Wedding planning comes with a list of to-dos, and quite a few of those tasks may seem a bit daunting. And while the idea of making your own wedding cake and/or desserts on top of everything else sounds even more intimidating, it is totally possible to pull it off—especially if you love to bake!
If you’re planning a more intimate wedding, an at-home celebration, or even an elopement, a large, multi-tiered cake simply may not be the right fit for your big day. While a baker could certainly make adjustments to fit the request for a smaller soirée, it might make more sense for you to make your celebratory sweets instead. And there are plenty of places to look for inspiration when you're ready to get started. "Start by looking at the overall theme of your wedding," says Nicole Redd-McIntosh, the owner of Nicole Bakes Cakes. "Invites, flowers, your dress details. Also, Pinterest is a great source of inspiration," she suggests. Once you have an idea of what you'd like to make, whether that's a simple cake, cookies, or multiple types of desserts, it's time to get baking.
Meet the Expert
Nicole Redd-McIntosh is the owner of Nicole Bakes Cakes, a boutique online bakery based in Southern California.
Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of going the DIY route, along with tips and tricks for planning success.
The Pros and Cons
Taking on the challenge of making your own wedding cake or dessert definitely has its upsides. However, it’s important to consider both sides of the equation to be sure it’s the right fit for you.
- Fueling a Passion: If you’re someone who loves to bake at home, this endeavor might be a natural fit. Perhaps you’ve even been thinking about this for years, collecting ideas on a Pinterest board for when the time came. If it’s important to you that you mix up your own desserts for your wedding, that’s certainly enough reason. After all, the day is all about you and your soon-to-be spouse!
- Creative Control: Wedding dessert bakers are some of the most creative in the business, but if you want to truly control your vision, this may be the best choice. Only you know the exact concept in your mind, and if you’re up for executing it, the power of creativity can be incredibly fulfilling. But that doesn’t just apply to décor. If there’s a certain, meaningful recipe you’d like to incorporate into your wedding, nothing compares to homemade.
- Cost Saving; Much of the cost from wedding confections comes from the labor involved in making them. Certainly, ingredients are a factor, but professional bakers also need to consider the time and energy spent in preparing an elaborate design. Making your own wedding desserts can certainly help with your overall budget. Just be sure you’re not only doing it to save on costs. It’s important to only think of that as an added potential benefit.
- It Takes Time and Effort: Perhaps the biggest downside of making your own wedding desserts is the fact that it requires quite a bit of time. Leading up to the big day, you may have a to-do list a mile long. Be sure you’re able to manage the time and effort it requires to whip up these treats, along with balancing other tasks.
- It Requires Skill: Of course, baking desserts for a crowd does require some aptitude. If you’re new to baking, your wedding day probably isn’t the best time to test your talents in this area. Remember to only dive in on this challenge if you’re confident in your baking skills to avoid any excess stress.
How to Get Started
If you’ve decided that making your own big day treats is the right fit for you and your partner, there are a few tips and tricks that will help to make the process go a lot smoother.
Map Out Ingredients
The key to making desserts for any occasion is to go at it with a plan. Map out and write down everything you plan to make, along with a detailed list of ingredients required. Look at the recipes you’ll be using, and then plan out the amount of each ingredient needed, such as bags of sugar, bags of flour, or cartons of eggs. Plan to buy a bit extra so you have plenty of ingredients on hand in case anything goes awry.
Redd-McIntosh emphasizes that you want to ensure you're sourcing the highest-quality ingredients for the special day, too. "When looking for the best and highest quality ingredients, look to grocery stores like Whole Foods, specialty stores like Erewhon, and your local farmer's markets, which have great produce, flour, and eggs," she says.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Making a plan for the order in which you’ll bake desserts is helpful as well. If you’re just planning to do your cake, home in and focus on that. If you’re planning a display of cookies, brownies, and rice crispy treats, plan out which items you’ll tackle first. Be sure to consider the timing of baking as well, giving yourself enough time to prep, without sacrificing flavor or texture by letting treats sit too long before they’re enjoyed on your big day.
You'll also want to plan for the number of guests you're going to serve the cake to. "When thinking about the guest count for your cake, 50 percent to 75 percent of your guest count is a good rule of thumb to determine how many people to serve," explains Redd-McIntosh.
As you’re mapping out your plan, take the kitchen in which you’ll be baking these treats into consideration. The oven you’re used to using at your house may be very different than the one at your parents’ house or even an Airbnb.
Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate
Just because you’re planning to make your own wedding day sweets, it doesn’t mean you have to go at it alone. If your mother or grandmother are skilled bakers, bring them into the mix to help out. When it comes to the big day, be sure to delegate for someone else to set up your dessert display, such as a bridesmaid or another trusted friend or family member. The last thing you’ll want to be doing is plating cupcakes in your wedding dress.
Consider Transportation Logistics
This might be the most important note of all. Once you’ve put all of the time and effort into making your own wedding desserts, be sure you have a plan for transporting them to the venue safely. If you’ve planned your wedding at home, or you baked everything at the same location as where you’re tying the knot, this will be easy. For those traveling to a venue, a few additional steps are required.
Be sure you have something secure to put your baked goods in. If you’ve made your wedding cake, a tall cardboard box with one side cut to create a flap can help with transportation. For cupcakes or other small desserts, be sure you have proper dessert boxes to help keep them in place while in motion.
Many grocery store bakeries will sell cake boxes and plastic cupcake containers to keep your goodies safe if you ask at the counter. Or, you can check for options at local cake or craft stores.
Tips for Making Your Own Wedding Desserts
Keep in mind that it is totally okay to plan a simple spread. Baking your desserts doesn’t have to mean a large, elaborate menu. "Cupcakes are a great, simpler dessert that can be easy for couples newer to baking," says Redd-McIntosh. "Brownies, blondies, and cookies are also great. For something a little fancier, you could make shot glass desserts, filling shot glasses with chocolate mousse, panna cotta with fruit, or no-bake cheesecake." Here are a few of our favorite options:
Consider a Dessert Table
If you have your sights set on a multitude of beautiful sweets, a dessert table is definitely the best option. This will allow your creativity to truly shine, whipping up multiple desserts to deck out the table. Plus, options such as cookies, brownies, and mini cupcakes tend to be a bit straightforward to tackle at home than baking and stacking a multi-tiered cake. Consider creating a display with a mixture of homemade and store-bought confections, and then fill in with other treats such as beautiful jars of candy. As dessert tables generally look a bit more whimsical than one show-stopping cake, they can be less daunting to put together.
Opt for Mini Desserts
One of the simplest ways to tackle wedding desserts is to go mini. And for a small crowd, this could be the perfect fit. Consider choices that can be cut up and plated in a beautiful way, rather than tackling a large wedding cake. Using pretty cups to make mini parfaits, making rice crispy treats and decorating them with colored white chocolate and dried flower petals, or utilizing store-bought pastry dough to put together beautiful fruit tarts are all great options.
Tips for Making Your Own Wedding Cake
If you’re an experienced baker, putting together a multiple-tiered wedding cake with stunning piping or a watercolor design may not sound daunting at all. And if you’re able to pull it off, more power to you. For those without as much baking and decorating experience, there are still a few options to put together a homemade cake that’s ready for a wedding.
Stick to a Single Tier
Making your own wedding cake could be the loftiest endeavor you ever tackle. But with a bit of skill, creativity, and plenty of patience, it is achievable. For a smaller crowd, consider baking a single-tiered cake. "If you are going to make your own cake, I would make a smaller single-tier cake," says Redd-McIntosh. This, she explains, avoids the tricky implementation of cake stacking.
Make Mini Cakes
Want to consider a smaller undertaking, but still hoping to include cake in the mix? Consider making mini-tiered cakes for each guest. Cake can be baked in large, rectangular pans and then cut out with round cookie cutters. Stack these mini cakes with frosting in between the layers and decorate with simple adornments for a sweet look.
Don’t Knock Naked Cakes
For those without as much frosting or decorating experience, a naked cake or semi-naked cake may be the perfect fit. These cakes pull off a rustic look on purpose. Stacking a cake without frosting on the outside, or frosting a cake roughly and then scrape some of the frosting off is quite a bit easier than tackling a fully buttercream frosted confection. Plus, then you can add adornments such as cascading florals or fruits to dress it up.
How to Dress Up the Desserts
For many, pouring a bunch of rainbow sprinkles on top of their wedding desserts might not be the look they’re going for on the big day. Luckily, there are plenty of other elevated options for simple dessert décor.
Use Plenty of Florals and Greenery
Using florals and greenery is one of the simplest ways to dress up a homemade wedding cake or cupcakes. Plus, they can hide any flaws the cake may have if the frosting isn’t quite as smooth as you had hoped. Work with your florist to deliver extra flowers and greenery on the day-of. Add a cascade of stunning blooms down the front of your cake, or add a tiny blossom or sprig of lavender or fresh thyme on top of cupcakes. Pressing dried, edible flowers onto wedding desserts is another stunning way to immediately elevate the look.
Go for Fruit
Decorating a wedding cake with fruit is a classic look, and there are so many options to choose from. Dress up the sweet with bright citrus, moody figs, a variety of berries, or even cherries to add a simple, beautiful touch.
Decorate With Other Desserts
If you’re opting to only make your cake, and you’re looking for decoration inspiration, why not outsource? Who says you can’t pick up macarons or mini doughnuts from a bakery to use to dress it up? Bake and frost the cake, and then utilize these sweets to enhance the look.
Pick Out Pretty Cupcake Liners
If you’re planning to put together a cupcake display for your wedding, there’s no reason to stick with a plain white paper liner. To immediately elevate the look of cupcakes for a wedding, search for cupcake wrappers that fit the bill. A search on Amazon or Etsy for wedding cupcake wrappers or cupcake liners will produce a multitude of options to easily dress up your cupcakes, from lace-detailed liners to glittery gold wrappers.