DIY or disaster: should you bake your own wedding cake?
02 Jun 2017
The first part of our DIY or disaster series looks at the pros and cons of baking your own wedding cake
Should you DIY your wedding or employ professionals to do the work for you? In this series, we take a look at several aspects of wedding planning from the perspective of brides and professionals. First up? Wedding cakes.
Amber Briggs is a professional baker who runs her own bakery called Little A’s Cakery. Specialising in creating beautiful, bespoke wedding cakes that look and taste fabulous, she works from her home kitchen in Dereham, Norfolk. “If you're just trying to save a few pounds, it's worth considering how much time, preparation, and experience go into creating your dream wedding cake,” she says. “If you've decided to make your own wedding cake (or mum or mother in law-to-be has volunteered), it's best to know roughly how long it's going to take and exactly what ingredients and equipment you'll need - no one needs a midnight dash to Tesco for icing sugar the night before their wedding.”
One of Amber's cakes
Lucy Scarah is a bride who baked her own cake for her wedding. She got married in July 2016, and had a DIY wedding in a small venue. As she runs her own vintage interiors company, Helston Street, she did all the styling herself and her mum grew all the flowers. The cake was the top of her agenda, though, and she decided to create a naked cake. “I was well prepared and did my research and practised well in advance. When it came to the real thing I made the six separate sponges on the Thursday, did the fillings on Friday and assembled the three cakes individually, then we assembled the whole thing and decorated it at the venue on the Saturday (the morning of the wedding),” she says.
So what are the pros and cons to baking your own cake? One advantage is that you get to have total control over what is served at your wedding. “I have always loved baking for friends and family, and they always highly praise my cakes: they never last long. I am often very disappointed by cake elsewhere and knew I didn’t want this to happen on my wedding day, especially if I’d paid a fortune for it,” says Lucy. “Even though people thought I was crazy for taking on such a challenge, I am so glad I did, because it was so much more personal and it turned out even more beautiful than I had imagined. I shall always be proud to say that I made my own wedding cake.”
As for the negatives? Time and preparation is definitely something to consider, says Amber. “You may find you need to hire the right size cake tins or order specialist equipment online. Consider how many cakes you can bake in your oven at once, allow time for cooling, and, if you're having a butter cream covered cake in the height of summer, make sure your fridge is big enough to chill it. You'll also need to decide who's going to deliver and set up your cake on the day. Most couples want to enjoy the morning of their wedding being pampered while sipping champagne, rather than worrying about whether their best man has safely transported and constructed their precious cake.”
To make sure she was prepared, DIY bride Lucy made sure to practise her cake ahead of time. “I practised the largest tier twice as I had never made a cake that size before. I started by making one sponge and cutting it in half with a large slicer. This looked too flat so I made each tier with two of the same size sponges. The whole cake was made using 48 eggs! I used a vintage bread pancheon from my shop to whisk the mixture as it was the largest bowl I could find. I practised the smaller two tiers once as they were relatively easy. I knew I wanted Victoria sponge for the base, chocolate in the middle and lemon on top.”
Lucy's cake, photograph by Annabella Whispers
Another thing to consider when deciding whether or not to bake your own cake is your venue’s policies. “It's worth checking if your venue is happy to serve a cake you've made yourself,” Amber explains. “Many venues expect all caterers, including wedding cake makers, to have a Food Hygiene Certificate, Public Liability insurance and to be working from a kitchen certified by the local Food Standards Agency.”
In conclusion, deciding whether or not to bake your own cake depends on several factors. Do you have enough time to prepare, and can you practise in advance? If you don’t have time to practise or prepare, let a professional worry about the details for you. Do you bake in your spare time, or will this be the first time ever? If you’ve never baked a cake – particularly a large cake like a wedding cake – don’t take the risk. You might end up with a disaster of a cake on your wedding. Professional bakers have the experience and expertise needed to deliver a gorgeous and delicious cake every time. Does your venue allow homemade cakes, or do they have to be produced in a professional kitchen? Finally, do you find baking stressful or relaxing? If you find it stressful, then you don’t want spend the weeks leading up to your wedding worrying about it. Hire a baker to do it for you, sit back, and relax.
“If you love baking, don’t be afraid to give it a go,” advises Lucy. “Trust your instincts and put your heart and soul into it. Just make sure to practise it a few times and make notes along the way with baking times and quantities."