Thinking of DIYing a wedding cake? Then this post is for you! I made a three-tiered wedding cake for my cousin’s wedding and in here I’ve shared all the recipes, timeline, resources, tutorial, and tips to help your DIY wedding cake-making experience a success and with less hassle as possible.
Last September I made a three-tiered naked wedding cake for my cousin’s wedding. I love to bake, but making tiered cakes is totally a different game for me.
I was nervous as so many things could go wrong – from the cake being dry, the cake breaking up, etc. I did a lot of recipe testing to ensure which cake batter, filling, and frosting would work best. I researched and watched a lot of YouTube videos which tools to use to stack my cakes securely and how to safely transport the cake. And I will link all these resources below. =)
Two months before the wedding day I actually made a test version of the cake just to make sure that there will be no major surprises. Yes, a three-tiered cake with all the fillings and frostings! That was a lot of ingredients, a lot of work, and a lot of cake to eat, but it was worth it. If I didn’t do that, I would have not discovered many things that I should adjust (e.g. cake wasn’t tall enough, needed more stacking straws). Knowing exactly what to do and what to expect on the day I need to deliver this wedding cake gave me peace of mind!
In this post, I thought of sharing all the things I learned, tips, tricks, including my timeline for making the cakes, and even the recipes you need to make your wedding or any other special occasion cake-making experience a success and with less hassle as possible!
My goal is to help you save time, effort, money, and ingredients. So, grab your drink of choice as this is going to be a lengthy post!
Part 1. Why Make Your Own Wedding or Special Occasion Cakes
Three-tiered cakes nowadays would cost you 500-600 dollars, so making your own or asking a relative or friend who’s good in baking would save you money. If you are going for a more rustic or simple look, a DIY wedding cake is more economical and probably tastes better when baked at home.
Part 2. Is it easy to DIY a wedding cake?
For me, the most challenging part was the “researching and planning”. Sounds standard, but you need to make cake samples, make a timeline, and make sure you have enough time — as it will take you a while. Once you have nailed down the right recipes for your cake batter, fillings, and frosting, and you have a timeline, everything should be easy. But don’t worry, I have laid down the foundations for you-you’ll have everything you need here – the timeline, recipes, and step-by-step instructions on how to stack your cake!
The only thing you should do, and I can’t stress this enough, is to make a test batch so more or less you know what to do on the day you’ll actually prepare the full wedding cake. You would how it tastes so you can make your own adjustments. It’s an opportunity for the bride and groom to taste the cake too.
If you’re the bride, I don’t recommend making the cake yourself. Less stress for you, the better! =)
Part 3. The Cake Flavor
The couple wanted a Strawberry Shortcake-inspired cake. A whipped cream frosting is not ideal for warm weather so we decided to go with Champagne Swiss Meringue buttercream. I love love the smooth and silky texture of Swiss Meringue with the hint taste of champagne; that simple addition makes it extra special.
It’s a three-tiered cake (6-inch, 8-inch. 10-inch), each tier containing 4 layers. To avoid confusion, I will refer to each of the three parts of the totally assembled cake as a tier, and to each horizontal slice of those tiers as a layer.
Each cake layer is filled with fresh strawberries, strawberry cream filling, and champagne swiss meringue buttercream. It tastes fresh, fruity and definitely not too sweet! The vanilla cake is quite versatile so you can easily change your fruits or fillings.
My cousin’s wedding had a rustic theme so we opted for a semi-naked cake. I personally did not choose a full naked cake – as the outsides would be exposed to air and will easily dry out.
The main components of this cake are:
- Vanilla Cake Layers
- Sugar Syrup
- Strawberry-Cream Cheese Filling
- Fresh strawberries
- Champagne Buttercream
Part 4. Schedule/ Timeline
The closer the cake is prepared for the wedding day the better it will taste. For my timeline, I split the tasks into 5 days where the 5th day is the day of the wedding. I personally chose to spread the tasks in the span of 5 days as I have a kid to attend to at home. If you have the time, I can say that you can further shorten it to 4 or even 3 days, depending on how much hours you can allot.
- Cut the parchment paper for the 6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch cake pans.
- You can also buy pre-cut parchment rounds here.
- Cut and put a hole on the cake boards (8-inch and 6-inch boards only).
- There are some cake boards like these ones where there is already a perforated hole in the middle.
- Make the box for the cake (More details on part 10).
- Make the strawberry puree (The strawberry puree is included in the recipe for Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling).
- Make the Simple Syrup.
- At night, take out butter from the fridge for the Champagne Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
- Use a non-alcholic champagne or sparkling wine if you wish to skip the alcohol.
- Make Champagne Swiss Meringue Buttercream (but DO NOT put the Champagne yet!)
- Make the Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling
- Measure all the ingredients for the Fluffy and Buttery Vanilla Cake
- Bake the Fluffy and Buttery Vanilla Cake layers (6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch)
- Take out tools needed for assembling the cake tomorrow:
- Bring Champagne Swiss Meringue Buttercream to room temp first thing in the morning
- Cut and level the cake layers
- Slice the fresh strawberries
- Remix the buttercream and add the champagne
- Assemble each cake tier
Saturday: (Wedding Day)
- Stack the cakes first thing in the morning the pack in box
- Bring cake kit at the venue
Part 5. Tools and Equipment You Need
To make this wedding cake, I used the following tools and equipment:
- Stand Mixer
- Digital Food Scale
- Parchment Paper
- Cake Drum (1 piece of 12-inch cake drum)
- Cake Boards 1 piece of 6-inch and 1 piece of 8-inch
- Cake Pans (6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch)
- I recommend and use these cake pans.
- Cake leveler or a serrated knife
- pastry brush
- silicone spatula
- icing smoother
- offset metal spatulas
- straight metal spatula
- Wilton support rods and caps
- scissors (for cutting the flowers)
Part 6. Top Tips
- For tiered cakes, it is suggested to stay clear of softer, less stable cakes and fillings like chiffon cake, pastry cream, and whipped cream. This Vanilla Cake recipe is soft and fluffy, yet firm enough for tiered cakes. Also, this recipe yields tall cakes, giving more height to my wedding cake.
- Measure ingredient using a kitchen scale. I can’t stress enough the importance of measuring your baking ingredients by weight. Especially for cakes as large as this one, the excess flour when using cups can easily add up and will surely give you a dry cake. A kitchen scale is inexpensive and is readily available online and in most kitchen stores.
With a digital kitchen scale, 500 grams of flour will still be 500 grams of flour regardless of how you scoop it, the kind of cups you use, or humidity.
There are so many variables when baking – your ingredients, how you measure ingredients, the mixing technique, your pans, temperature and humidity, and your oven. Some of these variables are hard to control, but you can control accuracy by weighing ingredients. 500 grams of flour will still be 500 grams of flour regardless of how you scoop it, the kind of cups you use, or humidity.
Even if you have followed the instructions perfectly but you have incorrectly measured ingredients, your cake, or any baked good, will not come out right. Baking is totally different from cooking where you can adjust the ingredients at a later stage to correct the taste and texture.
- Do a test run of the cake for at least one tier. This will not only allow you to taste the cake for further modifications but will also give you a good sense of what to expect when it’s time for you to make the full three-tiered cake.
Here is a photo of my first test version:
I did the whole 3-tiered cake a couple of times because I wanted to learn to stack and dowell the cakes. In my first attempt, I realized that the total height of my wedding cake was too short – my cake layers were not tall enough so I modified the recipe to yield taller cake layers. The second test version was good and I was able to familiarize myself with the dowelling process (the thing that worried me the most).
The benefit was on the actual day of making the final cake, I was able to stack my cakes faster (and calmer) because I already knew what to do. But these were all my personal decision as I wanted to stop worrying that my cake would split! I’ve never stacked the cakes before so those 2 cake testings gave me peace of mind.
Moreover, since I’ve tried doing the whole process twice, I was more confident that the probability of messing the cake would be way lower. Having said that, it was quite costly as the ingredients were a lot – lots and lots of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. But I chose peace of mind (I am usually super stressed and panicky about literally everything I do in my life) over the cost. So it’s really up to you to decide. =)
Part 7. The Recipes
Okay, you still here? Yes?! Great! =)
Here are the recipes for the different components of the cake:
Click on the link and it will bring you to each recipe with more explanation on how to make them.
- 6-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch layers of Fluffy and Buttery Vanilla Cake
This is by far the most popular recipe on my site. This vanilla cake is very versatile and can be used as a cake base for many different flavors.
The recipes for 6-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch layers are provided just before the recipe card.
- 3 Batches of this Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling recipe
A delicious combination of tangy cream cheese and sweet strawberries. This filling can be used on cakes, cupcakes, and doughnuts. I love the fresh taste it gives and is not overly sweet. Note that this is a filling and not a frosting; the texture is a bit loose and is not in a pipe-able consistency.
- 1.5 Batches of this Champagne Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe
Creamy, silky, and light buttercream infused with champagne flavor. It is not overly sweet and is sure to make any occasion feel extra special! Consider it for anniversaries, New Years, bridal showers, graduations, etc.
If you wish to frost the whole cake, you definitely have to increase the amount of champagne buttercream.
- 2 Batches of this Simple Syrup recipe
Simple syrup can help add or bring back any moisture lost during the baking process. It is super useful in the cake baker’s kitchen, but it also has many other uses.
NOTE: You don’t need to finish all the simple syrup. There’s gonna be extra, for sure!
Part 8. Assembling The Cake
After baking the 6-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch Vanilla Cake layers, tightly wrap each cake in cling wrap and place them in the fridge.
On the day you are going to assemble the cakes, take them out from the fridge about 30 minutes before you start working on them. It is easier to handle cakes that are cold to avoid breaking them up, but you also need to soften them up a bit so that the cake leveler can easily cut through the cake.
Since we would be making a semi-naked cake, we want our cake layers to be evenly cut. And since this is also a three-tiered cake, it is very important that each layer is perfectly flat and leveled. Otherwise, your cake won’t be stable.
I use a Wilton cake leveler. It’s fairly inexpensive and I even bought it for a cheaper price using a coupon at Michael’s . =)
If you need help on how to level and torte a cake you can watch this video.
The recipe for the vanilla cake layers yields two 3-inch thick cake for each size. Tort each cake in half so you should get 4 layers of the 6-inch, 4 layers of the 8-inch and 4 layers of the 10-inch, as shown below:
Now all the layers are nice and flat. We would proceed on working on assembling each tier. I would start first with the top tier, the 6-inch cake.
Grab your 6-inch cake board and trim it about ⅛ inch around; it doesn’t have to be a perfect circle (see photo below). We do this step to ensure that the cake board will not be visible when we stack the cake tiers.
Put a small dollop of buttercream for the cake layer to stick.
For the 6-inch and 8-inch tier, the cake boards should have the exact same size as the cake. We are going to stack each tier with the board and we’ll hide the board through adding some buttercream. More on this later on.
The 6-inch and 8-inch boards should also have a hole right in the middle; I made a hole by just using a cutter. This hold is for the long dowell that would go through the 3 tiers to support the cake.
Next, brush the sugar syrup over each cake layer to bring back some moisture. This is not going to make your cake super sweet.
Next, make a dam by piping some Champagne Swiss Meringue buttercream around the edges. This is going to help hold the filling.
Fill the dam you just made with the Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling. I wanted the amount of filling the same for each layer so it would look nice and even on the outside of the cake.
For the 6-inch cake, I used 90 grams of the strawberry cream cheese filling on each layer; 140 grams for the 8-inch, and 200 grams for the 10-inch.
Put the strawberry slices in an even layer.
Repeat the same process for the next 3 layers.
For the 4th layer (topmost layer), skip the dam and filling; just coat the top with a thin layer of buttercream.
When the 4 layers are in place, smooth the sides of the cake, add buttercream as needed, but don’t cover the whole cake.
Now we are done with the first tier. Carefully transfer it in a baking tray and store it in the fridge until we’re ready to stack the cakes.
Do the same steps for assembling the 8-inch tier and 10-inch tier. In the end you should have 3 tiers of cakes that are ready for stacking.
Part 9. Stacking and Dowelling the Cakes
When stacking tiered cakes, you can use ordinary wooden dowels or bubble tea straws, but since it’s my first time I opted to use Wilton’s support rods and caps. They are fairly inexpensive and is available online and in major craft stores.
I could say that using their tiered constuction system my cake was definitely stable and secure for transporting. (Note: NOT a sponsored post!)
I won’t be explaining it here in detail on how to use this system. Instead, I’m linking this video tutorial which I just followed.
Tips On Stacking Cakes
- Stack cold cakes straight from the fridge so they are easier to handle. Do not freeze your cake.
- Make sure to use the appropriate number of dowels or support rods for each cake. This applies to all tiered cakes, whether you are using Wilton’s rods or ordinary wooden dowels or bubble tea straws.
- Use a cake drum for the bottom tier, for this case the 10-inch tier. A cake drum is sturdier and thicker than a cake board. It is 12-13mm thick versus 3-4mm thick for the cake board. For this wedding cake, I used a 12-inch cake drum.
- I stacked my cakes on the morning of the wedding day because a 24-inch tall cake would not fit in my fridge. If you have enough fridge space, feel free to stack the cakes the night before so you have one less thing to worry about on the big day.
Part 10. Transporting the Cake
After stacking the cake, you are almost done! The last part would be transporting the cake and adding the decorations.
If using flowers and fruits you should definitely put them at the last minute to keep them fresh looking. I did mine at the venue because the flowers were also delivered there. So, it’s just the plain three-tiered cake that was on the box. I packed my fresh strawberries in my “cake kit”. More on the on Part 11.
My husband made me a box out of a moving box. (I couldn’t find the photo but will update this post if ever I find it!) We got ideas and tips from this video.
Note that I have used a center dowel to the cakes to ensure that they’re not gonna move sideways while being transported.
Part 11. Adding Decorations and Making Flowers Food Safe
At the venue, place the cake stand, if using, at the cake table before placing the bare three-tiered cake on top of it. Now is the time to place the fresh flowers and fruits.
First of all, we have to make sure that the flowers you will be using are non-toxic. Check with your florist or ask for the name of the flowers and check them yourself.
Once you have made sure that they are not poisonous, we have to make the flowers food safe as they may be heavily sprayed with pesticides. I wrapped mine with floral tape and placed the stems inside drinking straws. The straws then were inserted into the cake. Check out this video for the full tutorial.
For the strawberries, I simply used toothpicks. This was a rustic theme so there’s really no definite way to put the flowers and fruits.
Part 12. Cake Kit - What To Bring At the Venue
I’ve packed a “cake kit” containing some important tools and ingredients. During transportation and while putting on the decorations, there might be cases where you need to retouch the cake or maybe patch up something. This also includes the items you need to put on the floral and fruit decorations.
Here’s what inside my cake kit:
- toothpicks (for putting on the strawberries)
- strawberries or any fruit you’ll be using for decoration
- floral tape and drinking straws (for the flowers)
- extra buttercream (for patching up if ever there is a need)
- small offset spatula (for applying buttercream)
- cake scraper (in case we need to smooth the sides)
Part 13. The Taste
The bride and groom were surprised that no cake was left for them to bring home at the end of the party as several guests brought home the leftover cake!
Most of the comments I have received: the cake had just the right amount of sweetness; the strawberry flavor is fresh tasting; the cake still taste good the next day, and that the buttercream was incredibly smooth, silky, and not toothachingly sweet.
But everybody has a different definition of what is delicious, right? So don’t take my word for it and give it a try. The Vanilla Cake and Swiss Meringue recipe is very versatile and pairs well with different flavors; go ahead and make it your own or customize it according to your flavor preferences.
At the end of the day, you can never go wrong with anything homemade with love…can’t beat that. =)