I made a wedding cake! For my little brother and his lovely bride, at their beautiful wedding last month. I have to say, I think this is my favorite wedding cake I’ve ever made. It was the most simple cake I’ve ever made, decor-wise, and I think that made it the loveliest. As for flavor, it was a butter cake with lemon curd filling and lightly-lemon-flavored buttercream. It took me about two full days to bake and a variety of miscellaneous related prep over the course of a week, and it weighed five tons and required three men to move it once assembled! Here are the deets:
BEHIND THE SCENES
SPACE: The first thing most people ask about this is: how do you make such a huge cake in your house?! Is there even room for it in the fridge?! The answer is… sometimes, if you’re very good at squeezing things into small spaces! (Which, of course, as a New Yorker I am very good at.) This is how my fridge looked the night before departing for the wedding.
The truth is, I sometimes when I make a wedding cake I have to borrow fridge or freezer space from a neighbor, but in this case I was able to fit everything at my place. I made each individual tier of the cake separately (5 total, each one made using this method), chilled them, then froze them. (Note: the cake was four tiers but I made a fifth tier for to be frozen and eaten on their one-year anniversary.)
Here’s the general order of things I follow when making a wedding cake:
1. Bake all the sheet cakes, make the filling and frosting, and assemble the tiers using cake rings (see method linked above).
2. Frost each tier with buttercream, pop into the freezer until outer layer of frosting is firm, then wrap in several layers of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil. I usually do everything up to this step 1-2 weeks before the wedding. (The assembled cakes freeze beautifully and the quality is not affected at all; in fact, I think it helps to really solidify the cakes and stabilize them.)
3. Day before the wedding: remove the cakes from the freezer and finish covering them, which usually means fondant but in this case was just another layer of buttercream. Decorate the tiers as much as possible at this point–as much as can be done before stacking the tiers.
4. Make sure you’ve gathered everything else you need, like boxes (one for each tier), topper, base, and anything related to decorations.
5. Travel to the wedding site, stack the cake layers, add any decorations that need to be done on site. (Recommended: strong, patient boyfriend to carry the monstrously heavy cakes out from your walk-up apartment, to the car, then carefully drive the whole lot of you to the wedding in another state.)
THE TOPPER: The cake topper was one of the trickiest parts of this cake! I wanted to do deer, but I had the hardest time finding the right deer. I looked all over the internet and couldn’t find the right thing (even purchased a beautiful set of vintage brass deer which alas were a bit too large when they arrived). Finally I was about to give up on the deer (plan B was to just do flowers on top of the cake), when my mom and I came across these plastic toy deer at Michael’s. They didn’t look like much — kind of just like cheesy toys — but I spray painted them goldish-bronze, and they actually turned out really cute! It’s kind of amazing how spray painting anything a solid color immediately elevates it several notches.
FLOWERS: The bride and groom were having dahlias as their wedding flowers, so that’s what I went with on the cake as well. I went to Sprout in Brooklyn and picked up these gorgeous dahlias, berries, and greenery. These flowers were so, so beautiful that they really spoke for themselves — I am really not a flower arranger (at all), but it was so easy to just cluster a few of these here and there on the cake–so simple and so pretty.
THE BASE: This was my absolute favorite part of the cake, hands down — the base was a slab of tree that my dad cut from my grandparents’ house. My grandparents are no longer with us and I just thought it was the sweetest thing to have a piece of their home with us at the wedding. About a month before the big day, my mom casually texted me that my dad was cutting up a huge tree at my grandparents’ house, and I pounced, immediately texting back that I would be needing some slices of that tree! They totally got it and very nicely cooperated, cutting a lovely piece which made the perfect cake platform.
ICING & PIPING: This was the first time I made a wedding cake without fondant, and I have to say I loved it! Soooo much easier (and less expensive), I sort of felt like I was cheating — but I actually really loved the final look of this cake. The icing was all buttercream, and for the outer layer I did a simple stucco effect which basically means you just slap the buttercream on without trying to get it smooth! I thought it looked really nice and was perfect with the rustic look of the wood base.
All I did in addition to the stucco buttercream was pipe some dots on the seam between each tier. For this I used a #12 piping tip and just laid down a row of dots, on site at the wedding location after stacking the tiers. Done and done!
After piping over the seams between tiers, I just clustered the flowers here and there, added the little deer, and that’s it! Here’s the whole process in magnificent, state-of-the-art gif animation!
Congratulations to Donnie and Lindee, one of the sweetest couples I know! It was an honor to make your wedding cake. :)