The amount of times people say they were up until midnight (or later) doing a cake always surprises me, I have never stayed up late doing a cake! But that's because having a disabled child means I have to work around his needs so I've learnt to spread it out and fit it in with my week!
This is how I plan my week if I am doing a big cake - it might work for you too.
This is based on a cake being due for a Saturday.
Cover cake board(s) and make any decorations such as flowers, letters, models etc.
You can do these weeks or months in advance if you are really organised! Read this post for information on what you can make in advance & how to store it.
Make ganache or buttercream plus any fillings you plan on using.
TOP TIP: For a really moist cake(s) I freeze all my bakes while they are still hot! Simply wait until they are cool enough to handle (but still hot) wrap in cling film and shove in the freezer. I do this even if I need the cake the following day.
Split, fill and ganache or buttercream your cake(s).
NB I take my cake(s) out of the freezer about 30-45 mins before I need to do this.
Leave to firm up over night.
Colour your icing and then cover your cake(s) and leave to harden over night. Make any last minute decorations so they have 24 hours to harden if needed.
Stack your cakes (if necessary) and decorate to completion.
Photograph - this is SO important! Make sure you spend time on this, clean everything away around the cake & do it in front of a good background (not the dirty washing up / a plug socket) and if you're not sure how to get the best photos check this tutorial out
Edit photos if needs be.
Post your photos on social media.
By following this plan I never have more than a couple of hours work to do each day and never get stressed out. I can clean up each day so I know my ganache etc is never going to contaminate my icing.
Plus.. there's no midnight baking!!
Of course this only works if you don't take on any last minute cakes but here are some top tips I've picked up along the way which might help save you time if you do.
1. Invest in an airbrush. If you can master this technique (which is pretty easy once you know how - check out this tutorial) you cut out the need to colour your icing and can create a stunning cake in a few minutes. You could also use a lustre painting technique to do this.
2. Make lots of flowers, letters and other generic decorations in advance.. in white. That way you can airbrush them on the day to match your colour scheme and cut out any last minute decoration making!
3. Cover a couple of cake boards so you always have one ready to go. Do it in white and again colour with airbrush or lustre paint the day you need it.
4. Make sure you have a chocolate or vanilla (or other flavour) spare cake in your freezer should a last minute order come in. Most people will settle for whatever flavour you can offer them last minute so long as its delicious!
I hope this has helped you realise that cake making doesn't mean you always need to pull an all nighter!
If you're still not 100% confident in making your big cakes, don't forget I run a Big Cake class which will allow you to learn all the techniques to create a sharp edged cake!