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NOW How To: Selecting A Wedding Cake

White "naked" cake with gold drip decoration and fresh flowers by Kimbla's Cakes | Photo by : Twisted Eye Photos
White “naked” wedding cake with gold drip decoration and fresh flowers by Kimbla’s Cakes | Photo by : Twisted Eye Photos

Written by: Jean Hailey

A wedding cake is the universally served creative confection for all weddings. (Almost) everyone loves wedding cake. The newlyweds deserve to have a cake that is not only delicious, but one that you both will remember forever. Luckily, the days of tasteless and dry wedding cakes with uninteresting icing are over. Today, cakes provided by artistic bakers and caterers are a literal banquet for both the eyes and lips. Wedding cakes are both visual and culinary extravaganzas. These artistic bakers are creating cakes as edible art. Bakers can fashion cakes that look like gift boxes, ships, musical instruments, city landmarks, square shapes, heart shapes and any other imaginable shape.

Many couples still go with the traditional-looking wedding cake, but inside this wonderful package might be surprises such as; carrot cake with cream cheese, pound cake with lemon filling, chocolate cake with mocha mousse, classic genoise with white chocolate icing, even cheesecake with ice cream. While many wedding cakes are still mainly white, whimsical designs and colorful accents can turn them into a visual and edible work of art. You can have whatever kind of cake you want, after finding the perfect baker to create your dream cake. It is all up to you, the baker, or caterer’s creativity.

Floral Wedding Cake by Gambino's Bakery | Photo by: Images by Robert T
Floral Wedding Cake by Gambino’s Bakery | Photo by: Images by Robert T

STYLE DECISIONS

Your cake should coordinate with the rest of your wedding. The wedding cake decision should be made after you have made the decisions about the style, theme, and reception décor. These basic decisions can serve as a guideline for the design of your wedding cake.

Many couples are choosing to use fresh flowers to decorate the cake or cake table. If you choose flowers for your cake, be sure they are pesticide-free flowers. You will want to coordinate between your florist and baker to decide who will do that aspect of the decorating.

Choose a cake that is well suited with the venue’s style, the season, the flower arrangements, or the menu. You may want colored accents such as sugar flowers or icing ribbons. Have samples of fabric swatches for your baker if needed. Along with your creative baker, create a cake that will be a beautiful part of your wedding, not a sideshow.

FLAVOR

One of the hardest decisions can be the selection of the flavor. You might consider a multi-flavored cake. This is a wonderful option if you want to give your guests diversity. Some couples choose a layer of chocolate cake, layer of carrot cake and a layer of traditional almond cake. This adds a little something for everyone. Ask your baker for ideas. Seasonal possibilities, such as light lemon cakes filled with fresh strawberries in the summer, or chestnut puree in the fall, will complement seasonal menus. Wedding cakes should look good but should also taste good for all the guests waiting for that first slice. The texture and flavor of the cake is important so when you’re out shopping don’t hesitate to ask for samples of cake flavors. You may taste cakes with a different flavor for each layer, from mocha with Kahlua to hazelnut praline crunch. You may savor the taste of the always-popular carrot cake with cream cheese icing, a delicate angel food cake or even cheesecake stacked and layered with fresh strawberries and decorated with whipped cream.

Four tier wedding cake with fresh flowers between tiers by Haydel's Bakery | Photo by Jessica The Photographer
Four tier wedding cake with fresh flowers between tiers by Haydel’s Bakery | Photo by Jessica The Photographer

WHEN TO SHOP FOR YOUR WEDDING CAKE

Begin shopping for the wedding cake six months to a year before the date, even earlier if you’ve requested a truly unique cake, if the bakery you have chosen is very popular, or if you are being married in a peak season. Make sure that you are familiar with the style and quality of the chef’s work before you buy.

When shopping for the perfect baker, come prepared. Be sure to bring all the specifics about the size and type of wedding your are having, as well as information about the reception location, room décor, ceiling height, temperature, lighting, linens, and wedding colors. Also have the names and numbers of your caterer, florist, wedding planner, and anyone else the baker may wish to contact in order to consult and coordinate the details and delivery.

Inquire whether the baker bakes fresh or works from frozen cakes. Some will bake early in the week, and then freeze the cakes, decorating them on Friday. Generally this involves handling the finishing touches on the day of the wedding. Fresh will probably taste better.

 

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Cake featuring the art of Terrance Osborne
Cake featuring the art of Terrance Osborne by Gambino’s Bakery | Photo by: Eleonora Barna

Most importantly, interview bakers in person, ask lots of questions, bring photographs of designs that you like, and then determine if they are qualified to create the impression you are looking for. As you check out their portfolio, make sure that you are looking at cakes that they have actually made personally, and not just pictures in magazines and books. Magazines and books are great for exciting ideas, but you need to see the baker’s actual workmanship and level of proficiency. It is your responsibility to find the perfect cake designer, but it is your designer’s responsibility to grasp your dreams and make them a reality.

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR WEDDING CAKE BAKER

• How many years have you been in business?

• Do you have references?

• Is your health department licensing up to date?

• May I see your portfolio?

• Have you made all of the cakes in your portfolio yourself?

• Do you charge additional for each layer of the cake being different flavors?

• Do you charge additional for fillings

• Is there a delivery fee?

• Do you rent equipment (such as cake stands)? If so, what is the charge?

• What type of retainer fee do you require?

• When is the balance is due?

• How soon do you bake the cake before the wedding?

• What time will you deliver the cake on my wedding day?

• Do you customize cakes, or do I have to pick a design in your portfolio?

• What days are best for me to reach you?

• Do you have cake tastings?

• Do you provide fresh flowers or do I get these from my florist?

• Have you won any awards for your talent?

• Do you specialize in any particular technique or art form?

Black fondant wedding cake by Kimbla's Cakes | Photo by: Twisted Eye Photos
Black fondant wedding cake by Kimbla’s Cakes | Photo by: Twisted Eye Photos

PRICING & CONTRACTS FOR WEDDING CAKES

Wedding cakes are usually priced per person. But the baker determines what the per-person charge will be. When you place your order and make your deposit (usually 50%), get a written agreement or contract that specifies the kind of cake, filling and frosting, the number of people it will serve, the design details you have agreed upon, and the delivery date, time, and procedure. Also, put in writing any additional fees or rental charges, and ask how the final payment is to be made (cash, check, or credit card).

Once you’ve found your baker, don’t take a chance of losing them. Sign an agreement and pay a retainer fee so that someone else doesn’t book your day and time. Remember to get copies of receipts and keep them on file for your records. Remain in contact with your baker and update them on your most recent ideas. Collect photographs of cakes from magazines, websites, and books so that you can give your baker a visual representation of what you want.

Gold and white wedding cake with pink flowers by Haydel's Bakery
Gold and white wedding cake with pink flowers by Haydel’s Bakery

WEDDING CAKE DO’S & DON’TS

• Keep the weather in mind if your reception will be outdoors. Direct rays from the sun could melt the frosting.

• Cakes don’t tolerate heat, particularly those made with butter crème icing, nor do they tolerate wind. Cakes should be kept indoors, if possible, or in the shade. If the cake will be placed outdoors, first place it in a refrigerator or freezer, if possible. (Do not freeze it, however.) A cake made with a jelly-type filling will also withstand heat better than one with a thicker cream filling.

• Place the cake in a location that is level, otherwise, the layers may tip or slide. Shim the table legs if necessary to make them level.

• Cakes that have pillars between the layers are more apt to tip or collapse than those in which the layers are stacked on top of one another or placed on individual pedestals.

• Have the cake delivered as late as possible so that it doesn’t stand for several hours before being cut.

• By considering your location and choosing a style of cake that works best in that location, you can have a lovely cake without unpleasant surprises to spoil your day.

 

Wedding Cake with handmade fondant flowers by Kimbla's Cakes
Wedding Cake with handmade fondant flowers by Kimbla’s Cakes

 

For many couples, a wedding cake is a major part of their reception. There are hundreds of alternative and fun ideas for wedding cake designs that will surprise and delight all of your guests. The cake may be the only thing that you have a chance to sit down and eat the entire day, so make sure it’s delicious and an amazingly, sweet, sweet selection.

Check out the vendors on THE NOW LIST for expert advice and creative bakers or caterers.

MORE WEDDING CAKE INSPIRATION

(click each photo for details)

Gambino's Bakery Chalkboard Cake. Photo: Lauren Carroll Photography
Gambino's Bakery Ornate Wedding Cake
This Two-tier Naked Cake With Watermelon Pink White Chocolate “drip” Finish By Gambino’s Bakery Sits Atop A Glass Base Supported By A Dozen Miniature Fish Bowls. PHOTOGRAPHER: Brian Jarreau Photography
Gambino's Bakery Day At The Races Cake. Photo: North Photography
Gambino's Bakery Wedding Cake: Photo: Jessica The Photographer
Gambino's Bakery Wedding Cake. Photo: Brocato Photography
Geometric Wedding Cake By Kimbla's Cakes | Rentals By True Value Rental | Florals By Mitch's Flowers
Fondant Draped Wedding Cake By Kimbla's Cakes
Fondant Wedding Cake By Kimbla's Cakes
Hexagon Wedding Cake By Kimbla's Cakes
Fondant Wedding Cake With Round And Hexagon Tiers By Kimbla's Cakes
White Wedding Cake With Texture And Flowers By Haydel's Bakery
White Wedding Cake With Yellow Flowers By Haydel's Bakery
A Beautiful Cake Made By Haydel's Bakery Perfectly Represented The New Year's Eve Theme. Photo: Eric Bordelon, Studio Tran
Cake By Royal Cakery | Photo: Arte De Vie
Cake By Royal Cakery | Photo By: Calvin Gavion
Cake By Chasing Wang | Photo By: Lance Nicoll
Cake By Frosted Fantasies By Nikki | Photo: Hi Volt Studios
Cake By Frosted Fantasies By Nikki | Photo By Marc Eric
The Wedding Cake, Designed By Chasing Wang, Featured Six Tiers Covered With Marbled Fondant And Accented With Fresh Flowers And Geometric Decorations.
The Focal Point Of The Reception Was The Towering, 7-tier, Wedding Cake.
A Suspended 7-tier Cake Added The Wow Factor To Doliecha And Kenneth’s Wedding.
Harry Only Eats Red Velvet Cake, So Dewanna Made Sure Their 7-tier Wedding Cake Had Red Velvet And Chocolate Layers In Addition To The The Traditional Wedding Cake Flavor. Cake By Kupcake Factory | Photo By Prince Photography
PHOTOGRAPHER: GK Photography

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