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So You Want to Bake Your Own Wedding Cake…

July 30th, 2012 by Jeannine

So You Want to Bake Your Own Wedding Cake...

It sounds crazy but it happens… brides (or friends/relatives of brides) who are avid bakers attempt to bake their own cake. It would definitely be a neat thing to do, but truth be told, it can be quite a challenge. My friend & colleague did it for her wedding. Her name is Heather Beckley, she married her husband Jordan last summer. She’s not your ordinary bride though, she actually bakes cakes as a side gig under the name Heather and Hunny, whom you may remember is one of my Vancity Vendors. I decided to ask her some pointers for other brides out there wanting to give their oven a run for its money.

If an amateur baker wants to make a cake, what advice would you give to them?

Heather: Do your research! Purchase all the tools you need before you start with your cake, and be organized. Think about if you want three or four tiers of real cake or if you just want to experiment and have fake tiers on the bottom and a real cake on top. Using fake tiers is a much easier feat to accomplish for a novice baker. For the cake itself, test out the recipe, make sure it’s something you’re comfortable baking and will stand up to layers of buttercream and a fondant finish. Oh, and remember, you’ll be enjoying this cake with your new husband at your reception, so be sure to get his two cents on the flavour beforehand. The cake is one of those things that the groom can get involved in and enjoy.

Use your resources! There are dozens of blogs for novice bakers and YouTube videos to go along with them. You can find everything from how to cover a layered cake with buttercream to how to cover it in a smooth fondant finish, and everything in between. Look for the videos with lots of views, there will usually be a set of videos from reputable cakeries showing different techniques.

What supplies do you need before you should attempt baking a wedding cake? How much refrigerator space is needed for cakes?

H: You don’t need any refrigerator space at all! That’s the good news. If anything, a bride may choose to make the cakes ahead of time and freeze them, but never the refrigerator. I find that putting a cake in the refrigerator dries it out, whereas freezing a cake once it’s at room temperature in a completely sealed package will keep it moist and fresh when it’s defrosted. Typically though, it’s best to make the cake about 2 days ahead of time if covering with buttercream and fondant. Fondant acts like a sealant and will actually keep a cake fresh for over a week!

The downside to doing your own cake is that you may end up spending as much on supplies as you would on a cake from a professional baker. For example, if you’re going with a mostly fake cake with styrofoam on the bottom, you’ll need the styrofoam tiers, fondant (I use only Satin Ice) and many other supplies such as a good rolling pin, ribbon, a glue gun and potentially a large number of tools if you plan on making fondant or gumpaste flowers or other accessories. If you’re cutting out shapes, you’ll also need to order the cutters or make a trip to a cake supply store to get them. Just be sure you’ve got everything you need before embarking on this adventure. Another tip to making your wedding cake look professional is to use lustre spray or pearl spray or airbrush it in pearl sheen. You can find  the spray at specialty cake supply stores in the Lower Mainland.

If you’re brave and want to attempt an all-real tiered cake, you’re going to need more supplies, such as dowels and cake boards. In either case, you’ll also need either a cake drum (to display the cake on) or a cake stand, whichever you prefer. And don’t forget the cake pans, they can run anywhere from $10-50 depending on the size and brand you choose. There are companies that will rent cake pans as well, just watch how long you use them for, it may be cheaper to buy them.

Are there certain skills the person must know before attempting a cake?

H:If you’re creative, have at it! I’d really suggest that if a bride WANTS to make her own cake, she goes ahead and does it. If she’s not creative-minded, chances are the experience won’t be a lot of fun. But making your own wedding cake can be quite therapeutic. Again, my biggest bit of advice would be to be organized before starting. Have all of the supplies you need so that you don’t end up getting frustrated halfway through and having to make several trips to your local craft or cake supply store.

What about making your own cupcakes? Is that more of a hassle than making your own wedding cake?

H: Making your own cupcakes for your wedding can be a lot of fun. You can experiment with flavours and colours, if you like, or just keep it simple. The one thing I would suggest is to rent a cupcake stand from a local vendor, such as 4 All Occasion Rentals or Salmon’s Rentals. This will allow for a professional display but at a reasonable cost. Most vendors will rent you a stand for under $50 including tax. You can make a small 6″ cake for the top tier for you and your new hubby to cut and feed to each other! And think colour when choosing cupcake liners. I always use greaseproof as the colour stays true unlike traditional cupcake liners and you can find all sorts of patterns as shops like Scoop n Save in Langley or online through Flour Confections or certain Etsy vendors. Don’t fall for the cute designs on the bottom of the liners, your guests will never see them!

To give you a better idea of all the supplies you need, Heather listed out everything she used to make her four tiered square wedding cake (with a real top tier cake and the rest are fake).

  • 11″x4″, 9″x4″, 7″x4″ styrofoam tiers – $25 (Nicholson’s Equipment)
  • 5kg fondant – $35 (Nicholson’s Equipment)
  • 7/8″ royal blue satin ribbon for base of tiers – $15 (ordered online and used for other projects including the cake)
  • Glue gun and glue sticks – $8 (Michaels)
  • 5″ square cake pan – $10 (Global Sugar Art)
  • 1 5″ cake, chocolate with vanilla buttercream – $8 (homemade, approximate cost for ingredients including buttercream)
  • 14″ cake drum for display – $12
  • 5/8″ royal blue satin ribbon for edge of cake drum – $4 (Michaels)
  • 20″ rolling pin $21 (cost based on Wilton pricing)
  • Ruffle rolling tool (part of a set from Wilton) – $30
  • Jewels for centers of flowers – $8 (Michaels)
  • Circle cutter set – $12 (Michaels)
  • Cake smoothing tool  (used to smooth fondant once cake is covered) – $10 (Michaels)
  • Plus other miscellaneous tools

Another major thing you should take into account is time. Depending on the complexity of your design and how comfortable you are in the kitchen, it may take a while to complete this task and can add unnecessary stress, especially when it’s coming down to the wire. Heather hand rolled and layered many fondant circles in order to create the flowers on her cake, which still took quite a bit of time, but she’s a professional… an amateur baker will likely take longer.

With less experience comes mistakes, which can end up costing you. Becoming too ambitious may nip you in the butt in the end when you have to buy more ingredients to replace the ones you ended up throwing away. My advice is to choose a design based on your skill level and practice!

You know it’s time to hire a professional when…

  • You want your cake to look straight out of a bridal magazine – “Often times, the cakes in magazines are couture and in order to mimic that look, a bride would need extensive creative ability, not to mention a large number of supplies.”
  • You want a multi-tiered real cake – “Unless the bride has experience with mulit-tiered real cakes, it may be best to leave that to the pros. Using the dowel and cake board method can be tricky, the last thing a bride wants is a wrinkled cake.”
  • You won’t have enough time – “If time is a concern and a bride has lots of family in town during the week leading up to the big day, I’d also say call a professional.”

Last but not least, if you really want to make your own cake, Heather stresses that you should commit to it from the start. Throwing in the towel so close to the wedding date means you’ll have to scramble and find a baker who can take a last minute order, which may be hard to come by especially during peak wedding season. I just want to thank Heather for sharing all her tips and insights. If you have more questions, you can contact her through her website or email her at heatherandhunny@hotmail.com. I hope this article has helped you decide whether or not you should choose to make your own cake or cupcakes.

So… will you?

Photographer credits: All professional photos by Victor Saidov Photography

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