THE ICING ON THE CAKE
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.