The wedding cake may be the sweetest symbol of a wedding celebration, but in ancient times the custom was slightly different. Wheat, symbolizing fertility, was baked into cakes, which were given to all of the guests to throw at the bride. This tradition continues today only in the form of throwing rice, birdseed or confetti at the newly married couple.
When brides and grooms cut their wedding cake together, they’re sharing matrimonial sweetness in the same way couples have done for centuries. In the recent past, traditional wedding cakes have consisted of plain white cake heavily decorated with white icing and topped with a plastic replica of a bride and groom, nowadays that is very retro. While tradition is always good, it’s a new millennium after all so your cake can also reflect a unique statement of your individuality.
The first step in creating your grand finale is to find an excellent pastry chef or bakery specializing in cakes. This should be done six to eight months before your wedding day. Some caterers also offer wedding cakes, and using their services is often the easiest option. Be sure and ask your caterer if this service is provided.
As you begin your search for the ultimate wedding cake, expect to see creations you never imagined: cakes resembling beautifully decorated hat boxes or wrapped gifts, sweet layers supported by sleek, glass pillars or “Alice in Wonderland” tilted layers in bright colors. You will see cakes so beautiful that it almost seems a shame to cut them.
Topping It Off
Not to be overlooked is your cake top. That famous pair, the plastic bride and groom, have been replaced nowadays by the fun and whimsical or the elegant and personalized cake top. Almost anything goes, from blown glass to porcelain figurines painted and dressed in the likeness of the bride and groom, to ornaments depicting a couple’s occupations or hobbies. If you’re more traditional, fresh flowers echoing those used throughout the wedding are also a good choice. As in every other aspect of the wedding, the cake top should reflect the personality of the couple it represents.
The Practical Part
Your idea of a great cake design and your baker’s ideas may differ. When you meet with your baker it is a good idea to have clippings from magazines or books highlighting some of your favorite cake designs. Describe the degree of formality, estimated number of guests and the colors and flowers for your wedding.
If you have already finalized, or at least have an idea of your menu, share this information with your baker so you don’t duplicate flavors. (Do you really want lemon chicken followed by lemon wedding cake?) Most bakers have portfolios depicting a wide variety of cakes and will provide you with a list of references.
Keep in mind that the cake is priced separately from the rest of the menu. The cost is quoted at a per-person per-serving rate, and prices will generally range from $1.50 to $6.50 per slice depending on your choice of ingredients and the complexity of the decorations. If cost is an issue, consider having a smaller decorated wedding cake accompanied by sheet cakes of the same flavor. The taste will be the same, but the price will be lower.
If you plan on observing the age-old tradition of saving the top layer for your first anniversary, be sure the number of servings does not include the top. If you don’t relish the taste of slightly stale cake, consider having a small version of your wedding cake baked fresh for your first anniversary.
Down to Details
Once you have made your selection, the baker will set up a tasting where you will also finalize the details of your cake selection in writing. Your contract should describe the specifics of the cake including filling and icing flavors, colors, decorations, cake top, number of servings, delivery date, time, location and set-up details. Confirm that all services are included in the final contract price. Usually a deposit of 50 percent is required, and the final head count is due no later than five days before the wedding.
Be sure to give your baker the name and number of a contact person at the reception site. It is the baker’s responsibility to find out exactly when the facility will be open for the cake’s delivery, if refrigeration is available if needed, and the general logistics of setting up the cake. Also, make sure that a separate table is set aside and decorated to display the cake.
Cutting the Cake
Most likely your baker will provide tips for you and your new groom to accomplish the time-honored task of cutting the cake with ease. Plan ahead to have your cake knife and lifter decorated with ribbons or fresh flowers. As tradition has it, the bride grasps the knife with the right hand and the groom encloses her hand with his. Together, the couple plunges the knife into this ancient symbol of prosperity and fertility.
To Dessert or Not to Dessert
In the case of a formal sit-down dinner, you might opt to serve a simple dessert at the end of the meal, usually ice cream or a light sorbet rather than cake. In this scenario the cake is cut some time after the traditional first dance. Because of the previous dessert you should opt for smaller cake portions, which may make the cake cost less. If this is your plan, let your baker know.
An additional cost, for which you should be prepared and that is unrelated to your baker, is the plating charge or caterer’s fee for serving the cake. The charges vary from $.50 to $1.50 per person, though in some instances this fee is negotiable.
Here’s a list of our featured vendors:
Barb’s Cakery 559.432.2272
Chiffono’s Bakery 559.433.9066
Creme de la Cake 559.431.1343
Eddie’s Bakery 559. 323.0900
Frosted Cakery 559.917.8880