Have Your Cake & Eat It Too

Kimberly ArmstrongCakes & ConfectionsLeave a Comment

Cake tasting. Quite possibly the loveliest combination of words in the English language. Or, maybe it’s butter-cream frosting. Lucky you! There aren’t going to be too many opportunities to while away an afternoon sampling cake, guilt-free. Wedding planning can result in decision-overload but choosing your cake is hands down the most fun! To help  you navigate the sweet path to your personal confection perfection, consider the following topics and tips. 

Budget

As with everything associated with your wedding, decisions are dictated by how much you want to spend. And naturally, the more elaborate the cake, the more expensive. However, a beautiful cake does not have to be a budget buster. 

Cake prices are calculated by the amount of labor and hours the baker spends on the cake and on the number of guests you expect to feed. Most bakers price wedding cakes by the slice which could vary from $1.50 a slice up to $15 or more a slice. Generally, three tiers will serve 50 to 100, and you’ll likely need five layers for 200 or more guests. Just keep in mind that bakers likely have different pricing policies.

A cost-conscious bride may consider procuring her wedding cake from a supermarket bakery. Grocery stores have homed in on the wedding cake business and employ bakers with skills that go far beyond piping “Happy Birthday” greetings on standard sheet cakes. This option could offer up some sweet savings!

Labor-intensive details such as fondant icing, flourishes of sugar-paste flowers, an abundance of piping, and elaborate shapes, will result in a higher price. For cost-cutting measures, you could serve your guests “half-servings.” Or you could order a smaller version of your dream cake to have on display and for the cutting-of-the-cake photos. For the guests, you could have sheet cakes made with the same ingredients and frosting as your display cake. The sheet cakes would be “hidden” in the kitchen and sliced up by the catering staff. 

Sarah D’Ambra Photography

Another option is to display cakes as mini-cakes, rather than a towering stack. This provides an opportunity to offer more flavors too. 

It may be hard to imagine, but not all the guests will eat cake. They may have over-indulged at the fabulous taco bar or refuse to relinquish their spot on the dance floor where they’re engaged in a robust performance of “The Macarena.”   

It’s best to decide on a budget before meeting with the baker. There’s a risk you could slip into a sugar coma and lose your ability to think sensibly. 

Design

Do you have a vision of your wedding cake dancing in your head? Before your bakery consultation, jot down your ideas and explore your options. Need some inspiration? Google “wedding cakes” and try to avoid entering a trance-like state as you scroll through a gazillion photos. 

Choose a cake that’s compatible with your overlying theme, the style of the venue, the season, your gown, the flower arrangements, or the menu. It’s no surprise that beach-themed cakes are popular on the Outer Banks! 

A traditional cake is round. Square cakes offer a modern flair and provide lots of surface area for creativity. A square cake will generally feed more guests because it can easily be sliced into uniform pieces. A hexagonal cake takes a square cake to an all new six-sided level. A scalloped cake resembles the petal shape of a flower and could be stacked alternately with a round cake to add interest. Hopeless romantic? Choose a heart-shaped cake. Whatever shape the cake takes, it’s bound to taste delicious!  

Choose a Reputable Bakery  

Allow enough time to choose your wedding cake – about 3-6 months. Begin your research online. Check out the websites of local bakers and prepare to be amazed as you view the marvelous creations of the talented bakers here on the Outer Banks. Their cakes rival anything you would find in a large city. Read customer feedback and reviews. If possible, check out local bridal expos in the area. 

L to R: Sarah Keenan Creative, Matt Lusk Photography, Lori Douglas Photography

Perhaps you’ve attended a friend’s wedding recently and found the cake served at that event to be delectable. Make an inquiry to determine the responsible baker. Also, check with your caterer as they might provide wedding cakes. Ask your wedding planner for referrals as well. 

When you find a baker whom you feel will meet your needs, arrange a meeting for a cake consultation. Share some of the details of your wedding, especially the reception venue, and let them know your vision for the cake. Take along color charts, fabric swatches, photos, etc., to help convey your ideas. Ask the baker for suggestions if you’re still unsure. 

If the baker and her staff are receptive and appear to be eager and willing to please, you may have found the ideal baker. On the other hand, if they don’t take time with you or you feel rushed and they avoid answering your questions, you will want to continue searching. 

Please do not wait until the last minute! Your choices will be limited if you do. A wedding cake is a work of art and the baker will need plenty of time to devote to your custom creation. 

Flavors 

Basically, you want a cake that looks good and tastes good. Avoid choosing something too unusual as the guests might be turned off by an unrecognizable flavor. You will probably pay a substantial amount for the cake so choose something that is likely to appeal to most everyone and avoid oodles of leftover cake.

Vanilla continues its reign as most popular flavor followed closely by chocolate. Red velvet with cream cheese frosting (naturally) is a real crowd-pleaser. One surprising player to enter the fray is funfetti. Those multi-colored sprinkles pretty much scream, “Party!” Coconut, lemon curd, dulce de leche, and almond have all hopped on the flavor bandwagon. 

But who says your cake must be one flavor? You could choose assorted flavors for each layer, providing they’re complementary of each other. If you simply cannot decide on just one cake, then how about several different cakes?  Guests would love the variety. 

Sarah D’Ambra Photography

Toppers 

That generic wedding couple who dutifully kept vigil atop many a wedding cake has been toppled by more up-to-date versions. Personalized options are available, such as a couple that looks just like the two of you, with matching hair color and striking a variety of poses. A special heirloom such as your parents’ cake topper adds a touch of sentimentality. A simple spray of flowers, a meaningful quote, or banner are popular as well. Of course, there’s always the option to go topless!  

Dietary Restrictions  

Consider providing gluten-free or vegan alternative cake to accommodate guests with food restrictions or special diets. 

Delivery  

Determine whether the cost of the cake includes the delivery fee. Cake delivery and setup can be quite a complicated affair – leave it to the professionals. In most cases, they have a specially equipped cooled van to transport the cake.

Ensure there is a reserved place of honor and a stand for the cake and that the baker or delivery person is aware of its location – you don’t want to move the cake once it’s assembled. Is the temperature cool enough to accommodate the cake being on display for a few hours? Whipped cream and buttercream do not fare well in excessive heat! Have your wedding planner coordinate with the bakery to finalize a plan. 

Skip the Cake 

There are plenty alternatives for providing a sugar rush.

The stand-alone cake is being replaced with extravagant dessert tables, filled with favorite treats of the wedding couple. Guests can now enjoy a vast array of delicious goodies from bite-sized cheesecakes and eclairs to macarons, Jenga-like towers of donuts, gourmet cookies, even pies. 

Whatever confection you ultimately choose, it will be the perfect sweet ending for your day of celebration and the perfect sweet beginning for your new life together.

L to R: Sara Keenan Creative, Sarah D’Ambra Photography

Cake Trends

Professional cake artists continue to wow with their creativity. Note these trends for 2019, including some favorites held over from 2018. 

Black Cake

Bye-bye sweet, soft pastels! Hello black cake? This unconventional cake is a real attention getter. And while it might not be for everyone, it certainly makes a statement – sultry sophistication with a little mystery on the side. Dial back the black by adorning with real flowers or frosted embellishments in lighter colors. Not quite ready to go over to the dark, dark side? Consider a dusky blue or moody purple cake. Be bold and embrace the drama! 

Textured Cake 

When it comes to showcasing artistic flair, the sky’s the limit with the refined details of these cakes. Using a sculpting technique, raised piping, delicate ruffles, diamond patterns, or uniform pleats have the appearance of being embossed on the frosting, creating a look of understated elegance. 

Metallic Icing  

Seems metallics are still riding the wave of popularity. Especially when used as embellishments like flecks of gold leaf, sprinklings of gold sequins, woven threads resembling embroidery, or a glimmer added to the whipped edges of frosting. A gold rush to add glitz and glamour. Take a shine to this trend and have some fun! 

Monograms  

Stake your claim on your cake with your initials, the perfect way to add something personal. A monogram is a great way to honor your newly-shared last name or combination of your first initials. Customize the look with painting, piping, or applique. The options are nearly endless. 

Outer Banks Productions

Drip Cakes  

The name is not especially inspiring, but the effect is eye-catching. Melted white chocolate, a caramel glaze, or a rich chocolate ganache is poured over the top tier of the cake so that it drips down the sides like paint, resulting in a style that’s chic and relaxed. 

Ribbon Trim 

For a truly simple and inexpensive garnish, consider wrapping a tier of your cake in a swath of ribbon. Minimum effort, maximum effect. You might use the same color ribbon as your bouquets or choose something contrasting and whimsical.  

Textile Motifs 

Motifs such as macramé, tassels, brocade, and beaded bands that resemble luscious strands of pearls are brought to life in frosting. 

Bohemian   

The Boho wedding vibe drums a steady beat that plays to natural and organic elements. Cake draped with a garland of ivy, herbs, fruit, and rustic grapevine wreaths entwined with fresh flowers – all nods to the simplistic beauty of Mother Nature. 

Almost Dressed Cakes 

Seems the popular naked cakes have taken a turn towards modesty, choosing to allow just a glimpse of their cakey backside peak through wispy layers of frosting that lies like a feathery dusting of snow. 

Mardi Gras 

A Mardi Gras themed wedding would of course call for a Mardi Gras style cake. And that would be none other than the festive “king cake.” The bright, fun colors imbued in this time-honored confection will leave no doubt that it’s all about the celebration. And don’t forget the baby! A wish for luck to whoever finds the tiny infant in their slice of cake!  

White  

You can count on white wedding cakes never going out of style. Offering a blank slate, opportunities for embellishments are endless. Cascades of real or sugar flowers, pearls, a brocade or ruffled finish, or piping in an ivory shade or a pale pastel will add to its understated opulence. Choosing a different shape such as round, square, oval, etc., for each tier will put a new spin on this classic choice. ♥

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