Choosing Your Wedding Cake
Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Choosing Your Wedding Cake

It Isn’t a Party Unless You Have Cake

Written by Charlotte White
To begin – as all good things must – at the beginning, we should start with 'congratulations'. You are getting married! Whether you are planning on throwing a lavish extravaganza of a wedding or a smaller and more intimate celebration, you probably have a to-do list that runs the length of your arm, down to the floor and ends in comical fold after fold of paper and scribblings.

On your list, you will find that some things fall under the category of 'chore' (such as giving your legal notice to the relevant authorities) and some things fall under the 'pleasure' category (including finding an amazing photographer and choosing the perfect dress/shoes/accessories). In fact, most of these pleasurable things you will likely be drooling over on the glossy pages of this very magazine.

For my part, I am here to offer my humble services and advice in possibly the most pleasurable of the pleasurable tasks on your list: choosing your wedding cake.

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The wedding cake has fallen quite low on the modern Bride's list of priorities; many of us are still haunted by childhood memories of dry, heavy fruitcakes smothered in a thick layer of marzipan and finished with that icing so hard that it could break teeth. I still have customers tell me that they don't like icing, when it transpires that it is old-fashioned royal icing that they dislike rather than the soft, vanilla-laced sugarpaste that is used today.
There are also couples who say that they don't like cake. I take this on board, but have to ask if this is a dislike of all cake or just one particular flavour. The number of couples who are surprised when I tell them that their wedding cake can be any flavour that they desire, shocks me. Again, I think that this must be due to our childhood cake-scarring – not all wedding cakes are made of fruitcake and you do not have to have fruitcake if you don't like it.

You can actually choose as many flavours as you have tiers in your wedding cake, making it incredibly versatile. If you love Chocolate Mud cake, you can have it, but why not get another tier in a lighter flavour such as Lemon Drizzle cake so you can offer your guests a choice? Red Velvet cake is becoming a popular choice and based on orders, my Burnt Sugar Salted Caramel cake is set to be the taste of 2013! Sometimes couples even choose a special personal flavour as the smallest top tier. I have had brides surprise their grooms with this cake - one bride chose Peanut Butter cake and another chose Banana cake, both because they knew that this would be a treat for their loved one on the day. Isn't that a cute idea?

So the first step when choosing your wedding cake has to be deciding upon the type of cake itself. Meet up with a cake designer and get some cake samples. At the end of the day, few of us can afford for this cake to simply be a pretty ornament; it has to taste good as it is meant to be eaten.

Think about where you want your wedding cake to fit into your celebration. The traditional approach is for the cake to be cut after speeches during the wedding breakfast, before being handed out to guests with their coffee at the end of the meal. Though this is traditional, I would strongly advise against this. Really, who has room for a slice of cake after a three-course meal? Some of your guests might be able to manage, but you will probably end up with a great deal of un-eaten (or politely nibbled) cake going in the bin.

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If there is one thing that breaks my heart, it's wedding cake going in the bin! You have to think of each slice as money that you are throwing away.

There are two more modern approaches that I really love. The first is to ask your venue/caterer if they will allow you to serve your cake as dessert with your wedding breakfast, though this can be a tricky question to ask. It's great for you because you will be saving money by not paying for an additional dessert course, but the venue/caterer may not be happy with the arrangement. It really depends from place to place, but a slice of cake accompanied by seasonal fruits and a little clotted cream is a wonderful dessert.

If you are not permitted to serve the wedding cake instead of a dessert course, why not try serving the cake later in the evening? A few hours after your wedding breakfast and a few drinks into the evening, a slice of cake can be a God-send. It's a little sugar-hit to keep you going and a little something to help absorb any excess alcohol your guests may have consumed!

If you are feeling non-traditional, then why not save the cutting of your wedding cake until the evening? This is a really nice way of involving your evening guests in a key moment of the wedding celebrations. Ask your MC or a member of your wedding party to announce your entrance onto the dancefloor for the cutting of the wedding cake, and then pose for all of your guests. This allows everyone to get a photo of you making the first cut in your cake and will make everyone feel as if they have been involved in the ceremony of the occasion. Follow the cake cutting with your first dance, while the cake is taken away and cut up for your guests.

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And so we come to the purpose of your wedding cake in your wedding itself. Why do we even need to have a wedding cake? The tradition of having some form of cake goes right back to Roman times, when a loaf of bread would be broken above the bride's head. Throughout the ages, each tradition has slowly transformed but carried with it symbolism of prosperity and fertility.

Perhaps we think less of the symbolism these days and more about the photo opportunity. Nothing says 'wedding' quite like a happy couple cutting into a beautiful tiered cake, so your wedding cake has to look the part. Most of all, the cake has to look right in its setting – think about incorporating the colours of your theme into the wedding cake design. Your cake can be tied with ribbons that match the colour of your decor, or even embellished with lace to match the design of the wedding dress – an approach which has been very popular in recent years and has lead to me perfecting my edible sugar lace techniques!

The wedding cake is very often decorated in a way that complements the bride's own style. White wedding cakes were intended as symbolic of the bride's purity, but I have also decorated cakes to complement a pair of grooms (I created a pale grey and charcoal pinstriped number for a civil partnership last summer). Why not incorporate a nod to what you are both wearing?

Chances are that you may even have a motif running throughout your wedding even before the big day arrives – some design element from your invitations perhaps? This is a really popular way of bringing the design of your wedding cake into the overall look of the day. My tattoo heart cake, which has become a very popular design for alternative weddings and birthday parties, was inspired by one couple's wedding stationery that featured vintage tattoo designs. When you meet with your cake designer, they will be interested in hearing all of your wedding plans because any one of these might spark a little inspiration.

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As a general rule of thumb, a three-tier cake will serve around 150 guests. Whilst you will need to consider the number of guests when coming up with your cake design, you will also need to consider the height of the finished cake. If your cake will be displayed in a grand setting with high ceilings, three-tiers will be lost very quickly in this space. There are cost-effective ways to add height to your cake - with simple separator tiers wrapped in ribbons, jewellery, or fresh flowers - all of which add grandeur on a shoestring. You could also add extra cake tiers and offer your guests the option of a second slice of cake or a piece to take home – maybe even updating that old tradition of bridesmaids sleeping with a piece of wedding cake under their pillows and dreaming of future Husbands, by offering guests a dream of the future if they eat the cake as a midnight snack!

Remember, traditions are there to be played with and updated. The wedding cake itself is proof of this. If I could give you just one piece of advice when it comes to choosing your wedding cake, it would be not to neglect this wonderful and integral part of your celebration. It just isn't a party unless there is a cake and this is your one chance to completely indulge in the cake of your dreams. In much the same way as a wedding provides a reason to experience the thrill of bridal dress shopping - with champagne and fittings all for that perfect dress that you will wear for just one day – few of us will find ourselves with the excuse for a massive bespoke cake at many points in our lives.

Modern wedding planning has been very much focused on preparing and capturing the little details. Get this detail right and you will be rewarded with a great cutting the cake picture and all of your guests will enjoy a slice of something delicious on your wedding day. Oh, but don't forget to eat a slice or two yourself... it's your day and it's your cake after all!

Charlotte White is a professional cake designer based in London. Her company, Restoration Cake, has a reputation for creating stunning bespoke celebration cakes that taste as good as they look. Charlotte's first book is due for release in Spring 2014. www.restorationcake.co.uk


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