When I was 12 or 13, I remember being the hostess at my cousin’s wedding. One of the first things that I saw when I walked into the reception hall was this beautiful wedding cake. For years, I dreamed of a fairytale wedding cake just like hers. The cake was tall, separated by columns with a few tiers, although I can’t remember exactly how many there were. At the top of the wedding cake were the bride and groom, and on the side were the bridesmaids and groomsmen standing on staircases that led to the top. The staircases were also connected to smaller cakes that adorned the side and underneath the cake was a fountain. I think many brides remember the era of the big cakes with all kinds of special decorations on them. I just stood there amazed and looked at her beautiful wedding cake decked out in the colors of the wedding and dreamed of the day that I would cut into my own wedding cake that looked just like that. That cake was probably the second most admired part of that wedding.
As brides, we want that reaction to our wedding cakes as well. We want people to mill around it and admire the creation that is a symbolic of a couples new union. We have dreams of hearing those “ooh’s” and “ah’s” and the conversations about the décor, the colors, and the height of the cake. The right wedding cake should take the breath away of all your guests, and make them anxious to take a bite.
The wedding cake is one of the major elements of the wedding day. Because it is such a big purchase, much time and purpose needs to be dedicated into making the perfect cake. If you have never planned a wedding before, you may have a hard time figuring out where to start. Well, by the end of this article, I hope that you will have a clearer understanding about what you need to create that wedding cake of your dreams.
The Shape Basics
First, let’s focus on the different shapes of most cakes. The shape of your cake is very important because it can affect the number of people that can be served and the price as well.
Round: This is the traditional shape of most wedding cakes and is still widely used by most brides. Because the shape of the round cake is the most simplistic, it is usually the least expensive; plus it’s usually easier to decorate.
Square: The square wedding cake is, usually, used by brides that want to break away from the traditional round cakes; but at the same time, they still have the look of a basic wedding cake. The square cake can be more expensive because it may require more labor. Oftentimes, the baker has to cut the sides of the cake to make them look sharper and neater.
Heart: For those eternal romantics, this is the cake shape for you. Again it may be a bit more labor intensive depending on how it is to be frosted and decorated. It’s also important to keep in mind that the amount served from this shape may differ from that of other shapes.
Mad Hatter: This is for the couples that really want to have a more whimsical & fun feel to their wedding cakes. These cakes are usually uneven & slanted shaped. This is for the bold couples that are not afraid to be different. Instead of the traditional wedding décor, these cakes are usually decorated in bold colors and patterns.
Hexagon: This is a cake with six sides. This is another shape that is growing in popularity because it is a deviation from the traditional round wedding cake. Again, the price of this cake is more expensive than that of a round cake because of the time it will take the baker to cut and frost these cakes, but the finished product can be absolutely breathtaking.
You basically have two different types of icing – butter cream and fondant.
Although there are a variety of recipes for making butter cream icing, it is usually made with butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla. It has a thick but creamy texture that is easy to cut through. For a bride on a budget, butter cream icing is a great way to go because it is usually cheaper than fondant. It can also be used as a filling for your cake as well. A downside to butter cream is that it can melt in hot settings, so if you are having an outdoor soiree, butter cream icing may not be your best option.
Fondant is made from sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin. It is very elastic in texture. With fondant, you can literally roll it out with a rolling pin. Because of its strength and elasticity, many bakers use it for unique architectural designs. It can be shaped and molded into many different designs. Fondant is usually more expensive because it is more labor intensive.
Your Dream Wedding Cake
One of the things that you may have been thinking about since you got that rock on your finger is what your wedding cake will look like. If you are anything like me, you have already flipped through the wedding and bridal magazines and even looked at the pictures on the wedding websites in order to get an idea of what you want.
I think a great way to figure out what you want in your cake is to think about your personality and what you like. Do you like for things to be grand and theatrical? If so, you may want a tall cake with lots of decoration. Are you planning a small wedding reception with a few friends and family and think that a huge cake for 200 is ridiculous? Maybe you want something simple in stature and design. Your personality should be key in deciding what you want. When thinking about my wedding cake, I just thought about my style when it came to decorating and how I dress. I don’t like for my house to look cluttered. I want everything neat and in its place. When choosing clothes, I tend to stay away from crazy patterns; I like a well-put-together classic, yet modern look. So knowing that I liked things to look sleek sophisticated, and clean, an intricate design for my wedding cake isn’t something that I am interested in. I decided that my dream cake would have three tiers with white frosting and the cake decoration will follow suit.
Another good way to figure out what kind of cake you want is to think about the theme of your wedding. Think about whatever motifs you will sprinkle throughout the wedding, the cake should reflect this as well because it will be a focal point in the reception. If you are having an urban sophistication theme, should you really get the grand cake with the tons of flowers flowing from it? Maybe not, however, a cake of this magnitude may be great for a garden theme. So once you pick your wedding theme, your cake will take its shape (no pun intended).
Money Saving Tips
As you may have noticed, certain small details can really raise the price of your wedding cake. One of the most important things to keep in mind, when choosing a cake, is the amount of people that you plan to serve. Part of your price depends on the number of guests that you will have. This is one reason why cutting the guest list can always bring down budget costs. This is especially true if you are paying for a cake that has pricing that is based on the slice. For instance, if you have a cake that is $1.50 per slice and you are inviting 300 people, your cake without any décor will be $450. So one way to keep costs down is to keep the guest list as small as possible.
Another way to keep costs down when it comes to your dream cake is labor. The more intricate your cake decoration details are the more your costs will increase. If you want a 4-tiered cake with a lace-like pattern, understand that someone must do that pattern which can take hours to recreate. Certain patterns, piping, or detailed frosting designs can take a lot of time and work. Remember, this labor increases your price. So, if you want to keep cost down, make the decorations simple.
Fresh flowers on the cake always bring cost downs. As brides, we are completely intrigued by the gum paste flowers that are edible and beautiful. I mean, they look like the real thing and they mimic every detail of the real flowers. Because they do, these beautiful details cost. If you decide to decorate using fresh flowers instead, your décor can still be as breathtaking without the exorbitant prices.
Ribbons are a simple way to bring your wedding colors into your wedding cake design. This way you can decorate your cake without raising the price. Because my tastes are quite simple, I love the idea of putting a thick beautiful ribbon around the cake and pinning it with pearl pins. This is a very simple way to decorate and the pearl gives a look of sophistication to the cake as well. Again, using ribbons instead of icing as a decoration choice can make for a beautiful wedding cake without the large price.
Go to the grocery store. Every visit to the grocery store is like a visit to your cake baker. As I begin shopping at my local grocer, I always see beautiful wedding cakes staring at me. These are cakes that are designed by the grocery stores in-house staff. The quality of the cakes on display is a true testament of the level of talent these bakers have. Who at your wedding will actually say, “This is a terrible cake because it came from the grocery store”? People in the wedding industry, along with many other socialites, will make you feel that a grocery store wedding cake is a cheap cake that will taste bad and is bad for your guests. Don’t listen to them. Every cake that I have had from a grocery store has been delicious, and many of the guests, at weddings that I have planned, have said that the cakes were delicious (and they had no ideas that it came from their local grocery store). Many grocery stores will work to match your colors as well as your decoration needs. They are even willing to set up cake tastings with you, and some even have faux layers to offer!
Have a fake cake. Many brides are doing it to get the drama of a beautiful wedding cake without the price. They will have a faux cake, and in the back is a sheet cake cut up for the guests. This is a brilliant idea for brides on a budget. Bakers can do faux cakes because many of their store displays are fake cakes. This is not something that a baker may offer, but you can always ask. If you want, you can have it where only part of the cake can be fake. This way you can still have the cake cutting experience.
Stay simple with flavors. My mom wants chocolate. I love carrot. He likes red velvet. His mom has to have almond. Getting a cake with a variety of flavors sounds grand, but more than one flavor can make the cost rise. The most inexpensive flavor is probably, the simple white or yellow cake. Some bakers will increase the price depending on what flavor you choose or if you choose more than one flavor, so this is a good thing to keep in mind. Again, you must ask yourself, will your guest really have a bad night because the cake was simply yellow? I have never been to a wedding where I was just sorely disappointed because of the flavor of the cake. I am usually taken by the wedding cake’s appearance anyway.
It’s very important to keep in mind that, simple shapes equal less money. Wedding cakes are works of art, and more and more bakers see themselves as artists pushing the limits and making wonderful edible masterpieces. So, if you want a cake shape that is hard to ice or decorate, you will have to come out of pocket to pay for it. Round cakes are the cheapest and the easiest to decorate. Whereas, frosting a heart shape cake may take more time and care, and most importantly money!
Time To Meet Your Baker
Before you meet with the baker, you need to have a sure idea of what you want in a wedding cake. If you don’t, going to the baker or any other wedding vendor, for that matter, can make your budget grow in a matter of minutes. As an example, think about buying a house. You don’t usually go house hunting unless you have a good idea of what your buying budget is. You have to know “how much house you can afford”. The same thing applies to planning your wedding and meeting with your baker. Make sure you have a firm idea of what your budget is and what it can get you before making any visits, because the first thing you will see before you even meet the baker are the beautiful wedding cake displays, which can carry you into another world.
Make sure to shop around. I do think it is appropriate to visit with at least 3 bakers. You want to be able to shop around for the best deals that you can find. So, don’t be so eager to book the first person that you talk to. Meet with them. Check out their websites. Do some research. Ask for references. I was planning on meeting and booking with one particular wedding baker because their prices were perfect. When conducting research for my clients I always check with the Better Business Bureau. And in this case I found out there were 2 negative complaints related to this vendor concerning their product and delivery. Research – Research – Research!
Make it clear with the baker what your budget is upfront. That way you all know what you are working with. You can sit and taste all the cakes that you want only to find out that they are way above your price. Knowing what the budget is up front helps you and the baker to find something within your price range and it saves everybody time.
Ask questions. Don’t be quiet while the baker makes arrangements for you. Make sure all that you want can be accommodated. That is the only way you will get what you want. Here are some questions you can ask the baker.
o How are your wedding cakes priced?
o Can you customize a wedding cake or do you just work with certain styles?
o What are your different cake flavors and fillings?
o What type of icing do you use? Fondant? Butter cream?
o Are there any extra fees that are not included with the base price?
o Does the price listed include the top tier?
o How far in advanced will my cake be made?
o Who will be the actual one baking my cake?
o Do you have a cake-cutting fee?
o How do you deliver the cake?
Get everything in writing. When talking to the baker, make sure that everything is in the contract. If you want the delivery to be at a certain time and the baker agrees, make sure it is in the contract. This can also include who is actually baking and decorating your wedding cake. Make sure it includes all pricing and what should happen if you cancel. All details should be in the contract. This way there will be no confusion about anything on your big day, which helps cut out unnecessary stress. It also helps to go over the contract a few days to a week before the wedding with the baker to make sure that everything you want will be handled. Happy Cake Hunting!