Choosing the perfect cake

There is great news for brides everywhere. You are no longer limited to a wedding cake constructed of dry, white cake with tasteless white icing. As with everything else, variety is the buzzword when it comes to baking wedding cakes and the days of beautiful cakes that looked much better than they tasted are over.

The new trends in wedding cakes allow brides to have a cake that not only looks good -- but tastes good too. Brides don’t need to settle for the traditional white vanilla cake with the plastic bride and groom on top any more. From fruit cake to cheesecake, icing to ice-cream, there are many decisions to make when it comes to choosing a wedding cake to suit you, your fiancé and your guests.

Icings are now available in many different forms and flavors. Butter cream and cream cheese icings are also being seen on wedding cakes, and you are not limited to a snow white icing either. True butter cream and cream cheese icings are off white and you can also choose to have your icing tinted to a rainbow of colors or have a true white icing.

Take a glance at the following tips to devise the delicious wedding cake you deserve.


Anatomy of a Wedding Cake

The traditional wedding cake calls for a tiered, white cake with butter cream frosting. But today, just about anything goes. Wedding cakes come in all different shapes, styles, flavors, colors and decorations. Your wedding cake should be individually designed to your match own personal style and taste (pun intended) as well as the wedding decor and color scheme. So, let’s start with the basics.

Shapes & Sizes - The traditional shape of the wedding cake is either round or square. But, don’t let your imagination stop there. Many shapes are now available to enhance and give a unique look to your cake. Many bakers offer oval, hexagon and heart shapes - just to name a few.

Square shaped cakes can be decorated in the style of gift boxes in beautiful designs with cascading ribbons. A creative baker can create a magnificent castle or a lighthouse, for a "seaside" wedding. But, keep in mind that a square or round cake can be cut and served more quickly, easily and will likely serve more guests.

Fancy Flavors - Having trouble choosing a flavor for your cake? Choose a multi-flavored cake. They come in so many yummy varieties from vanilla to chocolate, marble, lemon, carrot, spice and even cheesecake. The fillings get even more tempting with raspberry, coconut, strawberry, lemon, mocha and white chocolate cream.

Icing on the Cake - Most cakes are covered in a soft white or ivory icing but sometimes pastels like pink or peach can be used to match your wedding colors. You can choose a traditional white, butter cream, cream cheese, white chocolate icing, or rolled fondant. As the name implies, rolled fondant is icing that is rolled over the layers of the cake for a completely smooth and very elegant look.

Another option that looks great for summertime or outdoor weddings, is the basket weave. This is usually more expensive because the baker has to actually hand weave the fondant.

Dazzling Decorations - Here, your choices are almost endless. Some brides like to take a particular element of the wedding decor and design the cake around that theme. Bakers can decorate cakes with the look of embroidery, lace, appliqué or elegant drapes or swags. For instance, some brides will use the lace or detailing from their wedding gown as a design for their wedding cake. Bring in a picture of your gown and talk to your baker if you would like to incorporate the lace or pearl beading detail into the cake design.

Some choose cascades of fresh or confectionery flowers or satin ribbons that coordinate with the wedding color scheme. Some bakers are even painting designs on the cakes for a truly exquisite look. Cakes can even be decorated to match the bride’s china pattern using this "painted on" technique.

Fresh Flowers - When choosing decorations for your cake, fresh flowers are always a very popular choice. In addition, fresh flowers are often a less expensive alternative than confectionery flowers because there is less labor involved.

Roses, pansies, petunias, Easter lilies, tiger lilies, daisies, and orchids are often used. Choose your flowers for the cake carefully. Roses can wilt very quickly when they are not placed in water. The cake is set up and arranged sometimes an hour or more before your guests will arrive. By the time you cut your cake these flowers may not look as beautiful as when they were first arranged on the cake. Consult with both your baker and your florist for the best choice of flowers.

The Tiers - The tiers of your wedding cake can be displayed in a variety of ways including three or more tiers, one on top of each other or set on solid or clear pillars. You can be creative when it comes to pillars and use champagne glasses filled with flowers. Some elaborate designs even include bridges or a real fountain. One current trend is to unstack the cake and display each layer separately at different heights on a satin-covered table. Use flowers and greenery to complete the effect.

The Top - Many brides are foregoing the plastic figurines of the bride and groom. Instead, a popular choice is fresh or silk flowers, candied flowers, sugared fruit, or frosting flowers. You could also try a cake top decorated like a gazebo - very charming.

On the Side - Most cakes are delicious enough to stand alone, but who can resist a delicious raspberry sauce, fruit sorbet, or chocolate covered strawberries? A nice touch is to place chocolate covered strawberries around the base of the cake. Some couples may chose to feed each other a chocolate-covered strawberry rather than the slice of cake.

Your wedding cake should be as individual as you are. Choose your baker carefully - because your wedding should taste as good as it looks.


Ideas For a Unique Wedding Cake

Consider a multi-flavored cake. This is a great option if you can’t decide between flavors, or if you want to give your guests a selection of cakes to choose from. If you will be having three layers of cake, you could have a layer of chocolate cake, a layer of vanilla cake and a layer of strawberry cake -- something for everyone.

For extra flavor, have a wedding cake with filling. Talk to your baker about having a filling made of white or dark chocolate, strawberry, mocha or preserves.

What about using a modern type of icing? While the traditional soft white icing is still popular, white chocolate icing would be a delicious, and surprising, alternative.

Have a wedding cake with an unusual shape. At the moment, one very popular style is to have a cake that resembles a stack of presents. This is a fun cake, generally has two or more square layers, and is heavily decorated and tied with a bow.

For a modern-looking wedding cake, think about having your layers made in different shapes. For example, a square layer, heart shaped layer and hexagonal layer would make your cake modern indeed.

If your wedding will be having a color scheme, decorate your cake to suit. If your color scheme will be rose pink, you could cover your cake with small, romantic, pink rosebuds, either real or made of icing.

For a special touch, talk to your baker about using some of the detail on your wedding dress to make decorations for your cake. If you take a picture of your dress to your bakery they should be able to copy some of the lace, beading or other decorations from your dress onto your wedding cake.

Don’t be afraid to get sentimental. Copy the cake top your grandparents or parents used at their wedding. To make the parents of the happy couple feel extra special, serve them the first slices of cake you cut yourself, before it is taken to the kitchen to be cut and served to your guests.

Personalize your cake by having your, and the groom’s, initials intertwined in icing on your cake as decoration.

Have a wedding cake with a special meaning. For example, if you have been to France together, you may like to have a croquembouche. This is the traditional French wedding cake, a delicious tower of cream-filled pastry.

Explore special wedding cake traditions In Bermuda, a tiny green tree is used as a cake topper. After the wedding, the bride and groom can plant the tree in their garden and watch it grow, as their marriage does.

Add some accompaniments to your cake for your extra sweet-toothed guests. Chocolates, fruit, sugared almonds or mint can be placed on your guests’ plates for a decorative touch.

The look of the moment is a wedding cake decorated with fresh flowers. Some favorites include roses, carnations and pansies. These flowers can be made into cascade designs or other styles. For a simply stunning look, have one single, perfect, bloom on your cake, such as a lily or orchid. Using fresh flowers to decorate your cake looks great and won’t cost a fortune.


Creative Cake Toppers

Looking for something a little different for your cake top? Below are a few ideas for creative and memorable cake tops.

Just A little different:

Add a twist to the traditional man and woman figurines by buying a musical cake topper and watching the little folks waltz.

Skip the people and opt instead for wedding bells, love birds, hearts or fresh flowers.

Animals:

Do you both love your pets? Have figurines made up to represent your favorite pooches or felines and place them next to the bride and groom figurines.

If “two lovebirds” describes you and your fiancé well, consider crowning your cake with twin hummingbirds, doves or swans.

Replace human figurines with dressed up teddy bears for a cute touch.

Hobbies:

Dress up the human figurines in uniforms that represent your hobbies. Are you both avid scuba divers? Have goggles strapped to the faces of the figurines and dress them in a wet suit!

Was your motorcycle your first love? Harley Davidson has created several cake tops complete with a motorcycle on top.

Have the groom and bride figurines holding items that represent who you are. A tennis racket, stethoscope, basketball -- just get creative.

Themes:

Going Disney? Consider purchasing Mickey and Minnie cake tops or a Cinderella coach for the top of your cake.

If your dream is to be a princess, further the theme with a fairy tale castle on the top of your cake.

Are you marrying a cowboy? Buy a cake top with a groom in a cowboy hat to truly represent his tastes.

All these cake tops can be found over the internet by running a quick search for wedding cake toppers. Your baker can also help you in finding the perfect cake topper. In the event that you can’t find what you are looking for, many companies will gladly custom make your cake top. With a little creativity and some time, you can have a cake top that people will remember for years to come.


The Groom's Cake

The groom’s cake is supposed to be a gift from the bride to the groom. In ancient times, it was believed that if a single woman put a piece of the groom’s cake under her pillow, she would dream that night of the man she would marry.

This cake is usually made of dark, liquor-soaked chocolate, or deep chocolate fudge. The cake is usually displayed next to the wedding cake and later cut up and put in small white boxes for the guests to take home.

Sometimes, the groom’s cake is served at the reception as an alternative dessert choice.

Many couples have chosen to forego the groom's cake, as an unnecessary expense.

However, the groom’s cake has made a recent comeback. It has shown up as dessert at the rehearsal dinner or a "late night snack" to be enjoyed with the wedding party. It makes for a great surprise, a few laughs, and who can resist a deep, double chocolate fudge cake?

Many couples are getting creative with the groom’s cake and making it in various shapes and styles to match the groom’s personality or a particular interest or hobby. How about a cake in the shape of a golf club, computer, boat, or a slot machine, just to name a few.


Questions to Ask Your Baker

When you go to visit a baker, there's lot more to do besides just tasting cakes! You need to consider and discuss with your baker the following:

Your style and preferences -- If you’ve seen any pictures of cakes that illustrate a particular style, element or decoration you like, bring them with you.

Your budget – Be honest. The baker needs to know how much you are willing to spend in order to tell you what limitations that price range will have on design.

Is the cake going to be the only dessert served? You want to think about your menu and choose a cake or dessert that will compliment your menu.

What time of year are you getting married?

Is the reception indoors or outdoors? If it’s summertime, even if the reception is indoors, many bakers have restrictions on certain items, such as no butter cream frosting.

Your baker should work with you to create a magnificent cake that matches your individual style, personality and wedding decor.

Flexibility in design choices - Will they "custom-make" your cake based on your individual preferences? Unless you want your baker to replicate a particular cake, all wedding cakes should be custom made and reflect your personal and wedding style.

How the cake is made - Some bakers may use packaged cake mix while most use all homemade ingredients.

Request pictures of their of work - Take a look at their portfolio of cakes. Do you like what you see? Does it reflect good workmanship, a steady hand, and creativity? Do you like the baker's style?

Extra charges or deposits required for pillars, cake tops, or columns - If there are pillars or columns that are rented, ask how much the deposit is and about how and when those items need to be returned. Sometimes if the baker is familiar with the reception site or caterer, they may pick up those items on their own. Sometimes it will be your responsibility to return them. If you’re heading off to your honeymoon, remember to designate someone to return these items to your baker while you're gone.

Delivery and set up charges - If your baker is close by, there may not be an additional delivery charge. Some may charge $35-$60 for delivery. Usually, the set up charge is included in the price of the cake.

Who will be setting up the cake - Talk to your baker about how you'd like the cake table to be set up. Usually, they will use some fresh flowers and greenery to decorate the cake table. However, flowers should be used in moderation, because you don’t want the flowers on the cake table to draw attention away from the cake.

Price per serving - For a three-tiered cake, prices average between $1.50 - $5.00 per slice. Price per serving varies based upon the intricacy of the design and decorations of the cake. Elaborate frosting decorations are time and labor intensive, which usually equals a higher price.

If you're using fresh flowers for the cake, will they be provided and already be in place or is the florist responsible - This is a minor, but very important detail. Situations have occurred where the bride had paid the florist to provide fresh flowers and decorate the wedding cake, but the baker did not want anyone else to decorate her cake. So, there was a bit of confusion between the two vendors, and the bride essentially paid "both" vendors to decorate the cake. On the flip side, some bakers will tell you that they will not provide the fresh flowers and must be provided by the florist. So, just remember to ask.


Ordering Your Cake

Order your wedding cake as soon as possible or at least two to four months before your wedding.

It’s always better to book your vendor as soon as possible and then finalize the details closer to your wedding date.

Make sure you request a written copy of your order or contract. The order should include:

Cake Type and Style
General Description of the Decorations
Number of Layers
Fillings for Each Layer
Type of Frosting
Cake Top
Your Wedding Date
Time and Location of Delivery
Total price, including delivery and set up charges, if they apply.