Thursday, May 22, 2014

DIY Wedding Cake Part 1: Buy Lots of Stuff and Make a Plan

A Few Tips to Help You Pull Off Your Personal Wedding Cake Design



 You can do it!

Have you ever thought about making your own wedding cake? Imagine you and your new hubby stepping in front of the crowd for your cake-cutting photo op. "The wedding cake is so beautiful," the crowd whispers. "And she made it herself!" your mom declares loudly. What a proud moment indeed.

The idea of making your own wedding cake sounds both romantic and noble.
You envision yourself the perfect cook in a perfect chef’s hat, creating the perfect wedding cake and saving money too. But before you commit to doing it yourself, remember a beautiful wedding cake is a deed easier said then done. Professional wedding cake bakers spend years learning their craft.

That doesn't mean you can't do it yourself. But be realistic. Don't go into it expecting the same oooh-ahhh crowd pleasing perfection a professional baker might receive.


You Must Remember This

Your wedding cake will be a key focal point of your most important day.
  • When the bridal party is posing for pictures in the park, your reception guests will be doing a 360 ogle of your wedding cake.
  • Your wedding cake will be the one thing photographed and commented on nearly as much as you and your new hubby.
  • The pans, ingredients, flowers, boards and all the other things you need to create your wedding cake, might end up costing you nearly as much as getting a professional to do it.
  • This will be your wedding, hopefully your only wedding, and your only wedding cake, reason enough to rethink the whole do-it-yourself angle.

If you've considered these caveats and still insist on baking and decorating your own wedding cake, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1- Get Organized
If you already have a wedding binder, add a section for your cake with a few sheets of paper for notes covering these topics:
What do you want?- Wait! Before you say you want a wedding cake with tiers and fountains and staircases and multiple satellite cakes at each side, remember, the more complicated the design, the more headaches. When it comes to your do it yourself wedding cake, simple is good.
Find a picture- Of course you already have an idea in mind for your perfect wedding cake; if not, figure it out early enough to make it a reality. Look through wedding books and magazines. Wilton, the cake decorating guru, publishes wedding cake books and an annual book of new all-occasion cake designs with step by step instructions and serving charts.
Wherever you find your wedding cake, photocopy the picture and stick it in your binder. If you can't find a picture of the perfect cake for you, draw a sketch with a detailed description.
How many servings?- You should begin purchasing your cake supplies long before your RSVP process is complete; so guesstimate the number of wedding cake servings you will need. Record it in your notes.
2- Cake Hardware
For simplicity's sake think of your pans, columns, boards, boxes, circles, frosting bags and tip sets, cake topper and other non edible items as your hardware. If you are on a tight budget and can live with limited options, you can find the hardware you need at many craft stores like Michael's or Hobby Lobby, including the Wilton line of deep, straight sided cake pans. Once you've compiled the list of items you need, you can wait for a sale at your favorite craft store or use a coupon for deeper discounts.
If you want an octagon, heart or other uniquely shaped wedding cake and a larger variety of columns, separator plates, even a power operated fountain you can rent, visit a cake supply store. If your small town doesn't have a cake supply store, check the listings in a nearby larger city.
On your first visit to the cake supply store, ask the sales clerk to help you figure out the supplies you need for your number of guests. Write the items down with prices so you can calculate your costs when you get home. Or if you're feeling confident, buy the items you need for your wedding cake and take them home with you. No matter how diligent your shopping, you will probably miss a few necessary items; so be prepared for a return trip, perhaps two or three.
Make certain you have enough cooling racks for all your layers. You can purchase these cheaply at a discount department store.
3- Cake Software
Think of eggs, butter, oil, vanilla, confectionery sugar and other edible supplies as your software. Most of these items are available in your regular grocery store. Stock up on non-perishables during a sale or head for a nearby discount store for a better price. Buy eggs, sugar, etc. a few days before you begin baking so they will be fresh.
While you're purchasing your pans and other items at the cake supply store, don't forget the meringue powder, clear vanilla and white-white for your butter cream frosting. They may be difficult to find in a typical grocery store.
4- The Urge to Scratch
Perhaps making a wedding cake is a manifestation of the domestic side you've been trying to cultivate. To you that may mean not simply making a wedding cake, but doing it from scratch. You know, like your grandma. Feel that urge for a moment then let it go. Prepackaged cake mixes are much easier.
Some cake decorating teachers recommend Duncan Hines cake mix. It's moist and rich and comes in lots of flavors. Whether you use Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker or another mix, think of it not as a shameful secret but as your wedding cake decorator's blessing in disguise.
Hopefully when you bought your pans, the salesclerk showed you where to find the information on calculating the boxes of cake mix you will need per pan and how many servings that will make. Remember, if your notes say buy 10 boxes, buy 12 just in case. Buy your mix ahead of time, but check the expiration date before you do.
5- Set a Cake schedule
A wedding cake professional works from a schedule; and you need to do the same thing. Your time may be a bit tight as you will be fitting your cake duties in among bridal showers, rehearsal dinners and other last minute events. Arrange your schedule so you can do your baking close enough to the wedding date for your cake to be fresh, but far enough in advance so as not to create a time crunch.
Your cake will frost better if you allow layers to sit for at least a day after baking. Some wedding cake makers bake the layers and freeze them weeks ahead of time. They swear freezing doesn't effect flavor; but your wedding is not the place to test that theory. Besides there's nothing like fresh.
For best results, allocate cake time on three consecutive days with extra time to correct mistakes.
  • Day one Bake
  • Day two frost and decorate
  • Day three
  • Complete inner structure for pillared or stacked cakes (Cakes with columns and/or multiple layers)
  • Pick up live flowers and greenery
Your Wedding Day
  • Transport your cake to the reception hall before the wedding
  • Assemble layers
  • Stand back and wait for the oohs and aahhhs.
It's time!

Fast forward past the months of choosing your perfect wedding cake style, calculating servings, buying pans and eggs and vanilla and cake boards and separator plates and the whole list of things you need for your perfect wedding cake. Assume you purchased all of these things at a very good price with the help of a nice salesclerk at a local cake decorating shop......
Now that you have an idea of what you've decided to do. Think about it for a few days, then come back for Wedding Cake DIY part 2: Avoid Wedding Cake Horror Stories.

Here's to your crafty self,
Carol, the Nice Lady