Your wedding day presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to create an almost ethereally happy experience. One that will be captured in all its splendour by the expert eye of a fantastic photographer and imprinted in the memories of friends and family for eternity. The jewel in this celebratory crown is, of course, the momentous wedding cake, glistening with a sparkle only rivalled by the happiness in the lucky couple’s eyes.
Wedding cake wizard, award-winning TV chef and cookbook author – Grace Stevens – has been making cakes that celebrate the best traditions and trends in wedding cakes for over 12 years. She shares with us how to make your wedding cake absolutely whimsical.
Flavours & Fillings
Deciding what flavour and fillings from the infinite range on Pinterest can be daunting. Great bakers are only too happy to mix and match flavours to suit the client’s inspiration and preferred pallet – making the tasting extra important. I personally include tastings in the fee of the cake because they are so vital.
Just like chefs have signature dishes, bakers often have signature flavours that best demonstrate their culinary artistry through the perfect balance of flavours, so it is best to collaborate with your baker and ask about their best sellers. Honest clear communication will also make your baker aware of any dietary preferences you may have such as vegan or gluten-free cakes, which can be easily sourced.
Many couples also enjoy bakers like me who are environmentally aware and use products that are local, organic and in season to up the quality of their cakes and limit their footprint.
Design & Decoration
When it comes to decorations each cake decorator has a speciality, so it is well worth having a look at their portfolio of work to get a good idea of what they are excellent at. Researching your baker to find someone who makes cakes in the style you adore has never been easier with social media.
Just be aware that whether custom designs or standard cakes are available depends on your baker. Usually, bakers will make similar designs, and it’s the decorator that brings the personality of the couple and their artistic flair to the cake. Expecting a replica of an online image may rob you of your decorator’s creative genius.
Couples should request different options for a price per serving at various pricing tiers, so brides and grooms don’t end up with their purse strings in a knot when adding in extras.
We know the saying well, “it’s the icing on the cake”, but how do you choose? Between buttercream and fondant, sugarcraft and chocolate work and sugar flowers vs fresh flowers, it can be confusing. And if you want fresh flowers, do you need to source them or will the baker?
Should you go for edible flowers, especially for outdoor weddings, sugar flowers are a great option as they don’t wilt and your decorator can make any flower you wish. Fresh flowers on the other hand are impacted by the seasons and the cost depends on availability, which can have a negative impact on your budget.
There are also lots of flowers that are poisonous, so you may not be able to have the type of fresh flowers you want on the cake. Some also wilt quickly in the venue over the 6 to 8 hours of your big day. So it is best to get your photographer to take pictures of the cake as soon as it is delivered for the best shots.
Execution & Logistics
The nightmare of the wedding cake being dropped as it slides off the back seat of the car is one shared by many bridesmaids. To avoid this unnecessary stress, arrange that your cake maker delivers and sets up their masterpiece. Delivering a wedding cake is nerve-wracking and a unique skill in itself with additional costs like fuel and tolls. Cakes should also always travel covered and a professional with lots of experience has the necessary equipment and skills to give you peace of mind.
Once the cake is delivered and set up, it’s wise to have an agreed-upon person, like someone in the wedding party, to look after the cake and sign that it has been received to avoid the responsibility shifting solely to the bride and groom.
You should also make sure you book your baker at least 3 months ahead, especially in the spring wedding season as they get incredibly busy. Bet on 6 months if your baker is super popular and up to a year ahead if they are a celebrity.
Be sure to discuss any traditions with your baker as they may be able to assist you. For instance, buying the boxes through them is an easy way to keep on the tradition of packing small pieces of cake for your guests to take home without the extra logistics.
Payment terms will vary with each baker. Personally, I only book the wedding date once I have received a 50% deposit with the balance due 14 days before the event. Decorative cake stands, sparkly toppers and elaborate knives are often offered by bakers, but an extra fee is usually charged, and a deposit required.
With the changing lockdown status, bakers are aware that things have to be flexible. Nevertheless, you should also know that refund policies differ amongst bakers and clarify these conditions at the beginning of your experience. Once the baker has started the cake, a full refund is unlikely.
Whether yours is to be a formal affair or a garden wedding with canapés and champagne like mine, weddings are wonderfully sentimental events. A time in a couple’s life that will be remembered forever, so it is worth taking a moment to craft your cake with flavours that conjures celebratory memories of great company and love decades after your big day has passed.
To see some spectacular delicious cakes, follow Grace on Instagram @ grace_stevenschef, visit her website for the best recipes www.gracestevens.co.za, or meet her in person and book your Chiffon Cake class at the stunning Bosch experience centre, Cape Town.