Things every bride needs to know before shopping for a wedding cake
by Earlene Moore
Reserve your date with a decorator or bakery
1. Call the bakeries or cake decorators in your area to check for date availability. If the date is open, then you have opportunity to make an appointment to go in and check out the designs, taste and skill level of the business. Depending on the decorator you may need to call as far as 6 months to a year ahead to reserve your date. Many specialty cake decorators limit the number of wedding cakes they do each week where bakeries have a larger staff and can do a larger quantity of cakes. Thursday through Saturdays are very hectic for baking, decorating and delivering wedding cakes. Most weddings are on the weekends and therefore the bakers deadlines also coincide with that timetable. A phone call to make an appointment to visit with the individual or bakery about your cake will be appreciated. Just walking in and expecting undivided attention might lead to disappoint if they simply do not have time to visit with you on that day.
2. Be prepared to leave a substantial deposit to insure that the bakery or individual reserves the date for you.
Taste is important
3 . The taste, flavor and texture of the cake itself is the most important decision you will make when you order your cake. The outside beauty of your wedding cake will be important for your pictures and your personal statement. But, the inside of that cake is what you will be serving to your guests. You want a cake that is flavorful, moist and yummy to eat. Ask friends or people who have attended recent weddings about how the wedding cake tasted. You might want to ask if samples of the cake flavors will be available for you to try when you visit with a bakery or individual you are interviewing.
4. Be prepared to pay for the cake decorators time. Simple cake designs are the least expensive. The more time and complicated the cake design the more you should be prepared to pay the decorator. Know ahead of time what amount of money you can budget toward your cake and that will help the decorator help you choose wisely from their designs.
5. If you are planning an outdoor wedding in the summer heat remember - flies love sweets, heat melts most icings and high humidity will also turn gumpaste flowers limp, chocolate curls will melt and fresh flowers will wilt in prolonged exposure to heat. Rain and wind can cause havoc such as collapsing tents and blowing table cloths right off of the tables. You need to have a backup site just in case of unforeseen extreme weather conditions. Of course if the weather cooperates an outdoor wedding is the best. Just be prepared in case mother nature turns on you.
Outdoor receptions also have one other pitfall. Unlevel ground. Cake and food tables must be set up on level strong tables. Often the reception tables for seating are put onto solid level surfaces but the food and cake tables are scattered on the outskirts. Just make sure the people setting up your reception know to make those tables a priority in getting them sturdy and level.
6. Fresh Flowers to go on a cake have possibly been treated with insecticides and pesticides (besides the chemicals they are inserted into to keep them fresh longer before they reach your florist). Some flowers and greenery might be harmful if ingested so select carefully. Fresh flowers are absolutely the most beautiful thing you can use - just choose wisely .
7. If you choose to use gum paste flowers on a cake you must be prepared to pay for the time it takes to make these exquisite flowers. Many of these flowers may be made on wires or toothpick to achieve the look and arrangements you want. Those wired and toothpicked flowers must be removed from the cake as it is served.
8. If you expect a cake decorator to come close to the colors you are using in the wedding you should take at least a 3 inch square swatch of fabric in each color to the sugar artist. Preferably solid colors in each swatch. Dark colors are difficult to achieve the right shade and color in icing - as well as difficult to arrange attractively on a decorated cake.
9. If you require the cake decorator to use the artificial strings of pearls on a wedding cake - those pearls must be removed as the cake is cut. New molds and techniques can be used to make edible pearls for your cakes.
10. The Cake designer or bakery can guide you as to the number of servings of cake you will need. But, it is ultimately you and your mother who must decide on the numbers.
11. Be considerate of your guests. Seeds and coconut in fruit fillings can be very difficult for many people.
Cake Placement at your Reception
12. Where will your cake(s) be place in the reception area. Consult the reception site consultant as well as your cake person. Look at the walls and consider the background for your wedding pictures when planning where the cake(s) will be placed. Are there fire extinguishers, plugs, restroom signs, and etc. in the background of your cake placement? If you are planning to use a fountain in your cake set up, is there a wall plug nearby. Does the reception site furnish extension cords or will you need to provide those?
Other things you might want to consider at the reception site are how the traffic flow will be handled. All of the food placement in one area might cause a traffic jam. A cake placed near a dance floor can be hazardous for traffic flow. Is there a door that opens in toward the cake? Are the tables sturdy enough to hold the cake(s)? Does the reception site have tables and table coverings?
Person to cut the cake
13. Don't assume that a caterer or reception site personnel will be cutting your cake. You should ask if this service is included and if so how much the fee will be for the service. Also ask if the caterer provides the cake serving knives? If you ask a personal good friend to serve your cake, you are asking them to work your wedding party event. Are you bestowing an honor on them? Or are you cutting corners at the expense of your party guests.
14. When picking an ornament for your cake consider the weight. Icing and cake are soft so very heavy ornaments must have some extra support in the cake. If you do select a heavy ornament and it should fall from the top it can do damage to tiers as gravity pulls it downward. All ornaments are not center balanced. If your ornament should fall you should be prepared to pay the decorator extra to make an extra trip back to the reception site to repair the damage.
15. Phone numbers would be appreciated by the persons you have hired to work together on your wedding. Such as the caterer, florist, cake decorator and reception site coordinator generally need to know the others schedules to be able to coordinate cake deliveries and set up for your wedding day schedule.
Final Cake Payment
16. Final payment for your wedding cake will vary with individual bakeries or decorators. Three weeks in advance of your wedding is reasonable for basic cakes. When you consider that your name and residence will be changing it is very reasonable for payment to be expected in advance.
17. The delivery of your cake is covered in the cost of your cake in most instances if the wedding reception is local. Cake deliveries out of town will have an extra delivery charge.
18. If for some reason you must cancel your wedding, you should notify the bakery or individual cake decorator as soon as possible. A forfeiture of the deposit may be required.
19. Expect to have the most wonderful day of your life. But with all the advanced planning and the numerous people required to complete your wedding plans something will probably go wrong. Only life threatening circumstances should warrant your truly getting upset. Cake decorators, florists and etc. do the best they can for each of you individually. If a mistake is made, don't let it upset your day. Just chalk it up to a future fun memory. Memories are not made up of all the things that go right but alas they are usually formed from all the little and big things that go wrong. Not funny that day - but someday it just might be your favorite memory.
God Bless each of you in the beginning of your new life.