As I continue researching for the book, I’ve started interviewing bakers. And as I continue my own wedding planning, I’m working on finalizing our dessert menu. Naturally, I’m craving sugar.
But I’ve also discovered that choosing a cake — or choosing not to have cake — isn’t as simple as saying, “I like chocolate. Bam!” and watching your dream dessert rise tier-by-tier before your eyes. Finding the right wedding sweet(s) for your event takes an understanding of mood, your own personal taste, and even the guests you’re inviting. (Example: if your significant other’s family are all staunch Mormons or Southern Baptists, a Frangelico-drenched cake wouldn’t be in the best . . . taste, shall we say.)
First off — think about what you love. If you’re a die-hard carrot cake lover, don’t opt for vanilla just because it’s the norm.
Then — think about the feel you’re trying to achieve, and how you want your dessert to add you the reception’s aesthetics. Tall tiers may be too formal for your outdoor family affair, and a cupcake display may be just the look you’re after. Or maybe you’re turning the room into a garden of tulips and want to cover your cake with the beautiful bulbs. Figure out a way to make your cake enhance the reception, rather than just being another add-on.
And last but not least — consider the cost. The fancier and bigger your cake, the fancier and bigger the price tag. But of course, as with everything else in wedding planning, there are ways to cut corners.
Elizabeth Marek owns Artisan Cake Company, which serves the greater Portland, Oregon area. Yesterday she was gracious enough to answer several questions about how to choose a cake style, how to preserve the cake’s top layer for the couple’s first anniversary — and, high on most brides lists of priorities, how to save money while still getting a great cake.
“Because everyone is under a tight budget these days, we really work hard to give every bride a cake that they can truly be excited about. Sometimes that means doing a small, two layer cutting cake with matching sheet cakes or cupcakes,” she wrote in an e-mail.
“The most economical way to save money on the cake is to keep the decoration simple and use fresh flowers to accent the cake and to supplement the cake with sheet cakes made with the same flavors if you have a lot of guests. A simple, two layer cake can be done for only $100.”
Elizabeth explained that adding layers adds up to a higher price tag than simply buying extra sheet cakes, because building a strong foundation for the bottom layer of a big cake take a lot of time and effort: “We have also done false bottom tiers so that the cake appears to be larger than it is.”
(I interviewed one bride whose entire cake was made of Styrofoam; after she and her husband made the ceremonial cut, the reception staff whisked it away . . . and quickly cut up sheet cakes stashed in the kitchen. Styrofoam and rental cakes are becoming more commonplace these days.)
Other money-saving options include cupcakes (which are usually cheaper per serving than full cakes), cheesecakes, spreads of mini desserts, pie displays, or something truly different — like a fruit pizza or ice cream stations.
Or you may just prefer one of the other options instead of going the traditional route. My fiance and I decided we’ll offer pies because, 1.) Given a choice between pie and cake, he’d take pie every time; 2.) We wanted something slightly off the beaten path; 3.) Pies seemed like the perfect finale for a November reception; and 4.) Since we’re not the most photogenic people and look terrible in posed shots, we weren’t too thrilled about a traditional cake cutting, freeze-frame, deer-in-the-headlights moment.
But whatever your wedding style, whatever your individual personality, there’s a wedding cake — or cakes, or not — out there that’s right for you. Maybe it’s already saved as a JPEG in your “Wedding Ideas” file, or maybe it’s hiding out in the recesses of your imagination and it’ll take some digging to find it.
Happy hunting (and tasting!).