Making My Own Wedding Cake!
My husband and I got married this past August!! 👰🤵 It was my dream wedding come true, y’all! 💘 Since we wanted to be sensitive to COVID-19 restrictions, we had our wedding at an outdoor venue. It was nestled in a forest by a lake, and it was so magical! Sunlight filtered through the tall evergreen trees, as a refreshing summer breeze blew off the lake. And we kept the guest list limited to family and super close family friends, to reduce the total number of people who gathered.
With a shorter guest list, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to make my ultimate wedding dream come true – baking my own wedding cake! I know, this may sound crazy. All my friends and family thought I had absolutely lost my mind. But after Molly Yeh showed me it was possible to make your own wedding desserts, I knew this is what I wanted.
It was a challenge to level up my baking skills, as well as my organization and time management. Everyone at the wedding loved the desserts. And looking back, I wouldn’t have changed my mind. It saved us money, since wedding cakes are priceyyy. And it allowed me to share a deeper part of myself with all our family at the wedding. So here are my tips to make your own wedding cake, and not pull out all your hair in the process. 😜
How to Make a Wedding Cake and Cupcakes
First of all, let’s talk about stress and time management. I highly recommend to create a timeline if you plan to embark on the arduous journey of making a wedding cake for yourself or someone else. The timeline I based my plans off of was from Molly Yeh’s post when she baked and decorated wedding cakes for her friend. A timeline helps you plan out when you’re going to test-taste recipes, bake and decorate your goodies, and transport them all to the venue site. Here are some tips when creating a wedding cake timeline.
Countdown to the Wedding
- Three months or more before the wedding: Gather visual inspiration for your desserts. I had a board on Pinterest dedicated to wedding-aesthetic photos. I collected photos of cakes in that Pinterest board that I thought (1) I’d be able to recreate myself, and (2) fit with the forest/rustic vibe of my wedding. Start sketching with a pen and paper what you want your cake and cupcakes to look like. Will there be sprinkles? Edible glitter? Fresh berries? Yes, yes and yes for me! 😉
- Two months or more before the wedding: Decide what types of desserts you want at the wedding. I wanted to keep it simple (and easier on myself) so I just had a four-layer 8-inch cake for our immediate families, and then about 150 cupcakes for the rest of our guests. The cake had alternating strawberry and chocolate cake layers. Therefore, I decided to make half the cupcakes with the same strawberry cake recipe, and the other half of the cupcakes with the same chocolate recipe as the chocolate cake layers. That way, everyone could taste the same thing, just in different forms of cakey goodness.
We also had a donut wall! I made the wall from a peg board and metal pegs from Home Depot. 🍩
- One month or more before the wedding: Test recipes to determine their level of difficulty, the quantity of dessert they make, and their taste. I initially considered making chocolate cupcakes and tahini cupcakes. I figured it’d be a unique salty-sweet flavor, and an homage to my husband’s Middle Eastern roots. But everyone from both sides of our family voted for the strawberry cupcakes over the tahini cupcakes, so chocolate + strawberry won!
I also tried mini batches of different flavors of buttercream frosting. After these test-tastes, I decided to pipe chocolate frosting on the chocolate cupcakes, and white chocolate frosting on the strawberry cupcakes. It’s also good idea to try different flavors of frosting with all your cake flavors, to make sure everything tastes good together.
- Four weeks before the wedding: Bake the cake and cupcakes and freeze them. I cannot tell you what a lifesaver this was! A month before the wedding I was still feeling so relaxed and at ease. If I had to bake everything a couple days before the wedding, I probably would have had a major bridal meltdown. 👰 You can also take several days or even weeks to bake everything. I baked the two flavors of the cake one day. Then half the chocolate cupcakes another day. Then all the gluten-free strawberry cupcakes a couple days later. You get the idea. Take your time and keep it easy for yourself during this stage.
For the cake layers, bake each and let them cool completely. Don’t worry about trimming off the tops or edges yet. Wrap each cooled cake layer individually in plastic cling wrap, and then in aluminum foil. Place them in the freezer in an single layer. Don’t stack them until they’re completely frozen.
For the cupcakes, bake them in whatever cupcake cups you plan to serve them in. I used two different types of cups. One was metallic green for the chocolate cupcakes and for the gluten-free strawberry cupcakes. And the other was metallic lavender for the strawberry cupcakes. Let the cupcakes cool completely and then wrap about four together in plastic cling wrap. Seal them in gallon-sized ziplock bags and place them in the freezer in a single layer. Just like the cake layers, wait to stack them until they’re frozen solid.
- Three to Five Days before the wedding: Make all the frosting flavors and store them in airtight containers in the fridge. I made all the batches of chocolate frosting, white chocolate frosting and vanilla buttercream frosting I needed all in one weekend, so that I could compact the work.
Pro Tip: Make more frosting than you think you’ll need, especially for the cake. If you end up with extra frosting, it can be a post-wedding snack! Or store it in the freezer for later baking projects.
- Two days before the wedding: Two days before the wedding, defrost the cake layers and cupcakes by leaving them out on the counter at room temperature overnight, still wrapped up.
- One day before the wedding: Time to frost and decorate! Allow the frosting to come to room temperature before you frost your cake and cupcakes. I used piping bags to frost my cupcakes, and then my mom went in behind me and topped them with sprinkles. The day before the wedding I assembled and frosted my cake as well.
Plan for this to take many hours. In total, 150 cupcakes took about 3 hours to frost. I had to soften the white chocolate buttercream frosting by mixing it again in my stand mixer, because at first it was impossible to squeeze out of the piping bag.
And my four-layer 8-inch cake took a total of 3 to 4 hours to trim the layers, stack the layers, apply the crumb coat, refrigerate the cake to lock in the crumbs, add the top layer of frosting, smooth it out, refrigerate it again, and pipe on homemade funfetti frosting hearts and a bottom trim.
Leave off any fresh berries or other toppings that may get soggy until the morning of the wedding.
- Morning of the wedding: Add any final touches to your cake and cupcakes. I refrigerated my cupcakes overnight already frosted and sprinkled, and the sprinkle color didn’t bleed into the frosting at all. I would suggest you do a test run of this, just to be sure it doesn’t happen.
The morning of my wedding, I took about a half hour by myself to add edible gold glitter and arrange fresh berries on my cake. It was like a calm and peaceful moment before the chaos ensued. It was just me and my cake. 🎂
Wedding Cake & Cupcake Flavor #1
Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Layers of chocolate and strawberry cake remind me of chocolate-covered strawberries – yum!! So to create a rich chocolate flavor that didn’t overpower the sweet strawberry, I used the same recipe I made for this lavender-infused cake. It’s light and moist, but it also packs a punch of flavor since strong coffee is added to the batter to deepen the chocolate flavor. I didn’t change anything about the cake recipe for the cake layers compared to the cupcakes.
The chocolate frosting recipe I used to top on the chocolate cupcakes was Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
Wedding Cake & Cupcake Flavor #2
Strawberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting
The recipe I followed for these gorgeous pink strawberry cupcakes was from Life Made Simple. Using dehydrated strawberries elevates the flavor to a whole new fruity level! And it dyes them pink naturally, so they look so pretty! 💕 I used a delicious white chocolate buttercream frosting on top, with melted white chocolate! Just like the chocolate recipe, I didn’t change anything about the strawberry recipe between making cake layers and cupcakes. The texture remained great in both forms.
Pro Tips for a Stress-Free Wedding
I can’t tell you how to have zero stress at a wedding or big event, because I definitely stressed a bit. 😝 But if you can nail down the details for your desserts, that’s one major less thing you have to worry about on your big day.
- Measure/practice how your desserts will be displayed. Will there be a dessert table for guests to serve themselves like a buffet? Is there enough room for the cake stand? Are you putting out cupcake stands or just laying them on the table? If they don’t all fit, assign someone in charge of restocking the desserts throughout the event.
- Plan ahead how you will transport your desserts. I bought a tall cardboard cake box and a plastic cake plate that were both 10-inches, so the cake plate fit snugly into the box and didn’t move while we drove to the venue. I also bought plastic cupcake carriers, so again nothing would wiggle or fall during the drive to the venue.
- Consider using box mixes for your cake batter. It may not have the same homemade feel, but it’ll make the process go a lot faster.
- ASK FOR HELP! This was actually a struggle for me. I was pretty laid back about the wedding details, but when it came to my cupcakes and cake, I wanted it perfectly done my way. Don’t fall into this trap! Your friends and family want to be a part of your wedding – including late night or early morning cupcake frosting parties! Or if you want it all done a certain way, delegate other tasks like rental pick-up and napkin folding, so you have time to create your perfect dessert.
- Consider any diet restrictions or allergies that may come into play. A few of my family member’s are very gluten sensitive, so I made a couple batches of gluten-free cupcakes. We also had s’mores at the end of the night, and I got vegan s’mores so that they were gluten-free and halal.
- Create a little “menu” to place next to the cupcakes, with key allergy information. This helps prevent guests from asking you what’s in the cupcakes throughout the night.