During the planning for my wedding, I almost had a heart attack on hearing how much a wedding cake costs. To quote Steve Martin in Father of the Bride: “a cake, Frank, is made of flour and water. My first car did not cost $1,200.” After this discovery and given that I secretly harbour dreams of becoming the next Peggy Porschen/Jane Asher/Fiona Cairns, I decided to embark on the task of making my own cake…much to my Mother’s horror.
But what fun I had! Not only was it a great success (no nervous breakdown from me the day before the wedding as anticipated by many), I managed to make quite a few new friends at work by flogging my trial cakes. Added to which the total endeavour, trials included, only cost about £100 (kit excluded…this did raise the price a little as I do love a bit of kit!).
So I thought I would share with you both how I did it and also how easy it is to try to encourage any brides-to-be out there to have a go! Wedding season is looming after all.
After a lot of research I decided to use BBC Good Food’s wedding cake recipes: chocolate on the bottom tier, lemon* in the middle and a light fruit cake on top (the final tier is just a polystyrene fake so that I could attach the slightly tacky fimo models of myself and the groom!!). Normally it’s pretty tricky/nigh on impossible to stack a fruit cake on top of a sponge cake but this one is a little like a malteser…lighter than ordinary fruit cakes.
The chocolate layer is like a giant chocolate brownie filled and covered with chocolate frosting and, as a chocoholic, definitely my favourite layer. The lemon is lemon drizzle-esque with the added bonus of lemon curd buttercream. And, despite not being the most die-hard fruit cake fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this version – much lighter than a brandy soaked Christmas cake, with added pistachios, mixed peel, sultanas, and dried apricots.
The thing I was most worried about was the timings. I trialled all the cakes, freezing half and sampling them at regular intervals to assess how they kept – oh, the hardship. Well, at the risk of you all shouting “first world problems” at me, it was a bit of a hardship. There was so much delicious cake, and just before the day you want to look slim and beautiful having only consumed raw vegetables and other complexion-boosting items prior to the big day rather than buttercream and chocolate. Tough times.
Anyway, I digress. Back to timings. The fruit cake was the easy one as you can obviously bake that well in advance. I did mine about 2 weeks before. The chocolate and lemon ones were still moist and delicious after 3 days so I got baking 3 days before the big day, wrapping them in greaseproof paper, foil and clingfilm to keep them fresh. Overkill perhaps, but better safe than sorry.
If you so want to freeze them instead of baking them last minute, they still taste great. In fact, we enjoyed some delicious left-overs post honeymoon and you could barely tell the difference between the fresh and frozen. I was just being super-keen and also had the time to bake them just before the day.
So the baking had been successful. Onto the decoration – by far the most stressful part, mainly because I did it the evening before the big day. My Mother was on standby to run to M&S to buy fruitcakes in the event I accidentally threw the cake on the floor/made the ugliest cake ever/put my finger through it/etc. But thankfully, and perhaps largely due to the aid of a gin and tonic to steady my hands, the application of buttercream (sponges), marzipan (fruit), and ready to roll white icing went smoothly. As did the addition of some bought sugar paste flowers and ribbon for decoration.
The last stage was the construction, which occurred the morning of the event. Full instructions on assembling the cakes can be found here. I won’t repeat them as they’re pretty comprehensive, and frankly not that interesting! Just make sure you only assemble the cake once it’s in its final location. It’s not only incredibly heavy but you wouldn’t want to be walking around with a potential leaning tower of cake after all that work!
So there you have it. Happy baking! Or, if you would prefer to buy one, please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) as I’d love to bake your wedding/christening cake for you!
* The only change I made to the recipes in the links above was to the lemon cake. I didn’t add the syrup after baking as per the recipe for fear of ending up with a soggy cake.
PS apologies for the lack of photos – I made this prior to the Perky Pancake’s existence!