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DIY Wedding Cake: Tips, Warnings & Advice from an Expert

diy wedding cake expert
I get a lot of DIY wedding cake questions in my email box each week from couples wanting to make their own do it yourself wedding cake and honestly, I just don't have all the answers.

So this time, I asked cake expert, Lorelie Carvey, who has been baking and adorning cakes since 1984! She even ran the pastry department of a large banquet facility and was in charge of all the cakes for three locations. This woman knows cake! She was kind enough to help me out with some of the common questions I receive.

I hope this resource helps you to make your own. With the right recipe and plan, you can do it! If you aren't ready to tackle a full cake just yet, we also have creative ideas for wedding cake alternatives, like these cake balls. If DIY wedding food is your thing, be sure to check out the many articles and how-tos in our DIY Reception food section!

DIY Wedding Cake...Your Questions Answered with Lorelie Carvey!

What is the absolute easiest type (recipe/shape/frosting) to make?

The easiest recipe for a wedding cake is one where you can dump all the ingredients into a bowl mix it all together and bake. You can find that recipe on my website, Wedding Cakes For You, and it is called buttermilk chocolate cake recipe. It is so delicious and so easy that it is a favorite of my brides and of mine.

The easiest shape cake to make would be the round cakes versus square, octagon, or heart shaped. The round cakes are easier to frost and they always look pretty stacked on top of each other with a simple decoration.

Basic American style buttercream is the easiest frosting recipe in my opinion. It is just three ingredients. Butter (softened) - powdered sugar and vanilla. Whip the butter until light and fluffy, add the sugar a little at a time beating after each addition and then finally the vanilla. The result is a delicious easy icing that can be used for frosting, filling and decorating a cake. I have several recipes on my website including the easy buttercream recipe.

diy wedding cake
How far in advance can I make a wedding cake and how can I store it?

A fully decorated cake can be made up to a 3 days in advance and then stored in the refrigerator, either in a box with plastic over the top, or simply with a plastic wrap lightly placed over the cake after it sets up. Buttercream, for example, must be hard before placing the plastic over it. A wedding cake can be made up to a a month ahead if necessary, as long as it is well wrapped and plastic and then in plastic bags made as air tight as possible.

Can I bake cake layers and freeze them? Do I freeze before frosting? How do I thaw it?

You can bake the cake layers and freeze them, in fact this is how I make all of my wedding cakes. Contrary to what most people believe , freezing a cake does not make the cake less fresh, in fact it keeps the cakes fresher. I always freeze my cakes and get them nice and firm before working with them. The filling goes in between the layers and firms up due to the temperature which helps to hold the cake together, especially if using a butter based filling.

Then you can crumb coat your diy wedding cake (a thin coating of buttercream or glaze to keep the crumbs from getting into the final coat) the cakes and let them thaw a little bit before doing the final coat. To thaw the cakes after crumb coating them leave them in the fridge overnight. The next day they will be perfect for finishing.

Once the cake is made, how do I transport it to my reception?

Transporting your cakes is probably the most critical and scariest part. How you transport them depends on whether or not the cakes are pillared or stacked.

If they are pillared, the cakes will be sitting on plastic plates, make sure you hot glue them in place. (each cake should have a cardboard round under it.) Place your cakes in boxes that the plates fit into or simply put the cakes on the flat surface of your vehicle. I have used the trunk, the floor or the seat after I rig up a flat surface. If you use plastic cake plates the plates will have little (feet) that actually will help to hold them in place. You may need to use a clean damp towel to give the cake plates something to grip onto or use thin cushioned material so the cake sink in slightly.

If your cakes are stacked the safest way to transport them is in a large box cut to fit exactly the base of your cake. The base should be at least 4 inches larger in diameter then your actual cake diameter. So if your bottom tier is 14 inches then you will need an 18 inch cake base. Again hot glue the cardboard under your cake right to the base so it will and not shift. Your cake should also have a dowel rod right through the center and down into the base.

diy wedding cakes
I've heard disaster stories about wedding cakes melting in the heat and I'm planning an outdoor reception in August. What kind of diy wedding cake and frosting holds up best in hot weather?

First, never put the cake in direct sun, and if it is very hot see if you can keep it in air conditioning for as long as possible. If your cake will be outdoors and there is a possibility of it being very hot, then stick with fillings that do not have eggs. Use buttercream filling to be the safest or even a cream cheese filling. Stay away from whipped cream for frosting.

A fondant cake should hold up fairly well in the heat as well although it may get a little shiny or sticky from the humidity. Buttercream will soften as well, but as long as you keep it out of the direct sun, your diy wedding cake should be ok. Of course if you live in the tropics you may have to find an indoor spot, when it comes to time to cut the cake it can brought outside. You will have to make a judgement call at the time. It is hard to give a definitive answer.

I'd like to decorate with real flowers. Which flowers are safe to use on my diy wedding cake? Are any flowers edible?

Yes there are certain flowers that are edible. Bachelors Buttons, Bee Balm, Chammomile, English daisy's just to name a few. Some herbs have pretty flowers that can be used such as Chives and Fennel, which has a wispy foliage.

You may also use flowers that are not edible as long as you put each flower stem in to a plastic spike flower holder or an arrangement on top which is contained in a special flower holder that florists use. This way the flowers do not actually touch the cake and will stay fresher.

To see a list of edible flowers for your diy wedding cake you can go to Wedding Cakes With Fresh Flowers.

What advice would you give to a complete newbie who has little experience baking?

YouTube has a lot of information on baking and making wedding cakes and my channel, weddingcakesforyou is a good resource. Find a website that has good instructions. Books are what helped me in the beginning. I have a book review page with a varity of books that I have used over the years. Taking a class at your local crafts or cake supplies shop to learn the basics is a great idea if you can. Experiment a little with baking a few different cakes, baking can be tricky and it takes some practice as well as the cake decorating.

Do a practice diy wedding cake if possible, this will help immensely and keep you from being too nervous about the actual wedding cake. Practice frosting cakes, this is probably one of the hardest things to master.

Do a simple design, use fresh flowers, and a simple border. Basket weaving with buttercream is fairly easy and makes a really impressive design for a newbie.

Thanks SO much for answering our DIY wedding cake questions, Lorelie! If your specific question wasn't answered here, you are still in luck, because she shares more trade secrets over on her website, Wedding Cakes For You so that she can help other aspiring cake decorators and DIY brides make their own wedding cakes. What an incredible resource!

Return to the Do It Yourself Wedding Food main section for tons more DIY ideas, including creative diy wedding cake alternatives!

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