Love at first bite – Choosing the cake

Gone are the days when fruit cake was the only option for a wedding – so what flavour should you go for? Our experts will help you decide

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KEEPING UP TRADITIONS

When it’s time to choose a wedding cake, many couples focus primarily on what it will look like. While the shape, colour and style are all very important considerations, the most crucial element is invisible: the flavour. Elegant, dramatic or cute designs will draw admiring glances from your guests, but what they’ll truly appreciate is something delicious to nibble on after dinner.
For many years the classic wedding cake was a fruit cake, mainly because it keeps for longer than sponge cakes, and the first slice would be stashed away until the couple’s first child was christened. That tradition is often kept alive these days with a small fruit cake as the top tier. “I absolutely love fruit cake,” says Michael Burns of Special Days Cakes (specialdayscakes.co.uk). “A lot of people don’t think they like it but then they give mine a try and they realise they do!”
But if you’re not a fan of fruit cake, you may not want to stick with tradition. Don’t feel you have to: it’s your wedding, after all, and the cake, just like the rest of your big day, should be exactly what you want. “A lot of people are under the impression that there’s a rule that says you have to have fruit somewhere in your cake, but this is simply not the case,” says Lynsey McLaughlin of Custom Cakes (customcakes.biz). “In fact, these days I very rarely sell a fruit cake. There are so many great flavours out there that you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment.”

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FLAVOUR OF THE MUNCH

Once you’ve narrowed down your shortlist of cake suppliers, the first thing you should do is sample some of their test sponges to find out if they tickle your tastebuds. “Without a doubt, the most important part of choosing a cake is sampling the different flavours,” explains Michael Burns. “And be sure to ask your supplier if they bake the cake themselves too, because if they outsource this it could affect the taste on the day. Only those who bake their own have full control over the final product.”
Claire McCloy of One Fine Day (onefinedayweddingservices.com) agrees: “Always ask to sample the goods from your cake company – cakes should not only look good but taste good too!”

Without a doubt, the most important part of choosing your cake is sampling the different flavours

A QUESTION OF TASTE

Certain sponge flavours can be classed as the big hitters – everyone loves them. David Duncan of 3D Cakes (3d-cakes.co.uk) says his most popular seller is jam sponge, with chocolate and lemon close runners-up. All three are tried-and-tested crowd-pleasers. “We usually suggest you go for a sweeter sponge, like chocolate or butterscotch, as well as a lighter option such as lemon or vanilla. That should provide something for everyone,” he recommends.
Even if you prefer more experimental tastes, it’s worth including at least one tier in a popular flavour – that way both you and your guests will get what they want, and you won’t be eating leftover cake for weeks to come! “I normally recommend making the largest tier a vanilla sponge, as most people prefer this, and it allows you to pick more adventurous flavours for the smaller tiers,” says Lynsey McLaughlin.
But don’t just stick to what you know. It’s worth thinking about adding a tier with a twist too. More unusual flavours (at least for wedding cakes) such as white chocolate, coconut cake, carrot cake and even pink champagne or mint chocolate, are becoming increasingly popular. With growing numbers of cake suppliers now happy to provide these, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want – you never know, you might even start a whole new trend.
Michael Burns has found that red velvet cake has been the most popular choice among his clients this year, with almost 90% of them opting for a tier of this typically sweet sponge. “Quite a few people find red velvet a bit sickly, but as soon as you taste our version with its secret ingredients, you’ll love it!” he laughs.

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TIERS OF JOY

If you’re worried that the different flavours of each tier will clash or bleed into one another, there’s no need. Most bakers will make the tiers separately and cut them
up individually too so your nearest and dearest can choose whatever they like, or have a taste of each. In fact, variety isn’t
just the spice of life, it can make a great visual impact too. “It is nice to see a
mixture of colours in the cake – it looks great when cut and presented to the guests. Chocolate, red velvet and vanilla sponge is a fabulous combination,” says David Duncan.
Keeping the tiers separate is important if any of your guests have strict dietary requirements. Most cake suppliers will bake and box up dairy- or gluten-free cakes individually, to guarantee there’s no contamination. Your supplier should be able to make an alternative version of most of your flavour options, so all your guests can enjoy their slice of cake. “We always recommend that you order a separate cake for any guest with allergies. We can create this in almost any flavour you like – just keep it a safe distance from the main cake,” says Michael Burns.
Claire McCloy agrees: “When choosing a cake, the main considerations to bear in mind are your personal likes and any dietary requirements. We offer fruit cake without nuts or marzipan and we can also offer egg-free and gluten-free options for those who need it.”
The most important thing is to pick a cake that you just can’t wait to eat – do that, and we’re sure your guests will feel exactly the same.

Images – Top, Opt for old-school cupcakes and sweet treats to please your guests and satisfy your sweet tooth. Above right, this birdcage design from One Fine Day is oh-so-sweet – and you could choose different sponges for the cupcakes. Above left, a four-tier beauty from Romeo & Juliet Cakes makes a show-stopping centrepiece as well as a delicious dessert.

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