Let’s talk about cake. (When is it not a good time to talk about cake?)
A caveat with making your own cake is that you really do want to check how much money you’ll be saving. Depending on where you are, how fancy your cake is, whether you’re doing cupcakes vs. cakes, you might not save a lot (or any!) by making your cake yourself. If you’re going for a big, traditional, multi-tiered cake, make sure to factor in the price of large cake pans, heating cores, and possibly a stand mixer. In the end, making your own tiered cake might cost as much as buying cupcakes from a nice shop, so keep that in mind.
Still interested? Yes? Let’s go on to the cake itself, shall we?
If you want to make a traditional wedding cake, it’s going to be a pretty big endeavor. Count on needing to spend many hours in the week leading up to wedding prepping for the cake, as well as time the morning before the wedding frosting it. (If you have a very large fridge, you could probably get away with doing it the day before.) Alternatively, you could find a couple of aesthetically-minded friends to frost the sucker while you do your wedding-morning thing.
Fancypants: Deb Perelman’s smitten kitchen account of making a wedding cake is one of the most thorough recipes and sets of instructions out there. Start here, move on to the filling, watch her bake the cake, deal with the frosting, and here’s the final result. A Practical Wedding also has some tips for undertaking this kind of project.
Cupcakes: Baking cupcakes, obviously, is a somewhat less challenging route, since you don’t have to deal with heating cores and giant sheet cakes and the logistics of getting a huge, possibly already-frosted, cake to the venue. Cupcake recipes are all over the internet, so pick some that sound good and get recipe testing.
Alternate cakes: If you really want to get good with your time management, though, you’re going to want to look at non-fussy cakes that you can freeze. Cakes that, in fact, get better with freezing.
Molly Wizenberg, of Orangette, made her own wedding cakes: twenty of her classic, uncomplicated single-layer chocolate cake, baked in the weeks leading up to the wedding, frozen, and carted to the wedding venue in pizza boxes.
My favorite, favorite homemade wedding cake, and the type I would have made had I crafted my own is a Momofuku-type. These babies are formed by layering cake, frosting, and other tasty things into a tall cake ring, freezing it all, and then serving. The cake layers don’t need to be perfect, so you can bake a normal sheet cake and then press them imperfectly into the cake ring. They’re meant to be frozen, and I’ve successfully frozen one for more than a month with no ill effects. And there’s no decorating to worry about, period. They don’t look like traditional wedding cakes, but they are so, so pretty. And I think you could take the technique and apply it to almost any cake you wanted, taking yourself from complicated to unfussy in absolutely no time.
I’m hoping to get up a recipe for a Momofuku-style cake in the next several weeks, but in the meantime, have a look at this Chocolate Chip Layer Cake (with passion fruit curd!) and Apple Pie Layer Cake.