Ambitious First Wedding Cake! Advice Appreciated! (Long!)

Decorating By SugarFiend Updated 29 Aug 2011 , 3:34pm by luckylibra

SugarFiend Posted 29 Apr 2011 , 3:46pm
post #1 of 18

I'm so excited to be doing my first wedding cake for my cousin this summer! I'm a hobby baker slowly moving toward getting a legal business running - and was thrilled to hear that the church will allow a cake made by a hobbyist.

Right now I'm in the planning stages, and it's an ambitious plan to say the least! And the more I plan, the more questions I have... So I'm seeking advice from the more experienced.

Following the sage advice I found from Indydebi in a thread awhile back, I anticipate needing 105-ish servings based on the general rule of 70% of invited guests. So the cake will be 6, 8, 10, and 12" rounds (118 servings, I believe, not counting the top tier), and I plan to use a 14 or 16" dummy for the bottom tier. I will be using SPS for most of the structure. And Heaven help me, she wants buttercream in August - not fondant. I've been practicing hard on my SMBC smoothing techniques. Although the final icing decision hasn't been made, I figure if I can smooth SMBC well, I can smooth anything. icon_smile.gif

So the order of the cake: Bottom tier is a 14" dummy (or would 16" look better?), then a 12". The 12 and 10 will be separated with gumpaste flowers. On top of the 10 I'd like to have a footed cake stand holding the 8 and the 6.

My first question is about baking the 12" cake. I'm wondering how many flower nails I should use, and if I should also use baking strips as well? The largest I've done is 10" and I only use 1 flower nail.

Also, I'm wondering if there's any common formula for estimating needed servings if she should choose more than one cake flavor. She has requested my chai spice cake so far, but I suspect a more traditonal flavor would be nice to have too. It gets even more complicated because it will probably be a "help yourself" type of serving. And I know my side of the family are little piggies that way (I say that lovingly), but I don't know about the other 3 sides of family involved.

Then there's the HUGE question of how to support a footed cake stand between tiers. Uhhhh... Hm. I have a cake stand with a 6" base diameter so I was thinking of just setting it on a 6" SPS plate - but I would have to file the spike off of it (the SPS plate). Does that seem like disaster waiting to happen? Is there an industrial- strength double sticky tape I could use to prevent slippage that anyone knows of?

I also wanted to put a Celtic knot lace made of fondant hanging off the base of the cake setting on the footed stand. Will it slip off, being that it isn't entirely on the buttercream?

Regarding the tiers separated by gumpaste flowers... Would it be better to use SPS with taller legs, or a smaller styro dummy? I'm thinking the SPS legs might be difficult to hide if I go that route, unless I use a smaller plate size.

And besides coconut, how do you prevent the buttercream from sticking to the plate on top of it?

Since I can't possibly transport this thing assembled even using SPS, how long should I allow myself for assembly on-site?

I know I'm going to come up with more questions along the way, so any advice, hints, and tips would be welcome!

Thanks in advance!

17 replies
kakeladi Posted 29 Apr 2011 , 4:14pm
post #2 of 18

........ baking the 12" cake. I'm wondering how many flower nails I should use, and....also use baking strips as well?.....
Not everyone will agree with me but I have baked 1000s of cakes with NO flower nails (or other props) in cakes as large as 16" rounds. I guess it won't hurt to use one but it really isn't necessary. Yes, go ahead and use the baking strips too.

......any common formula for estimating needed servings if she should choose more than one cake flavor......probably be a "help yourself" type of serving....my side of the family are little piggies that way (I say that lovingly...
You will drive yourself batty trying to figure how much extra cake to make because this one and that one are BIG eaters. Pro decorators figure a serving of 1x2x4. You have come up with the sizes you want to use so either determine if you want to make that 'dummy' tier real cake or not. That's where the extra servings can come from. Perosnally I would not put any concern into that. It's not up to you or the bride to determine how much each guest will eat. And when the cake is gone, it's gone.

.... HUGE question of how to support a footed cake stand between tiers.... cake stand with a 6" base diameter...thinking of setting it on a 6" SPS plate ....
No need to do that to the plateicon_smile.gif Just use a cake board - cover either with fondant or cut a piece of fzr paper and glue it on. Support with 3 straws (placed in triangle shape) in the cake. Adhere the stand base to the board with icing.

...... put a Celtic knot lace made of fondant hanging off the base of the cake setting on the footed stand. Will it slip off, being that it isn't entirely on the buttercream? .............
Not a problem. It should stay put just fime.

.... besides coconut, how do you prevent the buttercream from sticking to the plate on top of it...
powdered sugar; finely ground cake crumbs or nuts **IF you know there is no one who it allergic to nuts**.

......how long should I allow myself for assembly on-site? .....
A couple of hours at least.

..........Regarding the tiers separated by gumpaste flowers... Would it be better to use SPS with taller legs, or a smaller styro dummy?......
The flowers CANNOT support the tiers. You MUST use either the plate(s) or a dummy. I don't think there is any difference between either choice. - well there is one difference - you'll use less flowers with a dummy - Because you are not filling the space - just making a ring around the dummy.

JohnnyCakes1966 Posted 29 Apr 2011 , 4:29pm
post #3 of 18

Ambitious + First + Wedding Cake aren't words you want to hear together in a sentence. icon_lol.gif But looking at your pictures, you're not new to caking, so that's a relief!

I can't speak to your stacking questions as I don't use SPS, but I just wanted to say..."self serve" is not a good idea!!! People will hack into it and take huge pieces. (I attended a wedding once where I saw someone take 1/3 of an 8"!) Your cake that should serve 118 will suddenly serve only 80. People will think the wedding party was too cheap to provide enough cake for everyone, or worse.....they will blame YOU for not baking enough cake! Plus, think of what the kids will do to the cake with no one manning the table!

If it HAS to be self serve......You said your side of the family can be little piggies, so you need to consider how many of them will make up the total number of guests. If "the little piggies" make up, say, 2/3 of the guests, you'll want to increase your number of servings. On the other hand, if there will only be, say 10 "little piggies" attending, you might be fine....assuming the other 3 sides eat regular-size pieces.

Marianna46 Posted 29 Apr 2011 , 4:50pm
post #4 of 18

Just one suggestion about the serving: could you get the bride to make it self-serve, but not self-cut? Perhaps someone who knows how to do it (you, probably!) could cut each tier into portions before people began serving themselves, then when that one was finished, remove the base and cut the whole of the next tier. That would put a damper on people taking such large servings and hacking into the cake. If there are servings left, the guests who wish to could come back for seconds (thirds, etc.).

SugarFiend Posted 29 Apr 2011 , 5:33pm
post #5 of 18

Thank you so much for your replies!

I guess I wasn't very clear about the self-serve thing - yikes! The cake will be cut, plated, and put out for guests to choose their own pieces. As opposed to having wait staff handing it out. Nobody will be cutting their own piece of cake!

But I'm getting a good chuckle out of envisioning my family helping themselves to an uncut wedding cake. Chaos, mayhem, and buttercream everywhere. And SOMEone would probably try to eat the dummy, too! icon_lol.gif I'm sure it would be entertaining...

But nah, it won't be that much fun. I'll probably be the one cutting it. icon_rolleyes.gif

Maybe I'll be better off making the dummy real cake. But a 14 serves 78, doesn't it? Can I even get that much batter in a 5 qt. KitchenAid? I guess I could use both mine and my Mom's at the same time. (sounds like a great excuse for a 20 qt. Hobart to me. A girl can dream...)

Marianna46 Posted 29 Apr 2011 , 5:49pm
post #6 of 18

Hahaha, that was great, SugarFiend! With a sense of humor that good, I don't think you'll have any problem facing the obstacles that arise on the way to making a terrific cake. The 20 qt. Hobart has been at the top of my wish list for a long time. But for the moment, I'll tell you that I have a very large, but off-size, sheet cake pan that takes 5 or 6 of my normal cake recipes to fill up. I can fit 2 of them at a time in my 5-qt. KA. I just grease and flour the pan and then make up 2 recipes and put them in, make up 2 more and put them in, etc. It works very well. If you're still worried, you could put the made-up batter in the fridge while you finish the others off, so you could slow down the action of the baking powder while it all gets done. One thing is for sure: you're going to be baking for days. Are you READY?

SugarFiend Posted 29 Apr 2011 , 6:45pm
post #7 of 18

Marianna46, with my family, you can't help but have a sense of humor. Weddings are always fun. You can only imagine the photo ops for Polish sausage! icon_biggrin.gif

So the batter doesn't get all wonky if you have to make separate batches for one pan? I'm worried the different batches might rise differently in the pan, especially if one has been refrigerated. I thought about blending the batches together in a ginormous mixing bowl before pouring them into the pan. Would that not be necessary?

Am I ready? I dunno. But I kind of compare this one wedding cake to when I did my one 3-tier cake and a 2-tier baby shower cake due one day after the other with not a wink of sleep for 2 days. I have DH to thank for showing me what I was made of with that one. He took off on "errands," leaving me alone to take care of our 3 rambunctious boys (2 of whom are twins still in diapers) AND try to do those two cakes. Then he had the gall to tell me one of them "wasn't my best work" and was telling me where I needed polka dots. Wait! What am I saying? NOT my DH - my STBX. icon_twisted.gif

Whoops! A little of-topic there... icon_lol.gif

So I'm ready for a marathon, but I'll probably get to have some sleep for this one. To add to the excitement, I'll be doing this in my Mom's kitchen, not my own - which also means lugging all my cake stuff - KitchenAid included - halfway across the country. Yipppeee!

Marianna46 Posted 29 Apr 2011 , 7:27pm
post #8 of 18

Hon, my hat's off to you! It's times like these that try our souls and, like you said, show us what we're made of! Once I pour all the batter in the pan, I take a rubber spatula and mix it up some, but without touching the bottom or sides of the pan. It doesn't get completely mixed, but I've never had any problem. Any differences will be small and you still have to level the cake before you decorate it.

hrnewbie Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 3:07am
post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by SugarFiend

So the batter doesn't get all wonky if you have to make separate batches for one pan? I'm worried the different batches might rise differently in the pan, especially if one has been refrigerated. I thought about blending the batches together in a ginormous mixing bowl before pouring them into the pan. Would that not be necessary?




I've done that quite a few times simply because I've underestimated how much batter I need or how much a new recipe will make. I make separate batches in my 5 qt. KA and then pour them all together in my largest mixing bowl and incorporate them all togehter. Haven't had any problems yet.

Good luck and I can't WAIT to see the final product!

FromScratchSF Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 4:11am
post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by kakeladi

.... besides coconut, how do you prevent the buttercream from sticking to the plate on top of it...
powdered sugar; finely ground cake crumbs or nuts **IF you know there is no one who it allergic to nuts**.




Great advice already offered, I don't see how the above tip will work if you are using SMBC. It's not powdered sugar based and does not crust, so if you do the above it will just absorb into the SMBC and it will still stick, especially in warmer climates.

I put a layer of rice paper between the tiers of my SMBC cakes... this works great because it will form to the tier below it without adding bulk - it will stick to the cake it touches but it's edible and you can cut right through it.

Good luck!

indydebi Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 7:37am
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by SugarFiend

The cake will be cut, plated, and put out for guests to choose their own pieces. As opposed to having wait staff handing it out.


Since I was usually the caterer also, I cut most of my wedding cakes and this is how I did it. I cut and plated the cake; had the DJ announce "The cake has been cut ...you are welcome to help yourself at any time." Then the guests just came to the table to select what they wanted. Since my caterings were always buffet, this "serve yourself" was pretty normal to everyone.

As far as how much of each flavor, its up to the bride. What I did, when planning the cake was tell the bride "We're going to start at the bottom and work our way up. The bottom tier is the largest tier so it this is the tier that will feed the majority of your guests. So .... what flavor do you think MOST of your guests will enjoy?" After that is resolved, we move to the next tier up: "This tier will serve about 35 of your guests (assuming its a 10"). What flavor would you like this to be?"

I always tried to encourage 2 flavors and absolutely no more than 3. (One was my preference, but you know......!). If every tier is a different flavor, then we're pretty much obligated to cut every single tier and what happens is that the bride ends up with multiple partially cut cakes leftover, which are hard to store. But if they have just one or two flavors, we can just start cutting the cake from teh bottom up and any cake left will be the samller, easier to store cakes.

SugarFiend Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 12:40pm
post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

Quote:
Originally Posted by kakeladi

.... besides coconut, how do you prevent the buttercream from sticking to the plate on top of it...
powdered sugar; finely ground cake crumbs or nuts **IF you know there is no one who it allergic to nuts**.



Great advice already offered, I don't see how the above tip will work if you are using SMBC. It's not powdered sugar based and does not crust, so if you do the above it will just absorb into the SMBC and it will still stick, especially in warmer climates.

I put a layer of rice paper between the tiers of my SMBC cakes... this works great because it will form to the tier below it without adding bulk - it will stick to the cake it touches but it's edible and you can cut right through it.

Good luck!




This is all helpful, especially since the icing is still not decided. Being armed with info for all kinds of options is always good! Is the rice paper something I can find in the Asian section at the grocery store, or is there somewhere else I should look?

I made a chai spice cake with a brown sugar SMBC for her to taste at Easter, because she loves the spice cake from her alma mater. She said my spice cake was "spot on," -so that's a go - but she wasn't sure about the icing.

BTW, the brown sugar SMBC was deeLISH (although I might be inclined to lighten up on vanilla if not leave it out entirely next time). The cake just overpowered it a bit and seemed to want cream cheese, which I was trying to avoid. My "piggy" family didn't seem to mind, though - they devoured the cake in record time.

Anyway, she's set on spice cake. Icing and an additional cake flavor haven't been decided on. I know the final decision will be up to her, more or less, but I also know she'll be looking to me for guidance and my "professional" opinion. I'll just do the best I can with that. But it's nice to be aware of different problem-solving options so I can be prepared for whatever she chooses.

And Indydebi, I like the idea of starting from the bottom tier up for flavors. You always give such sensible advice! Since I want to do wedding cakes when I go into business (so I say now, lol), I wish I could have a little Indydebi angel on my shoulder! WWIDD? icon_wink.gif

SugarFiend Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 12:54pm
post #13 of 18

I just wanted to say I made this cake and give a HUGE thank you to CC and all who helped.

This site and all who contribute are priceless! I never could have pulled off such a cake if not for all the information so freely shared here. I just can't begin to convey my gratitude. I always feel like I take more than I give on this site... But I'm not the most experienced decorator (my gallery is all I've done, minus two practice buttercream cakes), so I'm not sure how much my advice is worth.

Anyway, this is just a huge thank you... I did not embarrass myself, and I was choked up to be able to give my cousin a cake I could be proud of. (It's in my gallery now.) I could not have done it without CakeCentral. Thank you, thank you, thank you all!!!

And by the way... as to IndyDebi's method of servings calculation... My estimated number of servings needed was 105. 106 were served! icon_eek.gif

Marianna46 Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 1:16pm
post #14 of 18

Oh, my goodness, SugarFiend, your cake is spectacular!!! And you were totally right about it being ambitious! Now that you have this one under your belt, would you like to give the rest of us the benefit of your experience? We'd love to hear anything you have to tell us about the process - baking, storing, stacking, filling, frosting, decorating or transporting (I'd especially like to know about the stacking and transporting!). Once again, let me offer my congratulations on an incredible job.

Lcubed82 Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 1:26pm
post #15 of 18

Beautiful cake!! Congrats!

SugarFiend Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 1:58pm
post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marianna46

Oh, my goodness, SugarFiend, your cake is spectacular!!! And you were totally right about it being ambitious! Now that you have this one under your belt, would you like to give the rest of us the benefit of your experience? We'd love to hear anything you have to tell us about the process - baking, storing, stacking, filling, frosting, decorating or transporting (I'd especially like to know about the stacking and transporting!). Once again, let me offer my congratulations on an incredible job.




LOL I think my best bit of advice is this...

When you're a stressed-out, scared-to-death ball of nerves making your first wedding cake, make sure you have someone else there watching you as you grab your purse and keys to drive off to deliver it. Just so they can yell after you, "Hey, you might want to change out of your pajamas!" icon_eek.gif

Yup. Sad but true! icon_lol.gif

SugarFiend Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 2:55pm
post #17 of 18

(And thank you all again!) icon_smile.gif

Meanwhile, I've been trying to figure out why my photo of isomalt knots came up as a black spot. Anyone have any idea if I can delete that one photo without all the pics being deleted? icon_cry.gif

luckylibra Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 3:34pm
post #18 of 18

You did an amazing, absolutely stunning job!! I would expect the bride and groom were duly impressed. Thanks for sharing your story

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