For those of you who were inspired by my recent post Why you should make your own wedding cake here’s the lowdown on HOW you do it.
First lesson. Consider this before you even think about starting to plan your cake: Keep it Simple. You are not a professional patisserie chef (if you are, you probably don’t need to read this), so if you want a cake that looks like William & Kate’s, you probably need to call in the professionals. Set yourself a realistic goal. Choose a type and design of cake that’s simple and elegant.
Here are three simple types of cake that even an amateur baker can make look pro:
- Buttercream Cakes: slathered with thick, fluffy, vanilla scented icing, the buttercream cake is as simple as it gets. No need to smooth or roll icing, just slather it on with a spatula. So what if it’s a little messy? It’ll have rustic charm. Check out these beautiful examples.
- Cupcakes: with loads of cool swirly icing nozzles available, and rainbow food colourings to match any theme under the sun, cupcakes are a really simple and incredibly versatile choice. Check these beauties out.
- Round Iced Cakes: the most traditional and elegant of the three, the simple iced round cake doesn’t have to be fiddly if you take a few “shortcuts”, and use some of the decorating tips below. Get some inspiration here.
How to make a 2-tier buttercream wedding cake (serves 24)
You will need:
- a standard 9″ cake tin
- a deep 7″ cake tin
- Baking parchment: 2 x rounds to fit 9″ tin, 2 x rounds to fit 7″ tin + enough strips to line the walls of each tin twice (you’ll do two layers) + extra for prep
- Icing smoother/comb: either smooth or patterned
- Spatula/palette knife
- Long bladed serrated knife (at least as long as the diameter of your largest cake)
- Cling film
- Tin foil
- 2 large mixing bowls (one for the lemon cake, one for the coffee/walnut)
- fine sieve or tea strainer.
- Butter, to grease
- 500g butter
- 500g caster sugar
- 500g self raising flour
- 8 eggs
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoon of strong ground espresso
- 100g walnuts, chopped into chunky pieces
- 5 tubs of Betty Crocker Ready Spread Vanilla Buttercream Icing, or similar product available in your country (because you’ll need to do this on the day of, or day before the wedding, do you really want the stress of making icing yourself? No, neither did I 🙂 )
To make the cakes:
- Preheat your oven to 160C (fan)/180C/gas 4.
- Butter the base and walls of the baking tins.
- Butter 1 x 9″ and 1 x 7″ baking parchment round, so each pan has one buttered and one non-buttered round.
- Butter half of the strips for the 9″ tin and half of the strips for the 7″ tin.
- Place the buttered round of baking parchment on the base of each tin, buttered side up.
- Line the sides of each tin with the buttered strips, butter side up.
- Place the non-buttered round on the base of each tin, so you end up with two layers on the base.
- Line the sides of each tin with the non-buttered strips, so you end up with two layers on the sides.
- In a beaker, add 2 tbsp of boiling water to the 2tbsp of espresso grounds and leave it to cool.
- Place 250g of butter and 250g of sugar in each mixing bowl.
- Beat each bowl of butter and the sugar with a hand blender until smooth and creamy.
- Add one egg to each bowl and beat the mixture gently until incorporated.
- Repeat for the remaining eggs (so that each bowl contains 4 eggs).
- Sift 250g of flour into each bowl.
- Drain the cooled coffee liquid into a separate beaker with a sieve/tea strainer.
- Add 1 tbsp of the coffee liquid and the walnuts to one bowl.
- Add the lemon zest to the other bowl.
- Mix each bowl until everything is incorporated.
- Pour the coffee cake mixture into the 9″ tin (this will be a denser cake, therefore more suitable to form the base layer).
- Pour the lemon cake mixture into the 7″ tin.
- Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake come out clean.
- Leave the cakes to cool completely in their tins.
TIP: Don’t worry too much if the cake burns, domes or cracks on top, you’ll be cutting this part off anyway!
To prepare the cakes for icing:
- Remove the cakes from their tins and peel off the greaseproof paper.
- Cut a large square of baking paper and lay it on a level work surface (to protect the surface and make gathering crumbs easier).
- Place one of the cakes on the baking paper.
- Level the cake:
- Place one hand on top of the cake gently, to hold it down.
- Cut the dome off the cake. Take it off little by little – you can always take more off or adjust later. Don’t worry too much if the edges of the cake are a little lower, the icing will disguise small imperfections. The really important thing here is that the whole thing is level, so you don’t end up with an asymmetrical cake.
- Slice the cake in half horizontally:
- Measure the depth of the cake (e.g 3 cm).
- Divide the depth by two. This is where you will slice (e.g. 1.5 cm).
- Insert toothpicks into the walls of cake at regular intervals (see this helpful video) to mark the height at which you need to cut. The toothpicks will act as a guide for your knife.
- Slice the cake around the edges, above the toothpicks, being careful to keep your knife horizontal.
- Once the edges are done, slice all the way through the centre of the cake.
- Repeat for the other cake, so you have 4 cake layers.
- Wrap each layer in cling film, then again in tin foil.
- Store in the fridge until the day of the wedding.
To ice the cakes:
- Put all of the buttercream into a large mixing bowl. The buttercream will be used for both the filling and the icing.
- Place cake layer 1 on a flat level surface.
- Spread a 1cm thickness of buttercream on top of layer 1 with a spatula/palette knife, leaving about a 1cm gap around the edges of the cake.
- Place cake layer 2 on top of layer 1, making sure they’re aligned.
- Press down gently.
- Spread a 1cm thickness of buttercream on top of layer 2 with the spatula/palette knife, leaving about a 1cm gap around the edges of the cake.
- Place cake layer 3 on top of layer 2, making sure that it is centred (use your ruler if you want).
- Press down gently.
- Spread a 1cm thickness of buttercream on top of layer 3 with the spatula/palette knife, leaving about a 1cm gap around the edges of the cake.
- Place cake layer 4 on top of layer 3, making sure they’re aligned.
- Press down gently.
- Check again that all the layers are aligned and centred.
- Wipe the spatula/palette knife clean.
- Spread a thin layer (1-2mm) of buttercream on the walls of the cake, to seal the crumbs.
- Spread a thin later (1-2mm) of buttercream on the top of layer 4, to seal the crumbs.
- Spread a thick layer of icing on top of the cake and around the sides.
- Take your icing smoother or patterned icing comb and perfect the icing.
- Wrap ribbon around the base of each tier of a simple iced cake. It’ll give the cake some colour, add elegance, and most importantly, cover any unsightly joins.
- Decorate with fresh or silk flowers. Just pile some blooms on top, preferably big roses or other large petaled flowers. Flowers are beautiful and will add that traditional wedding touch, as well as disguising parts of the cake that aren’t perfectly smooth.
- Icing beads are another great thing to wrap around the base of a tier, covering joins.
- Prepare the cake ahead of time. I made my cake on the Thursday preceding my Sunday wedding so that I wouldn’t be stressed out close to the wedding, and so that I would have time to fix any unforeseeable disasters! Keep the cakes well wrapped and refrigerated if making several days ahead.