A wedding cake is one item that appears on most people’s lists of things to order for the special day. For some the cake and more specifically the cutting of it is a significant part of the wedding experience, for others it does not feature so highly. Whatever your preference, there are a few things to consider when it comes to ordering your tasty treat.
This is something that will be entirely personal to you, your wedding and any theme you have decided on. Cakes come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from the more typical tiered cake in square or round layers to more unusual shapes such as hearts, flowers or customised carved designs.
Cakes can be decorated with flowers, either fresh cut, dried or modelled from icing or paste. Designs can incorporate shapes, figurines, logos, writing, piping, the possibilities are endless! If you are keeping a close eye on your budget bear in mind that the more expensive cakes are those with many layers and complicated designs that are time consuming from the decorators point of view. But don’t panic, this doesn’t mean you are stuck with a dreary cake, ribbons, brooches and flowers are all cost effective ways of making your cake look perfect and often it is the more simple designs that will wow your guests. Speak to your decorator about how they work out their costs, how long they anticipate your chosen design will take and any suggestions they might have for ways to reduce costs if necessary.
Consider how many guests your cake needs to feed if you are serving it at your wedding. Your cake maker should be able to give you an idea of how many people each layer or part of your cake will serve and this is often based upon each person getting a 1 inch wide rectangle of fruit cake or a 2 inch wide rectangle of sponge cake. If you have always wanted a tiered cake but are having a small wedding then your wish can still be achieved without having to have lots of cake left over! Decorators can use ‘dummy’ layers made from polystyrene which are iced and decorated just like the rest of the cake. You cannot tell the difference unless you cut them open! This is another way of saving costs whilst still achieving the cake of your dreams.
Wedding cakes are usually iced with either fondant (also called sugarpaste) icing or royal icing. Fondant icing is the soft rolled out paste that covers the cake and this can be coloured to almost any colour of your choice. Royal icing is spread on thinly in many layers to achieve a smooth hard finish, you will probably recognise this sort of icing from traditional wedding and Christmas cakeS. This can also be coloured but often looks most effective in white. Royal icing is a real skill and takes much more time to do which may be reflected in higher costs. This factor and changes in cake trends mean that it is more common to see cakes iced in fondant.
Fruit cakes and those covered with royal icing will almost always have a layer of marzipan before the icing is applied. Bear this in mind if you do not like marzipan or if you or your guests have nut allergies. Many decorators will also apply a layer of marzipan to sponge cakes before applying fondant icing as it gives a smooth, neat finish to the surface, so you should let them know if this is something that you do not want.
Again there are many choices to make with the flavour of your cake. No longer are designs confined to fruit or sponge. Wedding cakes now appear in all sorts of flavours, chocolate, lemon, carrot, coffee to name but a few and all can be matched with a complimentary fillings which often include jams and buttercreams. You may have a favourite cake recipe that is tried and tested that you could give to your baker to incorporate. A factor to consider is how the flavours may affect the design. For example, a fruit cake is much heavier than sponge, so in a tiered cake fruit cakes should appear in lower layers with sponge layers on top rather than the other way round! Also, fruit cake lasts much longer.
Once iced and if stored correctly fruit cakes will keep for years, a great idea if you want to keep a layer of your wedding cake for future celebrations like a child’s christening or an anniversary. Sponge cakes last up to two weeks once iced but are generally better to eat in the first week.
I would always recommend choosing a cake maker that you have experience of, either directly or because they have been recommended to you by someone who has used their services. If not then try meeting up for a consultation and tasting some examples of their work. The worst thing would be to spend a lot of hard earned money on a cake you don’t like the taste of!
Given all the other things you will have to think about on your wedding day I would always advise leaving the delivery arrangements to be organised between the cake maker and the venue, ideally with the cake arriving on the day of your wedding and being set up where it is to be presented. Remember that you have entered into a contract with the cake maker and until the product is delivered as ordered it remains their responsibility. Do not have the cake delivered to you or your family before the wedding unless absolutely necessary as any damage caused by you transporting it on to your venue will be your fault and the decorator has no obligation to fix this and may not have the time to do so. Handling and transporting cakes, particularly tiered cakes, is a delicate business and is best left with the professionals!
You should consider whether want to have a single wedding cake at all. Many couples choose cookies instead which can often double as favours or place settings. Cupcakes are a current trend, either on their own or displayed underneath a single layer of iced cake and can be customised with a variety of toppings. Finally, there are cake pops. These are bitesize pieces of shaped cake covered in chocolate or candy coating on a stick, a cake lollipop! These are my absolute favourite, mostly because we had cake pops in the shape of mini two tiered wedding cakes for our wedding but they really were a labour of love by the time we had made 100!
In summary, your cake is another way in which you can add the personal touch to your wedding day and the only limit, aside from budget, is your imagination!