Designing a wedding cake is a long and involving process, no less when it is your own so you have totally free reign. In fact, it suddenly becomes a whole lot more difficult! After a 7+ year engagement, my cake design process was somewhat longer than most (and it’s fair to say that I went through a LOT of designs). That said, we left ourselves only just over 3 months between deciding to get hitched and walking down the isle, so it was all hands on deck and time to get baking…pretty quickly!!
For most cakes, the various cake-creation stages go unmarked but for my own, the phone came out regularly to send progress pictures to my wonderful Bridesmaids. Several people since have asked me about what it was like to make my own cake – particularly if it was stressful or not – so, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a bit about the long and involved process which goes into making a cake (and some more unique quirks of the process which take place when the cake designer also has general ‘Bridal’ duties too!)…
The Design…3.5 months before
The cake design is an important component to the wedding – it’s going to be a centerpiece for the wedding breakfast and in my case, everyone knew I was a gold-medal-winning cake designer so, no pressure, right?! Still, general design principles apply – it should fit the venue, number of guests (OK, we went a bit overboard here), match the theme for the wedding and include personal touches if possible. Then there’s practicality…being the Bride and the cake designer, I knew we were going to be busy the week before the wedding so we went for a fruit cake which could be finished in advance and just baked a chocolate orange fudge cake freshly. The cake we had would have fed around 180 people (tad overkill for our 58 guests) but we saved the top tier as per tradition and the 8” tier was kept for our Christmas cake.
After a lot of hours on Pinterest, inspiration from my favourite designers (not to mention a few domestics with my H2B), we agreed a design. Here she is – 5 tiers, white on white, floral pedestal and a lot of sugar flowers…
Next – it’s time to get baking!! Fruit cakes need several months to mature so, first things first – preparing our tins perfectly before they get filled with 2 delicious fruit cake batters.
Design, prep, bake time (not including oven time): 5 hours
These beauties now get wrapped tightly in baking paper and foil before being unwrapped every other week for a feeding with brandy…mmmmmm…. Add on another 3 hours of work for un-wrapping, feeding and re-wrapping the cakes every other week for 3 months!
The personal touches…2 months before…
While I’m a control freak and like to do as much as I can myself and by hand, some of the super cool stuff which is possible these days needs the help of other professionals. In this case, the awesome Michael + Addo who created laser-cut stencils for the sides of the cake which matched the details on my veil. We sent him a picture of the pattern around my veil…
…and he produced a set of scaled stencils based on the exact dimensions of our cake. Awesome!!
Admin time getting these sorted: 2 hours.
Flowers, flowers…and more flowers…3 months before
I LOVE sugar flowers so there was no doubt that a lot would feature on our cake. But they would take a LONG time (which was apparently Thomas’ plan all along to help keep me occupied in the run up to the wedding!). The mixes of roses, peonies, stock, astilbe, lambs ear and fillers and foliage were started the same weekend as we booked our wedding venue…
So it begins…
And then they grew some more…
Every now and then I had to take a break for bridal duties (makeup trial…) then it was back to (you guessed it), flowers…
All in all, we watched every Harry Potter film and about 10 episodes of Star Trek while making the flowers (yes, I’m a shameless Trekkie). And that was Thomas and myself. I think they were worth it but that was a LOT of work. Hundreds (if not thousands) of individually cut and shaped sugar petals, all waiting to go onto their cake.
Total time making flowers: Nearly 20 hours (Harry Potter), 7 hours in Star Trek…for two of us (although Thomas is a bit slow)…so around 50 hours just making flowers.
Decorating…2 weeks before
While naked cakes look cool, that wasn’t the look we were going for. All fruit cakes have to have every divots filled (created by the fruit), then a sealing layer of marzipan, before a decorative layer of white icing.
Then, once the icing has firmed up a bit, it’s time to get decorating! Our design was fairly simple so the ‘decoration’ at this point was just the stenciling but, when your stencil is that detailed and you have no other decorations to hide imperfections, every stage has to be perfect.
Total time filling, marzipaning, icing and then decorating 5 tiers: 4.5 hours
Doweling & test assembly…it’s all staying up! 1 week before
Inside each tier is a whole load of individually cut plastic dowels to ensure that the cake is supported – and unless they are exactly the same height, they won’t work and your cake will lean and eventually fall over. Most definitely not a good look for a cake. This cake was a whopper – around 40kg (for reference, I weigh about 55kg!!) and our venue was along bendy country roads so I decided to stack and finish the cake onsite. But, not checking the dowels are going to do their job in advance is just asking for trouble so here she is, without all her flowers, standing proudly in my kitchen!
Dowel time for a 5-tier: 1.5 hours.
Delivery & assembly…the day before
I was so nervous that I had everything the day before the wedding that I completely forgot to take pictures but, it’s safe to say, that the entire boot of my estate car was filled with all things cake (and lo betide anyone who got in my way on the journey)!
Thankfully, the trip was uneventful and, somewhere between speaking with all the vendors and family, I set about stacking for real and adding the flowers. In fact, I had to stack it twice because I realised at the end I’d forgotten to add in the polystyrene divider for the flowers…oops. Bride-brain…
So, here you have the Bride to Be ‘in the zone’ (and in the dark– romantic lighting in a Bridal suite isn’t ideal for cake decorating), finishing off her cake the night before the wedding…
With our cake being a traditional fruit sponge, this stage was a whole lot less stressful than it could have been (I actually quite enjoyed the pleasant distraction to keep my mind occupied). However, I most certainly wouldn’t have wanted to attempt it with a sponge cake – 2am finishes and sleep deprivation are never a good look for a Bride.
Assembly time…3 hours…ish…
At some point around this time, I realised if it wasn’t done now, it wouldn’t get done…
OMG I’m getting married today!! And I have to move a 40kg cake across a cobbled path, over a road onto a flower pedestal…in the snow…help!
So, my friend and the florist for our day, Gemma from Little Gems Flowers, turned up with the bouquets and told me that the flower pedestal was ready for the cake to go on…now we just had to get the cake on it. Between our room and the display table was a road, cobbled path and several doorways and, to top it off, we were playing dodge the snow flake!
I had brought my cake trolly with me so we carefully loaded the cake onto the trolly and made it across the doorway and down the road. No pictures here but imagine a very stressed bride and half made-up bridesmaid (sporting a pink onsie) pushing a huge cake across the road in the freezing cold with the cake vibrating…odd leaves falling off and onlookers just staring in fear…great look. The trolly wasn’t working at all. Needed a plan B…quickly.
It’s fair to say that no one has done more cake deliveries with me than my husband-to-be so in a break with tradition, Thomas was called in to save the day. I’m not sure who was more scared, me or him…he was about to get stuck with me for the rest of his life so dropping it was not an option 😉 Eventually, after a few choice words and the odd expletive, we carried it into the room and Gemma rushed about fixing the flowers underneath as we gently placed it on the magnificent pedestal…
Certainly not the most professional of attire for a delivery but I think I should get some slack on my wedding day 😉
Transport time: 30 mins (the longest 30 minutes of my life!!!!)
And that was it, delivery done and time to relax (kindof). I completely forgot to take my own pictures of the cake like I usually would which was totally gutting (especially because I even had the camera waiting on the tripod in the room!!). It was now time to chill and get married. Aaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!
At the beginning of the evening, just before our first dance, we got to cut the cake with my Father’s sword – the same sword he and my Mother used to cut their wedding cake 35 years ago and that my Brother and his wife used just earlier in the year. It’s something I’ve dreamt of for my entire life and didn’t disappoint. Although it has to be said that when I’d imagined it, I never thought it would be so difficult…blunted swords don’t cut fruit cake very well!
And despite being confident that general happiness would override feeling gutted about destroying 70 hours of work, I failed miserably and our fabulous photographer caught the look on my face when I surveyed the damage a sword can do!! …so much work…*sad face *… #canthidefeelingsfromthephotographer
Still, I always say that there’s no point in putting so much work into a cake if no one is going to enjoy it so we did, and so did our guests. Come Christmas, we had another tier to open – a delicious dark fruit cake, all to ourselves… 😀
Thank you for reading!
Lots of love – the new Mrs Osborne xxx
Total time making our wedding cake…a little under 70 hours (give or take a few episodes of Star Trek)…or 2 full weeks of work.
There were a lot of amazing people who helped to make our day special but these are just some of the suppliers who helped by supplying items which you can see in the pictures above. Huge Thank You also to Steffen, our photographer, for allowing me to use his photos.
Venue: Hare and Hounds Hotel, Tetbury
Photographer: Steffen Milsom Photography
Flowers: Little Gem’s Flowers
Stencils: Michael + Addo