I do follow the recommendations for the timeline that America's Test Kitchen gives in their book. I also follow the recipe exactly, because (as they often remind you in the book) baking is chemistry. I also would like to get a few more wedding cakes under my belt before messing with someone else's wedding cake.
One Month before the wedding: Buttercream Frosting
It freezes well, and I find it to be the quickest step, if you can count 3 to 4 hours as quick. It also uses an obscene amount of butter and eggs. That is an egg separator on the measuring cup, it came with my measuring cups and I like it best when the eggs are cold. When eggs are room temperature, I actually like to just use my hands.
I start by creating a simple syrup of sugar and water:
Then, I pour the syrup into egg whites and whip into a lovely meringue:
Then I add vanilla, salt, and butter, piece by piece. The process of adding the butter goes quickly, and I don't have the hands to photograph and add butter. After it all comes together, I put it in a freezer-safe container, cover it with a layer of Saran Wrap, put a lid on it, and then stick it in the freezer to hang out.
Two weeks before the wedding: Cake
Cake takes the longest of any part of the process because there is a lot of down time while the cake bakes. I definitely spend a whole day mixing, baking, and cleaning pans and bowls. For whatever reason, I totally failed to take pictures of any of the mixing process, baking, or cooling. I only have this one photo of the batter in the mixer. This is probably because this is the one moment where I feel like my hands are free to actually take a second to capture a photo. But, it's a basic yellow cake recipe. Cake flour, milk, eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, and baking powder. It's kind of amazing, really, that so few ingredients make an amazing cake.
The cakes then cool, get put on cake boards, and wrapped in Saran Wrap and put in the freezer. There are moments where I think I'm single-handedly keeping Saran Wrap in business. This is where spatial reasoning and creativity are very important. Because finding room for 15 cups of buttercream, plus 9 cake layers of varying sizes in a small apartment freezer takes some talent. But I manage to make it work!
In Part Two: Filling and Assembly.