You can't have a wedding without a wedding cake. But a grand, lavishly decorated wedding cake can cost hundreds of pounds. If your budget is already stretched, there's a delicious and affordable alternative to having an expensive wedding cake made at a bakery. You can make your own three-tier wedding cake with basic baking ingredients and supplies. Making a dramatic tiered cake can be tricky, but if you follow these steps carefully you can have your cake and eat it, too.
Mix the ingredients
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (325F) and spray the bottoms and sides of the three round cake tins with non-stick cooking spray. The tins should be 15 cm (6 inches), 22.5 cm (9 inches) and 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter. Each tin should be 7.5 cm (3 inches) deep.
Put 2.5 litres (10 cups) of sifted flour, 45 ml (3 tbsp) and 5 ml (1 tsp) of baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
Sift these dry ingredients together. Beat 20 egg whites in a medium-size copper bowl. The copper bowl will give the egg whites more volume. The egg whites should be at room temperature.
Add a pinch of salt to the mix and stop halfway through the whisking to add a few drops of lemon juice. The lemon juice will stabilise the egg whites. Beat the egg whites until they're stiff.
Add 625 ml (2 1/2 cups) of softened butter or margarine to 1.25 litres (5 cups) of granulated sugar in a large bowl. Mix these two ingredients together until the mixture takes on a creamy texture.
Add one quarter of the flour and baking powder mixture to the sugar and margarine mixture and blend with an electric mixer on slow speed. Add a splash of milk and continue to mix. You will alternately add one quarter of the flour mixture and the milk until all of the ingredients are mixed.
Add 10 ml (2 tsp) of pure vanilla extract to the mixture and beat well.
Fold in the egg whites gently.
Bake the cakes
Pour 750 ml (3 cups) of the batter into the greased small round tin.
Pour 1.5 litres (6 cups) of the batter into the greased 22.5 cm (9 inch) round tin.
Pour 2.75 litres (11 cups) of the batter into the greased 30 cm (12 inch) round pan.
Bake the cakes for about 25 minutes. Check to see if they are done by inserting a toothpick into the centre of each cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done.
Allow the cakes to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Loosen the edge of the cooled cakes from the tins by running the knife between the cake and the pan.
Flip the pans over and allow the cake tiers to slide out on to a cooling rack. Let them sit until they cool completely.
Make the icing
To make Champagne buttercream icing, beat 625 ml (1 1/2 cups) of shortening and 625 ml (1 1/2 cups) of butter together in a small bowl.
Add 30 ml (2 tbsp) of Champagne and mix well.
Sift 2.25 litres (9 cups) of icing sugar into the shortening mixture and beat it until it's smooth and creamy. Add more Champagne if the mixture isn't smooth enough. This mixture should make about 1.75 litres (7 cups) of icing, enough to cover the entire three-tier cake.
Assemble the cakes
Cut each tier in half horizontally with a serrated knife. You should cut all three tiers, giving you six layers all together.
Set the bottom half of each tier on to a cardboard circle that corresponds to the size of the tier.
Spread a thick layer of strawberry jam on top of the bottom half of the largest tier.
Cut off the tops of the strawberries and then slice each strawberry in half.
Place the flat, cut side of the strawberries on top of the strawberry jam. Cover the entire surface of the tier with the strawberries. With a spatula, spread a thick layer of the champagne buttercream icing on the strawberries. Place the top half of the cake tier on the icing.
Add jam, fresh strawberries and icing in the same manner to the two other bottom pieces of the tiers. Place the top halves on the bottom halves. You should now have three tiers, each tier composed of two layers of cake with strawberries and icing in the middle.
Brush any loose crumbs off the tiers.
Spread a thin layer of icing on the top and sides of each cake tier. This is the crumb layer.
Place each tier in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Remove the tiers from the fridge and insert a non-flexible straw into the centre of the largesr tier and then four straws around the centre in a square formation. These straws should be about 5 cm (2 inches) from the edge of the tier. Cut off the protruding ends of the straws so that you have a flat, even surface on the top of the cake tier. The straws will support the tiers and keep them together.
Place the largest tier on the platter that will be used to present the cake on the wedding day.
Insert straws in the two other tiers and trim them.
Place the medium-sized cake tier in the centre of the largest tier. Keep the cardboard circle underneath the tier. Place the smallest tier in the centre of the medium tier, again making sure you keep the cardboard circle beneath the tier.
Ice and decorate the cake
Spoon out a dollop of icing on top of the smallest tier. Smooth the icing on top of the tier and down the sides with a spatula.
Smooth the icing down each tier generously.
Once the entire cake is covered, wet the spatula and smooth away any bumps, crumbs or creases in the icing. Wet the spatula as many times as you need; the water will help smooth out the icing.
Add fresh flowers, strawberries and icing to the tiers. You can be as creative as you like. Go for a simple look or make a complicated, detailed design.
Bake the wedding cake 48 hours before the wedding.
Wrap the uniced cakes in aluminium foil if you need to store them before icing and assembling them.
Add fresh flowers to the cake on the day of wedding so they don't wilt.
Make sure any flowers added to the cake do not contain any harsh chemicals.