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Choosing the Right Baker for Your Wedding Cake
Choosing the right baker for your wedding cake can be nerve-wracking, especially considering that you pretty much have to accept what shows up on your wedding day, and there won’t be time to come up with something else if it’s a disaster.
How much should you be paying?
How do you know you can trust them?
How do you know the cake will even taste good?
These are many questions soon-to-be-brides are asking themselves. And the biggest question is at the top of the list.
Where do you even go looking for good bakers?
There are so many bakers available to you in every area and so many different characteristics you should be looking for, no matter where you start looking, you’re bound to find a good one. The key is going to be patience, persistence, and a lot of research.
The purpose of this article is to give you specific characteristics to look for along the way to make this process a whole lot easier on you. Planning your wedding should not be difficult or stressful, and finding the right baker shouldn’t be either. To avoid a cake crisis on your special day, here are some guidelines for choosing the right baker to work with.
What do you think is a reasonable price for a wedding cake?
Communication is the Key
Do you feel comfortable speaking to your baker? Did he or she set aside time to meet with you and figure out just what you want? Is there a real exchange of ideas happening? Is your baker getting inspiration from the clues you are providing as to what you would like?
When it comes to good communication with a tradesperson, such as a baker, you should not have to articulate every little detail. You have a general idea of what you want and that’s all you should need. The baker knows what can actually be done, what can’t, and what is feasible within your budget. Those things should all come to mind as he or she listens carefully to what you have to say.
You should feel like he or she understands you, your wedding day vision, etc. They should be asking questions about your decorations, your dress, your colors, your wedding party, etc. A good baker will want to know what you want your whole wedding to look like, so they can design a showcase cake that will fit in well with the overall style of your wedding.
If you are meeting with a baker who doesn’t seem curious about all these details, doesn’t seem to be coming up with ideas to make your dream cake a reality, or who is trying to rush through your consultation, get up and go find a new baker.
Experience is a Must
Ask your baker about his or experience. Will this be their first wedding cake? If they’ve done weddings before, they should be able to provide you with pictures and thank-you notes from past brides. You definitely want to see what they are capable of before you decide whether or not to work with them.
Also, some bakers have one technique or style that they are good at, but cannot do anything else well. So, if you picture fondant for your wedding cake, and this baker has nothing but beautiful butter cream wedding cakes, you will want to ask about his or her experience with fondant. And you’ll definitely want to ask for a sample-sized cake if no pictures are available.
You don’t want your wedding day to be anyone’s learning curve. I say this with the voice of experience. I’ve had a bride on a teeny, tiny budget that insisted on allowing an intern baker in her restaurant to make her wedding cake to save some money. While the cake was beautiful, it was barely edible. None of her guests seemed to enjoy it, and even she and her husband couldn’t finish their pieces.
They requested a pink champagne cake and yet got a hard, pink, bitter sponge instead. Even though it sounds like a good deal, and you’re sure that it can’t be that bad, don’t hire someone who lacks experience. You can always afford better, and there are always other options.
One way to find out about any baker’s experience is by requesting references. Talk to several real couples that used that baker’s services for their wedding cake to find out whether they received the cake they requested, whether it arrived on time, how much it cost them, etc. Ask any and all questions you can think of including whether or not they would recommend their services to other brides.
You’ll find out whether this is a good vendor quickly. But consider that bakers are only going to offer you references of those couples that will give them good references. It’s important to consider other baker qualities as well.
Taste the Cake
I can’t tell you how many brides I have known who have ordered a cake flavor they’ve never tried before, based only on other brides’ recommendations, only to really dislike it on their wedding day. You never, can I say NEVER, want to order a cake without trying it. One baker’s pink champagne is going to be much different than another’s.
Even classics like white or yellow can go dangerously wrong and can be open to interpretation by the baker. Many brides feel like they’ve tasted cakes from one baker so they’ve got a good idea what they’ll all taste like, and now all they need to do is worry about price. They are so many different ways to bake a cake.
Consider just the ways you can make one at home. 1) You can use a cake mix and pretty much guarantee that it will come out okay, 2) you can use all generic ingredients and make it from scratch, but everyone has their own recipes, and 3) you can take your time, choose just the right recipe, buy the best ingredients, and practice until you get the process just right.
If you have this many options, how many do you think professional bakers have? Expect some cakes to be dry as a bone, some to taste bad, some to taste good, and some to be too soggy. That said, you will ALWAYS want to taste each baker’s cake before deciding on one. And don’t just taste a few of the flavors.
Don’t think that just because one baker’s German chocolate cake is good that the flavor you want will also be good. Many bakers have specialties that they are better at than others, and those are probably the ones you will be tasting. Whatever kind of cake you choose, you need to taste a bite of that cake by that particular baker before signing any contracts. When it comes to taste, all cakes are not created equal, at all!
Bring Your Vision With You
You should bring pictures, swatches, and your cake-topper with you, if you have them, especially if you have a very specific vision for your cake. Bring it all along, and balk at any baker who balks at your vision. A baker (or any vendor) should be excited and grateful about you bringing along all the things that can help them see what you want.
Anyone who claims to be in the business of wedding cakes knows that every bride pictures her wedding day right down to every detail, including her perfect cake. It makes sense, then, that every bride who puts forethought into her cake appointment and shows up prepared is even more important to please. It sounds silly, but the right baker will take note of your very specific wishes and try to deliver.
Brides who show up with a vague idea and say “do what you want” will get that, whatever the baker wants to do that day. Maybe he or she has an important date to keep and rushes through the not-so-important cake. Don’t let that be your cake! Bringing these visuals with you not only helps you show the baker exactly what you want, but will help you rule out the ones who aren’t right for you. Any baker who isn’t interested in these items isn’t the right baker for you.
Finalize Costs Before You Sign a Contract
Many wedding vendors try to leave pricing open-ended because they honestly don’t know how many people will actually be present on your big day, how long you will end up needing to keep them, how much food or booze your guests will go through, etc. Your cake is different.
Any bakery can tell you what their ingredients cost them, how many people can be fed from a cake of a given size, and how long it takes them to create various types of decorations.
Whatever you want, from butter cream adorned with real flowers to fondant topped with edible Disney characters, your baker should be able to give you a price by the time he or she knows exactly what you want. If not, this person is not honest, experienced, or knowledgeable enough to be making your wedding cake.
Even the cake boss himself gives his clients a price beforehand, and he calls if something unexpected comes up that will change anything, especially the price. Your baker should not be seeking to pull one over on you and double the budget you verbally discussed.
A trustworthy vendor will give you everything on paper ahead of time, before you sign the contract. If you don’t see all the indicators of reliable pricing when you meet with your baker, you will certainly want to find someone else.
Whether it’s on-line or by word-of-mouth, the quality of each of your local bakeries are no secret. You won’t have to dig too hard to find out the good, the bad, and the ugly about each one. It’s worth putting in the time, so do some investigating before you even set foot in a bakery you’re considering.
It’s easier to avoid the wrong people all together, than to fall in love with their false promises only to find out from everyone later that they won’t deliver. Let’s face it; no one likes to cancel on a contract, and those professionals don’t like returning deposits! So, avoid the sticky situation and do your best to only meet with bakers who have good reputations.
High-quality establishments will understand when you go to an initial consult and don’t put down a deposit. They understand that you want to shop around, but are reasonably certain there’s no major reason you won’t be back. They won’t make you feel bad about saying you’ll be in touch in a week or two if you decide to go with them.
There you have it! Now you are a cake-buying expert! Too bad you can’t use these same hard-won skills again in the future. However, if you stick to these basic guidelines, you should be able to at least pick the right baker for your wedding cake. You’ll have a beautiful, delicious cake that is the right size and fits well with the rest of your wedding. Whether you want classic and simple, or something truly Cake Boss, you can find the right person if you know what to look for. Now all that’s left is to enjoy your cake! Mmmm…
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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness