Wedding cakes often times look too good to eat…but eat them you should!
This shabby chic wedding cake is a cinch. Time consuming yes, but very simple. If you want to save a ton of money by making your own wedding cake this tutorial will give you the confidence to stack and easily decorate your very own beautiful cake. Mom or Grandma would also probably love to get in on the action. Bake one day, decorate the next and you’re all set!
On a side note, I have to say I am quite saddened that cupcakes and dessert tables are upstaging traditional, tall and dramatic wedding cakes. I just don’t think it is as memorable. I’m all for the CAKE!
Step 1: Ganache
Start by baking and cooling the sizes of cakes you want. In this case I made four round cakes (12 inch, 10 inch, 8 inch and 6 inch). I know it’s a lot of cake but you can do it. This four-tier cake will serve approximately 130 guests.
One major key to making cakes look great is the ‘cement’ that holds up the ‘walls’ - so to speak. If you have super soft buttercream melting down the sides of a cake your fondant is going to look horrible. We’ve all seen the photos of ‘nailed it’ cakes where they turned out less than appetizing and down right ugly.
If you want smooth sturdy sides you have to start with a thick layer of ganache around your cakes. In fact, ¼ inch thick all the way around. 16 ounces of white chocolate will cover one 8 inch round cake but I always make more just in case.
Choose a flavor or chocolate (white, dark or milk) that will pair best with your cake flavor. In the following photos I am covering a fresh strawberry cake with white chocolate ganache.
White or Milk Chocolate Ganache (3 to 1)
- 24 ounces white or milk chocolate
- 8 ounces heavy cream
Dark Chocolate Ganache (2 to 1)
- 24 ounces dark chocolate
- 12 ounces heavy cream
Place chocolate in a medium sized mixing bowl. In a microwave safe container heat (microwave) heavy cream just until boiling. Remove from microwave and pour directly over chocolate. Jiggle the bowl a bit until the chocolate is completely submerged in cream. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Using a hand mixer, mix ganache until smooth and thin. Let stand approximately 30 minutes and mix again. Keep doing this until you get a consistency of whipped cream. Timing on this depends on how hot and humid it is. If it is cool outside set the ganache by a window to speed up the process. Or place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. Don't try to use it if it is thin. It will run down the sides of your cake and you won't be smiling.
Step 2: Apply Ganache
For this step you will need:
- 2 - 8 inch round cake boards
- 1 - 7.5 inch round parchment paper circle
- Turntable (optional but very helpful)
- Bench Scraper
- Offset Spatula
Level, stack and fill one of your tiers. I am demonstrating with an 8 inch round cake in the photos. I leveled, stacked and filled three layers so the cake would be a little over 4 inches tall when complete. The cake is sitting on an 8 inch round cake board. I didn't show photos of the cake process because I'm confident that even a beginner can level, stack and fill cakes. This doesn't have to be perfect because any flaws will be corrected with the ganache.
Once the cake is stacked and ready you will need to trim off about 1/4 inch of cake all the way around the edge of the cake. This is where our ganache will fill in. Again, this doesn't have to be perfect.
Place your parchment round on top of your cake board and secure with a tiny dot of ganache. A little bit will hold the parchment in place. Set aside.
Crumb coat (another phrase for messily (is that a word?!) cover all parts of the cake with a very thin layer of ganache) the cake. Let set for about three minutes or until the ganache sets or hardens a bit.
Place the cardboard/parchment round on top of the cake, parchment side down. Using your bench scraper line up the top round with the bottom round and secure the cake board with a small dollop of ganache.
Spread a very thick layer of ganache on the surface of the cake. Once it looks thick enough use your bench scraper and scrap down the sides while turning the cake. Wipe excess ganache back into the bowl. Repeat until you have scraped off all excess. If you see any small holes fill them in and scrap away again. Once your sides are smooth with no holes you can pop the cake in the fridge to set.
Once the ganache is set to the touch remove from fridge. Gently and carefully peel the cake board and parchment off the top of the cake. Smooth the top with more ganache. I like to use a level at this point to make sure stacking will be perfect but some decorators say that's going too far...so you can just eyeball it! But do try to keep it level. Your sanity depends on it!
Keep cake in the fridge until you are ready to cover it with ganache. This will ensure you have nice corners when you cover the cake with fondant.
Step 3: Cover Cakes With Fondant
I know some of you are gagging a little when I say cover the cakes in fondant but honestly store bought fondant has come a LONG way. It is vanilla flavored with a hint of marshmallow and has a smooth chewy texture. I used to HATE it until the recipe was changed. Now it's great.
Start by kneading about a 24 ounce ball of fondant. Use food coloring if you wish to have a color other than white or buy pre-colored fondant. A 24 ounce piece of fondant will generously cover an 8 inch round cake. Roll it into a flat disc about 1/8 inch thick. If you have air bubbles pop them with a very thin needle and smooth the hole.
Go get your cake from the fridge and place on a turntable if you have one.
Gently pick up fondant without using your fingers/fingertips. This could tear the fondant. Place the fondant over the cake and let it drape down the sides. Using a fondant smoother (or your hands if you don't have one) smooth any air bubbles from the top of the cake. Using your hands start working the sides down smooth. This is easier than it sounds if you take your time. Fondant is forgiving and will not harden in 10 seconds. I promise!! You have a little time.
You can gently pull the draping edge and smooth down with your hand until you get a crease where the fondant meets the turntable. Cut excess off around the bottom using a sharp knife.
Step 4: Stack Cakes
This is by far the simplest way to stack a cake, however, this is only best when the cake is assembled on site. I would never try to transport a four tier cake already stacked!!
Take a candy stick and insert it into the middle of the cake until it hits the cake board on the bottom. Mark where the top of the cake is on the stick and cut it off. Use that stick as a guide to cut the other sticks. Insert them into the cake in an even pattern. I have never used more than 5 dowels/sticks but some decorators use many more. Maybe I just haven't made a cake large enough yet!
Stack next tier on top. Repeat until you have a complete tower of cakes! A center dowel is a good idea, however, I don't show it in photos.
Step 5: Decorations - Ribbon Tier
Unfortunately, I was working on this part at night so my photo lighting isn't the best, but you get the idea.
Roll out a large piece of fondant (color of your choice) as thin as you can on a pastry mat if you have one. If not, smear a very thin layer of shortening on your countertop and roll on that. If you use cornstarch or powdered it can dry out your fondant making it hard to use. Either method will work though.
Using a sharp knife cut a curved piece of fondant.
Using a food safe brush, brush flavored (clear vanilla, almond or lemon) extract where you want the fondant to stick. Extract is fondant 'glue'. Place fondant on the top edge of the bottom tier moving to desired position. Cut another piece and repeat covering edges as you go. Keep pieces thin to get a ruffled edge.
Step 6: Decorations - Hand Painted Tier
Using a plastic painters palette or plate of some sort add food coloring and 1/4 teaspoon of extract and mix until well combined.
Start by choosing one color and paint random vertical lines. Clean brush and repeat with the next color. Clean brush again and paint random horizontal lines. Repeat with next color. If colors are too pale you can go over the cake again once it is completely dry.
Let dry before stacking as to not smudge your hard work!
Step 7: Decorations - Dots
Cut out dots of fondant using a small cookie cutter or decorating tip. I show turquoise and never ended up using it! Add dots with extract in a random pattern to the top tier.
Did you notice that one tier is just a solid color of fondant? You didn't even have to decorate that one! You're welcome!! I'm thinking of you...I am! :)
By the time you are finished with this tier the hand painted tier will probably be dry. Stack it and the dotted tier.
Step 8: Edging
You may or may not be a beginner when making this cake, but chances are there could be a flaw in the cut bottom edge of one or more of your cakes. This is where you add some bottom edging. Roll out a long piece of fondant and cut about a 1/2 inch wide strip. Brush edge with extract and attach the edging strip starting with the middle of the fondant strip on the front of the cake so the seam is in the back.
If you want to make this step even easier or if you are stacking on site you can use actual ribbon instead of fondant. Still lookin' out for ya! Just wrap it around and cut it or tie it in a bow.
Step 9: Decorations - Flower
This is the easiest way to make a random, free form flower.
Place a paper towel or thin cloth in a small bowl.
Roll out five or six circles from small to large (3.5 inches). Use cutters if you have them, otherwise, free hand cut them with a knife.
Using your fingers ruffle the edges of all of the circles and place them on the paper towel/cloth from largest to smallest securing each with extract. Gently pick up the paper towel and place it in the small bowl. Using the rounded end of something (I used the paint brush end) push a deep dent in the center.
Add a few small balls of fondant or edible pearls in the center securing with extract. Let set several hours to firm up.
Add to the very top of the cake. Viola!
Congratulations, you have created a shabby chic wedding cake!