I’m not sure if it’s just me, but wedding cake was one thing I never gave a thought to before I got engaged. At the moment we’re smack in the middle of trying to decide on our own cake, and it was ultra helpful to have this post in the pipeline as I was finding it hard to know where to start. I’m really not sure why that was as I’m a big sweet food fan in general! Perhaps because there’s so much choice out there, it can be a little bewildering. Today we’re going to hopefully simplify things a bit and take you through the process of designing your wedding cake, with a few helpful hints on options and how to make it personal.
The Cake Basics
This is a number one concern, especially for a destination wedding. A wedding cake sits for several hours before being served- consider where it will be during this time. Will it be outdoors? Icing can be delicate and very unstable- fresh whipped cream, buttercream frosting and mousse are too delicate to withstand heat for any long period. Even sitting for an hour at a hot outdoor reception might cause melting. The local baker you choose should be able to guide you on this, as well as your venue who will have a plan for where to store the cake on the day. Keep in mind that at a destination wedding your choice might be further narrowed by ingredients the baker has or does not have available. As well as climate, consider the feel or theme of your day. Will a 5 tiered tower cake suit a casual rustic wedding?
Personal choice comes in here, as well as what you are serving for dinner- don’t forget to think about what will go well (or not go at all) after your main course at the reception. If you’re a chocolate fan, one other little thing you might want to keep in mind is the potential mess when you cut the cake. It might be a good idea to either leave the bottom tier a light sponge or else just have a separate cake to cut if you want your main cake to be chocolate. Chocolate + white dress = potential disaster! Another thing is to remember to consider guests’ tastes as well as your own.. not everyone likes coconut cream sponge. And it is your wedding, so have a layer of that- but maybe have a few layers of a simple crowd pleaser as well.
Do you want a layered cake with more than one tier? If so, you can have the tiers either sitting on top of one another (usually kept from collapsing by means of separator plates or rods slotted into the cakes) or placed separately above each other on a tiered cake tray. Circular layers will look more traditional whereas those wanting a more modern look might want to try squares. Different shaped layers can create a quirky, whimsical look if that’s what you’re after. We’re actually seeing lots of couples dispense with layers altogether and just have a few single cakes on their dessert table, which can be done really prettily too. Think about what texture you want on the cake- this can create another dimension to the look depending on whether rough or smooth icing is used, as seen even on the two white cakes below.
Cakes are usually priced by the slice and can range from less than €2 to as much as €12 per slice. Any extras such as different shaped layers, a different type of icing (more on this below), marbled filling- basically anything not standard will add to the per-slice price. If you’re on a tight budget, one idea is to order a small elaborate cake for your display table (and for you to cut) then get a larger, more simple one to dish out to guests (these are often called slab or sheet cakes). This idea can save time as well as money by allowing catering staff to get the portions prepared while guests are eating- so by the time you and your fiancé have gone through the cake cutting, the guests’ portions will be ready to be served. Another idea is to split your guest list in half, order a cake for that amount of people, then serve everyone half portions. This may sound a little stingy- but in reality we’ve all seen wedding cake left behind at tables! One more thing.. don’t forget your cake plate. Will you be buying one or does your baker rent them out? This is another cost to incorporate, and we’ll have a post on cake plates here soon.
Make it Personal
✈ Choose your favorite flavor. What did you love as a child? If you and your fiancé have different tastes, consider having alternating tiers of different flavors.
✈ Use a family recipe. Ask your parents or grandparents- there might be one you don’t know about! Don’t forget to let guests know if you do this (you could leave a little sign at the dessert table or else announce it if you are doing a speech when you cut the cake).
✈ Tap into your cultural heritage. One example is that almonds are always used at Mediterranean weddings- if you have a Greek or Italian background you could consider using marzipan in the cake frosting or decorations.
✈ Find a family heirloom to use as your cake topper. What did your parents use for their cake? Is there a small item from your grandparent’s mantlepiece that might make a poignant crown for your cake?
✈ Use your initials in the cake decor- either on top of the cake or at the side of one of the tiers.
Incorporate your Theme
✈ Have your cake reflect the wedding colour(s)- nowadays bakers can recreate pretty much any shade.
✈ Incorporate your wedding flowers by using them as cake decoration- whether real edible flowers or those made of sugar paste. Don’t forget that fruit can make a pretty and tasty topping, and you can probably find some to fit in with your wedding colours.
✈ Use your wedding dress to inspire your cake- button shapes, embroidery or lace patterns can be used as design elements.
✈ Have your cake topper or decoration reflect your theme, for example shells for a beach wedding, rope-like piping for a nautical theme, maps or country shapes for a destination wedding.
Buttercream: This type of icing is versatile and can create a smooth or rough surface. It’s made from a mixture of butter, cream, sugar and flavoring. Be careful in choosing this one though as it won’t stand for very long before it starts to slide off the cake, especially in hot conditions.
Fondant: This is used to give a very smooth, clean finish to cakes. It is a bit sweeter than buttercream and therefore not as popular, but it holds up better under warm outdoor conditions.
Royal Icing: This icing is a blend of egg whites and sugar which hardens as it sets and ends up with a crunchy, brittle texture. It is mostly used for piping and smaller detailed decorations.
Marzipan: Almond paste and sugar which is hardened, this is used for larger edible decorations and cake toppers- the edible bride and groom figurines you see are usually made of marzipan. It is sometimes rolled flat and used for general icing as well.
Forgo the Icing: Naked sponge cakes are one of my favorites and we recently looked at examples of these. We’re really seeing these come into fashion lately and they are just so pretty! I’m seriously considering having one for my own wedding.
We’d love to hear your ideas, what kind of wedding cake you’re planning to have, or what you already had and how it worked out. The next thing on my list is what sort of cake stand to use so I’ll be talking about these in another post shortly. In the meantime we’re back tomorrow with another beautiful destination wedding!