If you’re considering a DIY wedding cake, congrats on being very brave, ambitious, and perhaps a bit insane. Kidding! Well, kind of. It take a special kind of person to want to make your own wedding cake. The right candidate is an experienced baker who takes joy in whipping up sweet treats for loved ones, as well as someone who remains calm under stress, is good with time management, and can roll with the punches. If this sounds like you, going the DIY wedding cake route might be the perfect way for you to add your personal touch to your wedding day festivities.
And if this doesn’t sound like you, then stop binging episodes of “The Great British Bake Off” and start researching a professional wedding cake provider in your area.
Even if your best friend is your KitchenAid stand mixer, baking at this scale—both in number of mouths to feed and emotional significance—is not for the faint of heart. The best DIY wedding cake scenarios are the result of much forethought and consideration prior to embarking down the self-made route. Wondering if a DIY wedding cake is right for you? First read our 10 tips on how to DIY a wedding cake below to see if this feat sounds feasible, and if the answer is yes, get inspired with some gorgeous, yet approachable, wedding cake ideas taken from Zola’s real weddings.
Make your own wedding cake because you really want to, love baking, and feel comfortable with a variety of outcomes (like, maybe the design isn’t exactly what you had in mind, or you run out of time and end up serving guests sheet cake from the nearest grocery store, or no cake at all). Do not DIY your cake to save money or to be crowned Wedding DIY Queen. If you think you’re cutting corners in your budget, add up the price of bulk ingredients, decorations, display tools, and the amount of time a DIY wedding cake will cost you, and think again. (And yes, in the run-up to your wedding, your time is absolutely money.)
Now’s not the time to bust out an exotic recipe involving passion fruit gelée, or to attempt a tricky technique you’ve never tried before. Stick with cake recipes you know and have mastered, and that you’re sure (from experience) taste good. Don’t feel boxed in by the classic white-on-white, multi-tiered design that tradition has us expect: if your speciality is your grandma’s chocolate babka, then babka away. If you made it, and you can cut and serve it, and it tastes good, guests will rave.
When it comes to wedding DIY, trial runs are everything. Don’t wait until the week of your wedding to find out that the “very simple” YouTube tutorial you were banking on is much more difficult or time-consuming than you expected. “Guesswork” and “weddings” don’t belong in the same equation, so practice baking and decorating your wedding cake months ahead of time when you can afford to experiment, make mistakes, and figure out the exact materials and length of time your project requires. Or, who knows, you might realize that you’re not up for a DIY wedding cake after all—you’ll still have time to book a pro baker.
Do your research. From your trial run, you should know exactly how long each step of the process should take and which tools are critical. Map out your cake-making schedule in advance, so you have a solid game plan during your wedding week for what needs to get done and by when. Gather all your supplies, keep them organized as you work, and be sure to build in a time for mess-ups and do-overs. And if at all possible, try to avoid leaving any cake-related tasks to your actual wedding day.
So that you’re not covered in flour for days before your wedding—and to actually improve the process and quality of the finished product—make the cake portion ahead of time and freeze the tiers. Cake freezes well, defrosts quickly, and slightly frozen cake is easier to work with and will result in fewer crumbs in the final icing. Wrap your cake layers really well in plastic wrap, then tin foil, and store in the back of a freezer for up to a month.
This tip goes for any DIY wedding project: when you take on a wedding task that’s generally reserved for professionals, you’re going to have to accept less-than-professional-looking results. A perfectly imperfect look is part of the charm and unique beauty of handmade goods. If you will be cringing all night looking over at your slightly-left-leaning homemade cake, or if you’ll be up ’til 5am trying to exactly replicate that Pinterest tutorial for the perfect fondant ribbon, then do yourself a favor and find another wedding project to accomplish by hand.
Following that thought, no one will care (or even notice) if your wedding cake is on the plain side. You don’t have to become a sugar paste artist to put your personal stamp on your wedding cake—just make something delicious and easy (enough) to pull off, and rely on the beauty of fresh flowers and smart presentation to help add that “wow” factor (see #10).
Step 1: Make just one small, stunning work of cake art and display it proudly. Step 2: guests will ooh and ahh! Step 3: ask your catering staff to slice and serve store-bought sheet cake behind the scene. You’ll still have technically make your own wedding cake, even if it’s not what the majority of guests end up eating.
It’s one thing to craft an elaborate stunner in your home; it’s another thing to get that tiered sugar-tower to your wedding venue in one unscathed piece. When making your DIY game plan, don’t forget to budget in time (or perhaps literally money) to pack up and move your cake to its final destination. It’s worth inquiring with your venue if there’s an onsite fridge you can leave the cake in for a day or two prior to your reception. Enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member to help you, especially if it’s being transported on the day-of!
This is worth repeating: it’s amazing what a few fresh flowers can do to transform an otherwise average cake into a sight to behold. Rely upon the final touches to take your homemade creation to the next level: put it on a pretty cake stand, garnish it with some sturdy flower heads (roses, peonies, dahlias, ranunculus, and sunflowers all work great), put a topper or a sign on top, and voilà.
Brighten up a simple square of ivory buttercream with lime green hydrangea and some white calla lilies.
Who said wedding cakes had to be white? Use inventive toppings (that also happen to look really cool) to do the decorating work for you, like toasted coconut. Or use the natural color variations in different cake flavors and fillings to serve as decoration.
The naked cake trend is a godsend to DIY bakers, since it removes the most challenging portion of the whole process: icing the exterior. They look especially great decorated with wildflowers.
Naked cakes can go big or small. Swap flowers for pinecones and cranberries for a winter wedding, or go kill two trends with one cake by going for an ombré naked cake.
In addition to flowers, fresh fruit is a beautiful (not to mention delicious) way to decorate your DIY wedding cake. Whether your wedding style is rustic or refined, pair it with an on-style cake stand and you’re set.
This miniature cheesecake topped with fresh berries is just so darling. If you’re looking to make a small cutting (and/or eating) cake for you two, keep this one in mind.
Remember our advice to lean on decorating? This is a perfect example of taking a basic white cake and ratcheting it up a notch with a funky gnome cake topper.
Rather than overreaching with a gravity-defying tiered cake, stick with what you know by baking many smaller cakes in different flavors and decorate them similarly. They’ll make a pretty display when grouped together on a dessert table.
Lemon zest and fresh blueberries make for a delightfully different wedding cake that’s totally DIY-able.
If all else fails, don’t give up entirely on your DIY wedding cake fantasy: buy a dozen boxes of Dunkin Donuts, stack them up with a bow on top, and call it a sweet day.