Overall, this cake making couldn't have gone better for a first attempt. Everything went smoothly, including the slicing and serving of the cake to my more than willing family (who were also sent home with HUGE pieces of each tier). The outside shots are from our al fresco Sunday lunch this afternoon (it'd be a shame to waste the sunshine, after all!) and I got very excited about the vintage tea cups and saucers my mum dusted off and the not-so-vintage Cath Kidston cake stand I got for my 18th. I thought the whole thing was very Pinterest.
1. Don't underestimate the quantity of ingredients you need. The first chocolate layer I baked came out much thinner than the others. The second time I made a chocolate layer I added an extra egg and the same weight as the egg's worth of flour, butter and sugar. It came out perfect.
2. Don't overfill your layers, or, don't spread the fillings right to the very edge, even if they're quite sturdy, but especially if they're soft. I tended to spread the fillings right to the edge because I didn't want the edge pieces to be dry, especially because the layers were so thick. But when the cakes have the pressure of the above tiers on them they get squished down and the icing expands. This wasn't so much of a problem because of the rough texture of the final coat of buttercream, and certainly wasn't noticeable straight after the cake had been made, but the next day (today) I could see a slightly thicker band of icing around the middle of the first and second tiers. That said, don't skimp on the layer of filling. I sandwiched the chocolate tier with Baileys buttercream and before it was stacked this layer of filling was about and inch thick. After a day or two, and the pressure of the above tiers when stacked, some of the filling seeped into the cake, and got pushed to the edges, meaning when the cake was sliced the amount of filling was perfect. Be generous with your fillings, they'll help stop your cake from drying out, but don't spread them too close to the edge.
3. Two days is plenty of time to make, fill and ice the cake. The cakes will just carry on getting drier from the day they are made. That said, all the layers were still lovely and moist today, 2 days after baking. To ensure maximum deliciousness, though, only bake 2 days ahead. Don't bother with freezing, there's too much potential for soggy cakes in my opinion.
4. Buy nice flowers from a florist. Although they were lovely, the Asda roses were looking a bit worse for wear after less than 24 of being cut from their stems. The lighter pink mystery flowers were still as good as new though...maybe some flowers just last better than others. Obviously, for the real thing I'll arrange the flowers on the day, preferably when I get to the reception to make sure they last as well as possible. I wrapped the ends in foil to prevent the flowers marring the flavour of the parts of the cake that they were stuck in. This seemed to work well. Interestingly, I only did this for the lighter pink flowers, not the roses, perhaps that's why they lasted so much better. Experiment with keeping the flowers watered while on the cake.
5. See if you and your cake can withstand the heat. Practise in summer. I now know that my cakes and icings will withstand hot July temperatures, but it's well worth testing this yourself, there'd be nothing worse than your icing sliding all around your cake when on display!
6. The cakes cut and serve wonderfully. Don't know what all the drama and stress was about (mum).
7. It's easier than you think! It may be a bit time consuming and tiring, but if you love baking and getting arty, and have a tiny bit of skill (and pounds of buttercream to cover mistakes) the results, reactions and praise is so, so worth it. Jump at the chance, how often to amateur bakers get to make such giant and exciting creations? It'll probably be another year before I make another wedding cake, but I'd recommend it to anyone.
8. DIY weddding cakes are literally HUNDREDS of pounds cheaper than buying them from professional bakers. You could get charged anywhere from £250 - £650 for a cake of the size I made, depending on where you live and what you want on it. I spent £35. Max. Granted, the results won't be quite as pristine as those from a pro bakery, but they'll be pretty damn good if you give your cake a 'lil bit o' love and attention. And 'rustic' is so in right now (seriously, just search Pinterest). No contest in my eyes.
Cue the mandatory photo montage...
|so painful to watch...|
|look how flat that is!!|