Wedding cakes have come a long way from the days when a tower of fruit cake was the only option.
Today it’s all about colour, creativity and character. But with so much choice on offer, picking the one that’s right for you can be tricky. Here’s our essential guide to getting the right recipe.
1 – RESEARCH IS KEY
Visit supplier websites – or look at their portfolios – to get a feel for their work and see what customers have to say. If you’re opting for a custom design, start poring over pictures for ideas. “It is important to get an idea about what you like – but knowing what you don’t like is also important,” says Liggy Morgan, founder of the award-winning Liggy’s Cake Company (liggyscakes.co.uk), which makes bespoke wedding creations.
2 TASTE COMES TOPS
Amid all the talk of tiers and toppers, it’s easy to overlook the most fundamental thing: taste. Before you choose a cake company, visit various shops to see – and sample – their work. “It’s not enough for the cake to look beautiful; it must taste great too,” says Liggy. “Avoid any company that uses pre-mixes or cake mixes – their cakes will taste synthetic and ‘shop-bought’ rather than homemade.”
It’s not enough for the cake just to look beautiful; it must taste great too
3 CREATIVITY COUNTS
If you’re going for a design of your own, most bakers will sit down with you (you may need an appointment) to help create the cake that’s in your head. This is where your research comes in – so bring in everything from magazine tear sheets to fabric swatches to give the baker a hand.
“When clients come to me for their consultations I always urge them to bring as much info as possible, even if it has nothing to do with cakes,” says Lynsey McLaughlin of Glasgow-based cake maker Custom Cakes (customcakes.biz). “I like to get a feel for their style and everything else that’s going on with the wedding so I can create their perfect cake. Every aspect of the wedding can be included, so bring along fabric, invites, images of the flowers being used and, of course, pictures of the dress.”
4 PAPERWORK MAKES PERFECT
If possible, get a written proposal at the end of your visit to your supplier. Make sure any questions – no matter how small – are answered. How far in advance is the cake made? How is the cake transported to the venue? Do you need to take out insurance? You need answers to all of these. “All good cake companies should be insured both on their premises and for delivery,” says Liggy. “Remember to check the delivery cost for your cake and ensure that your baker will liaise with your venue planner to guarantee smooth delivery and set-up on the day.” Once the logistics are sorted, you can relax and enjoy the process.
5 IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU
While round is still the traditional option for a cake, the best thing to do is to forget any preconceptions you might have about shape – or colour – and simply pick something you love. “We have seen a lot of couples being more adventurous with their cakes and incorporating a touch of their personalities into the design,” says Lynsey. “I have a lot of orders this year for coloured styles rather than white or ivory. Ovals and hexagons are very ‘now’ too, as is mixing up the size and shape of the tiers – this instantly creates a modern twist on tradition.”
6 FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
Aside from the fact that you want your cake to make a statement, the size you go for usually depends on how much money you have to spend and how many mouths you have to feed. Some bakers charge by the slice while others charge by design – but it’s important to remember that you can adapt your design to suit your budget.
“A common mistake is to choose a company simply on price,” says Michael Burns of Special Days Cakes (specialdayscakes.co.uk). “If you are on a tight budget, tell your preferred supplier and they may be able to suggest cheaper alternatives. A three-tier cake can be made to look taller by adding a stand between the tiers, for example; or, instead of using sugar flowers, they can use more affordable artificial ones.”
7 RULES DON’T APPLY
“Gone are the days of fruit cake and the odd Victoria sponge,” says Lynsey. “I do everything from these traditional varieties to chocolate, red velvet and orange. You can also have a different flavour in each tier – and don’t be fooled into thinking you need to have fruit in there at all!”
Your baker will able to reel off lots of different icings, from flavoured buttercream to a rich chocolate ganache – just make sure they explain what each one is and what its texture and taste is like.
And, remember, a wedding cake doesn’t even have to be a cake – a cheese tower (try Valvona & Crolla in Edinburgh, valvonacrolla.co.uk) or a croquembouche makes a great centrepiece.
8 FRESH ISN’T ALWAYS BEST
Whether it’s one shaped to match the ruffles of your dress or wedding colour scheme, cake decorating can be as personal as you like. “The vintage theme is still very popular so a lot of brides are including brooches on their cakes,” says Liggy. “If you have a family heirloom, it can be a lovely touch.”
A word of warning if you want to go for fresh flowers, however: “Most flowers have been sprayed with pesticides which are impossible to wash off,” says Michael. Consider sugar or artificial flowers, or ask your baker to work closely with your florist to choose wisely.
9 TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE
Don’t wait until the last minute to order your cake. Good bakeries will have a packed schedule – especially during wedding season – and any special ingredients or decorations may need to be ordered in advance.
10 A SLICE OF FORTUNE
Tradition states that a slice of the cake must be sent to those who couldn’t make it to the wedding – but you can also keep any leftovers to yourself. Do you want a portion to store away for future events such as your anniversary or your child’s christening, for example? If so, it’s important to speak up. “If you’d like any part of your cake to be kept, make sure that the staff at your venue know this in advance,” says Liggy. “We would recommend that the cake is cut as required, meaning if there is any left over, it is kept in one big slice – or a whole tier – and can be taken home.”
Images – From top, www.julietinton.com. Middle trio from left, Cakes & Dreams’ heart-shaped tiered cake makes a pretty alternative to standard round layers; scattered with romantic pink flowers, this pretty Rose cake by Sugar Petals looks too good to eat; it’s increasingly popular for the bride to incorporate some of her dress details into the cake – this vintage-inspired number from Sugar & Spice features delicate lace icing.
From above left, Impeccable sugar flowers on top of a Liggy’s Cake Company creation. Above right, A cheese cake makes a delicious alternative to traditional tiered sponges. This one is from Edinburgh deli Valvona & Crolla. Lowest left, This cutting cake and its accompanying mini-cakes by Cakes With Love are a joy to behold (and eat!).