After your dress, venue and flowers, your wedding cake is going to be a centrepiece at your wedding reception, so it deserves some careful planning. There will be lots of photographs of you posing with it and cutting it, so it's worth making it a memory to remember. Read on for my top tips for ensuring your wedding cake is everything you dreamed it would be, and more!
1. Think about what you like and don’t like
As with everything else, cake styles change, and trends come and go, so there is so much choice out there! I would always recommend adding some images to a Pinterest board (or other mood board!)
Different types of cake might be:
Tiered and stacked cakes in various shapes (eg round, hexagonal, square, novelty), covered in fondant, buttercream or ‘naked’.
Cupcake Towers with or without a cake tier
Mini Cakes, including mini stacked cakes, spherical cakes or cupcakes
Cheese Wheel Cakes – a range of different types of cheese, stacked to resemble a cake - you can get all different versions of these - think cinnamon rolls, pies, cheesecakes, whatever you fancy!
Think about which of these you really love to start narrowing down your choices.
It can often be a surprise that the 4-tier regal design you were considering is closer to the £1000 mark rather than the £200 you were expecting. Remember you are paying for a bespoke, one-off, edible work of art, and that takes skill and expertise. The more complex the design, (eg ruffles, flowers, intricate piping, complex flavours etc) the more skill, expertise and time is required by your cake artist.
If budget isn’t a factor for you, definitely go all out on the design of your cake! But if you do need to stick to a budget, be honest with your cake artist on what that is. Some cake artists have a minimum order value, but they will often relish the challenge to create the best possible cake they can in your price range.
3. How many guests will you be having?
You need to have an idea on your guest numbers before you finalise the size of your cake. Your guest numbers don't have to completely guide this, but they can be a good starting point.
Consider whether your cake will be served only to your day guests or whether it will be served later on to include your evening guests.
If you are only having a small wedding, but still want the impact of an elaborate 5 tier cake, speak to your cake artist about using ‘fake cake’ for some of the tiers. This will give the effect that you are going for but you’re not having to waste a lot of cake - although, what is wasted cake?!
4. Serving your cake
When and how you plan to serve your cake is an important factor in deciding the size and number of portions you need. The main ways of serving your cake are:
Instead of dessert - as the final course of the wedding breakfast.
Your standard portion size for this will usually be 2"x1", and you will need to ensure you have a portion for each guest at your daytime reception.
You might need to check that this is an option with your venue caterers.
During the evening reception - you will need to include the number of evening guests into the equation. But bear in mind that not everyone will need or want a piece of cake, and you can serve smaller portions for this.
As part of a dessert table - if you're having a dessert table with lots of tasty treat options, it is highly unlikely that everyone will want a piece of cake. For this, you can serve smaller portions, and you only need to cater for around half of your guests
Make sure to tell the venue what portion size you would like served. Also let them know what you want to do with any leftover cake!
5. Style & Design
It is likely that your wedding cake will be inspired by the theme and style of your wedding.
You can take inspiration from things like …
Choose a cake that will fit with the style of your chosen venue. For example:
A large tiered elegant cake would suit a stately home well
Something semi-naked with fresh flowers would work well for an outdoor wedding
Your wedding dress:
Some brides choose to use the style and design of their wedding dress to inspire their cake. Your cake artist will be able to replicate elements such as the lace, pleating and beading of your dress.
If you have specific colours or designs on your invitations, you could use this as inspiration for your cake. Specific colours or flowers would work beautifully for this.
The overall style and theme of your wedding:
The overall style of your ceremony and reception can inspire your cake. Use the same flowers to decorate, or take inspiration from table decorations.
If you hate plain white cakes, go for something colourful or quirky! If there are any interests or hobbies that you have, think about including some aspect of these into your cake.
Time of year & weather:
The season you are getting married in might help you choose your style of cake. If you're getting married in the winter, think about using autumnal elements on your cake - dried flowers, autumn fruits, warm colours. In mid-summer, think about using ganache to coat your cake instead of buttercream, which might melt!
It’s also important to note that the main wedding season runs from May to September (in the UK) and cake artists may get booked up well in advance for this busy period, so be sure not to leave booking your cake until the last minute.
6. Flowers: fresh, artificial or sugar?
There are two main factors to think about when choosing flowers - personal preference, and budget.
This will ensure that the flowers on your cake match the rest of your flowers exactly. If you choose fresh flowers, it is essential to use non-toxic flowers and attached in a food-safe way. It’s also important that your florist knows how to prepare the flowers for use on your cake as some flowers can stain your cake, and there is a risk of contamination. Your cake artist will likely require your florist to provide the actual flowers.
A downside of fresh flowers is that if they are set in the cake too early, or if it is warm, they could start wilting. If you want fresh flowers on your cake, speak to your florist about ways to keep them looking their best.
Silk flowers are another option - there are so many different varieties and they can be really realistic. Buy the best quality that you can afford to make sure they don’t look tacky on your cake, and make sure they are food-safe and do not contain any toxic glues or chemicals.
Sugar flowers take away any hazards associated with using fresh flowers, and you will be able to keep them for decades to come. Your cake artist will want to know what flowers you are using and may even want to speak to your florist. If you choose sugar flowers, then make sure you choose a cake artist whose sugar flowers are of a high standard.
7. Flavours & fillings
Cake flavour options are nearly endless, and I would always recommend having a different flavour for each tier! Think about what you both like - it’s your cake and you need to enjoy the flavour of your own cake!
Also think about accounting for any specific allergies or dietary requirements. It is vital that you discuss this with your cake artist as not all bakers are able to accommodate this.
Fillings and coverings:
Fillings may include jams, buttercream, fresh fruit and curds - your cake artist will usually recommend specific fillings to accompany specific sponge flavours, but feel free to mix and match if you want to.
Cakes are usually covered in a layer of buttercream or ganache, and can also sometimes have sugar paste in addition to this.
When you're choosing fillings and flavours, think about:
The season you are getting married in: summer fruit flavours might be more suited to spring/summer weddings, whereas carrot cake might be more suited to an autumn or winter wedding.
When you are serving your cake: If you are serving your cake as dessert, choose flavours that will complement the rest of your wedding breakfast.
Anticipated weather: Buttercream cakes do not fair well in hot weather, as they may start to melt - why not opt for a white chocolate ganache instead?
8. Displaying your cake
Where and how your cake will be displayed will need to be taken into consideration with design and assembly. An outside/marquee mid-summer wedding cake will have different considerations to an indoor winter wedding in a stately home.
Your cake always deserves to be displayed in a way that gives it full advantage. Most venues will provide a separate table for your cake, but you don’t just need to go with the mainstream to display your cake. Ask your planner, stylist and cake artist for ideas if you're not sure. Floral hoops and swings are really on trend, and can have real impact.
9. Tastings and cake design consultations
Shortlist a few cake artists who you really like the style of. Don't assume that the recommended cake artist of your venue is the best choice (or that you even have to choose them). Some venues require their preferred vendors to pay to be on their ‘preferred vendor' list.
Most bespoke cake artists will offer you the opportunity to attend a design and tasting consultation with them. Some cake artists offer this as a complimentary session while others charge a small fee (which is usually deducted from the cost of your cake should you then go on to order your cake from them). Whether they charge or not is no indication of their expertise or skill, it’s just a personal choice that they have made for their business.
To find out more about what to expect at your consultation, check out my blog post here!
Most cake artists will offer the option of delivery and some will even insist that they deliver it. Sometimes the delivery costs are included in the price, whilst other bakers may quote for this separately.
Make sure you factor this into your budget as it gives you one less thing to worry about. If you collect your cake yourself and it is damaged after you have taken possession of it, whether in transit or otherwise, the cake artist will not take responsibility for the damages. If the cake artists delivers your cake, they will make sure that your cake is set up well in time and any mishaps that occur, prior to handover, are fixed.
It is worth checking your baker's terms and conditions in terms of delivery, set-up and damages. If they don’t have this in their T&C’s, make a point of asking and write this down.
Feel free to get in touch to chat more about wedding cake options, and check out my previous post with some consultation planning documents here!
Happy wedding planning!