The most beautiful cake in the world won’t disguise a boring flavour, so make sure you order one that you can’t wait to eat, says Ann Russell
If wedding planning is a long-distance endurance test, the hunt for a wedding cake is a deliciously decadent, sugar-filled stop-off along the way. During the journey, you’ll be side-tracked by crystals and lace, but that’s standard bridal behaviour so don’t worry if cake flavours haven’t crossed your mind yet. When you do have time to catch your breath, remember to choose a design that not only looks like a masterpiece but tickles all your taste buds. From traditional (three-tiered vanilla) to citrus or coconut (Bounty flavour, anyone?), there’s a cake combination for you. We spoke to three of Scotland’s top cake designers to help you find a cake that’s both a visual feast and a taste sensation, so sit back, relax and enjoy the sugar high.
SHOW AND TELL
No matter how beautiful a wedding cake may look, the way it tastes is paramount, so once you’ve settled on a handful of cake suppliers, arrange a consultation with each to taste a variety of sponge flavours. Before the appointment, think about your overall theme, colour scheme and the style of your dress to help the cake designer create a personalised plan. “Couples should visit us to try our range of flavours so they can define which sponges they prefer,” advises Linda McDonald from Taste Linda’s Cakes (tlscakes.co.uk).
“The sponge selection process is typically quite quick because couples know which flavours appeal to them,” she adds. If you’re one step ahead and can already visualise your dream cake, let the designer know so they can put pen to paper. “Following the initial consultation we create three different sketches for the couple based on the flavours and designs they like. They respond with any changes or additions, before I create a final completed sketch for approval,” says Linda.
There’s nothing wrong with simplicity but don’t ignore the huge range of flavours out there when choosing your cake. Whether you’re a dedicated chocolate connoisseur or a fruit fanatic, there’s a slice of cake heaven to suit you. Experiment with flavour combinations and don’t be frightened to think outside the box. Vanilla and chocolate sponge are foolproof crowd-pleasers but berry flavouring or a rich helping of caramel buttercream can add a scrumptious spark to a traditional wedding cake.
“It’s very rare that brides choose a full vanilla cake. I think I’ve made only one in the last three or four years,” says Linda. “That said, our cakes are different because they have a strong American influence. Our Chubby Hubby cake is inspired by an American ice-cream flavour and is completely unique to us. It’s a malted cake layered with peanut-butter buttercream and pretzels – the sweet and salty flavours work so well together. We also offer a really special sponge that’s subtly flavoured with champagne and decorated with Swiss meringue buttercream,” she adds.
If bubbles and zest aren’t your style, a classic blend might suit you better. “Sponge and icing flavours come in every variety you can imagine, including mocha, chocolate, lemon, orange, strawberry and butterscotch, to name a few,” says Nancy Davidson of Sugar and Spice Cake Design (sugarandspicecakedesign.co.uk).
“Our Australian brides like white chocolate mud cake, while some grooms swear by chocolate and peanut butter. We’re very happy to cater for distinctive tastes.”
DARE TO DYE
Here at BSW we don’t tend to recommend risk-taking when it comes to wedding planning, but in this case a little gamble could transform your cake into a work of art. Ask the designer to experiment with different colours and think about how the cake will look in situ at your venue. “We try to encourage brides to incorporate colour into their cakes,” says Linda. “One couple recently requested a rainbow sponge cake with a Spider-Man on the bottom tier and a Pac-Man on the top, complete with Xbox controls and wires flowing down the sides! We find more and more couples are daring to be different.”
Sharon Anderson from Designer Cake Boutique (designercakeboutique.com) agrees: “Brides are being more adventurous with their cakes now than a few years ago. There has been a real trend for taller cakes recently, with couples ordering four or five tiers decorated with subtle diamantés or flowers. There’s a real focus on height at the moment rather than extravagant decoration.”
Nancy has also seen the elaborate end of the scale: “We’ve made huge seven-tier cakes,” she says. “But what the guests don’t realise is that the bottom tier is typically a dummy and only a few sections contain actual sponge cake!”
According to tradition, the cake’s top tier was made of fruit and was kept until the couple’s first anniversary. We can’t imagine anyone resisting temptation that long, so we’re not surprised to see a move away from fruit towards more exotic flavours. “We offer brides a cake solution that appeals to the whole wedding party,” says Linda. “We can include three different sponge flavours in a single tier, so if one flavour isn’t liked there are two others to choose from.”
It’s polite to keep your wedding entourage in mind, agrees Sharon. “If there are lots of older guests, a fruit cake is often included, and brides do request a tier of vanilla if lots of children are attending, but these are very traditional options,” she says.
“In the spirit of preserving the top tier, some couples ask their venue to deliver a section of their cake to the honeymoon suite to be enjoyed with a glass of fizz the following day.”
CASH FOR CAKE
Your wedding cake is an important focal point, with its own time slot in the reception schedule, but there’s no point getting into debt over sponge and icing. A spectacular cake doesn’t need to break the bank – in fact, finding a cake that tastes and looks luxurious
on a budget isn’t as tough as you might think.
“Unlike many other cake designers, we base our prices on the design itself and don’t charge extra for added fillings,” explains Sharon. “So you can order a luxury champagne and white chocolate cake without worrying about costs escalating. Prices rise when we’re asked to make handmade flowers or lots of embroidered lace piping.” In other words, don’t get too carried away, because time equals money. “Fresh flowers are a good option to keep costs down, as are ribbons to edge each tier, plus a simple topper.”
Savvy brides who consider the décor-hours involved in a customised cake will save cash in the long run. “We can match the icing to the wedding dress or replicate the exact shade of the bridesmaid dresses, but these bespoke details take time and that’s where costs grow,” says Nancy.
If your budget is very tight, you might have considered a shop-bought cake – but does it offer value for money? The experts would always recommend a flavour-filled alternative. “People often think buying a supermarket cake is the cheapest option, but we make beautiful-tasting cakes at prices starting from £200 that match standard shop costs,” says Sharon. “Most cake designers will work within your guidelines to create your dream cake, so there’s no need to compromise on either flavour or design.” r