08 June 2015

[Extended] Wedding Week 2015: DIY cake stand

It’s June, dear readers, and as I alerted you last week, it’s time for WEDDING WEEK: Extended Edition!

If you want to get caught up on past years, here’s the first wedding week from 2011, the second in 2013, and the third last year (in 2012 I talked about our honeymoon instead). Even after all that, though, there’s still projects to talk about!

And as with so many of our wedding projects, the one I’m talking about today was actually accomplished by my parents. You guys, I get (or at least take) a lot of credit for our DIY wedding, but it was really my folks who did the heavy lifting. Literally – whereas I spent my time with paper products, they were building things. Like this.

No, not the cake. (Though you can see the “P” candies that my mom made – which I recreated for Baby P’s baptism party favors!) No, I’m talking about the cake stand.

Fancy, right? And they made it. I dare say theirs is a better job than Martha Stewart’s DIY cake stand.

I mentioned during the first wedding week that my parents built that, and also that we don’t have it anymore (more on that in a sec). But that means that, as with so many of our wedding projects, I don’t have process photos. I’m sorry! But I think I can describe enough in words to explain what to do.

First of all, drawing up the structural plan, which is ultimately a plywood box. This is where it’s essential to chat with your baker about dimensions. You need to know length and width (if not a square), and this will of course vary from baker to baker and cake to cake. I knew our bottom tier was 10” per side, with 8” and 6” square tiers on top. I figured there should be at least 2 inches of clearance around the cake, so that meant a 14” base.

no, I don't know where the top of my 6" tier went.
I am not a graphic artist. I am, however, too lazy to fix it.

I was tempted at first to go with a 12” base, because then it would just look like another tier. But I’m super glad we didn’t for two reasons – first, our cake could have looked rather dinky on a big circular table without a big stand to beef it up. And practically – and far more importantly – the baker has to leave the cake on a foil-wrapped board, which I marked in blue in the schematic above. See what I mean?

I honestly hadn’t factored in the cake base, so I just got lucky that our stand accommodated it! It’d be super sad if the board was bigger than the stand and the stand couldn’t be used, so adjust accordingly!

Another super important consideration, and one I hadn’t fully appreciated when we started this project, is weight. I mean, I guess if you have ever baked a wedding cake, or watched one of those reality cake shows (those are a thing, right?) you’d know they’re heavy. So I asked our baker, and she guessed our cake weighed at least fifty pounds. That means our box actually had supports built in. If you flipped it over, there was an X-shaped support underneath. I can’t show it to you now (pre-blog days, so no photos), but it was like this:

True, it makes the stand itself a lot heavier – but it’d be devastating if your entire cake stand COLLAPSED under the weight of the cake! So be sure to add that support. My stepdad actually stood on ours and it was still good to go.

Now for the final dimension – height. If the length, width, and weight were dependent on the cake, the height dimension is instead dependent on what you can find in the crown molding aisle.

For real. That pretty finish on our cake stand is all crown molding, with a bit of trim molding around the bottom.

It’s important to calculate how much you need for the perimeter – i.e., the length and width calculations described above – so you know how much crown you need. For our cake, an 8-foot piece was plenty (14” x 4 sides, plus a little extra for mitering the corners).

Then... well, I know it’s glib to say “Then just build it,” but you do! Easy for me to say, considering I didn’t do that part. But still! You use plywood for the base and sides, you use something durable like 2x4s (to the correct height) within for support, and you cut the molding with mitered corners and attach with glue or finishing nails (I think my stepfather used both). Caulk the edges, paint, and ta-da!

Yes, definitely better than Martha’s ribbon-trimmed number. Also pretty sure you couldn’t jump up and down on hers!

Now. As for why I don’t have our cake stand anymore, this beloved beautiful cake stand? Well, our cake was designed to serve 120 people, and we had a few more than that at our wedding (130-ish). We also had two flavors of cake, and because I’m the sort of person who likes to sample multiple flavors, I figured others might do the same and have more than one piece. But rather than scale up the cake to 150, which massively scaled up the price, we opted to add a “side cake” – a simple undecorated cake kept in the back with the caterer, so that if we ran out of the main cake, they could keep the slices coming. Mr. P and I were actually on the fence about whether we needed a side cake – it would be another hundred dollars, or something like that. But when our baker saw our cake stand, she said, “You know... how about we barter? If you trade me your cake stand for wedding shows and displays, I’ll give you the side cake for free.”

Considering the cake stand was made with scrap wood and paint and under $20 of molding, that seemed like a great deal to us – my parents’ talent for her talent. And with my parents’ blessing, we made the trade! While it was a little sad to trade away something that my parents constructed for our wedding, it was also the totally practical thing to do. I’m not planning on serving any 10” square, 50-lb. cakes anytime soon. We enjoyed it then, and that’s all that matters!

So if you, like me, are annoyed by insanely priced cake stands and high rental fees, then you might consider just making your own! And if you go to the trouble of making your own cake stand, see if your baker might be interested in a trade or a discount for it. It’s bound to be unique – something you’ll enjoy for your wedding and they’ll appreciate for marketing.

I think they call that “having your cake and eating it too.”

Extended wedding week continues on Wednesday!


Janice said...

That baker is so lucky that you said yes! It was/is a beautiful stand.

Tina said...

What lovely memories this brought back! Hard to believe it's been nearly five happy years ago now...
But I think you didn't give yourself enough credit in this post for having thought this idea up. In your effort to have the elegant, richly meaningful wedding you desired without being way over the top or going too far the other direction, frou-frou lots-of-tulle inexpensive, you hit the mark perfectly! When you approached us with this concept, we all got excited with carrying out the plan as we too saw that even this was more "you." It was made with love - and some newly purchased power tools... Your step-father may even look for but definitely recognizes opportunities to better his shop working conditions anytime.;-) So while this stand is somewhere else now (and I wish we knew the stories it could tell), another one could be produced whenever and now even easier. And the possibilities I can see is even wider and wower what with some color changes. Lime green would have been more casual but equally unique... Or someone could have this one color now and change to silver for the 25th, etc...
One thing I do wish we had done still though would have been to have a piece of safety glass cut to fit inside the slightly indented top. Totally not necessary what with the cake on another tray, but just a little more "finished" - and another added expense, too, of course.
Finally, I daresay, no one would have ever been the wiser about your cake stand being home-made or ending up being barter-material had you not shared these details. I hope someone else's wedding day is extra special because of this extra little bit of attention to detail like you made...