project wedding cake: an introduction

As there is no casual way to say this, ahhhem, let me just blurt it out: I am baking a wedding cake!

Like, a real live honest-to-god wedding cake. I have always wanted to make a wedding cake. Alex and my wedding cake was well-intentioned but ultimately disappointing, the obvious product of all the shortcuts bakeries get themselves into when quantity trumps quality. In the same way that I believe that everyone deserves a cake baked with a symphony of butter, eggs, flour and devotion on their birthday, a wedding cake should be all that and more. No mystery-ingredient toppings, no highly unnatural silver dust, no fake cake for display with a sheet cake in the back for serving.

cake, cake, cake

That said, although I volunteered, no insisted upon making this a few months ago as our friends discussed their upcoming wedding, I am currently freaking out over the magnitude of this project. Typical, right?

With this, I want to kick off a series of mini-entries over the next two weeks–yes, the wedding is in less than two weeks–in which I work out the details and steps, and those of you out there that have ever baked a wedding cake before will come forward and tell me all of your secrets. And share your Xanax with me.

batter up

To begin, here’s what I know or have worked out:

  • There will be 55 guests at the wedding.
  • The reception is eight blocks from our apartment. What this means is that the cake needn’t be particularly big, and although transportation will be scary, it won’t be as melodramatic as, say, a 100-mile drive.
  • The cake will be three tiers, square and stacked.
  • Neither they nor I care for fondant, so the cake will be covered only in frosting.
  • The bride likes vanilla and fruit, the groom likes chocolate. Rather than doing a separate Groom’s Cake, we’re going to instead focus on the important marital concepts of harmony and compromise. The middle tier will be a chocolate cake.
  • I am still testing cake recipes today. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to use, but then that lovely, lovely book arrived in the mail yesterday with finely detailed recipes for chocolate and vanilla wedding cakes and oh, I am so tempted. I am baking tests of them today.
  • Last month, the bride told me that mango was her absolutely favorite fruit and I had to run with it. I am making a mango curd filling for the vanilla layers.
  • I will be baking the actual wedding cake layers this weekend, storing them in the freezer in triple-layers of plastic wrap. I tried this out when I made those birthday cakes two weeks ago, and the cakes tasted great and were easier to manage/move when frozen. I’ll be making the filling in advance as well and freezing it until we need it.
  • This leaves only the icing and assembly for the day before the wedding. The cake will be decorated simply, and we’ll add some colorful flower petals reserved by the florist. There will be no icky-looking bride and groom on top.

[Okay, deep breath.]

batter batter

Here is the much larger list of things that I am still scratching my head over:

  • The size: According to Wilton’s cake-cutting diagrams, you need surprisingly little cake to serve 55 people. (When I asked the bride and groom–he is from South Africa and her family is Thai–about saving the top cake layer for their anniversary one said “ew” and the other said “why would we do that?” In short: the top cake layer can be served.) Nevertheless, I think more is better, so I am thinking of a 12-inch (serves 72), 10-inch (serves 52) and 8-inch (serves 32) squares for each layer. As you can see, this will be more than enough, and even create the possibility of everyone getting a slice of chocolate and vanilla cake. Do you agree or is that cake-cutting diagram a crock of crazy? How do you know how many cake slices are ruined by the dowels?
  • The biggest layer: Because I have been doing my homework, I have learned that baking a cake that large benefits from a heating core. Mine should arrive from Amazon this week. Have you worked with one before and is it as simple as it seems? Is it truly necessary for a 12-inch cake? What do you think of those wet strips to keep the cake layers even?
  • The icing: My plan was to use Swiss buttercream. It’s got the perfect combination of creamy, shiny, white and rich without being too heavy. The problem is that Swiss buttercream and I are no longer on speaking terms. When I made those birthday cakes two weekend ago, I’d hoped to ice one in it, but both times I made the frosting, everything was going great until I added the softened butter and the frosting collapsed into a bowl of liquid. And I cried. And Alex wants me to never make Swiss buttercream again because it hurt my feelings, and use the Seven-Minute Frosting that never fails me instead. But I am hoping there is someone out there that can advise me on what went wrong, and what to avoid when I try again.
  • The filling: I have mangoes ripening on the fridge as we speak, and will attempt my first batch of mango curd tomorrow. I have a recipe that’s supposed to be good, but if you have one that you swear by, by all means, share and share alike!
  • Travel: I am still debating the merits of bringing the cake to the restaurant in pieces and assembling on site (with dowels and a big piping bag of frosting) or bringing it already assembled, which I have to admit sounds ludicrous.When I imagine either option, however, I wake up in a panic. I’ve got 12 days to talk myself down from that ledge.

Got all that down? There will be a quiz!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New here? You might want to check out the comment guidelines before chiming in.

289 comments on project wedding cake: an introduction

  1. I had a similar problem when I last made Swiss buttercream icing – I used Martha Stewart’s receipe and it completely separated and became a liquid. In a fit of panic I popped it in the fridge for a few minutes to see if maybe it would solidify – it didn’t. In a last ditch effort I ran a whisk though it and by some magical decree it all came together and became the perfect icing – I’m not sure if that’s your solution but it certainly surprised the hell out of me!

  2. Cake Lover

    So, I’ve baked a couple cakes before, and here’s what I can offer…

    No, I don’t agree with the Wilton sizings. They assume that people will want only one tiny slice of cake to finish off a large, sit down, meal. If your friends are having a fancy dinner at their reception, then the Wilton sizings may be appropriate, but I have to agree with you: more is always better. Only one slice is “ruined” per dowel used. Although I suppose with creative cutting you ruin fewer pieces. Since you’re making extra cake, though, it shouldn’t be a concern.

    Yes to the heating core on a 12 inch cake. Better safe than sorry. And I speak from experience on that. Be sure to grease and flour the heating core well!

    I can’t help you on the frosting issue…Sorry that you aren’t on speaking terms!

    Assemble the cake on site. (This advice comes mainly from watching too many movies where bad things happen when people carry large cakes. But I suppose yours is a real life, not a movie script, so who knows)

  3. deb

    Erin — Yes! I tried to chill it, but no dice. I’m going to try again tomorrow. I was reading another recipe that says that even if it looks like it has curdled, keep whipping and it will come back together. So perhaps I didn’t stick with it long enough! I sure hope that is all it was and not, as I believed at the time, a curse.

    kathryn — Just regular red/yellow/green ones. But I’m open to trying other varieties; these are just what I am most familiar with. Are the Indian ones sweeter? More complex in flavor? Softer? I’m just trying to figure out the difference.

    Cake Lover — Thanks!

  4. Shannon

    I just got married and had a three layer cake and they didn’t even use dowels for it. So you may not have to, my cakes sat right on top of each other. My tiers were 4″, 8″ and 12″ (round) and we had 3/4 of the 8″ tier and all of the top tier left (there were 40 people at my wedding). They even severed ‘dessert’ sized portions which are larger. (Vanilla cake with a buttercream filling.)

    Also, how are you planning to decorate? Fresh flowers to match the brides bouquet?

    I am sure it will turn out wonderfully, especially with all the due diligence you are putting in beforehand.

  5. Jane

    Just continue mixing that buttercream — it will come together in a few minutes. That separation/curdled-looking thing is normal. Good luck with this ambitious project!

  6. deb

    Kelly — It looks like the same thing as Swiss Buttercream. I think it goes by a ton of names!

    Shannon, Jane, Anita — Thank you! Gosh, I’m so glad I posted about this.

  7. Beth

    Hi. I’ve been a fan of your blog for a long time and now I’m finally posting a comment. I’m a home baker with no professional training and I’ve made I think 6 wedding cakes thus far. Here are my tips:

    1. Definitely freeze the cakes. They have an improved texture after freezing, in my opinion.

    2. Assemble them at the location. Much less risky. Just give yourself more time than you can imagine you’ll need. I transported a cake for 250 people from New Jersey to Boston in boxes in the trunk of my car. The layers were covered with chocolate fondant, which made them very sturdy, but I did sweat and shake quite a bit during that 6 hour car ride.

    3. I’ve used the baking core, and yes, it’s extremely simple. I had no problems with it at all. The cake strips also are winners. They virtually eliminate the need to trim the dome off the tops of your layers.

    4. DEFINITELY make WAY more cake than those Wilton charts will tell you. Those charts are for dry, tasteless, for-show-only wedding cakes that nobody takes more than one bite of. Your delicious from-scratch cake will stun the weary guests into an initial shocked, incredulous silence, and then there will be a stampede. People will want to try the other flavor. Then they will want another piece of their favorite. And then the cake will be gone, and the stand will be licked clean.

    5. If I were you, I’d stick with the frosting that never fails you. You’ll be stressed out enough throughout this whole project. A temperamental frosting could very well leave you babbling maniacally, piping roses on your husband instead of the cake. Save that for after the reception.

    I am wishing you a spectacularly successful foray into wedding cake land. Keep us posted on how it’s going!!

  8. oh, forgot this part… we had 51 people and our wedding cake had a 6, a 10, and a 14, all round. But I do think you’re right: If there are two flavors, people are going to want one of each.

    Don’t skip the dowels, especially with a slippery filling like curd.

  9. I thought we would have tons of cake left over but it was mostly eaten – I think the Wilton diagrams are for giving everyone a very tiny piece of cake.
    I did not use a heating core OR the wet strips but I did use one of those cutting cake leveler deals – getting the cake absolutely flat was the hardest part – right after cutting the dowels. We were in Mexico and had to improvise because we forgot to bring any kind of cutting implement – I think we used a serrated knife. I may have blocked that part out.
    It was spice cake with blackberry filling and cream cheese frosting. I baked it, froze it, frosted it, froze it, and then frosted it again, and then decorated it (with fresh blackberries) and put it in the fridge and then put it out about an hour before cake time. I did it all on site and even still the walk from the kitchen to the patio where the reception was taking place was the longest walk of my life.
    Everyone loved it.

  10. nolagirl

    I’m excited and curious to watch this come together in the next two weeks- plus it’s fun to see everyone pitch in with help! I have no help to offer you, but would offer to help eat it. :) Thanks for sharing this endeavour!

  11. Hello! I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time and it’s fast become my favorite. I’ve been a little to timid to write any comments but because I am an actual “professional” cake decorator I thought I would finally jump in and give you my thoughts. I only do the artistic part of the cake so I’m not much use for baking and making the icing but I can tell you that according to our bakery a 8″ double layer (I assume you are tiering the cake as opposed to layering) serves 20, 10″ serves 35 and a 12″ serves 50. All in all you should be good. Oh, I’ve also done quite a few wedding delivers in my time (like 5-8 every weekend) and seen Murfy’s law at it’s best so I suggest taking the cake in pieces. Even with dowels in, with as soft as your icing is going to be considering your not using fondant it’s probably best you set it up at the location. Let me know if you need any decorating tips, that’s really where I shine. Good luck!

  12. Cynthia

    I have found that buttercream can often require an excessive amount of whisking. Like a ri-di-cu-lous amount of whisking. Keep it in your kitchen aid until the sound of the motor feels like it is imprinted in your brain. Also, I have a fantastic curd recipe that will blow your socks off. It works with about anything, but with passion fruit it tastes like an oral epiphany. For 2 quarts:
    Whisk 6 whole eggs, 6 yolks, and 15 oz sugar over a double boil. Add 12 oz fruit puree of choice in 3 additions, making sure to whisk the crap out of it between each addition- you want it to thicken up a bit between liquid addition. Whisk mixture until you can form 2 lasting figure-8s with the curd. Remove bowl from heat and gradually whisk in 4 oz diced, chilled butter. Transfer curd to a large shallow pan and refrigerate. Once cool, you can cover and refrigerate for 2 weeks. Hope this works.

  13. Deb, I have a few suggestions from my professional pastry days:

    -When making Swiss buttercream, beat room-temperature butter until soft then slowly add the meringue a small blob at a time. You’ll save yourself time and tears. (No matter what, I always beat the butter first then add the other stuff. Even when making brioche. It makes so much more sense and is much less prone to breaking.)

    For the filling, you might not want to make mango curd– curds are tough to get thick enough, especially in large quantities, and for a cake that might have to spend some time sitting out at a summer wedding, you risk slippage and leakage no matter how well you dowel it. Consider making a thick jam-like spread with mango puree, sugar and lemon juice.

    You also might want to consider spreading each filled cake layer with a thin coat of ganache. That will help seal in the filling and moisture and make a smooth crumb-free surface to spread the frosting.

  14. Susan

    Hi, new your site..beautiful pictures. The cake sounds so yummy! I would assemble on have never done this..but I’ve watched Ace of Cakes and seen them do this a hundred times…so I’m thinking it’s a good idea! I would also make more cake ..those charts are for teeny tiny pieces of cake..and what if people want 2nds? Good luck on the frosting..I’ve never made a Swiss buttercream..sounds yummy though..give it another try and if it’s still not right go with your back up! Good luck..I’m sure it will turn out great!

  15. Sue

    This probably will sound strange, but my family buys mangoes by the crate and we cover the mangoes in uncooked rice. No clue why, but the mangoes ripen much nicer(as in more evenly and sweeter). However, I do not know whether or not they ripen faster compared to no rice. Just my 2cents :).

  16. Phoebe

    I don’t have any practical advice on baking wedding cakes (sorry!), but I will be so interested in seeing how this all turns out because someday I want to make a wedding cake for my sister. However, I did want to chime in and say that those serving sizes must be itty-bitty because I’ve made plenty of 8- and 9-inch layer cakes and no way in hell did I ever get 32 servings!!! More like 12, 16 max if it’s very rich. So this is why I always get such tiny little measly “slices” of wedding cakes whenever I go to a wedding, huh? Yeah, so it’s usually not that great, but still, talk about ungenerous. So yeah, I guess my point is, assume people will want a *real* slice of cake, especially since it will be so delicious. Good luck!

  17. deb

    Thanks for all the serving advice. I should qualify that the way cakes are cut at weddings and by caterers are different from the way we cut them at home, the latter being much more generous. (This I actually remember from our wedding–the slices were thin!) In fact, when I made those three birthday cakes a few weeks ago, each was 8-inch square and I remember that we actually got a ton of slices out of each because they were so thick, and the wedding cake layers will be mad thick as well.

    That was my defense of the Wilton slicing guide. All that said, I do agree that home-baked cake gets people eating a lot more cake than they normally would, and it would be better to be safe than sorry.

    Also, note to self: Ask Bride if they’re serving any other desserts!

  18. It is true that the SMB will look like curdled soup before it comes together, especially if your butter is very soft like it gets in hot weather. It can still seem really ‘wet’ when it is done, but it is a dream to ice with. I have made a few wedding cakes and I really like The recipe from Baking with Julia. It is for chocolate SMB, I just make it w/o the chocolate and it always turned out great. Making wedding cakes is a stressful thing for sure! My first wedding cake was for my sister-in-law and I made myself so ill with worry, I couldn’t even go to the reception! It had a dome for the second layer and I had made crystallized flowers for decoration. I agree with assembling it at the venue and also using a baking core for the large cake. Good luck!

  19. Jenn C.

    The Wilton diagrams seem to be giving instructions for cutting two inch by one inch squares of cake. That’s teeny! They’re insane, or serving cake where it’s either an accent with another dessert or at the end of a serious meal. If your cakes are as delicious as they sound like they are going to be, people are going to want much bigger pieces than 2 inches.

  20. What a mensch you are to make that cake, my dear! Just remember that through this process. no one expects perfection.

    So we made our own wedding cake, and gluten-free at that! My friend (and maid of honor) and I made the cake itself (chocolate-banana, based on the recipe from my book, actually) in one enormous cake pan. Two feet across, purchased from the restaurant supply store. It took six or seven batches of the recipe to fill the cake pan. We had no idea if it would work. I kind of thought it would turn out like the pudding in Woody Allen’s Sleeper, which crept out of the oven and took over the room. But it was great! Perfect. We didn’t have any warming coils or special gadgets. It was easy.

    We were going to make a second and third layers, but we decided the hell with it. That cake fed 110 people, no problem. And they were all happy.

    Oh, and in the morning Danny made a chocolate ganache frosting. Easy and decadent. If you’re not loving the buttercream, I’d say go with chocolate ganache. Great with mango.

    Ours didn’t look the way you envision yours. But it was fantastic. Different than we had expected, and better.

  21. Susan

    No advice..Have no experience with wedding cakes. Just wanted to wish you good luck and tell you how fortunate your friend is to have you!

  22. Andrew Pendleton

    A couple of things:

    Given how intimidating Swiss buttercreams can be, what I’ve settled on for my standard buttercream recipe is what’s called a “Quick buttercream” in my cookbook, though I’ve seen it called a “German buttercream,” elsewhere. It’s basically a cooked pastry cream component, blended into a beaten butter/sugar component (I can post the recipe if you want). Its texture is remarkably similar to an Italian/Swiss buttercream, but it seems to be a lot let temperamental.

    On to another point: if you’re concerned about the quality and/or ripeness of your mangoes, might I make the suggestion (albeit perhaps a sacrilegious one) that you try frozen mangoes? I know my local Trader Joe’s carries them, and they have the advantages that they’re not much work, there aren’t concerns about timing, and they’re frozen at the point of ripeness and usually close to where they’re grown, so there aren’t issues with bruising and damage during transport. I’ve found that once they’re thawed and pureed, they’re comparable in taste and texture to fresh, and, in fact, can sometimes be better, since they seem not to have the tendency fresh mangoes do to get stringy when you try to puree them.

  23. Mi

    Im not sure what formula you used but the swiss buttercream i use works everytime!

    its 24 oz egg whites and 48 oz sugar and 3 oz of light corn syrup!
    heat it up over the bain marie as usual and whip it GOODD hah
    oh and 4 lbs of butter mmm

    im not sure how big your mixer is .. this batch its pretty big so you might want to half it

    only thing i can think of about it not emulsifing is that the meringue was too warm and melted the butter.

    if it still pools put the bowl in some ice water while it whips to cool the butter!

    i hope this helps!!! good luck!! :D

  24. Jan

    Deb, I would suggest that you make the bottom layer chocolate, instead of the middle one. This will provide a more equal distribution of flavors so that everyone can have a piece of each.

    Also, I would recommend that in addition to freezing the layers, that you do the base/sealing coat of icing and freeze that too. That leaves you only the final frosting and decorating the day before the wedding. And frosting over the frozen sealing coat of icing is a lot easier than frosting over a still-soft sealing coat.

  25. i havent made swiss buttercream before, but apprently you keep on whisking it on and on and on and everything will be alright and will come together…good luck with this project and we’ll be looking forward to your posts on the experiments!

  26. deb

    Andrew — Great idea about Trader Joes–I’ll keep that in mind if these don’t seem right.

    Jan — Smart thinking! I will take all of your advice.

  27. Maricel

    If you can find Philippine or Manila mangoes they are the absolute best. It can also be found as a puree in most Asian stores. Look for the 7D brand

  28. Christine

    Something you might want to consider with decorating with flowers: florists’ flowers are often loaded with pesticides and chemicals – not necessarily something you want to be throwing on a cake people will be devouring! Unless, of course, the flowers are organic.

  29. Ann

    I’ve done… 4 wedding cakes so far, and I think you’re on the right track and getting good advice. Definitely dowel them (or use some of the hollow plastic dowels that Wilton sells — they can snap onto Wilton’s plastic cake plates, which will give you more stability).

    If you want a no-fail backup option for frosting, look for a product called Rich’s BetterCream. It comes in a gigantic milk carton thing, frozen, and you thaw it and whip it up. It tastes like a mix between buttercream and whipped cream, and it doesn’t melt out in the sun (if that’s an issue!).

    I think the amount of cake you have planned will be good — you may have leftovers, but that’s better than running out!

    Oh, a little trick my cake decorating teacher taught us: to keep the cardboard round on the spinny cake wheel while you’re decorating it, use a little piece of that carpet no-skid stuff. It works great!

    Do the dowelling at home, but do the final assembly at the site. Bring more frosting than you think you’ll need, and more pastry bags, and lots of tips. And scissors, for cutting the flower stems. And florist’s tape for taping the stems, in case the flowers are toxic (or you can buy little flower tubes from, you guessed it, Wilton). Bring an apron, and lots of paper towels! And remember that flowers cover a multitude of sins. :)

    Make sure the bride and groom have a cake knife and server, or bring your own — will you be serving it?

    And don’t forget your camera! :)

  30. Oh, wow, just chiming in to wish you good luck and maximum calmness! I acn’t wait to see how it turns out… Re: your wedding cake having been dry: when we got married in France, i really wanted to have a big american style tiered wedding cake. Every single patissier asked refused because the vstyle would compromise the flavor. Somehow, I am sure this wedding cake of yours won’t!

  31. Christine

    I don’t know if it is insulting to suggest this, like if you do this already, but… From my days working as a baker: When using a curd between layers of cake, especially heavy large layers, make sure you pipe a “buffer” of buttercream around the edge of the top of the layer and then spread the curd in the center. What you want is a centimeter of buttercream around the edge to prevent curd leakage.

    Also, doing a light crumb coat, letting harden in the fridge, and then adding another layer of buttercream looks really smooth and is a way to keep your sanity while icing.

    Definitely assemble on-site.

    Another idea is making a very concentrated mango paste and then blending that into buttercream. A bakery near me does this with concentrated passionfruit puree (or maybe juice concentrate?) and the flavor is just amazing: tart, fruity, and a nice way to cut the richness of buttercream. Also very unexpected.

    Best wishes!

  32. deb

    Not insulting! In fact, if you look at the last photo I have there (7-minute frosting going over a lemon curd-filled cake) you can see that I always forget the buffer around the curd. Always. I hope I won’t this time!

  33. I agree with everyone’s comments – we just can’t wait to read about your adventure and the final product – which will be beautiful! If you are trying to ripen a mango, you can place it in a brown paper bag at room temperature (like ripening an avocado). Once they are ripe, then you can place them in the refrig for only a few more days. I do agree however that Trader Joe’s frozen mangos are perfect. Best of luck!

  34. You have to keep whipping! And it has to be at a high speed but not too high speed. And the butter has to be incredibly soft – to a point it is almost melting. I tend to hold it in my hand as I drop bits in to the mixing bow so it’s ‘blood’ temperature. If that makes sense. Just think – just keep whipping, just keep whipping.

    Transport in layers and build on site. Please. My nerves can’t stand the thought of you doing otherwise.

    This is so much fun!

  35. Janine

    Like so many I read you religiously (I have your feed up on my netvibes homepage) but I have never commented until now just salivated and laughed and got a little motivated in the kitchen. Thanks for that.

    As another former pastry chef I say that the Swiss Buttercream is WAY worth it. All the advice on here is bang on. I second adding the meringue to the butter not the other way around, it’s always worked for me. I also highly recommend taking the layers separately to the venue. If it’s hot out it will do distressing things to the buttercream and you could have some nasty slippage. Refrigerate it well (I used to stick them in the freezer just for a little safety margin).

    As to the Wilton slicing guide, it’s based on the old fashioned fruitcake based wedding cakes and the slices were tiny.

    Best of luck, have fun, it’ll taste fabulous and look delightful…I’d bet on it.

  36. all I know is that I’m actually going to this wedding and the chocolate portion of this cake had better be good. ;-)

    Also, there are a lot more chocolate lovers in the world than mango, so that middle section better be BIG, otherwise u may find some pmsing bitchy bridesmaids pitching a fit! Ok, me pitching a fit! Xoxo!

  37. kelly

    We had nearly those exact layers for our wedding cake last year! At around seventy people (and keeping a good part of the top layer) there wasn’t a lot of cake for each slice, so I applaud the idea of more cake! Everyone loves cake, and wedding cake is the cream of the crop. Mango filling sounds yummy!

  38. Jen

    Congratulations and best wishes (to YOU, the baker!) on the big event.

    The memory of my old housemates assembling a large, tiered wedding cake in our kitchen is still emblazoned in my mind over a decade later. A few thoughts:

    * Definitely use dowels, if for no other reason than it allowing you to keep the successive layers level by smoothing over any “tilt” in a given layer with extra frosting. The dowels helped rescue the construction I witnessed.

    * If you plan to assemble onsite, make sure you can turf out enough workspace there for your tools and staging space for the separate layers.

    * I second the TJ’s frozen mango suggestion — peek through the clear part in the back of the bags to choose one with the deepest colored fruit inside

    * Consider picking up some small orchids for cake decoration (very Thai!). TJ’s usually has these as well.

    * Don’t forget to bring the full complement of whatever cake cutting/plating tools you plan to use, including a pitcher or vase for dipping the knife in hot water between cuts, plus extra napkins or paper towels.

    Can’t wait to read about the yummy-licious outcome.

    * If you have access to a car with a hatchback or a high side door through friends, family, ZipCar, etc., you’ll save yourself the stress of raising and lowering your layers in/out of a back seat or a car trunk.

  39. Annie

    If you are going with the mango curd (slippery) you may want to make Italian meringue buttercream, as it is a bit more stable. A white chocolate variation would go well with the mango and make it even a bit more stable. I make the one in DeDe Wilson’s Wedding Cake Book. Yes, it is 10 years old, but I always go back to it. Easy if you make it a day ahead with a laser thermometer, refrigerate and let it sit out and rebeat it before you frost. Don’t forget you need a lot of frosting — it’s much more relaxing if it’s ready ahead of time.

    The book has generous serving sizes, suggesting a 6″,9″, and 12″ layer for your size wedding, where each layer is 4″ tall. This assumes your cake is delicious and everyone wants a healthy piece. If you’re going to double up on servings, maybe 6″, 10″, 14″ Consider how much “ledge” you want between layers, not just how many servings you want.

    Put the wooden dowels in before you transport so you have plenty of time to cut them and make sure everything is even, and then refrigerate the layers so (at least initially) the buttercream is helping to lock the dowels in.

    Good luck! This is a very generous gift!

  40. Just wanted to comment on Indian mangoes that came up in this discussion. They taste nothing like the ones you have tasted till now. Not even mangoes from Mexico can beat Indian mangoes…..these are sweeter, more complex, more tropical than any fruit you have ever tasted. India, IMO, only boasts of one thing….and that is extremely gorgeous mangoes.

  41. Heather

    My mom has been doing all sorts of cakes for over 20 years, though for the last 15 or so she was doing them out of our home. For wedding cakes, though, she uses the clear dowels from Wilton that have a plate that snaps into the top of them. That way she can put the dowels into the cakes beforehand, completely assemble and decorate the cake, and then carefully take apart the layers for transportation. Then when she gets there she can just snap the layers back in place, et voila! A finished cake with no stress because of decorating away from home.

    It sounds like you’re very prepared, though, and I think you’re going to do great! I’m excited to read about your adventure in wedding cake making, it’s going to be interesting and I’m sure it’ll be delicious as well!

  42. I made a friend’s wedding cake about a year ago, my first time and so stressful. Things I learnt (and which will hopefully help when I make my sister’s soon):
    1. Definitely get and use a core. I didn’t – it was complicated and stressful.
    2. Assemble at the venue. I made the cake up before – a cake for 90 people – and shaved ten years off my lifetime whilst transporting the cake. Also, it was a little damaged by the time we got to the venue; no one noticed, but still.
    3. Get as many people as possible to help with transporting the cake; the more hands to hold things still and carry, the better.
    4. You will have PLENTY of cake (I underestimated according to the cake cutting diagram and there was still lots left over). Always better to have too much rather than too little, though.
    I learnt many other things as well (planning ahead! freezing! etc.) but you seem to have those down already.
    Good luck and have fun!

  43. As a future bride and current wedding cake taster :) I have loved reading your post + the comments… which are not the usual ‘that looks pretty’, which is nice to hear, but I prefer this interactive dialogue you have created. I will be making my mother a birthday cake in the next few weeks and will be attempting the Swiss buttercream – do you know how to make it chocolate flavoured…. is it best to use unsweetened cocoa powder or melted dark chocolate???

  44. wendyr

    No cake baking advice here (sorry…) but a few tips from someone who did luck out with a homemade wedding cake! My husband’s step-brother is a professional chef and as a wedding present he agreed to make the cake. I actually don’t like cake (I know!) so the husband was in charge of all that (because he LOVES cake). It was chocolate with a chocolate ganache frosting. Anyway, I tried a bite and the cake was good (as far as cakes go) but I swear to god everyone at our wedding LOVED the cake. People still talk about the cake – and this is four years later. Just this weekend, in fact, at a family party, I was talking to a good friend who wasn’t at our wedding and another friend told her that she really missed out (I quote), “the cake was awesome!”

    You are doing your friends a real service by baking this thing. I am sure it will turn out to be one of the most memorable moments of an extremely memorable day! And I do recommend making a lot. People went back for thirds at our wedding. And we had 90 people, so went through a lot of cake that day (and we still had a piece or two left over for the husband to nibble on the following day…the man loves his chocolate cake).

  45. Wow, that is absolutely amazing and what a terrific gift. I sadly have little advice to give on the cake baking kind, but can guinea-pig and taste whatever ;-) of course, i am sure i’m in line behind many people, especially Alex.

  46. I do wedding cakes for friends only- it is quite an undertaking. I typically bake a 14″ base, and I’ve never used a heating core, never had a problem. Be careful about the icing you use- those hot, sticky NY summers can make a real mess out of a formerly great-looking cake.

    A couple of decorating ideas that are easy to do onsite- I have a white metal cage, purchased from Wilton several years ago that is the same size as either my middle or top layers. I use it with fresh flowers- typically roses in the Bride’s colors- lined up inside the cage blossoms facing outward. I also like to use a simple, gossamer ribbon around the cake layers- not too wide- rather than overdoing with a ton of small detail icing handwork. I leave that stuff to the pros- there’s just too much to mess up, and after a while it looks great, but my hand hurts so much I can’t finish.

    One last thing- if you use fresh flowers, do not stick the stems directly into the cake itself. I had this happen at my own wedding (dumb florist did it) and that layer of cake tasted like yucky flower stems.

    Good luck to you, and plan ahead for weird crises- you just never know.

  47. Christine

    Gotta say – baking a wedding cake is on one of my top ‘Wants To Accomplish’ lists as well. So, I must commend you for doing it!

  48. Deb:

    Best of luck to you. I’ve taken the Wilton decorating series twice, so I appreciate your determination. I’ve never heard of a heating core, but I will look that up. Here are a few suggestions (keep in mind I’m a gadget freak and a Cook’s Illustrated devotee)

    -Wilton Bake strips: yes you need them. Cakes bake evenly and don’t dome.
    -Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible: This answers every question you could possibly have about cakes and icing. Check out my review on Amazon because I either listed or posted a link to the errata

    -Williams-Sonoma Gold Touch Cake Pans: expensive, but worth it great site for inspiration lots of cake decorating videos

    Good luck and keep us posted.

  49. I have done one wedding cake for friends and 15 dozen wedding cupcakes for another friend. Even if I did this on a regular basis, I don’t think you’ll never not get the fear. I can never sleep before a cake gig, and if it’s a wedding cake gig, I really can’t sleep. I suggest hot bathes and meditation for before and loads of stiff drinks after! I would definitely get my hands on Dede Wilson’s book: Wedding Cakes You Can Make: Designing, Baking, and Decorating the Perfect WeddingCake, as it really gives you all the tips & tricks, diagrams, support and ideas that you need. I really found it a lifesaver. I used her serving size recommendations for a 60 person wedding, and ended up with pretty a big cake (without checking my notes, I’d say it was 6-9-12 inches.

    Anyways, on to your questions:

    Size: like I’ve advised, check out Dede Wilson’s book

    Biggest layer: DEFINITELY use a a heating core, and be careful not to overfill it. I always do and then you have to do more then torte it. As for the “magic” cake strips, use them. As they really help to level out a cake, I’d actually use them for all the layers.

    Icing: Italian Meringue Buttercream is what I’ve used for all my cakes and I used on my first wedding cake and it was a roasting 90 degrees (very unusual for the NL) on the day itself. If you haven’t, tryMartha Stewart’s recipe, I like it as it’s not overly sweet. I use her measurements, but cook the sugar and egg white together before throwing it all int the KA and finishing it off. Easy as pie. I kept the cake in a huge fridge on location until it was time to serve. I tell you that was the longest walk of my life, from the fridge, down the dirt path to the table service table (outside location).

    Filling: I’d go with a mango buttercream, as curds are too slippery and unstable. You can make the curd and fold into the buttercream.

    Travel: On-site assembly is best. Make sure you make your list of what you’ll need to have on hand, and don’t forget tea towels. I actually pre-wet a few tea towels and store them in a ziploc bag, for easier clean up of the all the sticky stuff. Take an apron too, you don’t want to be at the reception covered in buttercream! ;-)

    I know that you’re going to rock this challenge and I look forward to reading all about it! If you want to read my honest account of my first wedding cake for a good laugh, then click here

  50. Devon

    I am a complete spectator here but I love your blog and I just wanted to tell you I am here, cheering you on!! I cannot wait to see pics of the finished cake, I am sure it’s going to be a huge hit!!!

  51. It sounds like you have it all under control.

    The only think I question is the freezing of the curd. I am thinking that it might break down when thawed.

    I have heard that the strips are good, but you are still going to have to level out your layers, so I just fill my cake pans a bit fuller. Then you can save the bits you level off to eat at will when your crumb coat doesn’t work, and the icing refuses to smooth out.

    I would drive (if you have a car) the cake for delivery. It isn’t that far.

    I have never heard of a heater core or whatever you mentioned.

    Are you going to sponge the layers with a sugar syrup before you fill and ice? That is one thing that many quality bakers do to keep the cake moist.

  52. I got married at Christmas and my Mother in Law made our wedding cake – she is a trained chef but taught herself sugar craft. We had a cake with the theme of 12 days of Christmas – it was spectacular – go and have a look

    I definately think you should asemble on site, and my mother in law made a spare tier to ours just in case there was an accident!

    Good luck, Im sure it will be fine! Can’t wait to see the finished article

  53. When I make the swiss buttercream, I get the butter so soft it almost looks melted. My frosting almose looks like it will break come the last addition of the butter, but then by a miracle, it is fine. I then stick the kitchen aid workbowl into the fridge before using the frosting so it will stiffen up a bit. I also think it’s a bit harder working with that type of frosting in the summer months when it’s so hot and humid. Better crank up your air!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Plus I think it’s so WEDDING CAKE appropriate!!!!!! Cannot WAIT to see your finished product! Sounds FAN-DAMN-TASTICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOOD LUCK!

  54. I tried Martha’s Strawberry Swiss Buttercream and it was a total, total disaster. It was just a liquid mess, and despite my best attempts (frig, meringue powder, whisking the heck out of it) – it could not be revived. I’d go with your tried and trusted never fail frosting, especially for this intimidating project – it’ll reduce the stress level a bit. Good luck! I’m sure you’ll do beautifully!

  55. Hi Deb! I have no idea if anyone already suggested this site to you, because I don’t want to read through all the comments. ( I completely disagree with Wilton’s serving chart, because I have been burned by it. The serving chart on Earlene’s website is amazing, because it is correct and it has all sorts of cake shape and sizes. Last summer I made a very ambitious wedding cake for a friend, and like you, I am not a professional, I am just a very good cook. It was stressful as hell, but it turned out really well and I felt stupid for being so stressed out. Perhaps you should skip the stress part. I used a frosting combo of my own devising, which worked really well in the hot hot summer heat. I made a traditional buttercream (the kind that gets crusty and stands up to everything and tastes like wax), and a cream cheese frosting and mixed the two together. The frosting stood up to the heat, and tasted excellent. I would be worried that the Swiss would melt in the heat. And finally, if you decide to assemble there, make a ton more frosting than you think you need. If you run out and the cake is half frosted…you are effed. Good luck!

  56. Liz

    Just unlurking to wish you good luck! I’m fascinated by all the comments and am toying with the idea of baking m own wedding cupcakes. I’m far too scared to actually make a layered cake! (Breads, ice cream, muffins, tortes, now those aren’t a problem!) Best wishes and calmness are being sent your way!

  57. This webpage has some tips on how to save a curdled buttercream. It’s the last box on long, busy page.

    Also, you said you made Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake, right? Did you try the buttercream recipe accompanying it? I’ve made it several times and it’s the easiest buttercream recipe I’ve worked with. Of course you’d want to drastically reduce the lemon juice so it would match the rest of your flavors.

    Good luck! You’re totally going to rock this! Don’t forget to have fun with it.

  58. lysrian

    Our wedding cake was terrific, because it wasn’t just one cake we had 6. Each cake was in a different flavor/style (chocolate & almond, filled cream puff tower & spun sugar, etc…) and there were cookie banners to unite the theme (love, respect, joy, etc…).

    If you find that you cannot make up your mind on the style and option you may want to consider something similar.

  59. Teresa

    I just found your site and am looking forward to seeing the evolution of this project. I’m not that level of baker–I can bake up tasty things, but tasty and beautiful and elegant and in huge quantities? No way! I’m sure I’ll learn a lot following your adventures.

    A delicious homemade-style wedding cake is so much better than the bakery ones. Ours was made by friends and despite having something like 15 other incredible desserts and enough food for four times as many guests as we had (this is what happen when foodies do a pot-luck reception!) we had to fight to save a piece for the anniversary.

  60. The cake sounds lovely! And delicious. I’ve been drooling over your blog for a while and had to comment on this subject.

    In my family, I’m the one who makes the birthday cake. I’ve travelled across the city many a time with a layered cake on a plate on my lap, lifting and tilting appropriately for bumps and corners.

    That being said, I’ve also learned that if you layer and decorate the cake before you arrive, you can expect to do touch ups when you arrive (and wipe chocolate off your pants).

    Considering the size of the cake, you probably won’t be carrying it on your lap (unless you’re a body builder), and considering the importance of your cake, I wouldn’t want to run the risk of having the icing smucked on the way to the restaurant… so I would assemble it on site.

  61. Andrea

    I cannot wait to see the results of your trials (and hopefully few tribulations)! I just made a lemon curd over the weekend, and it did indeed try to make a run for it after being transported in our car for an hour to the beach, so I’ll second (third?) the recommendations for a good, strong buttercream buffer. Also, I found the cooking tips and recipe on this site to be winners:
    By whipping everything together before heating, you don’t have to worry about straining the curd afterwards to remove any pesky lumps of uncooked egg, because there aren’t any. The curdled mixture looks awful before you warm it up, but I found that it smoothed out and thickened up beautifully. Good luck!

  62. deb

    Wow, thanks everyone! This is officially my most helpful comment section, ever. Just one response, for now!

    Bridget — It was actually Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake’s buttercream that flipped out on me (and then me on it, in all honesty). However, it is definitely sounding from the comments that a) it’s not the recipe (didn’t actually think it was, since I know a ton of you have made it) and b) I didn’t keep whipping it for long enough after it flopped. I will try again today or tomorrow.

    Of interest, I loved that tender, pure-white cake in the recipe and tested for the wedding cake (what you see in the top photo), using lime zest instead of lemon to compliment the mango. In the end, I think it may be too soft and light to give the structure I need (like an Angel Food Cake with butter, for those of you who haven’t seen the recipe). I tried out a more classic buttermilk/yellow cake yesteday that I think will be better.

  63. deb

    One more thing: I will pick up some of those strips today. I know the cake still needs to be levelled–I am going to use an actual level, even, a suggestion from a cookbook–but I hope it will offset the fact that the chocolate cake domes quite a bit.

    … Which has also given us a chance to taste it, and it is delicious!

  64. sK

    i have absolutely no advice but as i aspire to making my own wedding cake (or cupcakes) some day, this is all good to read. good luck!

  65. ZAKIA

    *Serving sizes – I use earlene’s serving chart – its a little more realisitc.
    *Heating core – you can just use an upside down flower nail (greased) this way there is no chunk of cake to deal with
    *SMBC – just keep beating it. it should come togther. maybe put in fridge for a few minutes and then keep beating it.
    *SkyHigh – i rented that book from the library. I love it. I going to buy it soon!
    * Dowel, Dowel, Dowel!!! or use the SPS system if you want to transport fully assembled.
    *i know you said your cakes are square but FYI – here is a much simpler way to cut round cakes (wiltons way is too complicated)
    *And you can always check out or for info……they are lifesavers.

  66. Jen W.

    Year-old frozen cake would not be good eats, so my Mom gave me a special anniversary surprise. She went back to the bakery where we got our cake, and had them bake a small cake for my first anniversary, in the same flavor. So, after you get through this, put it on your calendar for next year to bake a little cake for the newlyweds.

  67. Lee

    I have made several wedding cakes with no disasters to report. So the first thing is to take a deep breath and relax. Your friends are lucky to have you!

    I agree about assembling on site. Get a separate bakery box for each layer. The baking strips are KEY for getting even layers. Never used a heating core and never had a problem.

    Stay away from Martha Stewart recipes. Why haven’t we all learned that by now?

    Rose Levy Beranbaum is you friend. Her book, The Cake Bible, is amazing. She has a blog, too, called Real Baking with Rose. Anyway, her neoclassic buttercream recipe is the best (and easiest!) The one piece of advice I have that differs from what others have said, is that I use really cold butter. When you add the hot syrup to the eggs, normally you wait until the mixture cools and then add the butter. But if you use cold butter, it cools the mixture for you and there’s less chance of it breaking. Trust me, it works!

    Good luck! I know you can do it.

  68. Deb,
    The first and only wedding cake I ever made had a few adventures. We were catering a wedding – first and last on that, too. My thoughts – definitely assemble there. Stacking tiers if they’re not too big can really work without dowels and I found dowels to be a bit of a pain. If the weather is warm, buttercream will melt so an icing that can hold up is key. We loved a chocolate cake recipe from Maida Heater at the time but I can’t find the recipe but it’s from her chocolate desserts book. It was straightforward and baked up well. We also bake and froze and get this – because I was so nervous about having enough and managing slicing the cake, we baked extra cake in a long layer pan – split it and filled it and it sliced up like a dream, making everything a bit easier. Good luck.

  69. Fun! I’ve done this. Baked a square, three tier, flower-petal decorated wedding cake, for my brother’s wedding. I used Rose Levy Berenbaum’s buttercream — shiny, pretty, and fail-proof (I tried!). You’ll definitely want to do the assembly at the site — 8 blocks is a long way to carry a slippery, shiny, glossy, three-tiered confection. I baked for 100, went with a 6 inch top-tier, a 10 inch middle-tier, and a 14 inch bottom-tier… and easily had cake for everyone, with some to spare. I found that without at least 4 inches difference between the sizes of the tiers, they didn’t look as pronounced as I’d hoped.

    For a chocolate cake, the double-chocolate-cake recipe on Epicurious (the one with approximately a million ratings) is lovely, though I substituted Guinness for the coffee, which gave it a nuttier, warmer flavor than the original recipe. Good luck!

  70. I suck at baking and can offer exactly zero words of wisdom, but know that you are being sent good wedding cake vibes at regular intervals over the next 12 days! Best of luck!!!

  71. Mady

    I had to laugh when I read the bride and groom’s reaction to the saved cake tradition. My husband and I felt the same way.

    We were completely disgusted by the idea as well, but I had read in good ol’ Fannie Farmer that it is equally appropriate to recreate your cake instead. If it’s good enough for Fannie, then it’s certainly good enough for me.

    Therefore, I make our yellow butter cake with cannoli filling and fudge icing every year for our anniversary and find something new each year to put on top of it for a bride and groom.

    But what to do with the giant hunk of cake in our freezer? It seemd sacreligious to just dispose of it, so we planted it under our “wedding tree” (a little oak sapling that has self-seeded in our yard the year we were married and that we moved with us out of state) when we bought our house.

    I’d like to think that cake was very nourishing to our tree. The tree is strong and growing and now nearly eight years old, just like our marriage.

  72. Ooh — also, the strips work wonders, and instead of a heating core, I used a flower nail, inverted, and sprayed liberally with cooking spray, in the center of the largest (14″) layer only — everything came out beautifully.

  73. Santadad

    I think you should make a “trial” cake for Mom and I, and then you can learn from it. In fact, you won’t have to worry about the transportation part. We’ll come to your house to eat it!

  74. Karen

    The cake strips work like a charm. Your cake will bake completely flat, which looks kind of weird. As a result, you’re have a taller layer because you wont have to cut of a domed top. I use them every time I bake a cake.

  75. Nic

    Ok, I admit it, I haven’t read every single comment, so I know I’ll be duplicating some people, but…
    1. Yes, Wilton is crazy, I made a 12″round, 9″round and 6″round and it just covered 75 people at my sister’s wedding. Especially depending on whose cutting it because everyone has their own idea of the ‘correct’ cake piece.
    2. Heat core and wet strips, probably a good idea, but not absolutely necessary. So if something happens, so worry, a 12″ cake can still bake fine without them.
    5. Definitely assemble onsite! You’ll need to do touch ups either way and assembling on site gives you a little more flexibility to deal with whatever comes up!
    6. Have a great time!

  76. 1. I don’t agree with Wilton’s cutting diagrams. They say 2 inch pieces per person, are you kidding me? People will be pigging out (or is that just my family?).

    2. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to bake a cake bigger than a 9 inch without a heating core. The middle would be mush. They’re simple to use, just make sure you grease it.

    3. For the icing, follow your gut. (But have a backup handy)

    4. No advice, sorry.

    5. Transporting an assembled cake will be difficult. If you decide to assemble it on site, how early will you arrive? Will you be alone or will you have an audience? People will sit and watch you and tell you that you missed a spot etc etc.
    I would assemble them at home (frozen of course) and make sure everything is gravy then unassembled and refreeze, box up and transport. By the time you arrive they should be thawing and you should have enough time reassemble and do touch ups.

    Hope that helps!

  77. Kate

    Hi Deb!
    I made a wedding cake for a few friends a few months ago…whew–it’s a lot of work, but extremely rewarding when everybody raves about the cake (remember this when you are baking/decorating into the wee hours of the morning!) As to your frosting dilemma, it is extremely common for the frosting to break when you start adding the butter; however, if you keep beating it for a few extra minutes it should firm up for you. I have used both the Martha Stewart and the Dorie Greenspan recipes for swiss meringue buttercream and must admit that I like Dories a little bit more. Plus, Dorie’s was more white(probably due to a lower butter ratio), instead of light yellow. Also, I used to work for a wedding cake bakery and commonly cut the cakes on the weekends. The Wilton model for cutting cake gives guests the littlest portions!!! I say–go ahead and bake the sizes you were planning on! The wedding sounds like it is going to be a casual affair, one in which minuscule pieces of cake are not welcome. And, judging by the other goodies you make on this site, the cake is going to be absolutely delicious, so people are going to want more than one piece.
    Good luck with all the baking and decorating! I look forward to seeing the big reveal.

  78. WOW!!! I can’t wait to see how this pans out. I’ve always wanted to do a big wedding cake. I say take it unassembled and put it together there. GOOD LUCK either way! So exciting!

  79. Fran

    No experience on the wedding cake front myself, but watched my mother make many many in her years of running a wedding cake business. ABSOLUTELY assemble on site. My sister, as a three year old, provided some comedy to my grandmother’s second wedding by sitting on the cake in the back seat of the car on the way to the reception. Beyond the comedy, I can still remember my mother’s panic. Ouch

  80. Given all of the choices for what cake I would like to eat, it would have to be Wedding Cake. Maybe it is the romance of it, the beauty or even the fact the Wedding cake always seems to taste good. I have alsways said that we need a bakery that just sells slices of wedding cake. I would be there…and probably 20 pounds heavier!

  81. Kelly

    I made my sister’s wedding cake. Same dimensions as yours. Also square. All my research said (and it turned out to be true) that no heating core was necessary under 14″. I made a chocolate cake with raspberry filling and a swiss buttercream. It was incredible. You must be far braver than I. I started six months in advance trying out recipes. I had baked thousands of cakes before this one and the first three practice cakes flopped for three different reasons. I wanted the process to be as streamlined as possible. Freezing is good. Icing the day of is perfect. Good luck! Oh, transport it while frozen, it will make everything easier. And, I’m sure you know this but a crumb coating is needed for a wedding cake!

  82. Sara

    Don’t know if this will be of any help, but I once saw Alton Brown level off a cake using a couple of boards and a hacksaw blade. He got a pair of 2 x 4s (I think) and set them up in a V shape, putting the cake into the V. He then laid the blade flat against the boards and cut across the top of the cake. I imagine you could use any kind of long, thin blade—the important thing would be making sure your boards are the exact same size.

    Best of luck! I’ll be looking forward to reading about your progress.

  83. Sara

    Good luck! I’m in the same boat – volunteered to bake the cake for my best friends reception for 200!!! (Also, my first wedding cake) I’ll be watching to see how it goes, hopefully, I’ll even learn something!

  84. good luck.

    my friend just made one for her brother’s wedding. the bride picked one from the martha stewart wedding cake book.

    I wanted to visit the cake, but decided it was best to stay away for a few days. I am waiting to see pictures.

  85. ok, I´ve never made a wedding cake before, so I can´t offer advice on assembly or transportation, but what did cross my mind as soon as you said mango was orange. I´d totally do an orange cake for the mango curd filling, orange and mango just love each other and make each other shine. Just a suggestion.

  86. Good luck! This sounds like a mammoth undertaking. Just a quick note about Indian versus Mexican (or whatever you get at the regular store) magoes. There is a material difference in taste, texture, and sweetness, the Indian ones being WAY better. You can get them at any Indian store, and probably tons of places, given that you live in New York City! Having said that, the grocery store mangoes have hugely improved in taste (even from 5 years ago), so Im sure you will make it work no matter what type of mango you decide to go with.

    Best fruit ever!

  87. Caitlin

    I worked as a wedding cake decorator for a couple of years and we almost always assembled the cakes on site. The layers were kept in a walk-in freezer before transport so we wouldn’t have to worry about layers sliding about. (For smaller cakes, we would usually use drinking straws instead of dowels!) But, the most important thing to keep in mind when you are stacking the layers is not to fuss over their placement– once you put a layer down don’t try to shift it. And definitely don’t move the assembled cake once it is at room temperature. Anyway, Good luck! The cake sounds delicious and I am certain you will do just great–the size should be really manageable.

  88. ali

    I have one trick to share. Have any of your books/sources told you to use wooden dowels in between layers? I had to bake a wedding cake last fall for a friend and so i did a search on youTube. I saw a woman use those fat, bubble tea straws (neon pink that you can buy in Chinatown mini marts) in place of the dowels. It worked like a charm. You just stick the straws in and snip with scissors. Much easier than dowels.

    My cake came out well, except for the decorating. I’m not the best froster and so I tried to cover up all the blemishes with rosemary branches and kumkwats (the theme of the wedding was Greek) … not as pretty as it sounds.

    Good luck! It’s going to be beautiful.

  89. You are so brave! I’m eager to keep reading about your trial and errors (although I hope there won’t be very many of the latter). Mango curd sounds amazing!

  90. lemongrass

    Good luck! I can’t wait to see the photos. I’ve got absolutely no advice on the cake, but do remember to relax a bit and and enjoy the experience. If the worst happens (and it won’t) it’s not the end of the world and fabulous cake in a heap is still good, just less pretty!

  91. Cassandra

    The only advice I can offer is to assemble on site and then watch it like a hawk. My mother made a lovely and delicious cake for my cousin’s wedding, put it together, and left to get an ice cream cone. While she was gone the people who ran the hall moved the table the cake was on and knocked it over.

  92. I can’t believe how excited I am for you! I agree with the rec for Indian mangoes. As a kid, we’d go to Jackson Heights for crates of mangoes, if you can, try Patel Brothers (I think it’s called). My dad would wrap them individually in newspaper and keep them above the fridge (he said it was the warmth) and they would ripen evenly and taste like sugar. Good luck; you’re going to hit this one out of the ballpark!

  93. Beth

    Here’s a funny story for you…I was assembling my brother’s wedding cake in a conference room in the hotel where the reception was being held. The door was open and complete strangers kept wandering in to comment.

    I had arrived the night before and the hotel staff directed me to their walk-in freezer to store the layers. But the freezer I was allocated was filled FLOOR TO CEILING with tray after tray of BACON!! I was terrified that the cake would have a tantalizing bacon aroma.

    As I was assembling, a lovely woman from a party in the conference room next door came in to admire. I desperately asked her, “Does this cake smell like bacon??”
    She took a big sniff and said, “Well, I’ve never smelled bacon, but I think it’s fine.” She was an orthodox Jew and her party had been a Bar Mitzvah!

    The cake was delicious, a big hit, and did not have the faintest olfactory trace of bacon.

  94. Drumgurl

    Good luck girl! I know that this is going to be FANTASTIC! I can’t wait to see the final product.
    You’re going to be awesome!!!!!

  95. me7c7v

    I am so excited to be following this!!! I’m currently yearningly obsessed with cakes and wedding cakes and wishing I could bake them (possibly a symptom of a new job which I hate and leaves me no time to bake anyway). So I will be able to do this vicariously.

    You can do it! Thanks for sharing with us!!!!!

  96. well i’m not sure if you’ll make it to my comment (especially since you’re going to be busy right now) and since i’m too lazy to read through all of them myself, which means i’ll probably repeat some stuff. :)
    it was a relief to read that you were making your first wedding cake in less than two weeks… so will I!!!! i love love love my smb. i learned how to make mine from (click on “icing” on the right hand side and it will take you to a post with a video and directions on smb.) one word of advise i got from another site though was to make sure your butter was just soft on the outside, but still cold on the inside, NOT all the way softened to room temp.
    one more thing, i never ever EVER trim the top of my cakes. here’s what to do. when the cake comes out of the oven, i grab a tea towel (or two) and press down evenly all around the top of the cake. this helps the cake to be more even and more dense. you’ll have to press and move, press and move, don’t stay in one spot for too long, otherwise that thin top layer will peel off with the towel. for the bottom layerof a cake i use the cake as is, then for the top layer i flip it over so the nice clean edge is on top. with all the filling in the middle, and the pressed cakes, the cake comes out nice and even all around.

  97. Kat

    When my husband and I got married last year, we had a cake with three flavors and ordered enough for everyone to have a little bit of each layer. Well, you know how things go with weddings: a few people cancelled last minute and there was extra of each layer left after the reception. We decided to take all the extra cake home with us afterwards, and it made for an amazing night. We didn’t get to eat that much cake ourselves since we were so busy schmoozing, and we were able to stuff ourselves with it that night before watching Scrubs and passing out (yes, that was my romantic wedding night). Obviously, I am of the opinion that making extra is a good good thing.

  98. dear kitten,
    i am a professional pastry chef and had a wedding cake business as well.
    first relax you can do it
    dont take the Xanex till after the cake is there and set up.
    i will address your concerns
    -Wilton cutting chart, yes it sounds like not alot but in reality after a cocktail hour and a multiple course meal plus distrated by dancing, you really dont need that much cake, but my theory is extra cake is not a bad thing, let them take it home, let the wait staff have a peice, especially if it is a small wedding you what the cake to look like something, so go big ! it is just flour sugar butter and eggs.
    -Big layer, 12 inch is not big it will be fine in a regular oven, rotate it, i have done 16 inch in my non commercial oven at home. you dont need any gagets.
    -Icing, find one that tastes good and you are comfortable with and will hold up in the climate you are working in.
    -Filling i have great lemon curd recipie that i vary with other fruit but i have to adjust the sugar, mangos are real sweet and curd is supposed to be tart.
    -Travel, do not stack the cake till you get there, put the dowels in at home, then all you need is a bag with your icing and do the finish work on site, give your self time so anunt jane is not standing over you telling you what to do.
    I delievered cakes in the mountains of colorado on snow cats, gondolas, atv, planes as well, you name it, never stack the cake till you get there.
    my golden rules are extra cake is good and never stack till it is on the table it will live on.
    one experiance is a fire extingisher that was attached in vehicle that i had to use on the mountain for insurance reasons. anyway it fell into the bottom tier. but because i had made extra cake and had butter cream and my tools i filled the hole with butter cream and then told the staff not to use that part of the cake and they got the 100 pieces they needed out of it becuase i had extra and it looked great as well.
    buena suerte and let me know if i can answer any other questions

  99. Luke

    1. Magi-cake strips (the aluminized cloth you soak in water and wrap around the outside of the cake pans) are AWESOME. Much less dome and much less fiddly leveling. HIGHLY recommended.

    2. I have had similar buttercream drama (to the point of also being forbidden from making it under high-stress circumstances…), however, I think the major issue is temperature. The softened butter should look slightly waxy, but not oily. Not sure what the actual temperature of that would be, but I’ll pull it in and out of the fridge till it’s firm, waxy-looking, but has give when pressed.

    3. Hooray for not using fondant. I’m in the midst of a flourless chocolate wedding cake that has to get from D.C. to Maine (urgh), so a nasty crust of fondant is kind of necessary for structural reasons.

  100. Liz

    I have made 3 wedding cakes for family in the past 3 years…

    You’ve got a lot of good advice already so I’ll keep it simple.

    The wet strips have never worked for me – always falling in the middle with the edges being done/over done. I’m interested in hearing how the heating core works for you – as I’ve contemplated this in the past.

    I have found that of the cakes I’ve made – I always thought I had too much and ended up using every ounce – people eat it and some have multiple pieces.

    Definitely bring it in separate pieces and assemble once you get there with the dowls cut to size already (no they didn’t ruin any pieces since its not like every piece comes out picture perfect when you’ve got tiered cakes going on) and a piping bag.

    Make sure you study up on how to CUT this thing – I find that when I bring a cake I always assume someone else will be cutting it and end up with knife in hand and frosting up to my elbows by the end.

    Be sure to pipe some frosting around the perimeter of each layer to “hold in” your mango curd filling” – otherwise it squishes out as it gets warmer and has bulges on the sides.

    Good Luck – I want pictures!

  101. Nicole M

    Wow, you are brave! I was lucky enough with my own wedding last year. We have a German family owned bakery here and they make amazing cakes. We did 3 layers all in different flavors: Strawberries in Champagne, Bailey’s Chocolate,and Caramel Banana. We served it all b/c they make you a new top layer for your anniversary (how smart!). It was gorgeous and best of all they didn’t have to use any yucky fondant. Here’s a picture:

  102. Dionne

    How exciting! I have some suggestions on the buttercream, keep on mixing! Eventually it will some back together. If you have everything incorportated but it is just too warm, set a bowl of ice & water under your mixer bowl, to cool things down. Alternately, if your buttercream has been in the fridge after sucessfully being made you can use a paddle atachement and your blowtorch being sure to warm it evenly on your metal Kitchen Aid bowl and gently bring your buttercream up to temp. Best of luck!

  103. i read a bunch of the comments on this but really can’t read all of them. i too am not on speaking terms with swiss buttercream. we just don’t get along. no matter of whisking helps either. i once let my kitchenaid run for 15 minutes to no avail. if you some how get a comment that’s helpful. i would LOVE a post on buttercreams. i’m even thinking of hiring a professional pastry chef to give me a tutorial on it.

  104. Hi Deb!

    I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I love your blog. You and some of the other great ones out there have inspired me to start my own. I made my own wedding cake 6 years ago so here is my two cents. Definitely assemble on site. I made 12″, 10″, and 8″ round cakes for 75 people and there were not a lot of leftovers. If you are afraid of your icing – try the buttercream in the Cake Bible. You REALLY CAN make it ahead and then bring it to room temp (just make sure it is really room temp), rebeat it to perfection. Mine didn’t look perfect (since I was the bride, it was ok) but everyone said it was the best wedding cake they had ever had. Best of luck!

  105. Kim

    My husband made our wedding cake ((3-tiered, 2 layers each) in April and, once my best friend tried it, she requested that he recreate the cake for her wedding in May. It was a huge success (both times)! Comments:

    1. We had NO cake left for about 80 people. We did not have any other desserts. Agree with the other people who said Wilton cake serving diagram is tiny.
    2. He is a Rose Levy Berenbaum devotee and, after lots of testing, adapted her recipe for Swiss Buttercream (flavored with vanilla bean) and another recipe (moist chocolate genoise, I believe) for the cake.
    3. He transported the cake layers separately and DID use light wooden dowels for extra support. The dowels may have “ruined” a few piece but the caterers told him they cut around them and no one complained.
    4. He made the cake base with a piece of plywood wrapped in pretty scrapbooking paper.
    5. He swears by the magi strips; he still had to do a bit of trimming but it was mainly the corners rather than the top.
    6. As you probably already figured, the cake frosting was yellow not white because of all the good butter and egg yolks. Feel free to email me and I can send a picture.

    I LOVED that he made our wedding cake (and tarts for the rehearsal dinner). Who needs to freeze the top layer (a strange tradition, imo) when your husband can make the same cake on every anniversary? Best of luck!

  106. Rosie

    This sounds like a wonderful project! I can’t wait to see its progress.
    However, I am a little troubled by you ripening your mangoes in the fridge. Mangoes ripen best somewhere a little warmer. My parents used to put our mangoes in our rice container.

  107. Bri

    I’m so excited for you Deb! I’ve read your blog for a while now and finally decided to chime in. While I’m far from an experienced cake decorator, I’ve made swiss meringue buttercream on a number of occasions, and yes it can look like a gloppy mess. Just keep whipping it. You will love your kitchen aid more than you thought possible at the end of the 10 minutes or so of whipping that it takes to get the buttercream to look right. Follow Dorie’s recipe from the perfect party cake and you should be set. Best of luck!

  108. Wow! Good luck with all that I’m sure as long as keep it simple it will turn out beautifully. I would assemble the cake at the location because there is less of a chance of something going wrong.

  109. I have one extraordinarily important piece of advice. Has anyone checked with the reception place to see if you are allowed to do this?

    At my reception, it was expressly forbidden in the contract for anyone except a licensed baker in the state of Illinois to create and serve the cake. It was because there are not health department regulations on someone’s personal kitchen.

    Also, i believe it was the same deal with the place where we had our shower.

    not to panic you, but i am certain that this was very important.

    Obviously, no one cares if this reception is in someone’s yard, but generally (in IL) this is forbidden if there is a contract to be signed.


  110. Celeste

    I’ve never baked the cake, but I’ve done a small amount of catering. Pack up every tool you think you could use and a few extras. Arrive far sooner than you would ever think necessary. Pack some paper towels and a spray bottle of cleaner because the area where you want to set up to work may not be clean enough (sad but true). Make sure that the table linens will be set up on the cake table for your schedule.

    Finally, I think you should visit a cake decorating store to actually see some of the hardware they have for the cake stacking and see if they have any recommendations. I have looked at a lot of books on cake decorating (I contemplated learning this as a sideline at one time but decided against it because of the weekend commitment) and I think you shouldn’t rule out that a shop may have something newer that isn’t much publicized yet. If nothing else they might be able to give you a sanity check on what you are planning to do, and sometimes that’s golden, too.

    You are an AWESOME friend to do this and I know it’s going to turn out great!!!

  111. Abbey

    I add another vote for an Italian buttercream, where instead of whipping the egg whites and sugar over a bain marie (always a pain in the butt, in my opinion), you drizzle boiling sugar syrup into your already whipping egg whites (a breeze with a standing mixer, though I’ve done it without). I use an Ina Garten recipe I found on the food network website and it’s never once failed me and always gotten rave reviews. GOOD LUCK!

  112. I know absolutely nothing about making a wedding cake but I can only say how very proud I am of our Deb – look at all these people chiming in with their ideas and support!

    All of which is richly deserved, honey. Go forth and bake!

  113. Ah, wedding cakes…
    1) Erring on the cautious side is smart. Is the cake the main dessert, or are the guests having another dessert as well?
    My favorite pastry chef I have ever worked with never uses dowels. She has been known to use thin bamboo skewers. They are thin enough that they don’t really wreck any pieces.
    2) a a12″ cake isn’t really that big. You can get away without using a core.
    3) Several things could have happened with your Swiss buttercream, but probably one or a combo of humidity, temperature and barometric pressure. Or the meringue may have been slightly overbeaten, or ingredients may have been too warm or too cold at any time during preparation. I’d be more likely to go with a Seven Minute, or a white chocolate ganache, or even a cheese frosting made with ricotta or cream cheese.
    4) I only have a recipe for lemon curd.
    5) It’ll be easier for you to assemble it before transport, but easier to transport unassembled. yep, I’m no help on that one.
    P.S. make sure the flowers you get from the florist to decorate with are okay for food- most are treated with chemicals to last longer, and some are extremely toxic to people- you might not want this stuff on your cake, even if it looks pretty.

  114. Hi there! I’ve been a fan of your site for a while but have not commented until just now. I think i might know what the buttercream issue might be. Something that I tried one day in class( I am a culinary graduate) that really helped me was to stick a bowl of ice underneath the bowl of the stand mixer while the meringue was whipping. You need cool meringue for success, it should be at least a few degrees cooler than your softened butter to hold up to the change in temperature.I’ve made dozens of batches of Swiss buttercream this way and each time successful. Hope that helps!

  115. I’ve made a couple wedding cakes and have always used a striaght up Buttercream Frosting that has never failed me and is something guests have told me for years that what they loved most at the wedding was the cake and frosting.
    Due to the heat this time of year and transportation and whatnot – I WOULD NOT do any sort of butter based frosting.
    Straight up Buttercream Frosting
    Whip on high speed until almost white and super fulffy:
    1 Cup Granulated Sugar
    1 Cup Butter
    1 tsp Vanilla
    While that’s beating in saucepan over low heat:
    1 Cup Whole Milk
    4 Tbsp Flour
    Heat and stir until THICK!
    Combine Sugar/Butter Mixture with Milk/Flour mixture
    Beat until smooth and DELICIOUS!

  116. WOW – Bakers coming out of the woodwork! You can do this – piece of cake (bah-ha-ha).
    1) Wilton sizes are usually too small (1″ x 2″ pieces) – but may be close if your tiers have 3 layers. For 55, you could probably do 10, 8 & 6 and still be good.
    2)You do not need a core thing or a wrap for a 12″ square cake. To get a flatter cake dial back the oven temp to 325 and cook longer (1 hour for 8″ pan).
    3)Swiss Buttercream – sounds like heat was a problem – use cool room temp butter – keep mixing (use that Kitchenaid). If it is still watery – chill it in the bowl for a while & mix again. It will come together. If not I have a great Ital. Meringue Buttercream (Whimsy Bakehouse) just send a note & I’ll share.
    4)Filling – if you are going to freeze your layers & your filling, why not freeze you tiers filled & crumb coated – that way all you have to do is the final frosting?
    5)assembly/travel – my vote is assemble on site. Don’t worry – you can use the flower petals to cover up any finger dents. Check out my blog from 6/25 to see a wedding cake w/ rose petals. Good Luck!!

  117. geez deb. props to you. my dream one day is to make a wedding cake so i can’t wait to see how yours turns out. impressed over here. seriously seriously impressed.

  118. ny pearl

    congrats on exciting what appears to be hundreds of people about this cake! you may have to bake seconds just for your web-neighbors.

    a quick thought on the mango curd: my current addiction is homemade, extra-thick mango lassis. i used canned alphonso mango pulp (ratna brand) that i get out at patel brothers in jackson heights. i’ve never tried to make curd with it, mostly because it hadn’t occurred to me, but i think that it would be perfect for this. just adjust the sugar in the recipe, since the mango is already sweetened.

    i’d try it out for you and report back, but i’m all kinds of knocked up and trying to avoid undercooked eggs. i think you and i live in the same neighborhood, though (test: do you miss kitchen/market and bright food shop?) so let me know if you’d like to test out a can.

  119. Katie in Berkeley

    I’m so excited to hear more about this project in the next few days! Thanks for sharing, and best of luck. May the humidity gods smile on you.

  120. Sandy Dow

    I’ve enjoyed your blog and recipes for the past year and never imagined I’d be brave enough to write, but I’ve baked a LOT of wedding cakes (used to have a little underground baking business . .
    1. I would advise NOT assembling it on site, despite what everyone else said — there’s NO MARGIN FOR ERROR!! Assemble at home and “glue” to the serving platter ( with frosting on the serving platter underneath the cake). Your beautiful cake will be stable during transport and you won’t be freaked out with moments to go until the ceremony.

    2. I always made a serving tray out of fabric covered wood — just a thin piece of wood that’s the size that you want with some pretty fabric covering it (masking tape the fabric edges to the back). Walk your beautiful cake down to a waiting cab and hold it gently on your lap. Take some extra frosting and flowers with you, just in case.

    3. From my experience, you’re right about the buttercream, especially if it’s a warm day — disasterous!!

    3. I always used fresh flowers (sweetheart roses and little orchids are great) and pretty ribbon, as opposed to petals which can look a little damp and crumply. You can cut the damp stem short and wrap it in that green stretch tape that florists use before inserting the stem firmly into your frosting at an angle. The flower stays fresh looking and no one will eat it by mistake.

    4. It was always a tad difficult for me to perfectly center the three tiers — I used more of a stairstep approach with the flowers “delicately cascading down” the tiers.

    5. My top tier was always a little heart shaped cake — some couples did save it for a year (have to agree with the yuk factor) while others just saved it for later.

    6. I never used a heating core or cake strips, but did use a real level — that way I could get a little taste of the cake (just to make sure it was good).

    7. The crumb layer of frosting (a thin skim coat) is a great plan, refrigerate until the final frosting layer. The crumb coat seals your cake, so you won’t loose flavor.

    8. Your cake will be gorgeous and delicious — the best ingredient is love.

  121. Deb, forgive me if this was touched upon in one of the previous 124 comments…but Swiss Buttercream has hurt my feelings too!! We were once the best of friends, and then one day, it decided to hate me. And I don’t know why. There are so many factors (how long to cook the whites over the simmering water, is the butter room temp enough, are the whites too stiff/not stiff enough??) that I don’t even know where to start in terms of solving this troublesome problem. If you ever figure it out, I’d love to know. In the meantime, your wedding cake challenge sounds awesomely exciting, and I have no doubt it will be a smashing success. You’ve already thrilled your friends, I’m sure, by even attempting the process. Such love will be baked into the cakey goodness. Good luck and have fun!

  122. anna

    Hi Deb!
    how cool! i baked two wedding cakes in two years – it was great, even if a little stressful at times (just know you’ll probably be standing in your kitchen at midnight – wanting to give up) (but you KNOW right? so you won’t give up!). And in the end, it is the best gift you can make.

    you’ve got so much good advice already… just wanted to say it can be a good idea to keep one of your or bake a smaller cake or two on the side. Both times the couple and close family really appreciated having a cake for the day’s after, since during the wedding there was just too much going on for them to enjoy. who would have thought?
    and so far the comments i read didn’t mention it; are you brushing your layers with some alcool or liquid? we lightly brushed each layer with grand marnier mixed with water and a bit orange blossom water (after a gourmet recipe) and it really helped keeping the layers moist. You couldn’t really taste it, but it helped the flavor overall to be more sophisticated.
    Good luck! Have fun!

  123. Janet

    If you’re worried about stacking and dowels (understandably!!), when I got married, our cake was on something like this stand:

    The layers are held separately, sort of hovering over each other. It looks pretty from the front. We had a lot of sugar flowers on each layer, but that adds more work!! Good luck!

  124. anna

    ok my comment was way too long but…

    – i agree with the one person that said assemble it at your place and carry with care – was so much less stress for me to have everything at hand.
    – be there like 8 times the time you think it will take you to frost and decorate.

    and i didn’t use a cake tier – i actually asked a pastry chef and he told me thin skewers worked fine – and my cake was for 170 guests (3 huge layers).
    ok now go bake!

  125. Oh wow, a wedding cake! Will be waiting for the rest of this series.

    And LOL for the reaction re saving the top layer of the cake. I must confess, I agree with the bride and groom on that one. ;)

    As for mangos: canned (Alphonso) mango pulp are quite good.

    Good luck!!!


  126. John

    For the last part about assembling at the restaurant or transporting whole, call the restaurant. From my experience (my in-laws own a small restaurant in Minnesota, so I have some experience) some restaurant are very nice about other chefs doing some prep work in their kitchens. Some are not. Call the head chef or kitchen manager and ask is you can come in and use some counter space at a certain time.

    Of course you will need to be professional about it to them and if there is any equipment you need (knives, bowls, spoons, etc), be sure let them know or say you will have everything you need, just some space. They may be very accommodating to you (or not). This can be nicer than assembling in banquet room because it is easier to clean up frosting off the kitchen tables and the kitchen floor than in the banquet.

    Good luck with the cake.

    P.S. If this advice was given above, I am sorry for repeating it, but you have a LOT of comments above, and I didn’t have time to read them all.

  127. I can’t think of a better person to embark on such a project. I’m so excited to see the final product!

    I love the compromise you came up with for pleasing both the bride and groom’s tastebuds.

  128. Genevieve

    I’m a new fan of your site and this my first time posting. I have made 6 wedding cakes for friends over that past few years and think i have it (almost!) down to a science. A couple of tips:
    1) I tried those wet strips and they’re a big pain–not worth it. For a flat top, I find that it’s helpful to smooth the batter using an offset spatula (which is also ESSENTIAL for frosting). you’ll get some rounding on top, but it’s easy to cut off before frosting.
    2) THe recipes I’ve used for the cake are from an issue of Martha Stewart Living from about ten years ago and I swear by both of them. The one I use most is 1-2-3-4 Lemon Cake (available on martha stewart’s website). It’s delicious and very sturdy–you don’t need to worry about the layers falling apart. Sometimes i use orange zest instead of lemon. The chocolate cake recipe I use is called Moist Devil’s Food Cake and is also fantastic and dependable.
    3) I’ve used very basic buttercream (cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar) with no problems. Yes, a hot day can make it challenging, but if you can work in an air-conditioned space, it should be fine. Also, you can smooth it when you’re finished by running your spatula under very hot water and very lightly smoothing the surface.
    4) Fancy decorations are beyond me, so I just use fresh flowers. The prettiest cakes I’ve made had rununculus (perfect size, come in lots of colors) and hydrangea blossoms (I bought a few big hydrange puff, plucked all the individual blossoms off and pressed them on to the surface of the frosting. They have to be pulled off before serving, but’s worth it).
    5) If possible, assemble onsite. I’ve done it both ways and vastly prefer frosting and decorating where the wedding reception is taking place (I”ve also transported my cake layers on a cross-country flight and on a train, but that’s another story!) If you do have to transport the finished cake, here’s how to do it—find a friend with a station wagon or SUV (does anyone in NYC have such a vehicle?) and put the cake in the back. Then get someone else to drive while you sit in the back with the cake between your legs–your legs can hold the cake base steady. And I agree with the poster who suggested using a fabric covered board for your base.Get a board that is big enough so you have a few inches on all sides–less risk of brushing up against the sides of the cake when you move it.
    Good luck!

  129. Juliet

    Hi Deb –

    I just wanted to 2nd the recommendation to refer to Rose Levey Beranbaum’s Cake Bible as a great reference. She walks you through the steps for SMBC. If I recall, she tells the baker to soften the butter, but not too much, you don’t want the butter to be oily, and it is tru that it will curddle at first (freak out!) and then it will magically come together. It’s truly awesome.

    She also recommends the cake strips, but I can’t remember what she says about the heating core. Anyway, I’ve used the cake strips and they worked for me.

    The reason why I love her book so much is her wonderful descriptions of what to expect as well as what to avoid. And if memory serves me right, she used to bake caskes out of her apartment in NYC.

    Anyway, her advice proved to be indespensible for me when I made a tiered cake for a Centenarian…may not have been AS critical as a wedding cake, but it was still a great learning experience!

    I will be looking forward to future posts on your project and wish you the best of luck!

  130. It’s almost good to be on the outside and learning – I’m picking up so many good tips… I can only learn and am really looking forward to the sequences to follow this. Breathe – that’s all I can say.

  131. Beth

    The recipes on your blog have made me into a minor baking celebrity with my family and friends, so I wish you the best of luck with the wedding cake–I can’t wait to see how it turns out! If all goes well I may have to volunteer to do a big event cake soon…

  132. Lori

    Love your site first and foremost. My two cents: Like others have said, assemble on premises. Bring everything you need including extra frosting. I have worked for several caterers and cake ppl were always welcome. The cake is usually assembled where it will be displayed, at least it was on the jobs I did and witnessed. One thing to consider when using a swiss meringue, is with the incredible amount of butter in it,(I can’t imagine how fattening this frosting is!) it may soften too much if it’s for a summer wedding. And then the conundrum of refrigerating it, which would harden the frosting too much, and then it would sweat when brought to room temp. If you are coloring any part of the frosting you want a very white frosting, as the yellow butter will not give true colors. I have just made simple, tried and true proven regular buttercream, using butter with a little bit of shortening in it to help keep the color true, with clear vanilla and 10X sugar. I have done several wedding cakes including my own with various types of frosting. I would use the dowels and platforms between layers. While you *can* get away many times without these thing, it truly depends on the weight of the layers, and you certainly would not want a split occuring. Frosting the cakes while the layers are frozen works great too, for very smooth applications.

  133. Sorry – I didn’t have time to read the 150 other comments to see if this has already been mentioned, but I’d recommend doing the top two layers chocolate, and the bottom vanilla (or vice versa) that way you’ll likely have enough for most if not all people to have both flavors, which they will definitely want.

    As for your buttercream – it sounds like a matter of the butter melting too fast – or adding too much at once. The mixture to which it was added might have been a little too warm (it takes a while to cool down.) Generally, it should come back together if you chill it and re-beat it. True buttercream will break, or maybe even melt right off the cake if it’s hot – if therre’s a chance of that, I’d recommend going with the 7 minute frosting (which is basically sweet soft meringue, no?) or fondant with buttercream underneath. You can get it pretty thin and it makes decorating a breeze.

    Another tip – a semi- professional baker friend of mine swears that if you bake the cakes at a lower temperature – around 300, they will come out flat and you won’t have to cut any off. She says it’s a professional secret – maybe someone else can verify. I haven’t tried it personally, but I’ve seen her cakes and they are perfect.

    I think the way to go with the transport is to assemble and do basic frosting at home and do your detail decorating on site. A big cake is remarkably stable in the car – especially for a short ride. Take a spatula, a couple of pastry bags and damp towels just in case. ;-) Good luck!!!!

  134. ann

    I am a wedding planner and have observed and had the results of lots of diff wedding cake “efforts” shall we say. Travel – assemble there if it’s taller than 3 layers. Use dowels and have icing on hand to cover your tracks. IF you freeze, make sure there is plenty of time for thawing – considering that the reception venue may well be under the influence of frosty a/c. Bride and groom slicing into a frozen cake – not a pretty sight. Sugared fruit, like grapes and cherries, do much to decorate a sophisticated cake and presentation – and can cover up boo-boos. Why do I keep talking about ‘covering’ – because it’s a big undertaking – and no matter what, it needs to look perfect for about an hour. Think about how big you want the cake to look – how tall, how wide. You may even use a dummy layer somewhere or at least an unfilled one, that you know will not be served, to avoid having a tiny cake. Typically there are pictures, and its pretty important that the cake be visible in those pictures, not miniature. So – from the outside perspective.

  135. almost forgot – when you do transport it – put bamboo skewers through the layers to make sure they don’t slip. You can remove the skewers on site and patch the holes with icing. If you can make room for the stacked and frosted cake in your refrigerator it would be best if you could frost it (doing 2 layers with chilling in between) put it together and chill it thoroughly before transporting (w/ skewers in place!)

    Forget the quantities needed to feed everyone, you want it to look good first and foremost and for that you’ll probably need at least four layers of cake per tier! Mmmmmmm… extra cake!!

  136. Sarah Jane

    Hi! I have been lurking/baking on your site for a while now – that orange chocolate chunk cake is to die for (not to mention the sour cream chocolate chip cake) – but I’ve never posted anything – anywhere – before. However, as I am currently in the process of baking my best friend’s wedding cake – my very first wedding cake (possibly my last – eeek) – I just had to bow down before you and thank the universe for conspiring to have you bake a wedding cake at this particular moment in time as all of this helpful advice is likely going to ensure I still have a best friend after July 12.
    Good luck – I have no doubt your cake will be beautiful, and most importantly, will taste beautiful!! Thanks for all the recipe ideas and the hil-AR-ious writing – you’ve totally entertained and inspired me.

  137. Amber

    Wow! I have no tips for you because I haven’t ever done a project like this before, but I have been contemplating it for a while now, and was wondering if you could tell me where the cake-baking Eden you found was? (I’m in NYC, too.) If you have a minute, I’d be super-grateful! Best of luck to you! I’ll be following along, and can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  138. Tiffany

    I think you’ve gotten the picture with the previous replies, but I will also give a big YES to the baking strips to keep the cake from rising to a dome. My 75 yr old mother-in-law didn’t believe me that I hadn’t levelled the cake the first time I brought a cake made with strips to her house. She demanded I bring them over and bake at her house so she could see herself.

  139. I’m so proud of you Deb! What an awesome project. With all these comments, it looks like you’ve got all the advice you need. Let me just say this- whenever I’m knee deep in a wedding cake project, no matter how many times I’ve done them, I inevitably reach the point of total panic and exasperation about 3/4 of the way through the project. This might happen to you… just push on through girl! It’ll all come together. Also- please don’t use those skinny, pencil thick wooden dowels. They’re impossible to cut and not thick enough to support the layers. Go for the larger, hollow (about a dime size whole) dowels sold by Wilton. I can’t wait to see pictures!!!

  140. SusanPrincess

    PLEASE READ ME–I averaged 2 wedding cakes a week for several years (5 max!), besides 10 or so other types, working full time from my home, and have some hints not covered in previous replies: 1.For perfectly flat cake layers: Fill the pans full enough to rise above the edge, but not so full they run over. When baked, cover with a layer of paper towels, and place a flat heavy something (board, larger size cake pan with a book for weight, etc.) on top; let stand until level 2. Dowels: The wooden ones are too difficult to cut evenly; I used hollow plastic balloon sticks from the party-notions store, and CUT THEM TO LENGTH (with pruning shears) BEFORE INSERTION. If they are uneven they cause the next tier to tip, and that’s dangerous as well as ugly. Straws should work just fine, especially in a somewhat dense cake. 3. A wet terry strip around the pan is quite helpful, especially on square ones; those corners tend to bake first. I needed too many at a time so didn’t buy the commercial ones; I cut strips from an old towel, folded them and safety pinned them on. Measure on an empty pan beforehand if you have time, cuz theyr’e easier to pin when dry, but they stretch when wet. 4. Fine, unsweetened coconut under the upper tiers’ plates will keep the frosting below where it belongs when tier is removed. 5. If you’re using a covered board for othe base, glue a smaller board to the bottom so your fingers can get under easily for lifting and setting. 6. DO NOT plan to hold this cake on your lap! It’s much more stable on the floor, and way less nerve wracking if you cannot see it vibrate as you drive. Carry it 8 blocks? Only if you have the Incredible Hulk to do that–it’s not only heavy, it’s very unwieldy. 7. A square cake is generally equal in volume to the next size up of round one, so figure batter and serving amounts accordingly. Yes, having a choice of flavors increases consumption, as does chocolate. 8. 12″, 10′” and 8″ or 6″ tiers make a good looking stack. 10″, 8″ & 6″ is too narrow. Square bottom and rounds above looks great, and is easier to line up than all square. Consider 12″ and 8″ squares only–can be assembled at home and still safely carried, with fresh flowers will look lovely, and will easily feed 55 generously. 9. Whether to stack at home or at site depends a lot on decorations; if very little bag work is needed, go ahead and assemble on site. Intricate side decor is better done in your workshop, and fingers always leave their marks on the bottom edge when stacking a frosted cake. 10. Relax afterward and enjoy the wedding/reception–you’ve earned it! (I’ve become addicted to your blog over the last few months–keep writing!)

  141. What an awesome task! I’ve helped my mom bake a million for my cousins’ weddings (we’re catholic, really there are millions) and here are the best tips (which you’ve already gotten multiples of above but I still want to put in my two cents):

    1) ABSOLUTELY freeze the layers. Two layers of plastic or one plastic, one foil works fine. I like to wrap them while the cake is still pretty warm – this holds in a lot of the steam and makes the cake much more moist. I do this every single time I make a cake no matter how big or small. It helps with transport, frosting – basically makes it better in every way.

    2) You can bake pretty big layers (I think my mom has 14″ pans) without the heating core, as long as they’re not the super deep pans. 2″ pans, you should be fine. We do use the strips – but strips of old towels, doubled and safety-pinned to be tight around the pan, wet and wrung out, work perfectly and are free! We’ve always had great results with these.

    3) Relax and have fun. Your friends are having you bake the cake because they know you’re WAY better than any old bakery – and everyone knows a cake with love in it tastes better than a cake with money. And like you said, taste is important :)

    You can do it! Have a blast!

  142. Sarah

    Hi Deb!
    Like a lot of others, I’ve been lurking for a while without ever commenting. Having transported many cakes (wedding and otherwise) using just about every transportation method available, I have one piece of advice. Forgive me if this is a duplicate, I got about 80 comments in and couldn’t read anymore.
    Someone mentioned “carpet no skid” stuff. I use the spongy looking, kitchen drawer liner variety. Buy a roll of it. It’s amazing! It’ll keep the cakeboard (& cake) from sliding into the walls of the transport boxes. And any extra assurance in the travel department is a good thing. Good Luck!

  143. Tracy

    I love all mangoes, but the yellow Mexican (sometimes called champagne) mangoes are my favorite – not as stringy, much more fruit with less of a ‘seed’ in the middle. They’re really easy to find in Chinatown…Good luck with the cake!

  144. Paul

    I think Chocolatechic is right about freezing the curd – potentially bad idea. I recently froze a batch of perfect pastry cream. After thawing it had become inedibly grainy. If you’re still inclined to freeze it, I’d strongly recommend freezing a test batch, waiting a few days, then thawing. Better to be safe than have to create a new filling at the last minute.

  145. deb

    Reading all of your (awesome) comments about the curd, I am wondering if a simple mango jam (like this one) would be easier. Now, I was under the impression that curds could be frozen and then thawed, still usable. And I will/would try a batch freezing/defrosting before making a final choice, but I wonder if a jam would just be easier. Thoughts?

    See? The questions keep coming!

  146. You can refrigerate a curd for up to a week so long as you press some saran on top of the curd before putting a lid on it. as for freezing it I’m not so sure. I believe it might come out sweaty and crack, but I haven’t done it before. A jam would be easier, but you wouldn’t get the creamy luxurious taste that a curd would provide. Good luck!

  147. Rose Marie

    First let me say, Good Luck.
    Now that said, I have no clue what a heating core is. I used to have a very small cake decorating business in my home a zillion years ago. I did mainly birthday cakes then “fell” into wedding cakes.
    Dowels—yes, yes, yes
    As for the little strips that go around the cake pans to make the layers level, well your choice. I never saw the need to spend extra money for them. I used strips of old towels I cut up. (I learned that in a cake decorating class I took.)
    Transport that baby in sections. Make sure you have the extra frosting to repair any minor boo-boos that WILL happen.
    The tilted back seats of the cars will only cause your stress level to raise. If you can use a car/van/truck that has a level surface on which to set the sections.
    Since you are making your own frosting–a clear liquid vanilla or the powdered vanilla (I prefer the powdered kind. It keeps easier when done with this cake.) if you are going for a bright white frosting.
    I haven’t read all of the comments, but I bet somewhere in there someone said to “glue” the cake to the cake board/doiley use a dab of the frosting.
    If you have the flowers you can eat then feel free to use them. If not, don’t stress out, go to the craft store and get some silk ones. I used to make the buttercream flowers, alas no more. My stress level won’t handle it. I will sing the praises of the silk flower all day long.
    Oh yeah, on a cable channel is a program called “Ace of Cakes”. You might want to check it out. Duff might be crazy but he knows his cakes.
    So just take a deep breath and jump right in there.
    Again, GOOD LUCK

  148. SusanPrincess

    p.s. 11. Double layer of newspaper works great to line the cake pans–save the parchment for better uses. Two layers means the cake comes out even when cold. And no, it does not leave print on the cake, it leaves crumb on the print. 12. Use the cake layers bottom side up for a nice edge and level, easy to frost or fill surface. 13. Crumb coat the room temp, dry-to-the-touch cake with thinned buttercream, and let stand overnight to dry. The coating keeps the cake fresh and crumbs out of trouble. If you freeze at this point the coating softens when thawed, defeating the purpose of gluing down the crumbs. And frosting a frozen cake is near impossible, I found–the frosting gets hard and unspreadable. Happy baking!

  149. Fletch

    Wow, I don’t know how you will ever get to cake-baking with so many great comments to read! Someone recommended putting the mangoes in a bag to help ripen them — I would add that you should put a banana in that bag, too. They produce ethylene, which aids ripening. I’d also put my vote for assembly at the reception site. Best of luck — you are a real champ for taking this on!

  150. Cindy

    I didn’t read all the replies, but after researching and baking several wedding cakes, over the last 15 years or so, I keep coming back to the same recipes in the same book: Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible. Her All American Downy Butter Cake is by far the best. Firm velvety melt in your mouth texture. I’ve had so many compliments and repeat requests I can’t even count them! Also the suggestion to whip the butter prior to adding to the Swiss Buttercream is spot on…. read Rose’s suggestions and you can’t go wrong. Her master formulas work precisely, and make a cake at least twice the size you think will be needed! Remember if it’s a good cake, people will snarf it up; if it’s not, it will sit there! The last cake I made was for a party of 60. I made a cake typically for about 150. (It was the Cake Bible butter cake with pistachio cream filling in one and raspberry filling in the other, with Swiss buttercream frosting)…. As we were cleaning up the last guests were stuffing the remaining cake in their mouths. As for saving the top layer, I’d save if for the folks anyway—- it will freeze, and if they don’t go on a honeymoon right away, they’ll appreciate having it to enjoy after the reception! They won’t really get the chance to enjoy it fully in the moment. Someone said they freeze the cake while still warm — I think this is a bad idea — a professional baker will tell you to let it cool completely. Moisture when freezing will make it mushy once it thaws…that steam will freeze forming ice crystals that will degrade the texture of the cake. Use a simple syrup though, and brush the cakes with that (after they cool).
    But definitely check out the fool proof recipes in rose’s book, and good luck!

  151. amber

    Instead of creating an extra layer for the newlyweds to freeze, you could bake them a fresh mini cake for their first anniversary.

  152. Joanne

    I have made Italian buttercream, but not Swiss. What’s the difference? I love my magic strips. Use them all the time for cakes and brownies. I’m curious about the heating element. Let us know how it works for you. I may have to invest in one too. I have a set of pro square baking pans, and I’ve only used the 4 and 8 inch pans. Haven’t had a need to make a big honking 12 inch cake yet.

  153. Indy

    Deb- if you want to use mangoes, really- you cannot get better than an Alphonso mango. They’re intensely flavoured, lusciously sweet. Its like getting sucker punched in the mouth with mango flavour.

    Which sounds unpleasant, but I promise, really isn’t!

  154. I just saw an episode of Anna Olsen making a cake and she’s quite smart when it comes to the technique when she cooks and she’s got lots of great tips as well. Since the cake she made was a three tier cake, she assembled the fondant at home then divided the tiers into two for packaging – the bottom one which was the biggest and the top two together. Then she brought it with her to be set it up completely at the venue. It looked pretty easy when she handled the smaller two tiers and placed it on top of the bottom layer (especially because she used fondant instead of some sort of buttercream or ganache). But she did advice the viewers to bring extra icing and fondant decorations (if you were decorating it) just in case something was misplaced during the travel. Oh, and of course if you were to be putting real things on the cake such as, flowers, to wait until you reach the venue to do so. :)

  155. Woah lady, I am beyond impressed. And have, sadly, not one iota of advice. However! I vote for Seven Minute Frosting over Swiss Buttercream. It’s so much prettier, so much more delicious, and has those incredibly dramatic swoops and swirls. Good luck, sweets!

  156. Cris

    If you are going for bright white frosting, but want all the flavor of using real butter, Wilton sells this stuff that you drip into the frosting when you whip it and it ‘eats’ the beige color, making the frosting white again. They also sell a clear vanilla if you want to avoid the brown of the real stuff.

    To The Maven – your comment cracked me up. I’m sure you are right about the cake thing in Illinois, but it was never raised as an issue when I did a wedding cake for a co-worker. Its always better to check – better safe than sorry.

    And to Deb – having done this once (reception for 200 at an art gallery) after tons of other layered and tiered cakes, I feel your pain! Transport is always the worst part. Be there the earliest the location will let you in. In fact, calculate the longest amount of time you think you will possibly need, then add an hour. And then add another hour. It just takes a lot longer than you think, and the worst that can happen is that you have lots of extra time and are calm, cool and collected for the wedding/reception instead of a puddle of anxious sweatiness.

    You can do it!

  157. Wow, you’ve gotten so much good advice I am not even reading through it all. I’ll just throw my meager two cents’ worth in.

    Size: I made a wedding cake for my friends’ wedding made up of 14-, 10-, and 6-inch tiers plus a 14-inch two-layer groom’s cake. That was for about a hundred guests. I think they cut the cake into slightly larger pieces than the Wilton diagrams suggest. There were probably about 20 servings of cake left over.

    The biggest layer: I used the baking strips for all three sizes, but no baking cores. the strips kept the cakes so level I didn’t have to level them with a knife at all, and they helped the 14-inch cake bake evenly so I didn’t need a core.

    The icing: I used a basic buttercream. No other advice there. No advice on the filling, either.

    Travel: We made the cakes and iced them, then transported the layers to the reception site and did the assembly with dowels there, then stuck the assembled cake into a refrigerator there till just before the reception when we took it out and decorated it with flowers. If you want to see the whole story of my wedding-cake-making experience, you can read it here. Good luck! You’ll do great. :-)

  158. i’ve been an admirer of your site for some time now but have never posted. so let’s get down to the swiss buttercream fiasco. to solve your melting mess.. if your butter is at room temperature, you need to make sure that your egg white/sugar that’s being whipped is whipped til somewhat cool to the touch (feel the side of or bottom of your mixer bowl) at that point it should be meringue like.. glossy.. stiff peaks….that’s all it is.. make sure the bowl isn’t hot where it’s going to melt your butter. i hope that makes sense and that it helps.

    another tip.. i noticed someone had mentioned about SWB looking like curdled soup…. it can look that way just right before it starts coming together.. and will smooth out almost immediately.. the goal is for your buttercream to have a nice gloss to it. but don’t over whip it as well… when it gets too cold it can look curdled as well… but that shouldn’t be an issue since it’s summer.

    on the wedding day.. make sure you bring extra buttercream and any tools you may need to use in order to finish off the cake with you in case of any accidents or dings that may occur while transporting the cake.

    good luck!

  159. Dionne

    The difference in italian buttercream and swiss buttercream is in the egg yolk. Italian butter cream is made with only whites making it whiter and swiss buttercream incorporates the entire egg. I really like Kaye Hansen’s Italian buttercream. The Whimsical Bakeshop.

  160. Megan

    Someone suggested putting the chocolate as the bottom layer to even out the amounts… I would suggest checking with the bride and groom, because they might want the layer they cut into to be the white layer. Other than that, my input could not possibly compare to what you’ve already gotten. Good luck! I’m sure it will be fabulous.

  161. Amy

    Deb, I have made the Swiss meringue a few times with no problem and I am definitely NOT the expert you are. Maybe its the recipe? I have heard a lot of people have issues with the Martha one, for instance. The one I use is from this little cupcake book I borrowed from a friend. Its called Cupcakes Year-Round. Let me know if you want the recipe. Good luck!

  162. Neesha

    I haven’t read all the posts but as for your swiss meringue BC problem, the butter has to be slightly cold, not softened. it is quite temperamental for a frosting recipe. but if the frosting doesn’t come together as it should, put it in the fridge for about five minutes and re-beat.

    please update us! this is so exciting!

  163. Erica

    Heres a note on the swiss/italian buttercream I haven’t seen anyone mention yet. If the butter is the perfect soft consistency and your sugar syrup and egg white are just cool enough, it works prefectly. However. If the mixture gets a little too cold it can appear curdled. I use a kitchen butane torch and move it around the outside of the bowl to get everything smooth again. Just don’t hold the torch in one place too long or the sugars will start to burn in the bowl. The torch is my favorite pastry tool and I use it all the time. You can make the buttercream ahead of time and fridge it. Then when you are ready to frost soften it either at room temperature, or in a microwave in 15 second bursts. when its kind of soft, put it back in your mixer and use the torch to get the final smooth and lovely consistency. And remember, you are smarter than it!

  164. Amanda

    My husband and I made our own wedding cake last year. We used the recipe and instructions in my old standby, The Joy of Cooking, and it turned out absolutely perfectly. Seriously. Perfectly. It made enough to feed 75, and as we only invited 32 people, there was plenty for people to take home in the little blue Chinese-food containers we got at Michael’s for that purpose. We did a dry run a few months beforehand to work out the details – thank heaven for co-workers to eat the leftovers! Anyway, the wedding was on Saturday, so we baked the layers on Thursday and put the cake together on Friday. We filled the layers with raspberry and butter cream, and did use fondant, which actually helped keep it moist for that extra day. The cake froze BEAUTIFULLY, and tasted almost as good as fresh on our first anniversary. So if you want an excellent recipe for the vanilla layers – one that bakes even and relatively flat layers – check out the wedding cake recipe in The Joy of Cooking. We were awfully happy with the results. Oh, and transporting the cake was a snap. We used slender bamboo BBQ skewers, rather than dowels, and not only did it transport well, but the holes were tiny and unnoticeable during cutting.

  165. On the mango curd question: there is a non-dairy product called “Ice N Fil” that I often use with curds, jams & fresh fruit to make a mousse filling. It is much more stable than whipping cream, but has a neutral flavor like whipping cream. It comes in a frozen liquid form and needs to be thawed, beaten and folded into your fruit to make the mousse. Curd can be very slippery and can ooze out. Jam also has to be applied in a fairly thin layer. A mousse filling will give you a little height, but a lighter flavor. This stuff does hold up very well and can be frozen after preparation. I buy it at a baking supply store

  166. meg

    I’m so excited for this! I bake cakes for my close friends on their birthdays and have always dreamt about one day baking a wedding cake. Good Luck!

  167. laura

    Have you tried making Italian meringue buttercream? In culinary school, I never cared for Swiss meringues, but I’ve made several wedding cakes for people in the past, and Italian is what I always recommend. It’s like Swiss meringue, except you make a syrup of the sugar and water, and then mix it into the whites. It’s much more stable than Swiss meringue. It will separate like a lot of buttercreams will, but you just have to trust it will come back. I’ve never used a heating core, but I think it was because I never knew I needed one until I saw mention of them. Make sure you have a lot of cardboard squares for your cakes, especially after you ice them. Assemble at the venue! When I set up a cake I always bring the following things with me: a roll of paper towels, a couple of wet paper towels (or clean dish cloths – icing is sticky and messy and chances are you wont have running water right beside the cake), several knives, dowels (for support of the cakes on top of each other), scissors (to cut the dowels), pastry bag with icing fitted with a large plain tip, various tips that I may have used on the cake (star tip, leaf tip, etc….just in case there’s a mishap), small and large offset spatulas. The small spatula I hope I don’t have to use. I bring it in case I have to smooth out any imperfections in the cake. The large spatula I use to help place the cakes on top of each other. It is a balancing act for sure. It’s very scary to see your cakes wobble on such a small spatula, but that’s how it’s done! Oh, is the the cake going to be outside? If so, think about the butter content of the icing. Is it going to slide around a lot if it’s hot outside? If so consider using some shortening in the icing. I hate to do it, but if it makes the cake stable, then I add some. I think you can substitute up to a quarter of the butter in your recipe with shortening and have the icing not suffer much at all. Last year I made a cake for a couple, and they wanted a maple Italian meringue buttercream. I had never made it before, but anyway…of course the reception started much later than expected (pictures and whatnot), so the entire reception I was looking at the cake. It started to sweat, and when I went up close to check on it, I could already see the icing starting to lose its shape. Then I remembered a teacher telling us to add shortening to the icing. I wish I had. The cake ended up being fine, but I was on pins and needles the whole time.

  168. Deb, are we leading parallel lives? We are making a wedding cake this weekend, square tiers as well, with lemon curd. The cake is lavender with vanilla buttercream frosting. Simple decorating as well and we’ll also be using fresh flowers. Like you, I am nervous as we have not done many wedding cakes! My husband is the pastry chef but I am in charge of the flowers for the cake and it’s stressing me out I must admit as I wasn’t aware how many toxic flowers there are and the bride was concerned about flowers sprayed with pesticides touching the cake. So I am getting ready to run around like a madwoman this weekend in search of flowers. I’m sure we will be posting photos on our blog. Good luck!!!

  169. ASM

    Deb: Good luck with this! It sounds like a great project. Here’s my thought on mango curd from a mango fiend. Even Indian mangoes you find at Indian stores don’t have the sweetness and complexity as the mangos you get in India or the Caribbean, because they are picked unripe and shipped over to the U.S. (which is why you have all this discussion about how to ripen it). Have you considered making the curd out of mango pulp, as others have suggested? You can find lovely mango pulp in Indian stores that are canned in India and shipped here. The flavor is much sweeter then the fresh mangos in the U.S., because they are fully ripened before canning. I prefer the Nirav brand, but there are a wide variety of options out there. Alternatively, if you want to make a mango buttercream, you could try using mango juice (Maaza brand is best) and mango pulp and combining with the buttercream. Some Indian stores also carry a mango paste which may be useful. So, in short, my advice is get thee to an Indian store!

  170. Cris

    To second what laura said above – if you are outside, strongly consider doing a percentage of the butter with shortening instead. You should be able to find what is called ‘high-ratio shortening’ which is what bakeries use. It whips better and (if you were doing color) accepts color much better. You can also get butter flavor from Wilton to make up for the loss of real butter taste.

    More than you ever wanted to know about cakes, right? But you can see how many of us feel your pain (and excitement – its a bit like doing a tightrope walk over a beautiful but deep canyon. You know, while carrying a three layer wedding cake).

  171. :)

    I know you nervous about this wedding cake you’re making, but can you “video” the whole process from start to finish? I would like to learn. If anyone know of any video already demonstarte a wedding cake from start to finsh, post the lnk please. Thanks!

  172. PC

    Good luck. My step mother made my mothers wedding cake when she remarried. She made the bases and then sent the cake out to a local baker for Royal Icing. When it came back she had a day or so to decorate. The Royal Icing gives great support for the tiers and makes transport easier, Just don’t drop it as it will crack.

    For my wedding we actually went with a carrot cake from an Italian bakery in the meat packing district. We had it made with butter cream icing and it was fabulous. That might be useful to have as a standby in case the main cake does not work out. Store it at home and if you don’t need it, pass it on to a shelter.

    Crossing fingers and toes for you.

  173. Cynthia

    I totally recommend my curd recipe- it’s light, fluffy, and delicious. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

    Beat 6 yolks, 6 whole eggs, and 15 oz sugar in a bain marie. Add 12 oz puree in 3 additions, beating between each each and letting the mixture thicken up again. Beat until you can drag 2 figure-8s into the curd and they both last 10 seconds. Take off heat and beat in 4 oz diced chilled butter. Refrigerate. It’s very good!

  174. Allie

    what about serving the cakes with a mango sauce and a chocolate sauce? that way, less worry about cake filling and even the groom will eat the vanilla cake? maybe a sauce boat of each on each table?

    also, probably obvious: don’t use any nuts because the last thing anyone needs is an allergy at the wedding.

  175. Jennifer

    I can’t give you much advice on the icing or the filling you’re making as I have ever made those kind. I can say as far as baking the cakes I have done up to 16″ round & never used the heating core & found the strips to be a pain (although I do believe they have been improved) and I have never had a problem with my cakes. They do need a bit of leveling, but nothing drastic.

    I will say do not skip the dowel rods & they don’t really ruin any part of the cake. I also put a dowel rod straight through the center (you sharpen one end in a pencil sharpener & use a hammer to push through the cardboards between the layers)of my stacked cakes & then you should be able to transport already stacked. NEVER transport a cake in the seat of a car! In a trunk on a towel (for easier lifting & less slipping) or a van (or similar) are the best ways to transport. You are putting a cardboad between each layer, not just dowel rods?

    As far as the Wilton cake sizes go, people are supposed to taste, not pig out on the cake. When you’re paying a small fortune for a large wedding cake (200-300 servings), you don’t need full size pieces being served up. Also, when you’re a professional cake decorator getting paid by the serving (although many are overpriced to begin with). you can’t charge for people to get 2″ x 3″ servings. The saving the cake top was always a tradition & the couple were to freeze it & have a slice on their 1st anniversary for luck. I personally would not, but that is the reason. Cakes can be blast, but stressful…Relax & have fun with it & it will be wonderful!

  176. latenac

    I don’t have much advice except to commend you for what you’re doing. My maid of honor made our wedding cake and it was among our favorite wedding presents. She did use fondant b/c we had an outdoor wedding and she didn’t want to have to worry abut it’s looks melting. However under the fondant was a wonderful chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream. As the bride I only helped her in this endeavor by bringing her a bottle of Plymouth gin during the 3 day process and we drank gin and tonics as we sugared the fresh flowers for the cake. I do know she also used Birnbaum Levy’s Cake Bible as the basis for her blueprint. I think there was a decent amount of transportation advice in it.

  177. Hi! I am the sole provider of desserts for my local pub, so, um, I have made a few cakes! I can’t decorate for crap but specialize in tastyness and structural stability.

    I am only vaguely familiar with the heating core thingy, have never used one, but for a 12″ cake I’m thinking it’s unnecessary. I’ve made regular cakes in a 12″ springform and they turned out consistent, with no weird surface issues (no crazy doming / sinking).

    I’ve never used the cake strips that go round the exterior of the pan, but I know people who swear by them. A compromise might be to bake the cake layers in a bain marie, if your oven can accomodate it. This should promote even cooking and reduce doming, though no matter what you do you’ll probably end up having to trim a bit off the tops anyway.

    For the love of butter, ASSEMBLE THE THING ON-SITE. When you put the last bit of frosting on, I imagine you are going to look at it and feel waves of love. You are not going to want to entrust this cake to eight blocks’ worth of fate.

    Oh and that portioning diagram sounds apeshit to me. The layers you mentioned do sound like enough for 55 people. Any extra cake will disappear into somebody.

    Good luck!

  178. I’ve only read up to comment #70, where you mention wanting a pure white vanilla cake. My standard is the one from the KA baking book – if you are still in need of a cake like this, I’ll be glad to email the recipe. It’s pretty much exactly like “an angel food cake with butter,” and is super sturdy without being dense / heavy / badness.

    I’ve been using the Sky High book for a few months and love it – nothing in that book has turned out to be a lie. Caveat: I have not tried making any of their oil-based cakes, because that squicks me right out.

  179. Ann

    Holy crap. I have no advice, but just wanted to comment: clearly your popularity has taken a nosedive. 201 comments – day-um! How wonderful.

  180. Er, I read comment #70 wrong, it seems – you do NOT want the “angel food with butter” effect, whoops!

    I do stand by the recommendation of the KA white vanilla, though – I routinely use it for 3-layer cakes, and it’s suggested as a wedding cake by the book.

  181. Oh! Seconding someone who mentioned rotating the pans! My oven bakes very evenly but I’m still anal about rotating EVERYTHING every 10-15 min. If I’ve got multiple pans in there, I rotate their placement, and everything gets a quarter-spin as well.

    I think I’m just going to comment on this every 10 minutes for, like, the rest of the week. Ha.

  182. Sarah H

    Holy freaking comments! I made a friend’s wedding cake and will never do it again. It was 4 tiers, round, tasted great, looked like crap, and fell OVER while they were having their pictures taken. She caught it- didn’t even get her long sleeves dirty (great pictures, are the only plus), and then the wait staff scooped the whole thing into an aluminum foil tray, mangling it into mostly crumbs, and served perhaps 20 pieces.
    That is my terrible story. It can’t get worse than that, so I think that you will have no problem at all.
    *gasps for air*

  183. wow, not like you really need to read 206 comments, but for what it’s worth, here i am to give you one!

    the swiss buttercream i have been entirely happy with is the one listed in the back of martha’s baking handbook. i can’t tell if her ratios or methods are any different than most (i’ve only made one other SB and it was horrible in taste) but i can tell you that the couple of times i’ve made it, it was totally heavenly. she does warn about the possibility of separation, but like everyone else, instructs you to whip on and let it come together. personally i’ve never had the separation problem. i have had the oh my this looks a little thin dilemma, but a little more on the KA made it nice, fluffy, creamy, with just that hint of buttery goodness. what about a mango buttercream??? oh wow, yumm!

    then again, don’t give yourself any agita over this wedding cake, as i’m sure whatever you make will be beautiful and delish!

    (but you could always try to make the SB in advance, it refrigerates/freezes well and then you just need to beat it into shape to use.)

  184. robyn

    You have more than enough cake, and all quite manageable in size. Heating core is not necessary but won’t do you wrong. You are best to assemble there, bring extra icing a piping bag and a palate knife.
    I make wedding cakes,’on the side’ If you want cake recipes or quite possibly the best buttercream ever, drop me a line.


  185. daphna

    I second the recipe for the Swiss Meringue Buttercream in the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. It’s delish! Good luck!

  186. deb

    The other 208 of you — Oh my god THANK YOU. Seriously. You have gotten me to switch gears from rocking in the corner murmuring “what have I gotten myself into, what have I gotten myself into” to feeling almost certain that we can do this. Thank you.

    We did the “cake tasting” tonight and I’ll post about the next steps later. I think we have some winners!

    Jocelyn — I have cake samples! La Perla couldn’t take them all! Please come over!

  187. Lindsey

    Deb, I know you have so many comments to read through now, but I thought I’d give you my words of advice, based on having been a bride with a wedding cake made by my sister. We agreed that the typical wedding cake slicing guidelines give you a totally wimpy piece of cake and decided on a much more substantial allocation per person. We had two delicious types of cake and plenty to serve to everyone in attendance. However, what we didn’t really account for was the fact that the reception staff really weren’t used to cutting real slices of wedding cake. So we ended up with LOTS of extra cake, despite the fact that many, many people commented on how wonderful the cake was. So I’d say, either recognize that wedding cake slices do tend to be smaller than the cake you’d cut for yourself at home, or be sure to tell the caterer, or whoever will be cutting your cake, to cut the number of slices per cake that you are planning.


  188. renata

    yes, way too many comments to read through.
    i did this once, made a 6/9/12/16 cake, each tier made of 2 cakes torted and filled for 150 guests. your cake is much more manageable.

    make sure your cake recipe is sturdy, esp that 12 inch; it has to hold a lot of weight.

    practice assembling before, if possible.

    depending on your transport, you can partially assemble and finish on site. I assembled the bottom 2 tiers before moving, added the top 2 on site. this would be easy for a 3-tier cake. At the least, you can put all your dowels in before leaving. the dowels don’t need to be huge, so you won’t lose that much cake. and you only need say, 4-6 for the 12-inch and 3-4 for the 8inch.

    use double-thick cakeboards to support the 12 and 10.

    for servings, think of a regular 10 inch cake. how many does that serve? easily 16, but remember that you’ll slice it a little differently (make an inner circle and carve into blocks. you should still be able to get 20 good pieces, and you have the 12 inch, which will give even more (carve 2 inner circles), and of course the 8. you will have plenty of cake for 50.

    you don’t need the heating core for a 12-inch cake. i didn’t even use it for the 16inch and had no problems at all.

    def’ly freeze the cake before (do you have space?). you can freeze meringue buttercream as well (swiss or italian), just let it come to room temp, beat it again until it’s smooth and creamy.

    if you’re using curd, pipe a dam of stiffened buttercream around the perimeter to prevent leaks. just take a portion of your meringue buttercream and beat in the dreaded powdered sugar to stiffen it.

    when i was learning about this, i used baking911 for a lot of help. i don’t recommend it anymore because the owner has a zero-tolerance policy on disagreements (i was banned because i said a chart was accurate but difficult to read). but Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible is worth it’s weight in gold for a wedding cake. she has tons of meringue buttercreams and excellent charts for scaling recipes for batter and frosting and fillings for different sizes. her info is dead-on accurate.

  189. Johnna

    Given that you’re worrying about getting the cake there safely, I have a great friend who owns a very small limo service based on the upper East side. He’s a sweetie and would go to great pains to get you and the cake there safe and sound. E me if you’d like his phone number.

  190. renata

    ok for real last comment. my one a-ha moment occurred too late for my wedding cake, but i’ve had success with birthday cakes: for bright white frosting, use vanilla sugar. you know, put scraped vanilla bean in the sugar well in advance and let it infuse. it make the best frosting ever, with no need for additives.

  191. Places to purchase Indian mangoes:

    Food Emporium (select locations, very limited availability)
    Dual Specialty Store (1st Ave and 5th Street)
    Spice Corner (Lexington and 29th)
    Patel Brothers (locations spread around Queens)

  192. Jan

    You know, it just occurred to me that I don’t recall seeing any suggestions about fillings for the chocolate layers. Here is a combo that a friend of mine does: a layer of raspberry jam (seedless, of course) or sweet dark cherry preserves topped with a rich buttercream or white chocolate ganache with mini chocolate chips mixed in. The choc chip filling should be at least 1/2 inch thick.

  193. Jan

    BTW, if you can’t find organic, edible flowers in NYC, contact my sister, Susan, at She sells human-grade, edible flowers for pets.

  194. Jenny

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and finally have to post a comment. I can’t wait to see the finished product and wish you all the best!!

  195. Dee

    Wow…delurking to tell you that I’m cheerleading you on! What a gesture…I wouldn’t be able to do this for all the tea in China (although I did purchase the ingredients for my stepsister’s wedding cake and that was stressful enough, thank you very much!)

    And I am lovin’ these comments and stories, y’all. Curd leakage…who knew?

    True friend = Deb, hands down

  196. krg

    OMG! I had no idea there was so much involved in baking a cake. and what wonderful suggestions you’ve been given. I guess I’ll have to give it a try because I’ve never though the results were worth the bother before. good luck!

  197. rachel

    deb! i CANNOT WAIT to see your next post on the wedding cakes! i think i bake some pretty mean cakes myself and WISH i could bake my own for my smallish wedding next june, but alas, my parents keep strictly kosher and i do not, so the wedding is being kosher-catered and my cake would not be allowed in! i will have to wait for a friend to ask me to bake theirs!

  198. I have a book on wedding cakes and if I’m not mistaken there are some great tips on transporting, etc. I would gladly scan those pages and send you by mail by Monday – let me know if you are interested.

  199. OMG. I get cake samples! I get cake samples! I get cake samples! I get cake samples! I get cake samples! I get cake samples!

    I sooooo know what I am doing after work tonight.

  200. Mike

    Okay, so I didn’t read any of the comments (dear Gods, woman, you have a shit-ton of readers!) so I apologize if my comments are nothing new.

    I have worked a LOT of weddings in my time, so I would say the cake-cutting diagram is completely correct… if the cake cutting is being done by someone who regularly has to manage such a task. However, if the wedding is not being catered by professionals, it can get disastrous.

    Second, screw the chocolate layer, do all vanilla. This day, after all, is not about the man.

    Lastly, I do not have a recipe for mango curd, but it sounds frijeaking (yes, I just made that word up) delicious.

  201. Becky


    Admittedly I haven’t read all the comments so this may have been addressed…size. We had 60 guests at our wedding and served 3 10 inch cakes. (I won’t even go into the details of how DIFFICULT this was to communicate to the bakery). We had a little bit left over and some people did eat more than one piece. Good luck! What a special gift you’re giving your friends.

  202. Mike

    Shit, I forgot my last part (so much for the quiz)… assemble it there! ASSEMBLE IT THERE! There is nothing more sad than a perfectly positioned and decorated cake all over the parking lot before a wedding reception. I’ll say it again. Assemble it there.

  203. Becky

    wow there are a lot of comments here but just to add to mine…each of the 10″ cakes was a different flavor and the chocolate cake plate was licked clean. The only other dessert we offered was fresh fruit.

  204. T of Balkanstyle

    To save weepy Swiss meringue butter cream:
    – if butter was too cold, use a hair dryer on the outside of the bowl (especially good if you use a Kitchen Aid standmixer w/ metal bowl) while whipping it with the whisk attachment. Hair dryer provides the perfect amount of gentle heat.
    – if butter was too warm, put bowl in fridge for a couple of minutes and re-whip

  205. My child’s caretaker has baked wedding cakes for forty years. Before her convection oven, she cut sections of towels and wet them, placed them around the cake pan securing them with safety pins to ensure the cakes baked evenly. I’ve tried this at home and it works like a top.
    Good luck.

  206. Shux

    @ PC’s comment (#192):
    Your stepmother made your mother’s wedding cake?! Wow.

    Good luck, Deb. Though anything you make would have to taste better than those fondant-covered cakes. Blech!

  207. Rene

    You may never never stop publishing your blog, I need these comments to refer to for the rest of my life. I love your writing and sense of adventure.

  208. Rebecca

    Someone else has probably mentioned it, but one thing I have done for some friends weddings is to have a sheet cake, or two in your case one of each flavor, behind the scenes so when people want to come back for seconds, or to try a different flavor you will still have cake to serve. Most 1/4 sheet(9×13 roughly) cake pans will serve @ 21 pieces if cut at 2″x2″,( I know that’s small but it is the traditional size to cut and after a big meal it usually serves well. With standard pieces a 1/4 sheet pan will serve 12-15 people). So with both of these cakes in the wings I think you will have enough when added to the fancier cake you are already making. while the bride and groom may not want to store cake for an extended period of time they will probably not mind leftovers.

  209. Christina

    I’ve used teh “wet strips” that keep the cake even…..they’ve worked great for me. Lot’s less trimming.

  210. Victoria

    I’ve done over 1000 wedding cakes (worked in bakeries for years, as well as doing them at home) and you do not want to use the heat core. Lower your oven to 325° F. Using the “wet strips” works great, too, for getting a level cake baked all the way through.

    Swiss buttercream: I prefer Italian buttercream as it is more stable. However, no matter which one you use, everyone has the same problem at one time or another and it does reduce you to tears. Just keep beating it with the whisk attachment. Contrary to what your common sense tells you, if you refrigerate it until it is hard, it needs to be warmed before you can rebeat it. If I take it right out of the fridge, I set the bowl in some hot water until it is about 1/3 melted, then re-whisk it. Comes out perfect every time.

    Transporting the cake: Have your dowels in place (and do use them) and do as much decorating done as you can before you take it to the reception area. Then stack it and add the final borders.

    Wilton servings are a little skimpy. In increments, I decrease the number of servings they suggest from each layer from anywhere from 2-20 servings.

    Anyone who has done a lot of wedding cakes will tell you that delivery is the most stressful part. Have a non-skid pad under the cakes and if the terrain is really bumpy, have a thin sheet of foam on top of that. Take everything you can think of for repair work; extra icing, piping bag, decorating tips, flowers, towels, etc., and I bet you won’t need any of them.

    Good luck, have fun, stay calm and enjoy the experience.

  211. lisa

    More on mangoes… if she is Thai then she is most certainly used to Asian mangoes, sold as Indian, Philippine, or Ataulfo mangoes here (as others have said). They go from pale yellowy green to yellow to pale orangey-yellow, and are better less ripe. They are so much better than regular green/red Mexican mangoes that it is kind of weird that they are even called the same thing! I think all the purees people have mentioned are made from this type of mango.

    (Also a lurker, never commented before, enjoy reading, etc…. )

  212. Tracey

    I didn’t have time to read all the posts because it’s 6:50 am & I just finished a wedding cake for delivery this afternoon and I’m a bit bleary-eyed and can’t remember what I Googled that got me to this site, but here I am so here’s my tip, courtesty of Rose Levy B’s Cake Bible — use drinking straws instead of dowels. So much easier, and I promise they do work! You just sink 6-8 of them into the frosted cake and then set the next tier, still on it’s cardboard, right on top. Best wishes!!

  213. Leslie

    Wow, how fun! :) Ok, I’ve done a few wedding cakes and used to work in restaurants & have my degree in pastry. Just a few tips, some of which you may have already received, I didn’t read through all of the posts. 1) I think italian meringue buttercream is more stable & better in possibly humid summer weather than swiss… this is my personal preference. I generally use Rose Levy B’s recipe from ‘The Cake Bible’ and have had it turn out beautifully, even on very hot summer day weddings, every time. 2) Drinking straws are easier to work with than dowels (you can cut them to size with scissors). 3) Please please please assemble on site… you will be happier I promise. Allow yourself plenty of extra time and all will be well. 4) Maybe stabilize your mango curd with a little gelatin… I only worry that curd if you want it to be ‘thick’ between the layers sometimes is ‘slippery’. 5) Make sure the flowers you’re using to decorate with are edible or not sprayed with anything toxic.


  214. I made a wedding cake for a friend early last year. I am no pro cake maker, that’s for sure, but it was a friendly, informal wedding so they didn’t mind if it wasn’t absolutely perfect! However, my specifications were very similar to yours. The bride loved carrot cake, the groom loved chocolate. There were 55 people attending. They hate fondant icing. I ended up making a 3 tier cake, using 8, 10 and 12″ cakes (carrot, chocolate mud and caramel mud). I kept them in the freezer, triple wrapped in plastic, and they tasted perfect, and were SO much easier to handle and ice. I did have to level two of the three cakes slightly, but I turned them so the cut side was down and didn’t interfere with the icing (no crumbs thanks!). I used drinking straws to stake my cake, instead of dowels, as Tracey (#238) mentions. I iced it using 2 batches of meringue icing.

    220 g castor sugar
    4 egg whites

    330 g butter at room temperature, chopped into about 12 pieces

    Place the egg whites and castor sugar in a bowl and dissolve sugar into the whites on the stove over a saucepan of water, making sure the bowl does not touch the bottom of the pan and that the egg whites do not cook! ;-)
    Beat the egg whites and sugar until they form stiff peaks (5-10 mins)
    Gradually add the butter one piece at a time, beating after each addition. It will take until the last few pieces are added before the mixture will really start to fluff up. And you can be standing, beating for ages, and you think it’s going to fail. It just WILL NOT fluff up. But have faith, just keep beeting. Right as your on the point of really dispairing, thinking “how can I fail making thing icing?? It sounds so simple!” it WILL whip up. You need a lot of patience. I think a lot of it must depend on ambient temperature or something. Beating times for this icing vary.

    I made the entire cake up before the wedding, and transported the thing there already made. I wasn’t driving though, I just had the job of cradling it in my lap ;-) The portion size was fine, and most people got seconds (those that did not didn’t want seconds anyway) – I guess I am Australian though, and I know portion sizes are smaller here.

    Good luck, can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  215. Mimi Fix

    My daughter sent me your post about wedding cakes. I’m not a huge fan of food blogs (sorry) but I am a former bakery owner and pastry chef who can answer some of your questions. So send me an e-mail off-list and I’ll try to help.

  216. Rachel K

    I have an odd suggestion.

    Once I made a three/four (i can’t recall) white velvet cake with a lemon mousillini (sp?) icing for an event (recipes from cake bible i think) and my friend and i did everything before hand and then froze both the icing and the cake layers.

    the layers turned out perfectly but the icing would not come back together after being frozen. after crisis mode set in (the event was that day) we called a friend and they told us to add a small amount of cream of tartar to the icing while whipping it.

    it was like magic. maybe this would work for your icing as well?

  217. These comments have been incredibly helpful, I think, and I can’t wait to see how this project turns out for you. I haven’t done a wedding cake before, but I’ll be prepared if I ever do!

    I did, however, agree to make 13 dozen cupcakes for a friend’s 50th wedding anniversary party. Several people have mentioned freezing the cake layers and some have said freezing the cake actually improves taste/texture imn their opinion. What about freezing the cupcakes and then thawing/icing day before? Anyone had success with that? I’m a little worried about how long it will take to make all of those cupcakes immediately before the party. Any help is appreciated.

  218. Kim

    Your comment “Alex and my wedding cake was well-intentioned but ultimately disappointing” really hit home with me as my husband and I thought we could save a bit of dough (oops that is sort of funny, cause this is about baking) by ordering a wedding cake that was, well … cheap.

    We were disappointed and embarrassed when it was wheeled out in front of our guests. It is funny how you envision yourself in your gown, coming down the aisle, going back up the aisle after the wedding, and obviously on the honeymoon. You don’t necessarily envision yourself, and all of your seated guests, viewing a rock hard wedding cake which has a tilt to it.


  219. calico13

    I have to agree with the recommendations for the Ataulfo mango (aka Indonesian mango). I wait until they’re in stores here, buy tons, cut them up & freeze them. They’re so much sweeter than the Mexican mangoes, & have less stringy fibres. They’re usually yellow/greenish yellow, not red & green.
    Good luck with the cake, it’s quite an undertaking!

  220. Kate M.

    Hi, I am finally posting after lurking for some time. Thank you so much for this blog. I want you to know that I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog and I refer to it at least every week if not more often.

    I have had several opportunities to make cakes for special occasions. I am not a professional baker, but I have made approximately 75 cakes in all shapes and sizes (including a Barney cake…don’t ask). Also, I am located in the Boston area to give you an idea of the summertime heat and humidity.

    1. Italian buttercream is the way to go. The egg whites are beaten before they are heated (while adding hot sugar) and they form a lovely meringue before you add the butter. The frosting will eventually slip in high heat and humidity, but for some reason it lasts much longer than Swiss buttercream in my experience. Also, I have had it take up to 20 minutes of beating to get proper consistency from my buttercream in the summer. Check out for the Buttercream – Classic Recipe. It is approximately half way down the page.

    2. Decorate as much as you can at home, but assemble at the site of the event.

    3. Bake an additional large layer that can be cut to replace a layer that gets ruined by *insert disaster here* so you have the piece of mind that comes with planning. You can endear yourself to the kitchen and waitstaff by sharing it at the end of your event if you don’t have an emergency.

    4. Bring lots of extra frosting (pre-tinted if you are coloring) and your decorating tips. Frosting hides a multitude of sins.

    5. Use what works best for you(dowels, straws…), but do not forget to secure your cakes if you are layering. People bump the table and your top cake tier shoots off onto the floor. (It really happened…but I had an extra layer to perform repairs.)

    6. Finally, I don’t mean to throw another decision into the works, but have you ever had marshmallow fondant? It gives the nice finish of proper fondant, but it doesn’t go rock hard and it tastes much better. You said your bride does not like fondant and has not made it an option, but you might want to look into it for future reference.

    So sorry for the long first post, but hopefully this helps a bit. Good luck with the baking and thank you again for your lovely blog!

  221. Lisa

    About the Swiss buttercream – It always looks curdled, but you basiclaly beat the crap out of it until it finally comes together. No worries! Also, if this is on a hot day, you may want to try using an Italian Buttercream, too. And like some other people said, assembling on site with extra time is the way to go. Never rush yourself, always give yourself extra time.

  222. SteveC

    Hi, I am posting after lurking for some time. Thank you so much for this blog. I want you to know that I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t help but think of some variations such as a little bit of cream cheese added or how about Chocolate flavor…. nummmmm. The tweaker….

  223. Jonathan

    OMG, I’m on the verge of tears of joy reading the advice on Swiss buttercream! I’m not on speaking terms with buttercream either! I used the rich vanilla buttercream recipe from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking for a friend’s cake, and it was a total disaster. (It’s more a German buttercream apparently, because you make a pastry cream first and add it at the end.) I beat it in my KitchenAid on low, and it never congealed. I’m not sure if I’ll try it again (I used Mark Bittman’s buttercream recipe in the pinch, and it was delicious), but, if I do, this advice will help!

  224. Lorna

    Hi Deb:

    I have signed up for the task of making my daughter’s wedding cake for next year memorial day weekend. I have baked cakes before but nothing as ambitious as a wedding cake. It is to be a four tiered cake, with the first three tiers stacked. The flavor is red velvet cake with alternating cream cheese / red rasberry filling. I plan to crumb coat the cakes with buttercream and then cover with ivory fondant. The tiers alternate between round and square to provide visual interest. My biggest concern about all of this is transporting the stacked cake to the reception venue without any mishap. I have decided to make my life a little easier by not stacking the final tier and placing it on top of the stack at the reception site. Good luck with your endeavors,I am sure that it will turn out just fine.

  225. Alana

    I know this is incredibly late, but I’m new to this site! Did you ever solve the problem for your Swiss Meringue Buttercream? I’ve made it maybe forty times, and half those times ended in a slick, runny mess. Here’s what I’ve found works!
    -I use 1 part egg whites (sometimes I use the meringue powder) to 2 parts sugar (acutally a little less… 2 parts is too sweet for me) to 3 parts butter.
    -Heat the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler in your mixing bowl. Add a little cream of tartar and salt.
    -Whip gently, and heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. If you don’t the icing will be grainy, but you can put it back over the heat later if necessary (that’s BEFORE you add the butter).
    -I move the bowl to my stand mixer and whip for 10 minutes. Literally walk away and find something else to do.
    -The bowl should be cool to the touch. Switch to the paddle attachment.
    -Add a tablespoon of softened (but not TOO soft) butter to the whites until they curdle. I add another tablespoon or two after that point then turn the mixer to high until the icing is completely smooth.
    -Add ya flava and frost your cakes!!

    If I made no sense, check out Diann Bakes on YouTube. She shows how to do it really well!

  226. I have been doing wedding cakes for friends for years, and am now going to start selling them. eeeaaakkk!!! this was the most helpful post! your cake was awesome.

  227. Emily

    Where did you find the 4″ pans? I am making a baby wedding cake for my friend and want the 4″ for the topper. I’ve looked online with no luck…Help?

  228. I just need to say thankyou. I’ve just offered to bake my brother-in-law’s wedding cake for them and I keep referring back to your recipes. Thankyou so much for posting them (ALL of them), I really appreciate it.

    Now I just hope I don’t accidentally muck it up somehow! I’ve got 3 months, I forsee plenty of test cakes in my future.

  229. Sarah

    I’m bored at work and just read every single one of the comments. I’m making my cousin’s wedding cake in 2 months, and all I can say is THANK YOU, THANK YOU. This blog lives on ;)

  230. Swati

    Hi Deb.. may be this is not the right place to ask this.. but I dont know where else to turn to..!! I am going to make (and hopefully serve) a birthday cake for 45 guests this weekend (it’s my beautiful daughter’s first precious birthday).. how many layers should i bake if my cake baking pan is 10 inches.. phew.. hope you find time to answer..

  231. Penelope

    I have just been reading your blogs about ,making a wedding cake for your friends.
    I am getting married next June and was planning to make my own cake. Reading your nblog has made me nervous! Am I going to want that kind of set-up-stress on the morning of the wedding??
    Do you think I could put it together the afternoon before? Any help or advice would be very welcome indeed!!!
    I was planning a 3 tier cake, with a simple frosting/icing seperated by pillars and stuffed through with flowers (prob each tier still sitting on a cake board for ease?) (poss like this but round? )

    Any help appreciated!

  232. Julie

    3 words, don’t do it. I’m speaking as someone who has gotten married and has also made a wedding cake (for my brother’s wedding). I was up until 2AM the night before the wedding putting finishing touches on and then had to wake up early to drive the cake over to the reception hall. I loved making the cake and would do it again, but trust me you will have so many other things going on the day before your wedding. On the flip side, if your wedding is small enough then perhaps you can pull it off. Martha Stewart’s wedding cake book has many helpful tips!

    Good luck!

  233. I made this cake for my own wedding– THANK YOU. The recipe was delicious, it held up in the August heat and transport, and I had so many compliments from all of our friends and family members. I added gum-paste flowers instead of fresh flowers, and I was thrilled. Now I’m making the recipe again and again for a cake-decorating class:

  234. Patti

    HI there – I have absolutely fallen in love with your site and your wit. I am finding myself using many of your recipes and although the products have come out of my kitchen, have given the props to you – which I know to those whom I told about your site have now found to be a favorite as well. That being said, I made a wedding cake for my brother and his wife this past summer and took lead from a recipe from your site. I thought it was called Wedding Pound Cake. It was my first, and I had butterflies for the 5 months prior to the wedding knowing I had to pull this off for over 120 people. After many dry runs, and taste tests with them as they had no idea what flavor/fillings they were interested in and which would please many, we decided on brushing the cake with peach schnapps (I think I drank the rest while icing), did a light butter cream between the layers and then wrapped it all up in fondant (also my first go). I was pleased only after everyone oohed and aahed over it, then I considered it done. Recently I baked something that when done the outside of the pan had something attached to it. It just so happened it was the recipe of the sweet Wedding pound cake that I maticulously laminated. Stuck to the bottom of a 9″ round pan. If you saw my kitchen, you would know how this was possible. After much soaking and dispair, I peeled most free to only lose some of the directions, which I felt I still knew by heart, seeing as I had to make MANY batches in the kitchen aide to do 2-16″, 2-12″, and 2-8″ square cakes only months ago. However, in trying to recopy ( and now store on computer) I can not seem to get the correct recipe! I am wondering if there is another recipe that you did which contains this combination below? When I added the milk it took far too long to cook (it was to be done in 50-60 minutes) which was exactly what it took for each of the wedding layers or maybe I mixed this one too long, you know kitchen aide- but it was not as dense as the one I made in August. Can you help me? I loved the recipe and the texture, but I may have to adopt the new one on your site for the next time I make a heavier/moist vanilla cake. Please advise, as I am fresh out of ideas on this one—3 sticks butter, 2 1/2 c sugar, 3 tsp bk powder, 2 tsp vanilla (saw you changed this on your site to 1 1/2 vanilla and 1/2 almond-yum) 6 eggs, 3 cups flour and this gets me the 3/4 c MILK. IS THIS RIGHT?
    I so deeply thank you for your response, you do not need to show this in your blogging but I needed a way to reach you- I am hoping I contacted you about this question approrpiately as I read the how to’s but am not known to be so computer inclined–
    I look forward to hearing from you with some guidance. I can not even find the old “cooked” laminated recipe since recylcingalready went out–to see if I typed it incorrectly. What a mess….

  235. Yosha


    I am making my friends wedding cake and first thank you soooo much for chronicling your experience. It’s been a huge help. I ordered the sky high book too, waiting for delivery (seriously you should get a ct of this book!) I love that you made a mango version as this is my friends fav flovour too.

    Anyway have a question…I tried the yellow cake you used for a test batch and the cake is too sweet for me (it’ll be way too sweet for her!) I am trying to research what sugar does for a cake and how much I can cut the sugar by. Any advice? I already used 2 cups instead of 2.5 cups.

    Thank you so much

  236. I know this is terribly late and this comment is nearly 2 years overdue, but I, too, had trouble with Swiss Buttercream when I made mine the first time. I was heartbroken when it curdled and tossed it out. Later, I read online that you could do several things to bring it back – chill it, then continue whipping. If you overchill it, you can hold it over a stove flame for just a few seconds so some of the butter melts, then continue whipping. Next time I made mine, I actually added the butter when it was too cold and used the flame technique – it turned out perfectly. The key with buttercream is to just keep with it – keep whipping it even if it’s curdled looking. Eventually, everything blends.

  237. Hi Deb,
    Wanted to send a quick THANKYOU for this series of posts. I’ve just taken on a wedding cake and can’t begin to explain how helpful your [and everyone else who contributed] advice is.
    My stomach tightens at the thought of where to even start!

  238. Modupe

    Please smittenkitchen, l need a recipe for vanilla wedding cake and also recipe to decorate it and tell me how to go about it please.
    Thanks and Best Regards,

  239. Sandra

    Hello Deb,

    first I need to say that I live in Germany and maybe it´s difficult to understand my grammar.
    I was so enchanted about the wedding cake you baked, that I said: I want to try that! And cause we had wedding anniversary last weekend, I thought I made a little version of the cake. My feelings were between “Wow, my buttercream don´t breaks” and “What a mess, how can the buttercream be so stubborn”. Well I think I made two big mistakes: First I had these beautiful, perfect buttercream and chilled. And when I tooked it out of the fridge it was hard like stones (logical: it´s butter). Second big mistake was I think, that I put to much mango curd on each layer. I made a border with buttercream around the cake and filled it up with curd. But when I started to bring togheter the layers: OMG!! The filling with the buttercream borders came out! Ok, I thought, let it rest a while till there is no more filling coming out. Then I started with the buttercream. Cause it was to cold I had to wait a little and then beated it again, so that it was creamy again. But the colour switched from a beautiful, creamy white to a vanilla colour (the colour of the butter). And it was really difficult to coat the cake. I had the sensation that the buttercream was dissolving. And at the sides when it started to mix with the mango curd it was really terrible. But at least I could cover all the cake. It really don´t looked so classy like yours. Cause of that I´m writing. What do you think could be the errors I made? And one thing about Swiss Meringue Buttercream: Does a frosted cake with that kind of buttercream, need to be chilled or can it rest for one maybe two days in a room, where it is not to hot?
    I would be so grateful if you find a little time in your busy daily routine ( I know what it is to have a little child at home) to answer me those questions.
    But one think I need to say: I read a lot of Blogs, but yours is really inspiring and at the same time very funny. I already found a lot of situations you mention, that I thought: That´s so much me! So, continue cause you can be certain that you have one more loyal follower of your foodblog.
    Thanks so much and have a nice day!

  240. Carla

    hi! regarding your swiss buttercream it’s either your butter is too soft or on the verge of melting. if ever that happen again add more butter or cornstarch diluted in milk.. it works fine for me.. i hope it helps..=)

  241. Jenny

    I haven’t ventured into wedding cakes yet, but my best friend’s daughter is having a “White Trash Bash” for her 18th birthday and I’m going to make a crooked wedding cake for it. I am glad to see that there was a tutorial on this or I may have not survived!

  242. Dan

    My Wife and I just made this for a friends wedding (well, my wife did most of it, i just helped out at select parts of the process).

    One piece of advice: Beat the whites until they are quite thick or your butter cream will never reach the desired consistency. I don’t really think this was emphasized enough in the recipe. We made multiple batches and found that if you made sure the whites were beaten properly until they were quite thick (stiff peaks) and doubled in size then there was no need to wait 15+ minutes for an icing that may never come together because it was ready in 5 to 8 minutes. If you dont beat the whites enough it may never reach the desired consistency in the next step.

    Also, if you are making vast amounts, consider splitting it in to two batches, there is a limit to how well different mixers will beat a large quantity of icing. We also had to borrow a better mixed to get the job done properly.

    all in all fantastic instructions :) thank you so much, you really saved our asses! :) The cake turned out fantastic and the buttercream survived a day in the car without melting! :)

  243. I am baking my own wedding cake and I am finding all this information really helpful.
    Since this post is about two years old I am not too sure if you explained this already, but, how did you assemble the cake? I am very very amateur and looking for an easy stress-free way of stacking the cake to make it look like a wedding cake. Failing this I might just use 4 or 5 cake stands.

    Thank you!

  244. A cake Baker

    Maybe you are letting the butter soften too much and you may try using a little less of it? Have you tried putting a bit of meringue powder in you frosting it also helps level the cake as well. I too would like to know how you assembled the cake? When baking large, deep cakes remember to lessen the temp so it cooks fully also, i never used the core things or the pan wraps.

  245. Michelle

    I recently made a communion cake, which is the closest I’ve ever come to a mini wedding cake. It was the first time I had to have the cake ready the night before so I had to make the layers in advance and freeze them. The cake came out beautiful, but I was a bit bent because it tasted dry to both my husband (my assistant) and I. On the hunt now for a recipe I like that freezes well. Love your blog – photos are beautiful and the narrative is very entertaining.

  246. rose

    When buttercream separates like that it is almost always always always because it’s too ‘cold.’ Take a torch to the bowl or pass the bottom of the bowl over a burner then try again until it comes together. If it melted and was just really loose (no separation) it’s too warm.

  247. Angi

    New to your site and already a fan!!! I realize that you posted this several years ago. I just wanted to post an idea about the vanilla cake/mango layer…just in case another “fan” is interested. I make a lemon curd cake and thought it might work with the very citrus-y mango as well. The cake layers are brushed with a simple syrup of lemon juice, sugar and water. Then, spread a thin-ish layer of lemon curd on top of that. Lastly, using a bit of the curd and part of your buttercream, blend (or fold) well and layer on top of the lemon curd as the final filling. Repeat with each layer. This creates a super moist cake with the slight tartness that a curd should have and the sweetness that a frosted cake should have. A full layer of mango curd alone may prove to be overpowering. Just a friendly suggestion. I am, by no means, a professional. I just love to cook!

  248. dr

    have just discovered your site recently, and am going crazy with all your fabulous suggestions and recipes. am using a lot of your tips for some passover recipes this coming week, as i am the dessert provider for a rather large seder. was looking for something mango to complement the flourless chocolate cake, when i found this, and as a repeat wedding cake maker, i had to comment (obvs not for you, since this is long done, but for anyone coming hear and reading through hundreds of comments [which i recommend on your site – so much interesting stuff buried in the comments!].

    one tip i found out years ago and love: instead of dowels (and having to cut them to size, and deal with pruning shears or whatever you end up using, never mind finding the dowels in the first place), what works just as well are…straws. yes, simple plastic drinking straws. easily cut and readily available, and work to distribute the weight the same way that the dowels do.

    and, re swiss buttercream, i swear it was easier than any other buttercream i ever made (which can sometimes break on me, and did with one wedding cake salvaged only by the very kind pastry chef in the restaurant of the wedding reception, who decided to take pity on me). the recipe that i use and love is from dede wilson, called essential buttercream, thought now as i am trying to look it up in my recipe book, i am wondering if it might not be italian buttercream. whichever it is, it works perfectly and lasts forever, and doesnt mind heat, and it more than completely and utterly delicious.

    hope that some of this is useful even if very very long after the original post. and thanks for the superb ‘blog.

  249. Mallory

    I’m sure that you have, by now, discovered a solution to the “soupy” swiss meringue buttercream dilemma. It can be tricky, but it is most definitely my favourite icing. Once made, it is so resilient and adaptable. Just in case you’re still looking for an easy to understand recipe and instructions for SMB and how to fix it when it goes wrong, I recommend She has a beautiful blog with easy to understand instructions and pictures to show each step. It’s wonderful and it’s what I used when I was first learning to make SMB.

    On another note, I love your blog and everything about it :) I made your chocolate peanut butter cake and your red wine chocolate torte and both turned out beautifully and were absolutely delectable :)

  250. Barrett

    Deb, This is a belated thanks. I made a wedding cake for some friends this summer. I was a groomesman and they asked me if I’d do this…we used passion fruit curd as the bride was from Hawaii… her mother mailed me fresh passion fruit from the front yard. Otherwise, your recipe. It was great. Thank you.

  251. Katie

    For the proportions you used (12, 10 & 8 inch tiers), what is the appropriate height of the cake? What I really need to know is how tall each layer or each tier should be (for your 3-layer x 3-tier model). Thank you thank you!

  252. BeardNLady WY

    Hi there, actual papered Pastry Chef here to add in a few things missing.
    Definitely use the dowels to steady the cake. Use the first one to measure the height for the others. When putting it in, the top and where you should mark, should be the top touching the frosting. Measure and cut, then check again. Always do 3 dowels under small rd cakes.

    Mangoes are delicious! Great choice! And yes, curd is a slippery filling. The best thing you can do, is to take the cake that you have cut off from leveling the tops, dry them and blend them in a food processor. Then mix this into the curd. This will give more deNsity to your curd and thus less slippage. It will effect the clarity of the curd a little, but no one will notice as they grab their first bite. If you are putting in so much people would notice, you will have had a very high risk of slippage and noticeable uneven sides from uneven slipped cake layers.

    Building the cake on site is best, though not the absolute. Do what makes you most comfortable. If you build at home, give it a little but firm wobble. If the layers move, take them off and do it at the site. Built right, the layers really should not be wiggling.

    Good luck!