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May 7, 2009 07:31 PM


I'm making a 3-tier wedding cake for a very good friend, and would like to get some ideas from any Chowhound who also loves to bake. I made several other wedding cakes, and have been satisfied with all the results, but I'm still looking for the definitive recipe of a cake that will hold up under being stacked, and decorated. I'm specifically, looking for a white cake recipe. I'm also looking the best plain buttercream frosting recipe that I can find. Any ideas out there?

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  1. Well, it all depends on what you want. I have a wonderful butter cake recipe (not white, but close) that I use for stacked cakes all the time. The type of cake matters less than the structure you create to hold it up, though. What kind of stacking system are you planning to use?

    As for buttercream, again, it depends. On where you are in the country, whether the wedding is inside or outside, how much refrigeration you have for the cake, how far the cake needs to be transported, the date of the wedding, if you prefer meringue buttercreams or American buttercreams and how experienced you are with each, whether or not you're going to use fondant, etc.

    I highly recommend spending some time over on if you haven't already. It's a magnificent resource for baking and decorating cakes.

    10 Replies
    1. re: modthyrth

      The wedding is in Pennsylvania, in September of 2010. The weather is always nice and mild then. The ceremony will be a quaint twig house outside, the reception inside a restored barn that has been turned into a B&B. It's a beautiful site. I plan to bake the cakes, and make the frosting and embellishments at home, and transport everything to the site that is 4 hours away. I will have a full restaurant kitchen with refrigeration at my disposal. I am using the standard cake boards with dowels to support the tiers. I always do test runs on anything I make, being it a menu for a dinner party at home, or a cake for someone's very special day. Mainly what I was looking for, was some new recipes to try out. Thank you for the reference to cakecentral, I will definitely check it out!

      1. re: mingogirl

        September in PA, you could probably get away with an IMBC or SMBC if the commercial kitchen and refrigeration is at the venue. I don't know how humidity would affect it, though, or how humid it might be there. I've done most of my elaborate cakes in Phoenix, where humidity isn't really an issue. ;-)

        Here's a marvelous butter cake recipe that we often use for special occasion and wedding cakes we make for friends. We baked off four or five highly recommended vanilla cake recipes (including the favorite of my mom's old pastry school instructor and current reigning national pastry champion), and in a blind taste test, this was the unanimous winner. It freezes and travels beautifully, too. I made my brother-in-law's wedding cake last August, and baked and froze the cakes here in Phoenix and drove them up to San Francisco (packed in coolers with dry ice) for the wedding. The high butter content keeps the cake incredibly moist and delicious.

        Vanilla Butter Cake
        Yield: 6 cups batter

        Unsalted butter, softened 8 oz (½ lb)
        Sugar 2 cups
        Large eggs, room temp 4 ea
        White vinegar 1 Tbsp
        q.s. vinegar w milk at room temp to 1 cup
        Vanilla paste 1 Tbsp
        AP flour, unbleached 2¾ cups
        Baking powder 2¼ tsp
        Salt ¾ tsp

        Preheat oven to 350°F
        Grease and flour pans, and prepare parchment liner to go in over that
        Cream room temp butter and sugar together on medium speed until fluffy, ~3 min
        Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
        Add vanilla bean paste to creamed mixture
        Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in separate bowl, whisking to integrate
        Add the dry ingredients in thirds alternately with the milk-vinegar liquid in halves to the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
        Divide batter into prepared pans
        Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until it tests done

        Baking notes (will differ depending on your oven):
        Electric conventional, Fairfield GE, 8” pan: 20 minutes, it jiggled, but +5 minutes, it was done
        Middle shelf was better. Back of middle shelf was little browner
        Electric convection, Fairfield Gagenau:
        Let cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

        Round pan Amount of batter Time to bake
        6” pan ~2 cups 35 minutes
        8” pan 3 cups 40-45 minutes
        9” pan 4½ cups 40-45 minutes
        10” pan 6 cups 40-45 minutes
        12” pan 9 cups 45-50 minutes
        14” pan 11 cups 55 minutes (I use baking core)
        16” pan 13-14 cups 60 minutes (I use baking core)

        NB: Amounts and times can vary a little, but should be consistent within the wedding cake.

        Edit: hitting "submit" on the post messed with the formatting I tried to include, but you should be able to figure out what I meant. Let me know if it leads to any confusion, and I'll do my best to clarify.

        1. re: modthyrth

          Thank you so much for the recipe. I can't wait to try it. I do have to check the internet for the vanilla bean paste, though. I live in a very rural area, and we don't have any decent stores here. I order most of my ingredients for special projects on-line. Everything came through just fine on the post. The only question I have is, do you use 2" or 3" deep pans?

          1. re: mingogirl

            I typically use 3" deep pans and torte twice for layer cakes. But I have a full set of 2" pans, too, in which case I bake two per layer and torte each once. Ack. I have no idea which I used when I made those notes, sorry! I'm making the recipe in the next couple weeks for my neighbor's daughter's birthday cake, so I'll test it out, add that salient information to my notes, and report back.

            You can sub regular vanilla and the recipe works well, but the vanilla paste is more intense and really adds a special note.

          2. re: modthyrth

            Hi. What's "q.s. vinegar"? Thanks!

            1. re: content

              Put the vinegar in a cup measure. Fill with a quantity sufficient of the milk to bring the total volume to 1 cup. The notes are from my mother, who was a microbiologist in her first career, and I'm just used to her shorthand. Sorry for any confusion!

            2. re: modthyrth

              I just wanted to say thanks for this recipe. I'm in the midst of making my first ever wedding cake and I spent ages searching for a decent recipe. I made one test cake a couple of weeks ago which tasted very good but I like your cake much better. This one posting gave me more information about how to make the cakes than almost anything else. Since I had a little batter leftover I've made a mini cake as a tester and it is really good and that is before the buttercream.

              The only thing I did was use liquid vanilla even though I have a good brand of vanilla paste. I find the vanilla paste has an extra bit of flavour/sweetness I'm not so keen on and the same brand of Nielsen-Massey gave it a nice flavour.

              Now I'm off to do the buttercream and then tomorrow stack the tiers...

            3. re: mingogirl

              Given this information, I think you should experiment with the various buttercreams in the Cake Bible, and find the one you like the best. All will hold up well. I am very happy with her white cake as well (my 3 year old recently declared Cake Bible white cake and neoclassic buttercream with vanilla pastry cream filling to be the "best cake ever").

              I love cakecentral for decorating tips, brainstorming, and the like, but many recipes are on it that I would never use -- lots of shortening, cake mixes, using coffee creamer for flavors, etc.

              Good luck! This sounds like a wonderful gift and you will do a great job.

              1. re: milklady

                I agree with you about the shortening, cake mix, and coffee creamer, Yuck!!! Thanks, I will check out the Cake Bible.

                1. re: mingogirl

                  Same here re: cakecentral. I adore the site, and there's a ton of great information there, but I kind of filter through it with my more chowish sensibilities. I think the only recipe I've tried from the site was one for pastillage.

          3. I have no personal experience, but when I saw your post, I immediately thought of this:

            1 Reply
            1. re: betterbeheaven

              That is one site I'd never heard of, but I checked it out and they had a lot of good info. Thanks for responding.

            2. The "Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum has a wedding cake recipe that is modular to make in different sizes, ideas for transport, etc. This book nails all the science of baking cakes.


              Also, has lots of great tips. Good luck!

              8 Replies
              1. re: Kishari

                My uncle just baked a 3-tier wedding cake for his son's wedding last weekend. It came out gorgeously, and he swears by the Cake Bible. He said he learned a tremendous amount from it. Being a high achiever, he baked 32 practice cakes before the one for the big day! Fortunately, the folks at his church were eager to snap up the test runs.

                1. re: thinks too much

                  Another fan of "The Cake Bible," and if you have questions, you can reach Rose on her website,

                  1. re: thinks too much

                    A lot of people have recommended the Cake Bible, so I am ordering a copy. I would love to belong to your Uncle's church! He really was striving for perfection. I'm glad he had such great results. Thanks.

                  2. re: Kishari

                    I like the Cake Bible, too. It's at our library which is where I first read it and then bought it on If you make different size cakes and fool around with recipes to make them work, this is a great book because all the proportions are there. I think it's the geeks cake book.

                    1. re: chowser

                      Even though I've made 3 wedding cakes, I'm still the consumate geek!! Thanks for responding.

                      1. re: mingogirl

                        She has a three tiered white wedding cake recipe in her book, for 12", 9" and 6" pans. There is one recipe for the 9" and 6" and another for the 12" which makes it do-able, as long as you have a good stand mixer (or patient enough to use a hand mixer, which I have done. But, I'll never make buttercream for that much cake w/ a hand mixer again). Even though I've read the book, every time I look at it, I learn something new. I can only retain so much in my head these days.

                      2. re: chowser

                        It's a TOTAL geek cake book. Rose has gone so far as to test her cakes with different kinds of tap water when a recipe didn't come out and water was the only variable. And how excited am I to be able to talk to Rose on her Website? Geekily excited, thanks Chef June! Trekkies got nuthin' on us. :)

                        1. re: Kishari

                          FYI, Rose is working on a new cake book! Coming soon. This fall, I think.

                      1. re: Lisbet

                        I checked out the recipe on, and it sounds a lot like the cake I made for my Daughter's wedding 5 years ago. She chose the flavors, and she picked a butter cake brushed with a lemon simple syrup, and a vanilla meringue frosting. I also filled the layers with homemade lemon curd. It was really delicious. You can take that recipe and change it to suit any flavor and filling you choose. It makes a nice all-purpose recipe. Thanks for responding.

                      2. this is the definitive site for cakes: recipes, pictures, how-tos and feed back...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kayakado

                          I checked out, and you're right. There is a lot of info to choose from. I'm getting all kinds of ideas from ChowHound members. This is the best site I've ever seen for anything pertaining to food of all kinds. Thanks.