Including the best recipe!
pink flower on white diy wedding cake
We did not decide to make a wedding cake lightly. When my husband told me he wanted to bake our cake I was skeptical at first, but he had the time, the baking skills, the desire and was convincing. If you are contemplating making your own wedding cake here are some things we learned and some tips we have to make it through the process.
START EARLY! We cannot stress this enough. This will give you enough time to get your equipment, find a good recipe, to bake test cakes and to practice your frosting skills.
GET A GOOD RECIPE. Baking is science and other people have already figured it out. It is just a matter of finding a recipe you like. We highly recommend the America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. Not only is the recipe tasty, but the section dedicated to wedding cakes has instructions including a timeline, equipment and pictures that make the process less intimidating. You can determine how much cake you need using one of many online calculators. We baked a two tier cutting cake and a sheet cake for our 100 guests.
Man practicing making buttercream icing for a DIY wedding cake
HAVING THE PROPER EQUIPMENT IS KEY. Knowing that we were undertaking a wedding cake, my mother gifted us with a stand mixer. We wouldn’t have succeeded without it. Even considering in the cost of buying a stand mixer, we calculated that we still saved money by baking our own cake. Make sure to purchase and practice using your equipment. Most of our aluminum baking pans came from restaurant supply stores and were fairly inexpensive, yet high quality.
Here is a short list of supplies we found invaluable:
Quality Aluminum pans (sheet & rounds)
Parchment paper (save yourself the hassle & buy pre-cut rounds
Cake boards (for storage)
Industrial sized plastic wrap
Cake decorating stand
Frosting bags & tips
Cake display stand
PRACTICE! We baked two test cakes. At first we thought that we wanted a chocolate cake with buttercream filling. After our second test – a yellow cake with chocolate ganache filling we quickly changed our minds. Not only should you practice baking and assembly, you should also practice freezing, thawing and assembly. One thing we would have done differently is to practice thawing our icing. The first batch we thawed on our wedding day separated because we tried to rush it in the microwave. It is also fun to practice your icing skills on test cakes to get an idea of how you might like to decorate. Purchase high quality ingredients, the devil is in the details.
The bride and groom cutting the DIY wedding cake.
ANTICIPATE ASSEMBLY UNDER PRESSURE. Ideally, we would have assembled and decorated our cake the day before the wedding to experience less stress. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the cold storage to accommodate this and were worried about transporting an assembled cake. On the morning of our wedding I was experiencing a leisurely breakfast with a friend, while my husband was assembling and frosting our cake under pressure at the reception location. This is one thing he would have changed. He was especially glad to have extra icing and filling because his first container of icing separated.
My husband proudly grins when he remembers all of the compliments he received for the cake. Some of our guests said it was the best cake they had ever tasted; his sister used the recipe for her own wedding cake. I asked him if he would ever do it again and he said yes. I also want to add, although I used the pronoun ‘we’ throughout this post, all the credit goes to my husband. He baked and I tasted.
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TOTAL TIME: Prep: 1-1/4 hours Bake: 10 min. + cooling MAKES: 16 servings
5 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup cake flour
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons each ground ginger and cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
1 carton (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, dried cranberries or miniature semisweet chocolate chips
4 to 6 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, melted and cooled
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1 slice: 373 calories, 24g fat (13g saturated fat), 103mg cholesterol, 121mg sodium, 38g carbohydrate (29g sugars, 1g fiber), 5g protein.
Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°. Line bottom of a greased 15x10x1-in. baking pan with parchment paper; grease paper. Sift flour, spices and salt together twice.
In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until slightly thickened. Gradually add brown sugar, beating on high speed until thick. Beat in molasses, oil and fresh ginger. Fold in flour mixture (batter will be thick).
Add cream of tartar to egg whites; with clean beaters, beat on medium until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition until sugar is dissolved. Beat on high until stiff, glossy peaks form. Using a large whisk, fold a fourth of the whites into batter, then fold in remaining whites. Transfer to prepared pan, spreading evenly.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool 5 minutes. Invert onto a tea towel dusted with cocoa. Gently peel off paper. Roll up cake in towel jelly-roll style. Cool completely on a wire rack.
For filling, in a small bowl, mix mascarpone cheese, confectioners’ sugar, cream and salt just until blended; stir in ginger. Refrigerate, covered, while preparing bark and buttercream.
For bark, line the underside of a 15x10x1-in. baking pan with parchment paper. Using an offset spatula, spread melted chocolate in a thin, even layer on parchment. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
For buttercream, place egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl; whisk until blended. Place bowl over simmering water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisking constantly, heat mixture until a thermometer reads 160°, about 1-2 minutes.
Remove from heat. With the whisk attachment of a hand mixer, beat on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form and mixture has cooled, about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in butter, a few tablespoons at a time, on medium speed until smooth. Beat in cooled chocolate.
To assemble, unroll cake; spread filling over cake to within 1/4 in. of edges. Roll up again, without towel; trim ends. Transfer to a platter. Spread buttercream over cake.
To decorate cake, lift chilled chocolate with fingers and break carefully into shards; arrange over buttercream, overlapping slightly. If chocolate becomes too soft, return to refrigerator as necessary.
Refrigerate cake, loosely covered, until serving. Using a serrated knife, cut cake into slices.
Freezer Option: Entire cake can be made up to 1 week before serving. Prepare and decorate cake as directed; freeze 2 hours or until firm. Wrap cake in several layers of plastic wrap. Return to freezer; freeze for up to 1 week. To serve, partially thaw wrapped cake in refrigerator overnight. Carefully remove plastic wrap; let cake stand at room temperature 15-30 minutes before serving. Yield: 16 servings.