This instructable is the ultimate, most detailed guide to making your own buttercream wedding cake and customizing it to your liking. With wedding cake prices often over $400, a homemade wedding cake is a huge budget saver. Plus, it can be just as delicious and a ton of fun!
This particular cake is a four-tier white cake with buttercream frosting, raspberry filling, and fake flowers. The batter is a recipe I've tinkered with to create a very reliable yet tasty cake, moist but sturdy enough to hold cake layers. Since it use whole eggs, it doesn't require any egg-white whipping, but it still had a pretty white color. I have included two recipes for frosting. One is a silky french buttercream that is absolutely divine (it was a featured instructable of mine!) and the other is a crusting cream cheese crisco frosting that holds up really well in humidity and heat. The filling really brought the cake up a notch, like it was professionally made.
I decorated the cake in a pretty simple, elegant way and added fake flowers. I also included a fondant flower option. They both are pretty and a lot less perishable than fresh flowers.
Again, this is a guide to be adjusted to your liking, so I have included links to websites for variations of flavors, frosting techniques, etc. I personally still think this cake is the best.
If you like this instructable, please give it your vote in the wedding contest! :)
Step 1: Plan Out Wedding Cake
In order to make a wedding cake successfully you first have to plan out how and when you intend to make the cake. A few questions to ask:
How big will your cake be?
This question depends solely on how many people you intend to serve. I am making the 4-tier 6'8'10'12' cake, which makes approximately 120 servings without the top tier (the top tier is traditionally saved for the bride and groom on their first wedding anniversary). Each tier in the charts above are two 1 1/2-inch layers.
What flavor should the cake be?
Traditionally, wedding cakes are white cakes, which is the type of cake I am making. However, I have also included recipes for chocolate and lemon cakes if preferred.
What should the cake be frosted with?
Buttercream is much easier to work with, tastier, and more traditional than fondant. However, it is less sturdy in heat and more susceptible to melting. If your wedding is outside, you may want to make the crisco and cream cheese buttercream, which holds up well in heat and humidity. If your cake will be served inside, you may want to try the french buttercream recipe which does not hold up as well but is absolutely divine. Because I have already written an instructable for the french buttercream, I will be demonstrating how to make the crisco and cream cheese buttercream.
What type of filling should I use?
Since the cake is in two layers, a filling would be a good choice. I am making a raspberry filling, but store bought filing or plain frosting can be used.
How should the cake be decorated?
This is completely up to you! My decorating instructions are guidelines to help you make your own wedding cake. Flowers on a cake can fit any occasion and are pretty easy. I am making fondant flowers (easier and cheaper than gum paste!) and also have included an option for fresh flowers. The frosting embellishments are what I have found to be easiest and best looking, but please be creative and decorate however you want.
When should I make the cake?
A wedding cake is a lot of work, so you will need to plan out when you will make everything. The unfrosted, unfilled cake can last for about a week tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature. A frosted cake can be made a few days in advance. If you are making frosting ahead of time, it can last for a week in the fridge and rewhipped before frosting the cake. Fresh flowers should be added the day of.
I made this cake in one long weekend. I woke up early and whisked the batter, and while they were baking I made the frosting. Then, I filled them and added the crumb coat. On the next day, I finished frosting, then I stacked them and decorated them with embellishments and flowers.
Step 2: Gather Materials
For cake: (makes 26 cups of batter, enough for my four tier cake. Adjust as necessary, see chart on previous step)
8 sticks of softened unsalted butter
2 cups of shortening
12 cups sugar, plus more for sprinking
20 room temperature eggs
12 cups of cake flour
8 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
4 cups of buttermilk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of almond extract
For chocolate and lemon cakes
For cream cheese buttercream:
3 cups of shortening
3 cups of softened unsalted butter
3 pounds of cream cheese
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
10 pounds confectioners sugar
For french buttercream:
For raspberry filling:
4 cups of frozen raspberries
4 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 tablespoon of water
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 cup of sugar
9-inch round cake pan (For pans, it's better to get 2 of each, but I only have 1 of each so I will fill the pans twice)
12-inch round cake pan
18-inch round cake pan
cake boards or cardboard wrapped with foil
cake lifter, bench scraper, icing scraper or sharp, flat knife
Step 3: For Batter- Beat Ingredients Together
Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat together the butter and shortening, and slowly incorporate the sugar. Finally, beat in eggs one at a time and add the extracts.
My mixer is too small to hold all of the ingredients so I had to make it in batches.
Step 4: For Cake- Add Other Ingredients
Sift together the dry ingredients. Add the ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating between buttermilk and the dry mixture. Whisk thoroughly, then pour into greased pans and sprinkle sugar on top (this prevents it from rising too much so you don't have to trim the tops). Then, bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Step 5: Make the Buttercream
Beat all the ingredients except for sugar until fluffy. Then, gradually add the sugar until smooth.
Step 6: Fill Cake Layers
First, make the filling: Boil all filling ingredients on medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Really mash the raspberries with a potato masher. Let cool.
First, spread a thin layer of frosting on and under the cake layers. This makes a barrier so the cake doesn't soak into the cake and make it soggy. Put some frosting in a pastry or freezer gallon ziploc bag, twisting to make sure there is no air left. Snip a large hole on the bag's tip or use a large tip. On on of each of the 10, 8, and 6 inch rounds, pipe along the circumference of the cake. This forms a barrier for the filling. Then, spread the filling inside of the frosting barrier. Carefully place the top layer of the cake onto the frosting and filling, making sure to align before dropping. Don't press down, just gently place the layer of cake. Repeat for the rest of the cake tiers, and chill.
Step 7: Add a Crumb Coat
A crumb coat is the first layer of frosting to seal in the excess crumbs and to make a smooth surface for the second layer of frosting (think of a nail polish base coat). Use a long offset spatula or a large, flat knife to spread a thin layer of frosting onto the cake tiers. Once the entire cake is covered, chill until frosting is firm. If you see any crumbs during the process, brush them away. If they get into the frosting, you my need to apply another crumb coat after chilling the first one. Chill the crumb coat until firm.
Step 8: Frost
Smooth the frosting over the chilled crumb coat until smooth, scraping it with a bench scraper, cake lifter, or sharp knife until smooth. Be careful not to push too hard or else you will break the cake. Don't worry too much about the top because it will be covered by the other layers
Step 9: Add Dowels and Stack Tiers
Add 2 inch dowels into the cake, referencing the photo for details. Trim off the tops of the dowels so they will fit in the tiers. Using the cake lifter, carefully lift the first tier onto the stand. Then, place the others. If you want, you can mark where you want to place the next tier on the cake.
Step 10: Decorate
I really didn't do a ton in terms of decorating- I used a small fork to add ridges in the frosting, then piped swags. Sorry I don't have a picture for the swags! They really are quite simple, though. Just use a piping bag to pipe small arches on the cake. It just goes to show how a simple design can be the prettiest.
A few places too look for more ideas:
Step 11: Flowers
For fake flowers, you can just push them into the cake like I did. For fondant, rollout a little strip of fondant where one side is thicker than the other. Then, dab water on the thicker edge and roll it up.
In the end, I think the fake flowers are prettier, so I ended up just placing them on the cake and using them for the photo shoot.
Step 12: Finished!
Voila, you did it! Your finished wedding cake! Again, with a few proper techniques and patience, it really isn't as hard as it seems! Now impress everyone with your awesome cake :). If you like this instructable, please vote for it in the Wedding contest.
My sources were America's Test Kitchen, Global sugar art, Cake style, Cookies cupcakes and cardio, eHow howcast, food.com, addapinch.com, carol deacon, and thekitchn.com