Make Your Own Wedding Cake
Bake and decorate your own three-tiered creation with our videos, step-by-step instructions, and tips
By Lauren Salkeld
I f you've decided to make a wedding cake recipes at home, congratulations on your bravery! Now, relax: We've got everything you'll need to create a masterpiece. We've enlisted Melissa Murphy, owner of the Sweet Melissa Patisseries in Brooklyn, New York, to help, and she's designed an elegant three-tiered cake decorated with delicate rosebuds and filled with luscious lemon curd and fresh raspberries. To help you reproduce it successfully, our do-it-yourself guide has multiple parts: Start with Murphy's recipes for baking the cake, then move on to our printable step-by-step assembly and decoration instructions. Or, if you prefer, skip right to Murphy's demonstrations in our videos.
1 day ahead: Use Murphy's recipes to bake the cakes and assemble and frost each tier separately. (There will be one 12-inch, one 9-inch, and one 6-inch tier.) Chill the tiers for 24 hours to firm them up.
Either 1 day ahead or on the day of decorating: Make the third batch of buttercream and tint as follows: 2 1/2 cups pale-yellow for swag, 1 1/2 cups sage-green for leaves, 2 cups bright-yellow for roses, and 1 cup raspberry-pink for roses. This leaves 2 cups of white buttercream, which will be used to finish the seams on the cake.
2. Measure the tiers for even positioning
Starting with the 12-inch tier, measure 1 1/2 inches from the cake's edge and make a discreet but noticeable mark with a toothpick. Think of this as the 12 o'clock position and repeat at the 9 o'clock position. Measure and mark the 9-inch cake in the same way.
3. Mark the tiers for even positioning
Center an empty 9-inch cake pan over the 12-inch tier, lining it up with the toothpick marks, then gently press pan into the surface. Use an empty 6-inch cake pan to mark the 9-inch cake in the same way.
4. Insert dowels for support
Starting with the 12-inch tier, hold a dowel above the tier 3 inches from the edge and at the 12 o'clock position. Insert the dowel downward all the way into the tier and use a pen to mark where the cake meets the dowel. Carefully remove the dowel and cut 1/8 inch below the mark so that the dowel is just shorter than the height of the cake. Wipe the dowel clean and insert it back into the 12-inch tier. Repeat 3 more times, placing dowels in the 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock, and 9 o'clock positions, making sure to keep each dowel 3 inches from the edge. Repeat on the 9-inch tier, using only 3 dowels, positioning them 2 1/2 inches from the tier's edge, and placing them at the 12 o'clock, 4 o'clock, and 8 o'clock positions. Use buttercream to fill in any holes and smooth any surfaces.
5. Assemble the tiers
For best results, place your base or platter on a cake turntable. Spoon 1 tablespoon of buttercream onto the base and center the 12-inch tier on top. Spoon 1 tablespoon of buttercream onto the top center of both the 12-inch and 9-inch tiers. This will help glue the tiers together. Have an offset spatula ready nearby. Using both hands, hold the 9-inch tier, centered, 1 inch above the 12-inch tier. Carefully removing one hand, allow one edge of the 9-inch tier to gently drop and rest on the 12-inch tier. With the other hand, pick up the offset spatula, slip it under the 9-inch tier next to where you're holding it, and carefully remove your other hand. Using the spatula, slowly lower the tier, quickly sliding the spatula out from underneath at the last moment. Use the same method to place the 6-inch tier on the 9-inch tier.
6. Finish the seams
Fit a pastry bag with a #6 round tip and fill the bag with white buttercream. Pipe small dots along the seams between the cake tiers and along the seam where the bottom tier meets the base. Try to keep the dots uniform in size and shape, and pipe dots as close together as possible so there are no gaps.
1. Mark the tops of the swags
Fit a pastry bag with a # 4 round tip and fill the bag with pale-yellow butter cream. Starting with the 6-inch tier, pipe a small dot on the top of the tier, right at the edge. Think of this as the 6 o'clock position, then rotate the cake a 1/4 turn and pipe a second dot at the top edge at the 3 o'clock position. Repeat at the 12 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions. Repeat on the 9-inch tier, centering the dots in between the dots on the 6-inch tier, then repeat on the 12-inch tier, placing the dots in between the dots on the 9-inch tier (and therefore aligned with the dots on the 6-inch tier). These dots are the tops of each swag, and indicate where the roses will be placed.
2. Pipe the swags
Position the pastry bag at the seam between the 6-inch and 9-inch tiers, directly above one of the dots for the tops of the swag on the 9-inch tier. Use the top part of your thumb to measure the distance up from the bottom of the 6-inch tier and pipe a dot there. This will be the bottommost point of one swag on the 6-inch tier — the tops of this swag will be the two dots at the top edge of the 6-inch tier on either side of this bottom dot. Create the swag by piping dots, spaced about 5/8 inch apart, in a gentle curving line connecting the bottom dot to both top dots. Repeat to create the remaining swags on each tier, being sure to first mark the bottom of each swag.
3. Pipe the leaves
Fit a pastry bag with a #352 leaf tip and fill the bag with sage-green buttercream. Hold the bag at the edge of the top of the 6-inch tier, at the top of one of the swags. Hold the bag so that it's at a 65-degree angle from vertical. Position the decorating tip so that the slit is parallel to the top of the tier and points toward 1 o'clock (if 12 o'clock is the center of the cake). Briefly apply gentle pressure and pull the bag diagonally away from the edge of the tier. Stop applying pressure, then pull away quickly in the same direction to create the tip of the leaf. The leaf should lie neither horizontal nor vertically but should straddle the edge of the tier between the top and sides. Repeat to make a second leaf, starting from the same middle point, but extending along the edge of the tier to the left. Repeat to make two leaves at the top of each swag. Chill the cake for 20 minutes before adding the roses.
4. Prepare the pastry bag to create two-toned roses
Fit a pastry bag with a #104 rose tip. Using a small spatula or knife, paint a narrow stripe of raspberry-pink buttercream on the inside of the bag, aligning it with the narrow end of the rose tip. Fill the rest of the bag with bright-yellow buttercream. Hold the pastry bag so that the color-striped edge faces up and the narrow part of the tip is at the top. The color stripe will not be perfect at first. Pipe some buttercream onto parchment until the desired color stripe is achieved.
5. Pipe the first part of one rose
Hold the bag at the top edge of the 6-inch tier, between two leaves. Position the bag so the narrow part of the tip is pointing upward and the bag is pointing toward 6 o'clock at a 45-degree angle from vertical. To create the central rose petal, pipe a small letter "c" by applying gentle pressure while moving the bag to the left, then toward you. Stop applying pressure, touch the bottom of the tip to the surface of the cake, then pull away. Wipe the tip clean before moving on to the next step.
6. Pipe the second and third petals
Hold the bag so that the narrow part of the tip is pointing upward and the bag is pointing toward 6 o'clock at a 45-degree angle from vertical. Position the tip just to the right of the central petal, tucked into the middle of the "c." Pipe a backward "c" that wraps around the bottom of the first "c" by applying gentle pressure while moving the bag to the right, then toward you. Stop applying pressure, touch the bottom of the tip to the surface of the cake, then pull away. Wipe the tip clean before piping the last petal.
To pipe the last petal, again hold the bag so that the narrow part of the tip is pointing upward and the bag is pointing toward 6 o'clock at a 45-degree angle from vertical. Position the tip just to the left of the central petal, in the middle of the first "c." Pipe another forward-facing "c" that wraps around the bottom half of the first by applying gentle pressure while moving the bag to the left, then toward you. Tuck the bottom of this "c" between the bottoms of the first 2 petals, then stop applying pressure, and pull away.
Tips for Making and Transporting Your Cake
To keep things running smoothly, gather all necessary tools before you start. For the assembly, you'll need: a ruler, several toothpicks, a pen, empty 9-inch and 6-inch cake pans, an offset spatula, 2 wooden dowels (5/16 inch in diameter and about 48-inches in length; plus an extra dowel if you plan on moving your cake), sharp pruning sheers, and several damp cloths. For decorating, you'll need: a cake turntable, food-coloring gels, 4 decorating tips, a small offset spatula, and about 9 cups (1 batch) of buttercream.
Select a sturdy and attractive base
White cake bases can be purchased at cake decorating stores, or you can use a flat, round platter or tray. Alternatively, you can make a base yourself: Cut out a circle of plywood at least 13 inches in diameter or stack and glue together several rounds of cardboard. Cover the circle with white rolled fondant or wrap it in waxed paper. To "glue" the cake onto the base, spread about 1 tablespoon of buttercream on the base before positioning the first tier. You can also use royal icing as the "glue" — it becomes hard when dry, offering increased stability that can be helpful if you plan to move your cake.
For stability, keep the cake chilled
If you chill your cake thoroughly before beginning assembly and decoration, it should stay cool throughout the process. Just to be safe, though, it's best to keep it out of direct light and away from heat as much as possible. You'll know that the cake is becoming too warm if the buttercream starts to get soft. If this happens, return the cake to the fridge until the buttercream is firm, about 20 to 30 minutes. Another benefit to having a well-chilled cake? Piping mistakes can be easily removed with a small offset spatula.
Before piping on the cake, it's a good idea to practice on parchment paper to get "warmed up." When you're ready to move on to the cake, start at the top, so you won't have to lean over something you've already piped, and rotate the cake turntable as needed to keep the section you're working on directly in front of you. As you're piping, inspect the decorating tip regularly and wipe away any buildup of icing, which could smudge your decorations.
Transport with confidence
If you plan on transporting your cake, adding an additional dowel that goes through all three tiers can help the layers stay together. Using a manual pencil sharpener, sharpen one end of a long (5/16 inch in diameter and about 48 inches in length) dowel to a very sharp point. Wipe the point clean, being sure to remove any splinters or wood shavings. After assembling all the tiers, center the dowel above the cake. Holding it completely straight, carefully drive the dowel downward through the center of the cake, gently turning to break through each cardboard layer, until it touches the base. Using a pen, mark the dowel where it is flush with the top of the cake, then carefully remove it. Cut the dowel about 1/8 inch below your mark, then wipe it off and carefully reinsert it into the cake, pushing it down until it pierces the base and anchors the cake. Use buttercream to fill in the hole at the top of the cake, then smooth the surface with an offset spatula.
Cutting the dowels is easiest if you use very sharp pruning shears, preferably with "ratchet action." Both dowels and pruning shears can be purchased at hardware stores.
Pastry bags, decorating tips, food-coloring gels, cardboard rounds, cake bases, and cake turntables are available at cake-decorating and specialty shops or nycake.com.
Source and images:epicurious