Hours upon hours of shows on television are devoted to weddings. Some follow brides through the choice of the dress. Other shows focus on the frosting-covered, sugar-filled dessert that towers above all others at the reception.
The wedding cake has been a part of the wedding tradition for ages and serves multiple functions. The cake is decoration. Guests will look at it when they enter the reception hall and it has the opportunity to reflect the humor, style and personality of the bride and groom. The cake is symbolic. Together, the newlyweds cut the cake as their "first act" as man and wife. The feeding of the cake to each other, is a promise that they will keep each other fed throughout their years together. The cake is food. Quite simply, the cake is there to feed the people at the reception. Engaged couples often debate the flavor or flavors of a cake to satisfy their guests' tastes.
On the shows that build wedding cakes, teams of decorators and bakers can create outlandish edible monuments. However, when it comes to choosing a cake for their wedding, some brides stick with tradition while others go off the wall with fountains, satellite cakes and towers of buttercream.
SCRUMPTIOUS — This cake by Paula Harper is a variation of a traditional cake. Square layers stacked on a bias give unique shapes to this four-tier cake. Flowers and ribbons have been popular decorations in cake design for the past few years, Harper said. (Photo courtesy Paula Harper.)
The general consensus among cake bakers is that the further in advance the bride sits down with a baker to hash out the details of their fairy-tale cake, the better. Suzanne Carter and Paula Harper both say three to six months beforehand is the normal time frame given to bakers by brides. Especially during the busy season, cake makers will need more time to focus on the more elaborate cakes.
Bringing in ideas can also make the baker's job easier. Coming in with photos of parents' cakes or celebrity cakes is always a good idea, according to Carter. Harper said that new ideas are fun and challenging. The more challenging a cake design is, the longer the baker will need to get it right. Currently, Harper is working on a "topsy-turvy" cake for a wedding this fall. While she is excited about the cake, she said she will probably make a trial cake before the big day.
"I'm anxious to try and do that," Harper said. "I love new ideas."
While non-traditional cakes are popping up more, Carter said she has seen more traditional designs. Over the past year, she has decorated many cakes in a traditional vein. There is one thing all the cakes have in common.
"They (brides) want something simple but elegant,"?Carter said.
However, knowing the design of the cake is just a small step in having the centerpiece of the reception perfect. One of the first things Harper says she takes into account is the number of people the cake will need to serve. The standard bakers use to charge for their cakes is a price per slice. That is usually the easiest way for brides to determine how much cake for the baker to make based on the number of guests.
Aside from the flavor of the cake itself, the way the cake is decorated is important as well. Bakers can use fondant or buttercream to cover cakes, but finding out which method the baker prefers can make the decision of which baker to choose. Harper said she will not cover a cake in fondant. Carter prefers not to, but will. Both have used, and enjoy using, fondant to make 3-D elements-such as leaves and flowers. No matter how the cake is covered, the baker should be focused on creating a cake that fits the bride's style.
All in all, the cake is one of the most important parts of the reception. The bride needs to sit down with her baker to make sure all of the attendees will remember how delicious and lovely the cake was.