By Traci Downey
Owner Traci’s Sweet Surprises
Top Ten Questions When Choosing a Wedding Cake.
[media-credit name=”bigstockphoto” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]Q: WHAT SHOULD I DO BEFORE MY
Start thinking about what you want your cake to look like. “Brides don’t have to come with a picture of the cake they want, but the consultation is harder if they come in and don’t have any idea [of what they’re looking for],” says Traci. She suggests thinking about shape (round, square, something more unique), colors, and the number of tiers –
– just enough to get a rough idea. Traci also encourages brides to use lots of adjectives when describing their wedding style. “If they’re talking about being ‘chic’ and ‘elegant,’ ‘whimsical’ or ‘over-the-top,’ it’s a great way of figuring out what their style really is,” she says.
Q: WHAT SHOULD I ASK THE CAKE BAKER
DURING THE CONSULTATION?
Since you’ve done your homework (refer to question #1), you’ll have plenty to talk about at your first consultation. If you haven’t seen the cake baker’s work from an online portfolio, ask to see one when you get there. You should also ask how far in advance the cake is made. “Decorations can be made months in advance, but I bake the day before,” says Traci. And, as with all of your vendors, after your first meeting you should feel like you can trust them with all the details of your wedding day. “You should feel the confidence the baker exudes, and that should help narrow your choices,” says Traci.
Q: HOW EARLY SHOULD I START LOOKING?
This all depends on two things: your priorities and your budget. If the food, especially the cake, is very important to you, then make sure you start your search early to give yourself plenty of time to choose. “But for most people, about four to six months in advance is great, booking early will save stress down the road” says Traci. If you are in an area with a large population, having your order in early will help to prevent loosing your choice in a baker.
If you’re going with a custom design, go about six months in advance to give the baker plenty of time to design and then revise that design based on your input. Bottom line:
If you’re paying for a custom cake, make sure you allot yourself enough time to get exactly what you’re looking for.
Q: WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A CAKE BAKER?
“If you have a specific style in mind, you should go to a cake baker who works with that style,” says Traci. For instance, if you want a unique topsy-turvy cake, you may not want to go to a cake baker who specializes in more traditional white wedding cakes and vice versa. A decorator may specialize in buttercream or fondant decorating, Traci recommends asking if the cake baker is versitible.
Q: DOES A CAKE BAKER DESIGN A CAKE FROM SCRATCH EVERY TIME?
Not necessarily. This is one of the differences between customizing (starting a design from scratch) and personalizing (slightly altering a preexisting design) your wedding cake. “As you’re looking through the cake baker’s portfolio, see if you can mix and match certain parts of different cakes,” says Traci. “Ask if you can change the color of the ribbon on one that’s in the portfolio as opposed to trying to reinvent the wheel.” I suggest to each of my brides to make the cake their own, it’s ok to almost copy a design, yet preferred for the cake to be a reflection of the bride.
Part of the cost of the cake has to do with how much labor goes into making it. So, if a cake baker has made that type of cake before and knows it won’t be too labor-intensive, you can still request a few minor changes and not break the bank. The wedding is about celebrating your love, I do not feel the cake should destroy their budget. I’m always willing to reconfigure, offer options for the cake to fit the budget, yet remain beautiful.
Q: DOES MY CAKE NEED TO MATCH MY WEDDING COLORS?
While it’s great to have a wedding color scheme, when it comes to your wedding cake, you may need to back off a bit. Asking for a cake with bright orange or blue frosting may not look that appetizing to your guests — even if the cake does taste great. Instead, Traci suggests you use only the cake decorations to incorporate your wedding colors.
“Use the colors as an accent, but keep the cake white or ivory,” Traci says. “Sometimes, you know, when you have to add food coloring, it does produce an off taste. And though food coloring is edible, if it’s added to your icing, it may not always come out
tasting the same.”
If you do want a color, Traci suggests you stick to a flavor that naturally produces that
color. For instance, using strawberries or raspberries to have a pink cake or a honeybfrosting for an ivory cake.
Q: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FONDANT AND BUTTERCREAM?
Fondant is a smooth cream confection that you often see on the outside of wedding cakes — and make no mistake: It can be a real treat to look at. Despite that, most people don’t actually enjoy the taste.
“Too many times I’ve seen people pick up the icing with a fork and throw away the fondant,” Traci says. Since fondant is usually more expensive than other icing,Traci suggests that budget-savvy brides can skip it entirely. Instead, use buttercream icing.
“With buttercream, you can get that same level of smoothness in the icing, but it’s a much richer, more flavorful taste,” she says. “Plus, you can change out the flavor and have everything from vanilla to fruit.”
Q: CAN I MAKE MY CAKE MYSELF?
All right Julia Child, step away from the kitchen. In the days leading up to your wedding, chances are the last thing you’ll want to do is be baking a cake — even if your wedding is less than 50 people. Good cake bakers will make their cakes the day before your wedding (and sometimes even the day of!) to guarantee you get the freshest one possible. And our guess is you won’t want to leave the rehearsal dinner early to go home and bake.
Plus, even if you’ve made stellar birthday cakes in the past, this one is a little different. “I could put together a cake in four or five hours, but it would probably take [an average bride] most of the day,” says Traci.
Q: HOW CAN I SAVE MONEY ON MY WEDDING CAKE?
One of the main ways that brides can save on their cake and still get a pro-looking product is by choosing to personalize rather than customize the cake (as mentioned in question #5). Ask your cake baker if there are any predesigned cakes available.
If you or a family member truly wants to make the cake, Traci also has a few suggestions for that. “You can buy professional sugar flowers and add them to your cake,” she says. Some cake shops sell sugar flowers separately with the idea that brides going the DIY route can add them for a professional touch. You can also use them to cover imperfections or to simply incorporate more color into the cake.
Q: DO I HAVE TO CUT THE CAKE?
Technically no; it’s your wedding, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. However, cutting the cake gives your guests a chance to “ooh” and “ahh” over the unique design that you worked out. If you decide against a cake cutting, make sure you
have your caterer or baker set aside a few slices for you and the groom so you can enjoy the cake later. “I do not recommended saving the top tier for your first anniversary,” Traci says, “ask the baker to include a free 4″ round cake for your anniversary within the cost of your cake. I offer this service to each of my brides, a fresh cake is much better than a year old squishy mess.”
If you decide to cut the cake, traditionally it’s cut towards the end of the evening, but you can also choose to do it right after the dinner so that you can dance the night away without any interruptions.