Let Them Eat Wedding Cake

The cake is a major focal point at most wedding receptions. It serves not only as a decoration, pulling together your colors and wedding theme, but also as an important symbol. Traditionally, the cutting of the cake represents the married couple’s first shared task and is usually a key image in the wedding photos.

Today, you can choose from hundreds of cake designs and flavors, including basic vanilla or chocolate, fruit cakes, pound cakes or cheesecakes. Fillings can run the gamut from liqueurs or fruit purees to flavored mousse. If you have a favorite cake, ask your pastry chef to customize it for your wedding. Can’t decide? Please everyone by choosing a different cake for each tier.

Your cake can be frosted with basic butter cream frosting, rolled fondant or marzipan. You can add lace designs, ruffles and interesting shapes in colors to match your theme. Ribbons, flowers, bows and swirls can be created from sugar, icing, pastiage or a combination of ingredients.

Modern trends include the incorporation of more color to the cake décor. If you want to take a step beyond the traditional, ask your baker about a cupcake cake, composed of multiple tiers of individually decorated cupcakes; or consider a small traditional cake and have individual serving size copies of the cake to serve to each guest.

Cake toppers have moved beyond plastic bride and groom figurines. Consider using porcelain or crystal ornaments or family heirlooms to top your cake. Silk flowers, fresh blooms and greenery, ornate bows, strings of pearls, gold or silver leaf, colorful beads, and swags of tulle or lace can add interest and personality to your cake. Just remember to have the non-edible decorations removed before serving.

Finding the right baker
To find a baker, ask your friends. Try to remember a recent wedding you may have attended where the cake was impressive. Find out who made it. Visit bakeries and ask to see pictures and models of their work. Above all, request samples to taste. Your cake should be as delicious as it is beautiful.

Once you have chosen the baker, communicate your desires:

  • Determine the size of the cake according to the number of guests you plan to serve.
  • Agree on a design. Go through sample pictures from your baker. Take along your sketches, ideas and pictures pulled from magazines.
  • Discuss your budget for a cake. The more elaborate the cake, the higher the cost.
  • Leave samples of your wedding colors with the pastry chef.
  • Get the contract in writing.

Budgeting for your cake

The wedding cake is second only to the bridal gown when it comes to the attention it will receive. Cakes come in many shapes, sizes and price ranges. Cost is calculated per slice, depending on ingredients and labor. Average prices fall between $1.50 and $5.00 a slice, but an elaborate creation can run three to four times as much.

Make your bakery selection early, and be prepared to pay a substantial deposit to reserve your date. Most bakeries are booked many months in advance and some as far ahead as two years. You won’t have to finalize the design so early; you are simply reserving the date. Final payment is usually expected two weeks or more prior to the wedding.

Ask your designer about delivery and set-up fees. These costs are often, but not always, covered by the per-slice cost. Make sure you get a detailed written description of all services and fees.

Cutting the cost

Decide on a particular style and size of cake before asking for quotes so that you are sure to be comparing the same costs. You can always decide on a different design later.
Ask about slice size. You can’t compare per-slice costs unless the pieces are the same size. Be realistic. The couture cakes you see in bridal magazines are usually in the $10- $15-per-slice range. Ask about modifying designs or substituting ingredients. Following are a few budget-saving suggestions:

  • Choose butter cream icing over the more costly fondant style.
  • Substitute fresh flowers for expensive sugar flowers. Ask your baker to coordinate designs with your florist.
  • Order a smaller display cake and then serve your guests slices of sheet cake or a “side cake.” You can do the traditional slicing of the cake in front of your guests and then have the side cakes served from a back room.
  • Consider ordering a smaller cake that will sit on top of fake tiers.
  • Order a smaller wedding cake and then offer several more affordable desserts.
  • Be aware of hidden costs such as set-up and serving fees. Be sure they are included in the quote.

How to cut the cake

The type of reception you are having will determine the appropriate time to cut the cake. At a cocktail or tea reception, serve the cake after the guests get through the receiving line; if your reception includes lunch or dinner, serve the cake after the meal.

  • Gather the crowd and announce your intention to cut the cake.
  • Cut with the groom’s right hand over the bride’s. Slice through the bottom layer of the cake together.
  • Serve slices to your in-laws, with the bride serving the groom’s parents, then the groom serving the bride’s.
  • Pre-designate a friend or member of the catering staff to serve the rest of the guests.

Many couples save the top layer of wedding cake to eat on their first anniversary. Don’t wrap it in aluminum foil, which can allow freezer burn. Use plastic wrap instead, and seal it in an airtight plastic bag.