A beginner’s guide to making a wedding cake at home
Making a wedding cake is not for everyone, but if you love to bake and the people you make it for, this is an excellent place to start.
A homemade wedding cake is “a great way to show someone that you love them,” says Natasha Banks, a work colleague who made a three-tier wedding cake for her sister last year. It can also serve as a wedding gift and is much cheaper than a professionally made cake.
Tash became a bit of a cake coach after I offered to bake my brother’s wedding cake in March, as did Le Tran, a friend and self-taught baker just an Instagram DM away.
“I know how nerve-wracking it can be to bake a big cake for the first time,” says Le, who is busy baking wedding and special occasion cakes most weekends.
Here are three things to know before trying a wedding cake at home – from the best way to make it, to finding an inexpensive item that will keep big cakes from collapsing.
Bake and freeze cake layers in advance
Sydney baker Le Tran prepares cakes in advance to leave room for decoration and mistakes. (
Delivered: Le Tran
Step number one: make some space in your freezer so you can bake early.
“I would always recommend a practice run because things can go wrong and you don’t want to get stuck at the last minute,” says Le, who leaves for decoration the day before a wedding.
She says that dense cakes like chocolate mud are toughest when you want to stack them up for a multi-tier cake.
“It was all done in advance,” says Tash of her eight-layer cake. “I made the layers and frozen them one by one in freezer bags.”
She also made her frosting (Swiss meringue buttercream) ahead of time and transported everything in an esky to the venue for assembly.
I started baking my cake three weeks before the wedding, handing it out over the weekends and after work, which made it both fun and manageable. The days before the wedding were left to make the icing and the night before to assemble the cake.
I went all out and included four different flavors over two cakes. (
Delivered: Sonya Gee
Not sure how much cake you need? Deb Perlman’s Guide to Wedding Cakes describes the “party cut,” which involves serving small rectangular cake segments rather than larger triangular slices.
I offered to bake as much cake as I thought I could comfortably make and move, knowing that not everyone would eat it.
Use support dowels for multi-level cakes
This cake drop could have been worse if I hadn’t supported dowels. (
Delivered: Sonya Gee
Dowels are plastic or wooden straws that slide into the center of a cake and help hold everything together.
They’re especially important when stacking a cake on top of each other – they provide structural support and keep your top cake from sinking into lower ones (disaster!).
Although they sounded a bit fussy, I decided to use them on both Le and Tash’s recommendation.
I am very glad they did. Dowels saved me when I lost my grip on the top cake the night before the wedding. They meant the cake layers didn’t fly apart, which made it weird to catch the cake more easily.
“Depending on the number of levels, I would use support dowels for each [cake] Animal and a big one in the middle when I’m making a three-tier cake, “advises Le.
“That said, anything can happen during transit, so I would try to bring supplies to fix the cake if necessary.”
I went with three dowels in the center of each cake, arranged in a triangle, and the total cost was less than $ 10.
It doesn’t have to look like a wedding cake
Nobody said wedding cakes had to have multiple layers. (
Delivered: Sonya Gee
With weddings shrinking due to coronavirus restrictions, you might not even need a large, flashy cake to feed a crowd.
I baked a lemon yogurt cake for a wedding for five in May, with a simple crème fraîche glaze and lots of edible flowers.
Lemon yogurt cake with roasted strawberries
Mix and Bake is usually my motto, and this cake is the epitome of that, writes Julia Busuttil Nishimura. It’s lemony, light, and perfect for afternoon tea.
Whether there are two or more guests, there are many ways to bake a wedding cake. You could make a nice cake to take photos and cut, and then some simpler ones to serve.
When I finished installing my brother’s wedding cake in March (when large gatherings were still allowed), I loved it. Sure, it had a slight tendency to do so, but I had made it and had turned up in a big way for him and his fiancée.
Final advice before you get started? Both Tash and Le say practice makes perfect.
“Since I’m self-taught, I’ve learned so many things the hard way,” says Le.
“Some things that I thought were easy turned out to be much more difficult than I thought, which would put a total strain on me.”
“Sometimes the best way to learn is through trial and error, so definitely practice!”
ABC in your inbox every day
Get our newsletter for the best of ABC Everyday every week