DIY Wedding Cake: Learning the Basics

DIY Cake

I made our wedding cake. I did it for a variety of reasons, the least of which was to save money. Incidentally, after I purchased all the equipment, practiced  for 7 months, and made the final 4 tier cake for the wedding, I found it would have been cheaper to buy a small 3 tier cake to feed my 60 guests. Nevertheless, my grandmother baked and decorated elaborate, multi-tiered cakes. She died when I was young, but I have missed her fiercely over the years and this was a way to remember and honor her at our wedding. That, and I have long found  time in the kitchen relaxing. What started as a money-saving strategy turned into a personal quest for perfectly buttercream because I actually didn't save money.

Two days before my wedding, when I made the filling. The following day, I made the cakes and buttercream. The act of making my own wedding cake relaxed me. It felt like an act of love for our guests–those family and friends, most of whom had seen one or the other of us grow up. It was quite an intimate and emotional experience. I know I'm likely in the minority here. A friend of mine who married 9 months before I did issued stern warning about not adding to week-of-wedding stress by attempting to make my own cake. For me, it was the opposite; making our wedding cake was one of the most memorable and joyous parts of the my wedding prep.

For those of you bold enough to do the DIY cake thing, my biggest recommendation is practice, practice, practice! I started making 6" practice cakes 7 months before our wedding. I made about 1 each month. I experimented with different cake recipes and flavors, practiced pinning multiple tiers with dowels, and, of course, tried to get my buttercream as smooth as I could. If you practice enough, a part of you will kick into auto-pilot during "game time."

Incidentally, I realized two very important things about perfectly smooth buttercream:

  1. Look closely and you'll find that even professionally made wedding cakes have slight flaws in the buttercream. Nobody cares!
  2. I was going for a casual, outdoor, part-rustic-woodland, part-southern-picnic wedding. "Imperfect" buttercream ended up being absolutely perfect for the more casual look and feel of our wedding.

I found this gem of a video on YouTube and used TubeTV to download it to my local computer. I cannot tell you how many times I hauled my laptop into the kitchen, watching this video, pausing at each step. More to come on the cake, the costs, and the final flavor and decorating decisions. In the meantime, enjoy!