Tuesday, March 25, 2008

“A cake, Frank, is made of flour and water.”

Often wedding clients feel like they are being taken advantage of by pricey cakes. Why are they so expensive? Are these cakes stuffed with a green paper filling?

Are these vendors making millions off my bliss?

It’s true, wedding desires often cost much more than you want them to. If you understand what goes into each item and the demand for them, it will make much more sense.

This Behind the Scenes look at Cakes is the first in our series of many Behind the Scenes posts.

Why do wedding cakes cost $6 a serving and up? (Keep in mind this is a mid-west estimate and you’ll pay more in New York, California, Napa, etc.)

Wedding cakes involve structure. This is not your 5th birthday cake. It’s 5 of those piled on top of each other. It involves PVC, dowels and very precise leveling. Sometimes brides wonder if they can make their own tiered cake. A fraction of brides have the baking skills to construct such a cake well. Even if you are one of them, I still do not recommend that you make the cake for your own wedding. You should spend your morning having your hair done, getting dressed, enjoying your family and friends. Stressed out brides are often those who try too much and then are panicked at the last minute. I’m sure you’re very talented, but you don’t want to test it today and be heart broken about the most important day of your life.

Wedding cakes should taste amazing. It’s really easy for a cake to be too dry or for the filling to be too soft and compromise the structure. Bakers have honed their skills for years, making many cakes each week. You may go and taste all their wonderful flavors and even challenge them to recreate one of your favorites in the months prior to your event. They have tested the science of the recipes to ensure they taste best and look great- no gloppy cake please.

Your wedding cake should look like a tower of art, not like a 3rd grade Home Economics project. Be inspired, go to the knot and see hundreds of gorgeous cakes that will call out to you and your wallet. Then go to your local bakeries’ websites and see who best fits your style. You do not need to see your exact cake but the cakes should have a similar feel and construction style. Don’t hire a baker who rarely works with fondant icing if that is what your heart desires. Make it yourself and you could be crying over orange fingers and slimy fondant. Pick a stunning cake and an artist to make it. Don’t believe the propaganda, this is the one time you should expect to have your cake and eat it too.

Finally, while we don’t suggest you make your own cake, we always suggest you be original. If there’s a traditional item you don’t want for your wedding, skip it and come up with your own idea. Guests often attend 5 weddings a summer. It’s refreshing to attend one that has been given attention to detail and is not the same as all the others. (Yes those floating candles are cool looking, but they were cool in 1990 as well.) Don’t want a pricey, tiered cake? Order 200 orange cupcakes from your grocer and shave chocolate over them. (Use a rotary cheese grater and chocolate chips). Or sprinkle silver dragées over ganache cupcakes.

One of my favorite weddings was in a wildflower field in Carbondale, CO. We rented large white tents, bright blue table cloths and ordered large fruit tarts. It was spectacular, and simple (shhhh- don’t tell.) These are some great ways to save with alternatives.

Still want that skyscraper art piece. (I know you do) Give the bakers a break. Tiered fondant cakes require a lot of labor and a lot of skill, and they make for a jaw dropping centerpiece for your reception.