Selecting The Perfect Wedding Cake
"Let them eat cake."~Marie Antoinette
Like many wedding traditions, wedding cake ideas are changing to meet the needs of today's couple. As the happy bride and groom share their cake with family and friends, we are reminded that the wedding cake tradition continues to be symbolic of the sweetness of life and love, fertility, prosperity and community.
You should consider choosing your wedding cake two to three months before the wedding day. Remember to keep your budget in mind when selecting the cake and baker. The price of the cake will depend upon three factors:
2) Type of Frosting
Before you go in search of the perfect wedding cake, look in magazines or online for different designs. Decide on whether you want round, square or a hexagon shaped cake. Do you want tiers, columns, stacked or something different? Do you want the cake to be smooth, woven or ornate? Once you have an idea of what you want then work with your baker to make it a reality. Even if your not sure, an experienced, professional baker will help you figure it out. It is also a great idea to bring pictures with you of various cake designs you are interested in.
A wedding cake will cost anywhere from $3.00 to $15.00 per slice. Cakes with more features and better ingredients will be more expensive. Your cake should be at least two different flavours so that your guests have a choice. If you have a wedding package at a banquet facility or hotel, it may already include a wedding cake which is great for your budget but your choices may be limited. (Just a reminder, if you plan on keeping the top tier of your wedding cake, you should let the caterer at your venue know. If you do not tell them in advance, they may end up serving it to the guests. You should also ask if you can get any leftover cake boxed. This is great as an after wedding dessert and most left over cake can be frozen.
Cost Saving Tips
As with everything when planning a wedding, cakes can be quite expensive. Here are a few tips for lowering your costs:
-Don't use labour intensive, ornate frosting designs.
-Opt for a smaller wedding cake and get a sheet cake as well with the same ingredients.
-If you have a family member or friend who's creative, you may want to ask them to decorate the cake for you. Perhaps, you can get flowers from your favorite florist to decorate the cake with, (make sure that the flowers are not toxic).
-Use ingredients that aren't as expensive.
Whenever you're in the market for services or a major purchase, you would normally do research and ask questions. Choosing a baker for your wedding cake should be no different. After all, wedding cakes come in different shapes, sizes, ingredients, quality and of course price. Here are a few questions you may want answered by a prospective baker or cake designer:
-Does he/she have sample books or a portfolio of their work?
-Will they provide a taste testing in order to sample a variety of cakes and fillings?
-Do they have references that you can contact?
-Do they offer custom work or do they produce only certain types of cake designs?
-If you like a certain style of cake that is out of your price range, are they willing to make a few modifications so that it remains within your budget?
-Do they provide items such as stands, fountains, tiers, cutters or cake toppers? If so, will you be charged extra?
-If you wish to have fresh flowers on your cake, will they coordinate with your florist or do you have to provide them with the flowers?
-Better ingredients taste great but are also more expensive. Ask what type of ingredients they use because real butter tastes better than margarine and fresh vanilla is far more robust than extract or artificial flavoring.
-What type of icing will they use?
-Wedding cakes are not made in a day, they take anywhere from three to five days because of the complexity. So, ask how long it will take to prepare your cake. If they tell you that it will take a day, don't believe them unless you have ordered a slab cake!
-Do they charge by slice? If so, what is the price range?
-Will they charge extra for special fillings or details?
-Will they charge an extra fee for something you have designed?
-Will they provide you with a price list to take home with you?
-Do they have a Cancellation Policy? If so, are there any penalties?
-Will they provide you with a written proposal?
-Do they deliver? If so, is there an extra charge?
-Will the cake be set up and touched up (if need be), by the delivery person?
Do Your Research
As with everything during the wedding planning process, there are many things to consider during your quest for the perfect cake. The search for the ultimate baker may seem daunting but some research and word of mouth will definitely lead you in the right direction. Always use a reputable baker with many years of experience and ensure that he/she have a valid business license to prepare and sell food. Some individuals prepare cakes as a side business and are very good at it. You should only use their services if you know them or they come highly recommended. You do not want a cake prepared by a novice without a license. Food that is not properly prepared, especially cakes with creams, can spoil and you DO NOT want your guests developing food poisoning! Trust this bit of advice, it is not worth the few bucks you might save.
Most Pros have a showroom with mid to large size artificial cake displays. This will help you envision what your cake might look like. A busy and reputable shop will usually have a larger selection of samples which is always a good sign. Another indication of a quality shop is their sample book. If they have an ample selection of sample books filled with their own creations it generally means that they have had a lot of business and experience.
Once you have made a decision on your cake designer, you should book them immediately with a deposit. Popular designers have pretty full schedules and can only make a certain amount of cakes at any one time because of the intricate detail involved in producing one, as well as the perishable nature of the product. It really is a first come first serve basis so don't dilly dally once you've decided. Generally, final decisions on size, style and taste sampling can be made approximately one month before the wedding. Final payment is also due prior to the wedding.
Not All Icings are Created Equal
For the taste test, you should try between 2 to 4 complimentary samples. If you are not especially wild about the flavours ask the baker to try other ones on another day. Most bakers will usually accommodate you but some may charge a small fee. Also, there are a number of wedding cake icings you should know about when choosing your wedding cake. Depending on the type of wedding you are having, (indoor/outdoor), the type of icing you choose for your wedding cake may be a factor. Here is a list of the various icings bakers and cake designers use:
Royal icing is soft when piped out onto the cake but it dries to a hard finish. This particular icing is used for decorative artwork such as flowers, latticework and beading to name a few. Essentially, it is utilized for any cake decorations that must stay firm. Therefore, it is rarely used to ice an entire cake.
Because it is so versatile, Fondant is one of the most popular icing for wedding cakes and other special occasion cakes. The icing is made from a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, gelatine and glycerine. Fondant is carefully rolled into sheets and wrapped around each tier of cake. Once on, it gives the cake a gorgeous clean finish and smooth texture. Fondant can also be colored to give it a shimmer or matte finish. Fondant can also be molded into various shapes and designs such as bows. Cakes made with fondant cannot be refrigerated so choose your fillings wisely. Fruit filling may not be a good decision so discuss it with the baker.
A wedding cake that is iced with the ever so light and soft Whipped Cream is beautiful, however, it is extremely affected by heat and humidity. Some bakers do use stabilizers so that it can stay out during a reception but in reality, this cake should remain refrigerated until it is time to cut it.
One of the most popular icing for any cake is Buttercream. It is one of the best values in terms of price per slice. It is smooth, creamy and not overly sweet and it is soft and therefore easy to cut. It is a perfect texture for decorations such as rosettes, swirls, swags, basket weaves and fleur-de-lis. Buttercream is made with real butter so it needs to be kept in a cool environment. In a warm environment, the icing will run and drip. If it must stay out, your baker can use shortening instead of butter. Once again, discuss this with your baker.
Marzipan is a paste made from ground almonds, sugar and egg whites. It is rolled into sheets and moulded into flowers and other shapes that are then painted with food coloring.
Spun sugar is caramelized sugar that's pulled into strands and formed into bows and other shapes. This icing may melt so it needs to be kept in an air conditioned or cool environment.
Pastillage is a paste made of sugar, cornstarch and gelatin. This is excellent for realistic looking flowers and decorations which dries into a porcelain like finish.
Choosing your wedding cake shouldn't have to be an overwhelming process, after all, what's better than shopping for cake. There are many decisions to make when choosing a wedding cake, as this article has demonstrated, but if you do your homework and as always, ask the right questions, selecting your cake will be "sweet".