I'm beginning planning to make a 3-tiered wedding cake for ~130 in June. It will be covered in a simple white buttercream and flowers. Any words of advice? Encouragement? Warning? Thanks!
Make one tier as a test first, of both the cake recipe and the icing. And be generous with the simple syrup. You'll do fine.
That sounds exactly like my wedding cake.
You most likely know this already, but be careful selecting flowers and plants to use as cake decorations. Some are poisonous. Even the edible ones can be sprayed with 'stuff'. But you can also decorate with artificial flowers too. My baker did that for my wedding cake and it looked great. No one even noticed that the flowers were fake. It even photographed really well too.
I had a different flavor - chocolate, van/choc marble, strawberry - in each tier. That kept things kind of fun for the guests and some even ate all 3 flavors. We even had a groom's cake decorated with my husband's favorite hobby: a Ducati motorbike (handdrawn by my fabulous baker).
You're going to have some much fun making this cake. My one suggestion would be candied flowers. I think that you are skilled to make your own candied violets which you could then use to decorate the cake.
Good for you and hello, friend! My advice is: 1) Above all else, you MUST structure it correctly, with dowels and cardboard circles to support each tier. 2) Make sure you have a professional-quality turntable so you can slice the cake and frost the cake tiers evenly. 3) Ditto on being careful about the flowers and their being organic/edible. 4) Work with chilled cake. It slices more easily than room temperature. Let me know if you need more help or details!
The Smitten Kitchen blog has a very detailed rundown of how she made a wedding cake for a friend:
And don't forget about transport issues. Best choice: transport all layers separately and assemble at reception.
I've done this a few times--here's what I've learned. You can bake the layers and make the buttercream ahead of time, and freeze both. Simple syrup will moisten the layers once they thaw. Fruit in the middle layer is great too for adding moisture. Just make sure your buttercream is at room temperature before you beat it, or it will break. If you can't make it on site, you can transport it safely in a box just a bit bigger than your base (I recommend masonite for the base, easy to cover, sturdy, not too heavy). Straws work just as well as dowels. Piping shells on the edges is not hard to learn to do and gives a more finished look to your icing. Rose Levy Berenbaum's Cake Bible has great recipes and a couple of cautionary tales. Good luck!
I agree with all of the above and also urge you to use magic cake strips on any cake pan larger than 9". You soak them in water and wrap them around the pan as you put it in the oven. Then your cake will cook evenly throughout, and the outer edges won't dry out before the inner part is done.
Catherine, you are so brave! Though I'm quite certain I'll never make a wedding cake, I thoroughly enjoyed reading all these tips. ;o)
Ditto the SmittenKitchen suggestion. I gave me confidence to do my own wedding cake and now two others. Some advice:
(1) Do as much in advance as possible: As suggested bake all the cake layers in advance and freeze (maybe a week or two before). Then make the buttercream/filling between the layers and assemble each of the core layers including doweling (I do this the day before and then fridge overnight). On the day, preferably at the venue, I stack and dowel one through the whole thing and buttercream (always make extra butter cream).
(2) Get a friend to help. Generally as a good home cook, you can handle the cake baking, but the frosting takes surprisingly long. It also helps to have another perspective and support when doing the final/stressful bits (good to have a laughing partner in crime).
(3) Think about your strengths. I also would say for your first cake, to keep it simple and actually texture goes a long way (like a wave or lines) it adds depth without needing to make to perfect. Or if you are awesome at frosting, then minimize the flowers and let it shine. Or if you are amazing at sugar flowers, bring as many in as possible.
Find a copy of The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum. It will make this project SO much easier. I used her book when I did a wedding cake for a friend.
I was "volunteered" to make a three-tiered whole wheat, honey-sweetened carrot cake with cream cheese frosting... All the hardest elements in one cake over a very warm May weekend. The hardest thing was keeping it cool and we rigged a modified swap-cooler - two chairs surrounding the cake with a light sheet draped over. The ends of the sheet were draped into pans of water, while a Fan blew gently across the top. Mcgyver meets Martha! Cool cake, lovely wedding. I hope yours is too!