel at taking on new things. Maybe you are that person and you have always wanted to try your hand at cake baking and decorating, but where do you start?
Selecting the Perfect DIY Wedding Cake Recipe
Starting out you need a perfect cake recipe. This will take trial and error. I personally only make one flavor of cake: yellow. I will add different fillings, but yellow cake is my flavor of choice. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is it makes life simple. I know it will always taste good. Chocolate, although my favorite flavor, isn’t my favorite go-to flavor for cakes. It is way too dry. My cardinal rule for cakes is that they must taste at least as good as they look. You don’t want a cake that is amazingly decorated, but tastes like cardboard. When working with recipes, pick one that holds up well and isn’t crumbly. Flavor is very important too. Another consideration is preparation ease. Don’t pick a recipe that takes forever to make— you will be doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling it.
How Much Cake Should I Make?
When the best possible wedding cake recipe is found, deciding how much cake is needed is as simple as doing an Internet search: “How much cake do I need for a wedding of one hundred?” Most brides like to save the top for their first anniversary, so don’t count that portion. Something else to consider is what else will be served at the reception? If the cake is the only food, assume that it won’t serve as many people as suggested. Figures vary widely. For example a 10″ cake is reported to serve 21–42 people. It all depends on how you slice it. The industry standard for cake cutting is 1″x2″x4″. Take heart if you misjudge. Cakes can stretch far, if necessary, and I have never heard of anyone complaining about having extra.
When to Bake the Wedding Cake
The best time to start baking is about one month before the wedding. We bake large cakes in several batches. I used to bake and decorate the cake all in one day—the day before the wedding—but that is too stressful and risky. The cake I make actually improves with freezing. There are several things to know about the freezing process. First, wrap it well. I like to plastic wrap it and then double wrap it with aluminum foil. A clean, fresh-smelling freezer is a must as well. A trick I use to make my cake delicious and moist is to sprinkle it with sugar syrup when the cake is still warm. I let the cake cool completely and then I freeze it.
The best time to thaw your tasty confection is two to three days before the wedding. I prefer to make a simple buttercream frosting without using shortening for my cakes. I think butter tastes best. Although using shortening helps the icing holds up better in the heat, I just can’t do it. Butter makes an off-white icing and shortening icing is pure white, so it’s a personal decision. People seem to go crazy over our cakes and when they ask for my secret, I always say it’s the real butter—lots of it!
7 Tips for Setting Up DIY Wedding Cakes in the Wedding Reception Room
- If you are going to stack the cake, make sure you push six straws through each bottom layer to hold up the layer above it. Cakes get very heavy and must be supported.
- I often set up my cakes at the reception so I don’t have to transport them in high layers. If you are a careful driver, transporting two layers on top of each other is fine and I often do that.
- Be very specific with the bride about the temperature of the reception hall. It must be cool or your cake will melt.
- Sadly, the cake is often sort of thrown in a corner somewhere. I personally think it should be the centerpiece of the reception. Stacked cakes are beautiful and amazing works of art that should be shown off. I like to arrange the cake table myself, making sure it looks as amazing as the cake.
- I arrange the flowers and other decorations also. As far as flowers are concerned, never put flowers that are poisonous on the cake.
- A sturdy table is another necessity. Wedding cakes are very heavy and a rickety card table is a disaster waiting to happen.
- Don’t forget the serving set! Brides often forget to provide a serving set. At one wedding I attended there was nothing to cut the cake, so I ran out to my van and got my knife. It didn’t make a pretty picture, so now I travel with a silver serving set in my wedding day emergency kit.
Even though many people might view making wedding cakes as a terribly difficult project to be avoided, it can be very enjoyable. In some ways it’s as easy as baking a pie, only a lot more decorations and icing. Practicing your baking skills a few times before the big day will definitely help you feel more comfortable about it. Besides, I can’t think of any family that would not be glad to nibble on your trial runs.
Making a DIY wedding cake for a friend or family member not only makes a unique and special wedding gift, but it will financially help the bride. While it’s not a project for everyone, if you are willing to do the research to find just the right recipe, practice your cake making and decorating skills, and plan ahead, making the cake will be a worthwhile and challenging project. Go for it, who knows where it may lead!
Melissa Kipe and her husband of nineteen years, Brian, relish raising and homeschooling their tribe of one daughter and six boys in central Pennsylvania. They enjoy gardening; doing projects together; having adventures; making and using buckets of herbal healing salve; and learning together. God is gracious!