Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wedding Cake Timeline

Recently, I had the honor of making a small wedding cake for some of our closest friends here in Indy.  I also made 15 or so pies, but that's another story (read about it here)...  The cake itself was very simple and classy, just a small two layer 6" round white almond cake with apricot filling and buttercream icing.  Like the wedding, the bride asked that it not be too fussy - just simple, elegant, and tasty.  Super easy order, right?  Well, add in a full time job (including working pretty much up until the ceremony that day), a very curious toddler, and 15 pies to make the day before, and now it seems a little more daunting.  Completely doable, but definitely requires planning.  So I started researching timelines for making wedding cakes, in terms of when to bake, fill, crumb coat, decorate, and if/when to freeze, how to store/transport, and so on and so forth.  It's amazing how much goes into this one little tiny piece of the wedding!  Who knew? 

Basically, what I found was that it is pretty common to bake the cakes a few days before and freeze them while still warm.  This locks in the moisture, makes the cake easier to fill/ice, and saves you some time as you get closer to the big day.  Definitely not an essential step, but made absolute sense for me.  Here was the timeline I used (and loved!):

In this case the wedding is on a Friday...

Monday - bake the cake.  Once cooled enough to handle (as warm as you can stand) level the tops and turn cakes out onto a couple layers of plastic wrap.  Wrap tightly, adding a third layer if needed, then cover with foil and place each layer in a gallon ziplock bag.  Place in the freezer immediately to seal in the moisture.

Tuesday - fill the cake.  Remove cake layers from the freezer and spread filling between them.  Stack the cakes, then recover in plastic and foil.  Return to the freezer.

Wednesday (or as it ended up, Thursday morning)- make the buttercream and crumb coat the cake.  The crumb coating is essential to prevent crumbs ending up in your final icing layer.  Apply a very thin layer of icing on sides and top of the cake.  (Freezing the cake also helps with this step since the cake is hard and not as fragile.  Plus the buttercream will harden quickly).  Using a small amount of buttercream, adhere bottom of cake to a cake board cut to fit the cake, cover with plastic wrap, and place cake in the fridge.  Cake will begin to slowly thaw.

if you don't have one already, get a turntable for decorating!
Shawna & Dan gave me one years ago for my bday - it was life-changing!

Thursday - final coat of buttercream & decorations.   This should be done at least an hour or two after the crumb coat to give it time to set.  Be sure to put a nice thick layer of buttercream on this time and decorate as desired.  Unless you are using fondant, return cake to the fridge until delivery time.  If you are doing multiple layers, decide if you are going to put the cake together before or after delivery.  Be sure to have dowels and cake boards ready to stack the cakes.

this was a simple but elegant icing technique.
simply take an angled spatula and run around the cake in a spiral
then make a small spiral on top.
try not to be too obsessive about it - the imperfections give it a beautiful rustic feel.

I tried a few different arrangements,
but decided on this simple off-set sunflower look.

Friday - deliver and set up the cake.  Then enjoy the day!  Even as rushed as I was, I had plenty of time to set up the cake and pies and decorate the table a little (using baskets and candles the bride brought and some extra flowers from decorating the cake).  The bride and groom (along with a couple attendants that tried it) loved the cake. 

the finished dessert table - how pretty did it turn out?!

I was thrilled with how well it held up, even after hours of setting out on a warm and humid Indiana day.  I will definitely be using this method again (and soon)  for my brother's groom's cake in a couple of weeks.  Hopefully this will help you with all of your wedding/ birthday/ holiday/ any day celebration cakes.  It was definitely an eye opener to me and so much easier and more manageable to do one step at a time.

the beautiful couple

thumbs up from the groom!


  1. I’ve been searching for some decent stuff on the subject and haven't had any luck up until this point, You just got a new biggest fan!.. creative cakes orange ca

    1. Oh wow! Thank you so much. I'm so glad it be helpful. I adore making cakes and learning to spread the work out over multiple days has really helped my process (especially since I'm a full time pharmacist and a full time Mama!). Your kind comment just made my morning :)