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Making my own wedding cake: am I crazy?

  • g

My fiance and I are planning a small July wedding (about 30 guests) at our home. The ceremony will be followed by a cake and champagne reception in our backyard in Chicago, which will then be followed by dinner at a local restaurant.

Because most of this is going to take place at home, adding an extra layer of stress, I'm trying to minimize the number of vendors that I'd have to coordinate with. So instead of renting chairs, dinnerware, etc. from a rental company, we're buying stuff. I'm doing my own flowers. And instead of hiring a baker to make the wedding cake, I'd like to try my hand at making it myself.

The cake linked to below got rave reviews at Epicurious and seems like it would go well with the champagne. My question is whether I am insane for thinking I can make my own cake. I've baked a lot at home, almost always successfully, but I've never made anything like this before. That being said, I'll be taking a few days off from work before the wedding, so I should have time to do this. And we're very laid-back about the whole wedding thing; if the cake is a disaster, I wouldn't mind buying a few small cakes from a local bakery.

I'm also worried about the buttercream melting in the July late afternoon/early evening heat, but I'm hoping it would be okay--it shouldn't be outside for very long.


Link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

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  1. I don't think you're crazy at all. And remembering all the mediocre wedding cakes I've tasted, I should think taste even more than money would be an incentive to make your own.

    Here's what I would recommend: make the cake itself ahead of time, and freeze it. Be sure you cool it completely and wrap it well. The recipe says you can do it 2 weeks in advance. If you use Magic Cake strips your layers should be nice and even. Freezing it will make it easier to assemble, plus making the layers in advance will give you time for a redo in case there's a problem.

    You're probably fine with the buttercream, if you can leave the cake in the refrigerator as long as possible. Or at least don't let it sit out in the sun.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LT from LF

      I think it's a great idea, but I agree with another poster - test it ahead of time - do a v. small version of the whole thing as a test run. Then, if you're not happy with the results, you still have time to find a luscious bakery cake. Or, you may learn from the experience and figure that it will turn out even better for your wedding day.

    2. You're definitely not crazy and I think this recipe sounds delicious! Plus, it's not like you're attempting to make a cake for a lavish 300-guest wedding, right? Good luck and congrats on your wedding!

      1. d
        Doktor Faustus


        Why add to your level of stress? The most stressful events in life are (1) getting married, (2) moving, and (3) starting a new job, in no particular order. You don't need the extra headache.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Doktor Faustus

          Yes, if the idea is to *reduce* stress, then I don't think ordering from a reputable bakery that can deliver the day of is stressful, while making your own cake (when you are also doing your own flowers, etc) will definitely add work and most likely stress too. It sounds like you'll need room in your fridge to store the cake either way.
          Of course if you think you will enjoy it then go ahead! You could also have a compromise of sorts by ordering a smaller fancy cake and making in advance your own simpler baked goods that freeze well (brownies, cookies, etc).

        2. I would say that making your own cake is possible, but you don't want to take on too much. Here's what I would do - Bake the cakes two weeks before. Make the filling, but skip the whipped cream, which won't defrost well. Assemble the cake, trim it, syrup it, then give it a crumb coat. Now wrap in two layers of plastic wrap and one of aluminum foil and freeze. If you want to use their buttercream (which sounds lovely, but is a whole lot of work) do test it out ahead of time. Make it, decorate something with it, and freeze some. Defrost the frozen buttercream and try to use it. If it all works out well, do the buttercream a week or so in advance as well and freeze.

          Then all you need to do the morning of or the night before your wedding is slap on the buttercream (the cake should be thawed, of course) and add some flowers (real or marzipan, if you want to make those up a day or two before) and/or ribbon. It won't be QUITE as completely amazing as a freshly-made cake, but it will still be better that most bakeries.

          It's really not too much to take on, if you prep ahead. I would be a bit worried about trying to bake it all in the day or two before your wedding, though.

          1. If it's always been your wish to make your own wedding cake or if that recipe has some significance for you, then by all means, GO FOR IT! Personalized touches surrounding a wedding are lovely and always remembered by you and your guests. Would be even better if you can find a competent friend/family member to help you.

            That said, if you're doing this to minimize the hassle of having to coordinate w/ a bakery, then that doesn't make much sense to me. You could easily buy a cake for a small group or even have 3 of the same or different cakes arranged in an artful way. You don't even have to tell the bakery it's for a wedding or order too far in advance.

            For our wedding of about 85 that we had at my in-laws' home, we bought 2 each of 3 different large cakes/tarts and had our caterer arrange them in a pretty way. Just pre-ordered a couple days in advance. A family member simply picked up the cakes that AM. We just had to make room for them in the fridge. Easy. Done. Patisserie delicious.

            IMO, even small, relaxed weddings have a way of getting more stressful as the day nears. The fact that you're hosting at your place and doing other tasks can be enough stress. Sometimes outside vendors can be your friend.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Carb Lover

              When I got married - a virtual elopement w/ about 15 guests - I ordered my cake, but also ordered candied pansies, which we strew about the cake and added that "personal" touch. Ditto w/ the cake for my sister's wedding - purchased cake, with daisies added. For that wedding (50 or so guests), we (I) did all the cooking for an afternoon tea, using family recipes for cookies etc. Not having to worry about the cake made it a bit easier.

              1. re: MMRuth

                And if what you want is to decorate, a good local bakery would probably sell you both an unfinished cake and the buttercream to finish it with. Probably only makes sense if you're a cake decorating enthusiast, but that's wahat some people really like to do.

                1. re: curiousbaker

                  if you are already doing your own flowers, get some wrap for the stem and make you own "cake corsages"... that way you can tie in your own theme/flowers and add a personal touch.

                  I just got married last fall and must tell you, I was find until the day before the wedding and then got so stressed! (a few glasses of champagne before the wedding definitely seemed to help though ;)

                  anyway... I certainly wouldn't want to have to worry about a cake amidst all the last minute details, I'd order one from a good bakery. that said, hope you have a fabulous wedding!

                  1. re: megan

                    Ironically, my favorite photo from the wedding "came out of" the stress. I wanted to get away from the pre-wedding preparations and went to a Starbucks around the corner for coffee (caffeine was a mistake). Broke the heel on a shoe and went across the street to the shoe maker to get it fixed. Minutes late, ran into the groom with some of our friends and their 3 year old daughter, who was a flower girl. After hearing my shoe repair story, said groom decided to get his shoes polished. Photo was of him at the shoemaker's with the little girl, in a hooded red coat, on his lap.

            2. There was a lengthy thread on making one's own wedding cake a while back, with feedback from the original poster who did indeed succeed at making her own wedding cake. I've linked it below.

              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              1 Reply
              1. re: DanaB
                Caitlin Wheeler

                That OP was me (I can't believe it was over two years ago!) And I would definitely recommend the experience. Check out the Wedding Cake Book by Dede Wilson for really great recipes -- I haven't made the Epicurious one but I've found hers to work extremely well for the structural needs of making a tiered cake -- they're dense enough and close enough that they don't dissolve into a crumby mess when you try to stack them. I've made her lemon buttermilk cake for another wedding cake (flavored with orange oil instead of lemon, and coated in chocolate ganache which was messy but delicious)

                I would be worried about buttercream or whipped cream frostings in July unless you have a LOT of fridge space, though the champagne can chill in a rubbermaid cooler, because you really do have to refrigerate until serving. My cake I covered in fondant (bought, but colored and flavored with almond oil) with buttercream underneath. I finished the cake on Thursday, and I could leave it out until the wedding Saturday evening because it sealed in the buttercream and the freshness of the cake. Some people don't like fondant but it's easy to make it look really professional and smooth with a little practice and it's easy to peel off and eat what's underneath.

                I made the cake the weekend before and froze the layers (it's easier to frost frozen layers anyway). Did the bulk of frosting and assembly Wednesday and Thursday. Friday I got flowers and we arranged them Saturday morning (also a backyard reception). If you're organized, there isn't actually THAT much to do the week before the wedding.

              2. For me the issue would the space in the refrigerator - cake must be chilled properly or the buttercream will slide off/sweat neither of which is very pretty. If you do not have the space to chill the fully decorated cake before the reception - for hours - then do not do it.

                Given that you would need to chill the champaign etc I would be concerned about the space.

                Another thing - magazine recipes in my experience use high end refrigirators which are close to commercial ones when testing their recipes. Typical home fridge is not as cold and with other items taking the tight space the chilling time must be increased. So where recipe says 4 hours, count on 6 at the least, or the results would be dubious.

                I would do the freezing step for the layers as the recipe allows you to do so that all you need to do is final assembly (it is also easier to decorate the slightly frozen cakes, they hold their shape better).

                The only thing I would do differently - is to stop and freeze at this point:

                "Refrigerate cakes on their cardboard bases until frosting is firm, about 1 hour."

                And then make some frosting and fully decorate the cake the night before, leaving it in the refrigirator set at the coldest setting for the night. Then take it out only at the beginning of reception, add fresh flowers, etc.

                Allow ample time for this for sometimes if the buttercream is too cold/too warm to work with you need to allow it to warm up/firm up until it is the right consistency to work with.

                There is an easier frosting for another wedding cake on epicurios - I would try several before hand to see which one you like the taste of and also which one is easier for you to work with.

                1. take a look at the attached mini-blog about making a wedding cake. It's very detailed, from concept to implementation, with great pictures of almost every step. This is a much larger and more complicated cake, but it might give you an idea of what it would be like to make a wedding cake.

                  Link: http://www.mouthfulsfood.com/forums/i...

                  1. You are not crazy at all...a cake for 30 is not that big a deal and you got a lot of good advice. I did my own cake for 95ppl because I hate average quality bakery cakes and we got married in Vermont while living in NYC. It was hard enough lining up flowers and alll the rest of the stuff. The Inn we had the thing at was very accomodating about letting me use their kitchen and fridges. I decorated the cake with lemon leaves and fresh berries which were easy and appropriate for the setting. Plus I don't like too much frosting or things you can"t eat on a cake. It was actually sort of therapeutic because I woke up very early from stress on the big day and it gave me something mindless and relaxing to do. Plus, most people did not know I was in the kitchen of the inn and so couldn't bother me with silly questions.
                    You can also save some $ making your own.

                    1. p
                      peppermint pate

                      Not crazy at all. I baked 200 mini-cupcakes (2 flavours) for my wedding last fall. I baked them a few days ahead of time, froze them and then iced them in the early morning of the big day with my closest girlfriend (I had slept at her house). Sipping our lattes, spending special time with a great friend, decorating the cupcakes and generally revelling in the giddy excitement of my wedding morning - truly one of my most cherished memories from that day. Find some shortcuts (like baking ahead), enlist the help of a close friend and enjoy. Congrats.

                      1. One rule, never serve anything to strangers/ company that you haven't made before. This is especially true of an event so important as your wedding. I say go for it, but try the exact recipe as soon as possible so that you can change your plans if it's not your cup of tea. If you do charge forward, this way you will have an idea of how the icing responds to heat and how easy it is to assemble, and you can take notes on anything that was confusing or difficult and ask us all questions at a point when you are not frantic.

                        Best of luck to you!

                        1. My vote - not crazy, but impetuous.

                          My sense is that you should listen to that little voice inside you. That little voice is asking whether you can do it.

                          How will you react if things go wrong?

                          If you can tolerate disaster (as you say), then no problem.

                          If it was me, I'd pay someone else to do it, and it would be one fewer thing I had to worry about.

                          My own wedding was so high stress I didn't get to enjoy it and barely remember it, unless I look at the photos.