The wedding cake is the most recognizable symbol of a wedding. It’s what beer is to baseball, what Elvis is to rock and roll, what rice is to sushi. A wedding just isn’t a wedding without the wedding cake. It’s the first thing people notice at a wedding (okay, maybe that’s just me, but still it’s important) and the thing they’ll remember most (again, probably just me).
Occasionally, I hear about a bride who decides not to have a wedding cake. Sadly, I understand completely. I’ve been to many weddings where the cake–cloyingly sweet with gloppy filling and crunchy buttercream–just gets pushed around the plate once it’s served, only to be tossed out like some used up napkin. I freely admit that I’m a cake snob, and unless I made it, I rarely eat the cake at a wedding. Sure, I’ll try it, just to see what it tastes like, but in the end, I’d rather not waste the carbs on something that’s not appealing to me. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the cake looks. If it doesn’t taste good, it’s a failure for me. Cake can be a hard sell. Many clients come to me with the typical bakery cake in mind, made with greasy shortening that leaves a film on the roof of your mouth and powdered sugar that crunches between your teeth. Some even let me know upfront that they don’t like cake. Before their tasting appointment, I’ll get an email that reads something like, “And just so you know, I hate buttercream.” Obviously, they’ve never tasted real buttercream–the French kind made with egg yolks, sugar, and butter, the kind that I make. Even traditional American buttercream that’s made with real butter still has the powdered sugar crunch. The sugar in French buttercream is cooked till it dissolves, so there is no crunch, only sweet, velvety, buttery yumminess. I always include a few buttercream flavors, even if the client doesn’t want one, just so I can see their surprise when they taste it. I’ve never had a client who didn’t like it. Ever. And my cakes? Made with real butter, all from scratch, and with high-end ingredients, they taste nothing like the cake they’re used to. I’ve built my reputation converting my clients and their guests from cake haters to cake lovers.
Why should you pay for a cake that no one is going to eat? The answer is, you shouldn’t. If you want your guests to eat the cake, it better taste good. But be advised that good taste comes with a price. Sure, you can get a less expensive cake, but in all likelihood it will have less expensive, and therefore less palatable, ingredients. If you don’t care what it tastes like, that’s fine, but if taste is a concern for you, be prepared to pay. Think about how much you would expect to pay for a good dessert at a restaurant. Now factor in the time spent for the designers’ expertise, the labor spent decorating the cake, delivery and set up, and that’s how much you’ll pay per person. Our cakes begin at $7 per serving. Some of the top designers in the industry charge as much as $20 per person.
Remember, you don’t have to give up on cake just to serve a delicious dessert. Your cake should be the delicious dessert. To ensure that it is, make a lot of appointments with different bakers. Almost every cake baker is happy to offer a complimentary consultation. Be sure to schedule a lot of tastings before you decide to work with a cake designer. Don’t get your heart set on a specific baker before you taste his cakes. At your consultation, taste the cake and fillings separately and together. They should both stand on their own but also pair well. Ask your baker lots of questions, and don’t forget to ask if he or she uses real butter. And lastly, don’t leave your guests wondering where the cake is.