Wedding cake 2.0

Glittering Cupcakes from Martha Stewart Weddings, features two cupcakes in gold-colored cup liners: carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and white cake with a lemon Swiss-meringue buttercream. Both are topped with edible gold dust and leaf. (Marcus Nilsson for Martha Stewart Weddings)

The long, sweet history of the wedding cake is a mix of traditions, dreams and changing tastes. So it's no surprise that cupcakes are playing a major role in the latest version of this multitiered, frosting-swirled world.

Call it Wedding Cake 2.0.

Dozens of cupcakes — tiered on decorated stands or arrayed on a table, often in a variety of flavors, colors and embellishments — let bridal couples personalize the celebratory sweet.

"The whole trend in weddings in general is to make it personal," said Darcy Miller, editorial director for Martha Stewart Weddings.

The ultimate personal touch? Cupcakes you bake and decorate yourself.

America's love affair with cupcakes is intense. "Whether it is a throwback to childhood or another way to make dessert a little more special and fun, these small cakes are a sweet spot for adults and children," NPD Group's Kathleen Cella noted. The research group found cupcake pan sales were up 14 percent in the 12 months ending September 2010, and 555 million cupcakes were eaten between February 2009 and February 2010.

Before you opt for DIY cupcakes for your wedding, realize that they require planning, a strong support team and a cup of common sense.

"In the 48 hours before your wedding, you should have no responsibilities other than being with your guests, enjoying yourself and getting last-minute stuff done that has to be done," said Miller.

However, if you love baking and you've always baked, go for it, she said. "You can make them ahead, then stick them in the freezer, though I think it's better if they're fresh."

Bobbie Lloyd understands the urge to bake the mini-cakes. "I'm one of those crazy people who catered my own wedding," said Lloyd, president and chief baking officer of New York-based Magnolia Bakery.

Remembering the 180 cupcakes she baked, "I have to tell you, it takes away from your wedding because you're stressing out about all these factors." She suggests that home bakers tackle cupcakes for small weddings of 50 or so guests.

DIY success, say experts, depends on finding the perfect first lieutenant in charge of sweets, a cupcake wrangler — an aunt, cousin, friend — with baking savvy.

"Maybe it's a collaboration with you and your aunt. Someone who is close to you so you can enjoy the process, but not someone who has to be at the rehearsal and is in your wedding party," said Miller.

Added Lloyd, "If you do cupcakes the day before and even ice them the night before, they stay pretty fresh."

"Whatever you do, practice," Miller said. "You shouldn't be doing anything for the first time at your wedding other than going down the aisle, whether it's your first dance or … tasting the food or baking the cupcakes. What you don't want the day of your wedding is surprises — cupcakes that are too sweet or too rich."

The planning

Practice: Do a practice run; do it again.

Balance: Flavors and textures, for cupcakes and frostings.