Second only to the glorious creation that is the bride’s wedding gown, which makes her the centerpiece of the ceremony, is her wedding cake. It’s the centerpiece of the reception and no matter how modest in size or minimalist in design, it’s the one must-have you simply can’t do without.
Wedding cakes used to be white with a little lace, a cute little bride and groom figurine or a pair of lovebirds in a cage, and maybe a hint of color from the bride’s bouquet done in frosting roses made from royal icing (the hard crunchy stuff). Now pastry chefs are a breed unto themselves and often try to outdo each other. Stacked up luggage, cruise ships, bullets (yes, bullets)—if you doubt it, just watch a wedding cake episode of The Cake Boss. Or check out this video that you’ll have to see to believe. (Remember Kaley Cuoco’s upside down wedding cake?)
That was some wild ride, even just the first twenty seconds. Now back to reality (whew!) and let’s talk about your gorgeous – and realistic – creation.
There are two, and only two, must-have’s when it comes to your wedding cake: It must be beautiful in your eyes, and it must taste good to your guests. Choosing this pivotal confection is another thing, though. So here’s a little guide to get you started on not just your wedding cake, but also desserts, which are a lot of fun to include.
Number of Guests
Your guest list not only defines your budget. It lets you know how many servings of cake and other sweets you’ll need. If the photo you look at for your design lists “Serves 150” you may need more or less cake depending. Your baker will have a chart or worksheet to help you figure out exactly what you need.
Hint #1: If you’re having a small wedding but want a wow! cake, ask your baker if he or she can put in a fake layer or two (usually cardboard or Styrofoam).
Hint #2: If you’re having a larger wedding, but don’t have the budget for the five tiers you need to feed everybody, ask your baker to make a 3-tier cake, then have sheet cakes in the kitchen for the rest of the servings.
Usually, you should order your wedding cake six months before the wedding day. Why so early? Because the best bakers are always in demand and you want the best! Also, the more elaborate your cake, the longer it’ll take to prepare the embellishments then bake and assemble, so detailed advance planning with the baker’s team is crucial. For example, handmade fondant flowers are particularly time-consuming.
Before choosing the cake of your dreams, you’ll need to do some research. Look for a cake (and desserts if you want them) to match your theme. For outdoor weddings, an adventurous cake is more appropriate than one softly-iced with intricate lace designs that might melt easily in the warm weather. Look at all the available angles before deciding on your cake. This research pays off, too, because you’ll find some designs more cost-effective than others.
The most important factor in choosing your cake is how much you’re willing to spend. If you’re on a tight budget, stay away from handmade sugar flowers, time-consuming molded figures, and other finishes. Fresh flowers or real ribbons placed on the tiers are equally personal and cheaper, too. Be realistic with your budget at the start of your wedding planning process to avoid misunderstandings with your chef. Don’t feel pressured to order a cake that’s more expensive than you need. Most pastry chefs will work within your budget and still produce an amazing masterpiece.
Before booking your pastry chef, book your florist first. Why? Because this will give you an idea as to what flowers or colors you can include in your cake design. Some brides also love their wedding gown details to be incorporated into the cake design. For example, frosting filigree on the cake could match the lace on your gown’s bodice or soft fondant draping could mimic the drape of your skirt. Find a baker or pastry chef who can accommodate your personal style. Good communication brings great results.
The flavor of your cake is also dependent upon your budget and theme. If you plan to spend a bit more on the cake, then splurge on fondant frosting and rich flavors. White chocolate and nut flavors are popular nowadays as well as fruity flavors. Red velvet, which has become popular in the recent years, is being used with nuts for a flavor kick. Rich and heavy cakes are great for winter weddings while spring or summer weddings are better with lighter cake flavors. If your budget is tight, buttercream frosting is cheaper to decorate with. Then you can use tangible personal items – ribbon, flowers, a rhinestone monogram – for design. Many people also feel that buttercream frosting tastes better than fondant, but try both before you choose.
Every bride dreams of having a beautiful and delicious wedding cake on her big night, and that’s where the fun comes in: Taste Tests! After booking your baker, schedule tasting sessions. That way, you’ll know all the flavors he or she can bake. Also, try as many samples as you can before choosing The One. Pastry chefs are also open to your suggestions. Choose flavors that are in tune with the season as well, as this will also please your guests’ palates.
Display & Artistry
Remember: Your cake is your centerpiece. It sets the mood of the reception. A beautiful cake topper also highlights the style of your cake. Cake placement, display and set up of the table matters, too. Some cake artists prefer drapes or bunting on the table or you can ask your florist to add flower touches. If you plan on having a candy or sweets buffet, make sure the theme harmonizes. Some brides prefer a separate candy buffet table, so the cake doesn’t lose its center stage position at your wedding reception. As they say, your cake must also be Instagram-worthy!
Transport to Venue
No one wants their cake delivered to the wrong venue. Therefore, be very precise with your instructions to the delivery people. There should be an entire team of professionals who know how to handle and transport the cake and desserts safely. You wouldn’t want your cake damaged or placed precariously or unattractively on the table. These days, many venues offer in-house bakers to make transport convenient. It often saves time and money, although it can limit your overall choices.
So, now that you’ve settled on your cake and desserts for your reception, don’t forget to save a slice – or two, or three – for you and your husband both during and/or after the wedding. Some couples are so distracted, they forget to have a taste of their own wedding cake! You both deserve to satisfy your sweet cravings after all those tiring months of planning, so enjoy and savor!