THE ICING ON THE CAKE
Your Wedding Cake Planning Guide
by Ernest Lee Bacon
A wedding cake is the one centerpiece that no wedding, large or small,
should be without. Gone are the days of plain white cake with plain
white frosting. Now it's anything goes! Providing, of course, that the
top tier is tastefully and appropriately decorated.
Chocolate cakes with white frosting have gained much favor in recent
years as have fruited layers and even marble cakes. As with every other
aspect of planning your wedding, it's a personal choice. Go for what
you really want - something that goes with your style, tempered by the
number of guests and general style of the wedding (formal, semi-formal
or casual). If you're concerned that a large number of people may not
enjoy your choice, you can always have the tiers baked in different
flavors and give them a choice. As you'll see below, this can also be
accomplished easily if the wedding cake has "dummy" tiers
and the guests are served from sheet cakes: have smaller sheet cakes
baked in different flavors.
For a small wedding, a cake of several layers which can be served as
the dessert course is always fun and traditional. But for larger receptions,
cutting up and distributing a single cake, no matter how large, can
be present a logistical nightmare.
The introduction of "dummy" cakes or "dummy" tiers
in the last few decades has greatly reduced the problems in serving
yours guests the actual wedding cake. This allows for the traditional
"bride cuts the cake" ceremony, while in the kitchen, the
servers can be busily preparing the final course from sheet cakes prepared
with the same recipe as the actual top layer of the presentaiton cake
from which the bride and groom feed each other and the head table is
served. Another advantage here is that in the event that you decide
on a different dessert altogether, you can still enjoy the beauty and
fun of a full sized wedding cake without incurring the expense.
And in the event that you decide on another dessert, you might still
want to go with a sheet cake anyway. This would allow you to send slices
of cake in gift boxes home with each guest. This was an old tradition
which fell out of favor in recent decades but is cropping up more frequently
these days. It makes a fine (and relatively inexpensive) favor and there's
an old wives' tale that if an unmarried girl or woman sleeps with the
cake under her pillow (in the box, of course!) she will dream of the
man she's going to marry!
If you would like a full cake and to serve it as dessert, advance planning
is needed. At a recent wedding we attended, the bride and groom (with
assistance from two waitstaff) cut and plated their entire huge wedding
cake which was served to the guests by the wedding party (again with
some waitstaff assistance). This was accomplished in only a few minutes
with no mess and no bother! And there were 200 guests at this wedding!
(Speaking of messes - I've never met anyone who thinks that the bride
or groom smashing cake into the other's face is funny at all. Outside
of the party doing the smashing, most people do not find this amusing,
in fact they find it quite offensive. It's unseemly behavior and creates
an unsightly mess. Just think about the consequences if you plan to
preserve your gown. But, if that's what you're into, then all we can
say is "it's your wedding".)
Another inexpensive (and, we might add, easier) aproach would be to
go with the cake ineveitably offered by your caterer or the menu planner
at your reception location. It eliminates the shopping and indecision.
However, that choice also depersonalizes the cake. For a truly personal
approach, we've known many a bride who baked the cake herself or with
help from family and friends. This can become an "event" in
itself and a great wedding memory and it will also drastically reduce
expenses. (Just for the record, we've run into a couple of grooms who
did the baking themselves as well!)
A big part of your decision will be the ornamental topping. Do you
want the traditional Bride & Groom figurines or a small chapel?
Many people today are choosing personalized figurines, small statues
decorated or even created to represent the actual bride and groom! (No
beanie babies, please.) The other decorations must be considered as
well: silk flowers, candy, fresh fruit, ribbons? How about none of the
above or even all of the above?!
And so, the bottom line is that the easiest and most traditional way
to plan for your cake is to visit local bakers, particularly those who
advertise as wedding cake specialists. These are professionals who will
be able to answer any questions you have, make suggestions, and guide
you to your best option. Most have extensive photographic catalogs of
the cakes they've designed and/or baked and many even have a showroom
with models. With a baker, you will have open to you the most wide-raning
choices in style, flavors and price, and you are even likely to wind
up customizing your own unique cake from ideas lifted from several designs.
In any event, we recommend that you have some kind of wedding cake.
If for nothing else, you want to be sure you have at least one piece
of the cake for your freezer which you can defrost and share on the
occasion of your first anniversary!
Like everything else involved in planning a wedding, the key is to
shop, shop, shop - and shop early. Compare prices and quality and make
a decision as far in advance as possible. This allows for plenty of
time to save and to make any changes which crop up. Your wedding cake
is one of the most fun decisions you'll have to make and you'll be glad
in the long run if you stick with this delightful tradition.