If you are planning to have a cake at your wedding, you will invariably find yourself at a cake tasting appointment at some point during your planning process. These tips will help you have a more productive meeting and provide some general cake-related knowledge.
Do a little cake research
As with all things wedding-related, it’s helpful if you go to your meeting having some idea of what you want. There are so many options when it comes to cake design that you need to narrow the field a bit. Pinterest and wedding magazines are your friends here.
Find cakes that appeal to you and pin them to a wedding cake board on Pinterest. Once you get a decent number of pins—say 30 or 40—look through them and see if there are certain styles that appear over and over. If so, that’s the style you gravitate toward and probably what you want to order for your wedding.
Square Tiers vs. Round Tiers
When it comes to cakes, the first thing you need to know is the difference between a layer and a tier. When you bake a cake at home, it generally has two layers, separated by frosting. This is a one-tier cake. When you see a traditional wedding cake with a small, medium, and large tier stacked on top of each other, that’s a three-tier cake. Each tier probably has three or more layers within it.
Your bakery will help you figure out how many tiers your cake needs to be to serve the number of guests expected at your wedding. But you need to figure out whether you want those tiers to be square, round, or something else. You could do heart-shaped tiers, triangles, hexagons—really, any geometric shape. Round is the most traditional; square is a little edgier (no pun intended).
Buttercream vs. Fondant
When it comes to frosting, there are basically two types: buttercream and fondant. Buttercream is exactly what it sounds like—it’s made of primarily butter. It’s very light, airy, and fluffy. It’s easy to slice through and eat, but it is temperature sensitive and can melt in the sun. If you’re having an outdoor summer wedding, buttercream is probably not the way to go.
Fondant is actually icing that’s been rolled very thin and is then draped over the cake tier and pressed into place. It creates an ultra-smooth surface with clean lines. It’s also sometimes called “rolled fondant” because it’s rolled out. It holds up better in the heat, but can be difficult to cut into and eat because it’s much thicker than buttercream frosting.
Or maybe you’ll end up loving the look of “naked” cakes that have just a grazing of buttercream frosting. This is why you need Pinterest! You don’t know what you like until you see it!
Fresh Flowers vs. Gum Paste Flowers
If you plan to decorate your cake with flowers, you can do fresh or sugar. Fresh flowers work better with a buttercream frosting, while gum paste flowers are ideal for fondant. Not all fresh flowers are suitable for cake decorating because they are toxic. Be sure to discuss with your florist which flowers are safe to use (and you’ll want them to be pesticide-free).
Fresh flowers work well with buttercream because the frosting is soft, and you can press the flower stems into the frosting to keep them in place. Fondant creates a hard surface unsuitable for pressing flowers into. Instead, the gum paste flowers are “glued” to the fondant using a dab of icing. You could also use gum paste flowers on a buttercream-frosted cake, but the impact is greater on a fondant cake.
Keep in mind that gum paste flowers are expensive due to the amount of experience, skill, and labor required to produce them. If budget is a concern, fresh flowers will be a better choice.
Don’t forget to consider your overall wedding color scheme and think about how you want to incorporate it into your wedding cake. Maybe you want an all-white cake with flowers to match your color scheme. Or maybe you want the frosting to match your color scheme with a neutral cake topper and no flowers. Again, look at what you gravitated toward on Pinterest to help you narrow your choices.
Bonus tip: when shopping for cake toppers, Etsy is a gold mine. You can find anything you want on Etsy.
Limit your tasting options
The bakery will ask you to select a few different batter and filling combinations to taste during your appointment. This isn’t because they’re trying to short-change you. It’s because they offer so many options, there’s no way you could make a decision faced with that number of flavors. Limiting yourself to 4-6 flavors will enable you to actually make a decision.
I generally recommend that each tier of your cake be a different flavor, so you can offer your guests a few different options. Not everyone likes chocolate cake. (Shocking, I know!)
If you or your guests have allergies, discuss those with your bakery to see what they offer. You would be surprised at how good a gluten-, dairy-, and egg-free cake can taste! If that’s something you want to consider, be sure to ask to taste it at your appointment.
The anniversary tier
It’s a traditional wedding custom to save the top tier of your wedding cake, stick it in the freezer for a year, and eat it on your first wedding anniversary. This is a terrible idea. Cake is not designed to be frozen for a year. There’s no way it will taste anywhere near as good as it did on your wedding day!
A bakery I work with in Sacramento (Above and Beyond Cakes) offers a free anniversary cake when you spend a certain minimum amount on your wedding cake. This is genius. Even if your bakery doesn’t have a similar program, you can always order a small cake from them for your anniversary. I assure you it will taste much better than if you had saved the top tier.
If your budget is tight, there’s a simple way to cut down on cake costs. Instead of ordering a four-tier, fancy decorated cake to serve 150 people, order a small, one-tier, fancy decorated cake just for display and cutting. Then ask the bakery to make sheet cakes in the flavor combinations you liked best. The sheet cakes can be stashed in the kitchen, then sliced, plated, and served by the catering staff. No one will be the wiser. (Plus, it’s actually a lot easier to slice sheet cakes than a large multi-tier cake anyway.)
Enjoy the tasting!
With these tips, you’re well-prepared to have a successful cake tasting experience. It really is one of the best parts of planning your wedding, so be sure to enjoy it. Still have questions? Ask away down in the comments!
TL;DR here’s the video version
This post was written by Sacramento wedding planner Risa Weaver-Enion. If you're feeling overwhelmed by planning your wedding, we are here for you! Read more about what we do on our Welcome and Packages pages. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or want to inquire about getting help with wedding planning. And if you'd like to have future blog posts delivered to your inbox, please join our Insider’s Club on the Welcome page.