The wedding cake is a wonderful way to celebrate, and is a quintessential part of the wedding rituals. Whether you choose to have a small cake just to cut or you decide to have a five-tiered embellished display, the wedding cake is more than just a dessert. As Sylvia Weinstock said, “ a cake, it turns out, is more than just dessert- and serves many purposes at a party. It’s decoration, a conversation starter, a backdrop for photos, a keepsake.”
When thinking about your cake, maybe the most important choice is going to be in the icing—the cake has to taste amazing, of course, but it has look just as good! The two most common icing types are fondant and buttercream, and both have their own characteristics and flavor. If you’re looking for that smooth, porcelain texture, fondant should be your first choice. Kneaded from sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin until it’s impossibly silky and pliable, fondant has that picture-perfect look, and in any color you can think of! Sheets of fondant are carefully leveled with a rolling pin and then draped over the cake before the final smoothing.
Fondant can be a finicky choice, however: fondant is hard to rework and any mistake or flaw the baker makes can be impossible to fix, so everything has to go perfectly. The extra time and care that goes into making each tier in one-shot is partially responsible for fondant’s extra cost—fondant can be up to three times more expensive than buttercream (think three to 10 dollars a slice!). Of course, neither icing is going to hold up too well, so it’s important that your cake stays fresh (and, really, you’d want that anyway).
Always make sure you’re aware of the cake’s delivery time and the logistics of the backroom storage so your cake is as fresh as possible. Ensuring icing and cake freshness takes coordination plus time and space for assembly. With fondant, the problem becomes its tendency to dry or peal. With buttercream, the icing may start to melt or it may gain condensation under refrigeration. Many bakers address the dryness of fondant by adding a layer of buttercream underneath the fondant layer—basically, a little thought and preparation goes a long way!
As far as taste goes, popular opinion says that buttercream is tops (like its name suggests, buttercream is an irresistible blend of butter, confectioners sugar, milk, and flavoring); however, new flavors of fondants, like marshmallow and white chocolate, are giving buttercream a run for it’s money. And even though the buttercream may taste better, it is harder to get that porcelain look. But don’t let that stop you! A good baker is able make buttercream as smooth as fondant. And, of course, if you don’t like the porcelain sheen to begin with, go for buttercream! Buttercream can be piped, swirled, set in waves, or piled up for rustic, organic perfection.
Of course, icing isn’t the only factor in the cost of your cake: behind all the icing, there’s a lot of labor and love that comes with it’s own dues. If you’re trying to cut costs, think about how ornate you want your cake to be: sugared flowers are beautiful (and edible!), but real flowers have their own distinct integrity and style…at a better cost. And who is forming those handmade flowers? A celebrity chef is going to be more expensive than your local (and equally as talented!) baker.
When should you start making the cake-styling decisions? Later, not sooner. As you start planning your wedding, you could get caught up with the cake before you even know the theme and tone of the event! The cake is often in direct conversation with your décor, your color scheme, or even your dress; it’s important to wait until you know the bigger details. Go ahead and decide on your baker, the kind of cake or filling…but leave the outer layer until last. Having a cake at your wedding is as much about eating it and the theme of celebration, as it is about having all those final ta-da’s that make your wedding the real deal. Some couples even decide to have a small, display cake (the one they cut and eat before friends, family, and photographer) and a less-expensive sheet cake (kept in the back) for the masses to enjoy! The real cake, small or big, should be out and on display–not carted out from the back–like the focal point it is!
Maggie Austin created sugar flowers on this tiered wedding cake.
Displaying the wedding cake on a beautiful linen and in a visible area allows your guests to enjoy the cake before it is cut and served.
Kathy, from Favorite Cakes, recreated the motif used on the printed materials to the wedding cake!
Anita from Maliha Creations used fresh flowers on this couples wedding cake. Ask your florist if they will provide flowers for your wedding cake, and make sure they have not sprayed the flowers with pesticides!
One of our brides loved the lace detailing in her wedding dress and she wished to have this pattern translated onto her wedding cake. Sylvia Weinstock’s creative design helped bring all of the details together!
Maggie Austin incorporated colors into her cake that were used in the decor of the wedding. Tones of orange and red were interspersed throughout the event in the form of pillows, draping, and even lighting.
Image 1 courtesy of Jen Fariello and cake by The Clifton Inn, Image 2 and 3 courtesy of Eric Kelley and cake by Maggie Austin, Image 4 and 5 courtesy of Patrica Lyons and cake by Sylvia Weinstock, Image 6 and 7 courtesy of Paul Morse and cake by Favorite Cakes,Image 8 and 9 courtesy of Patricia Lyons and cake by Maliha Creations, Image 10 and 11 courtesy of Patrica Lyons and cake by Maggie Austin, Image 12 and 13 courtesy of Patrica Lyons and cake by Sylvia Weinstock.