I am baking my daughter's wedding cake, and I would really like to have as much done in advance as possible. That leaves time to re-do anything that isn't good enough. The neighbour has offered me the complete use of a small chest freezer, so I have the room, but I don't know how far I can take the process and still have a nice product. Do I freeze the layers:
1. Naked (no icing)
2. Crumb coated?
3. crumbed and buttercreamed?
4. Crumbed, buttercreamed and fondanted? (is that a word?)
5. all of the above plus any royal icing decorations?
Obviously wrapping is a HUGE part of getting it right, but how far can I go in pre-fabbing the layers?
On a related note, how well does a butter icing (not half high-ratio shortening) do in this situation? Can I use it under fondant or is there something I don't understand that will make it a fatal error?
I always use a butter icing under fondant and it turns out fine. As for the freezing, I usually freeze my layers (wrapped in saran and then a layer of tinfoil) without any icing. You could freeze them crumb coated and fully iced as well and I think you would be fine. Never freeze or refrigerate royal icing as the moisture will break down the decorations. I wouldn't freeze the fondant either. Some people refrigerate it, but I never have as I use MMF fondant and have found that it sweats if I put it in the fridge. Can't imagine what it would do in my freezer
I use a butter icing all the time under fondant (Swiss Meringue Buttercream) with no problems (I chill my icing before applying fondant though, because it's softer than shortening/powdered sugar icing and I need a firm surface for smoothing the fondant).
When I freeze cake, I freeze it un-iced. If anything I might go so far as to crumb coat, but I wouldn't freeze it finished because wrapping it would mar the surface that I worked hard to smooth and I don't want a mess or have to re-do work.
I refrigerate fondant all the time now (I was nervous about it at first), but I haven't had a problem. Just don't touch the surface until it has come to room temperature. I have also read that refrigerating in a box will help inhibit condensation from forming on the cake. I would not freeze a fondanted cake though, for fear that the excess moisture during thawing would ruin the surface of the fondant.
You can bake and freeze your cake pretty far in advance though, I've had tightly wrapped cake stored for a couple of months with not effect on taste or texture. Buttercream stores pretty well in the freezer as well, just let it come to room temp and re-beat it and it should be OK.
As MOB, I'm sure you'll be super busy the weeks before the wedding, so I completely understand wanting to prepare as much ahead of time! Good Luck with everything