As a young lass (or lad) growing up, you’re probably used to cake at parties. After all, a birthday party without cake and candles is really just a get together in my book. That said, for the grandest of your parties, you must have the grandest of all cakes!
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about what a wedding cake is. If you don’t know that by now, you have problems too big to solve through a web article.
But simple as they are, here are the FAQs most couples have when purchasing.
Are they expensive?
Yeah. They’re a lot of dough! Sorry. Couldn’t help it. On average, Americans spend $575 on their wedding cakes and average around $3 per slice.
Why do some wedding cakes taste really bad? Are they frozen or baked fresh?
Ever been to a really great wedding, eaten a delicious meal, and had it topped off with a something that tasted like styrofoam wrapped in stale butter? Chances are good that the cake you ate was baked the night (or two) before and frozen until ready for serving. Not all frozen cakes are bad. They are baked to be frozen, and most good bakers know how to bake in a way to preserve the moistness and flavor you expect (and pay a fortune for).
Most bakers are reluctant to tell you whether your cake will be baked fresh or frozen beforehand. But you’ll get a good ideas based on how many weddings they can do in a weekend. If they’re serving cakes for 10+ weddings in a single weekend and it’s a small one-shop operation, there’s a pretty good chance the cake is being frozen beforehand. Otherwise, it’s mathematically impossible to bake 10 huge cakes in one morning.
How do bakers set their price?
One of the big cost drivers is the number of levels of your cake, or in cake parlance: “Tiers.” The higher the number of tiers, the more baking there is to do. Not only that, wedding cakes become more fragile as you add tiers. This adds to the complexity when delivering and will increase your pricetag.
Also, you should consider whether the cake tiers should be stacked right on top of each other, Big Mac-style. Or if you want small columns separating the layers of the cake.
Should I get fondant vs. buttercream frosting?
In my opinion, this decision comes down to one of taste vs design. People who make wedding cakes love fondant because it frees up their design possibilities. You can color fondant to any shade (think Tiffany blue!), mold it to any shape, and it’s easy for the baker to work with.If you plan on an elaborate design, or prefer an untextured look, fondant is for you. Be warned, however, that many people don’t like the way fondant tastes. It has a thick waxy feeling to it and is very sweet. It’s something to be tasted before purchased.
Buttercream frosting is when your focus is on taste. Hello people?! It’s got the word “butter” AND “cream” in it. The word alone tastes delicious! Buttercream is more of a traditional frosting style for wedding cakes, because of it’s white color and universal taste appeal. It can be used for almost any cake flavor (fruit filled, chocolate, vanilla, etc.).
What flavors do wedding cakes come in?
But…oh how the times have changed! These days you can fill your cake with just about any type of fruit, liquer or cream center. You can even mix the cake layers so some are different flavors from others. A surefire way to find the first compromise for a newlywed couple! Be warned, however, that some bakers will charge you extra for having multiple flavors in the same cake. Definitely ask upfront if this is the case with your baker.
What fruit fillings go in wedding cakes?
If you decide to go with a fruit filling (and I highly recommend that you do, and then invite me to eat the leftovers), you should always be focused on picking a fruit that is in season at the time of your event. Remember that wedding cakes are ordered well in advance of the wedding day, so the fruits in season at the time of order may be different than what’s in season on the wedding day.
Ordering out of season fruit generally increases the cost, and adds risk that your cake won’t taste as fresh baked.
How does a cake that big fit into the backseat of my Civic?
Great question. It doesn’t. It fits into the back of your baker’s cargo van, and sometimes they charge you for this service. Make sure you ask if there are delivery fees associated with the cake. This can be hidden, so be sure to ask. Also ask how much decorating the baker will do when they drop the wedding cakes off. Will the dress it with flowers? Or leave it on the door step for someone else to “deal” with?!
What about the cake provided by the wedding reception site?
What about ignoring it? That cake is being outsourced to a baker skilled in the creation of wedding cakes, then it’s being brought to your wedding and added to your bill with a nice profit markup for the reception hall. There is almost no instance when it makes sense to order this cake over one you can get direct from a baker.
Be warned, however, that some reception facilities will CHARGE you for bringing in a different cake. They will refer to it as a “plating” fee or some other such nonsense, but it can cost over $1 per person if your facility charges such a fee. Better to ask upfront to avoid any surprises to your budget.
How many cake pieces do I need?
All you need is this formula: # of Guests – 10 = Number of Pieces needed.
Are wedding cakes coordinated with the reception flowers and other decorations?
You bet they are. In fact, wedding cakes are often the centerpiece of the décor for many weddings. Your baker will be familiar with his/her role as it relates to dressing up the cake for the wedding. But you should always discuss specifically what the baker will do upon delivering the cake. Sometimes the florist decorates the cake, but many bakers are happy to use the flowers that are being used for your wedding. But that means the florist needs to set aside some flowers to be used as cake decorations, and that means the flowers need to be delivered before the cake is delivered. See how that all ties together?
Keep in mind too that when using fresh flowers as cake decorations, be sure that none of them have been sprayed with pesticides or other inedible chemicals.
What do I do about a cake cutter?
Traditionally, couples pulled out a fancy cake cutter (like Excalibur or something) to make the ceremonial first cut of the wedding cake. The cake cutter then became another memento from the big day. If budget is an issue, we suggest you add a cake cutter to your gift registry as an item a guest might provide for you.
Alternatively, bear in mind that the reception halls almost always have a decorative cake cutter you use for your cake cutting. That prevents you from having to buy your own.
What is the groom’s cake? And do I need one?
Traditionally, the groom’s cake was a dark fruitcake and was sometimes served by the groom during the rehearsal dinner. Sometimes the groom’s cake was a few small cakes that were individually wrapped and handed out to guests to take home. The female guests would tuck these cakes under their pillows that night and dream of the man they would one day marry!
Today, the groom’s cake is still popular at southern weddings but in other regions it is seen as a completely optional way to add some extra flair to the wedding. It’s the one opportunity the groom has to show his affection for football with a cake shaped like a football helmet! Usually the cakes are dark (outside and filling), and there’s a good chance if you order it from the same place making the wedding cake, you can get a pretty significant discount on it.
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