Let the Eat Cake: All About Wedding Cakes
Apryl Chapman Thomas

They come in different shapes and sizes, and now even colors. They can be small or they can be large. When it comes to wedding cakes, you are only limited by your imagination and yes, budget.

No matter how you slice it, your wedding cake is an integral part of your ceremony. Gone are the days of the plain wedding cake. Now couples are looking for something that reflects their personality and taste. While cakes may have evolved throughout the years, one thing is for certain, they have to taste good. Years from now, your guests won't remember the details on your gown, or how the groom sneezed loudly during the vows, but they will remember how your wedding cake tasted.

Just like gowns, invitations and flowers, wedding cakes have their own trends as well. What's popular among brides now? Different things, according to Rita Smircich, author of To Do Before “I Do.”

“Some brides are opting to have several small cakes on cake stands as the centerpiece on each table. Each cake can is a different flavor. Decorate them with flowers and not only do you have a fantastic centerpiece, but everyone has their own cake to eat as well.”

Another option includes renting a fake cake (cakerental.com) for the main centerpiece and have a sheet cake in the kitchen to serve the guests. Smircich points out the monetary difference ranges from $10 per slice to $1.75 per slice.

“You don't need spend thousands on a cake when a sheet cake made with the same filling(s) can be less expensive.” She adds this option is also great during the hot summer months. You can always forgo the actual cake and choose another dessert.

“Instead of a wedding cake, you can have tiers of cupcakes. Some couples even go with an ice cream sundae bar or custom-made cookies.”

“Remember, you don't have to go for the biggest and most expensive cake around. You can be creative while sticking to your budget.”

Wedding Cake Trends
“Wedding cakes are becoming more colorful,” says Heidi McAnulla, owner of Bake my Day (bakemydaydestin.com) in Destin, Fla. “Couples are using non-traditional colors from honey yellow to blue.”

She adds she is also seeing request for cakes with clean lines, whimsical style, or ribbon cakes that provide a crisp look. It depends on the couple.

Tanis Knight, owner of Cakes by Tanis (cakesbytanis.com) in Panama City Beach, Fla., agrees. “A lot of couples want a ribbon at the base of the cake, and when it comes to color, pool blue is very much in demand.”

Sizing Up the (Wedding) Cake
“One mistake couples make is thinking that everyone at their wedding is going to a. eat the cake, b. go back for seconds, and c. LOVE the flavor you picked,” says Smircich. “This isn't true. Most cake goes uneaten because people are full, watching their weight, or they don't like the flavor. Don't get a cake for the same number of people attending your wedding.” She recommends getting a smaller cake and have the kitchen staff stretch it to accommodate the guests, or have a half sheet cake in the kitchen just in case you think there won't be enough.”

McAnulla points out, “If you are going to have 30 people at your ceremony, don't ask for a three-tiered cake. You'll have a lot left over because that size typically feeds 120 people.”
Many brides and/or couples have a misconception on how many the cake can feed. Keep in mind that a wedding cake slice is smaller than a birthday cake slice. There's going to be leftovers. Also, McAnnulla says, you will be charged for the whole cake, not how many people eat it.

“If you want that three-tiered cake, you are going to be charged for a three-tiered, regardless.”

Meeting the Baker
Come prepared, says Knight.

“Brides seem to think that when they start looking for a cake, they need to find 'the cake',” she says. “What they don't think about is what they like about each different cake they see. We can talk about it and then put it all together to make 'their cake'.”

Once you and your baker has an idea about your cake, ask questions, advises Smircich.

“Some things to ask include what ingredients do they use to make their cakes (fresh vs. processed), who's making your cake, and will your cake be made fresh that day or made ahead of time and frozen.”

And don't forget that all-important taste test.

Listening to the Experts
Professionals know what they are talking about, says Smircich. Even if you have you heart set on something particular, if they tell you it won't work or stand up to the heat, listen to them. It can help you avoid a wedding cake malfunction.

“Some things can be done, some thing can't,” says McAnulla. “There are certain flavors that shouldn't be used and things like that. My job isn't only make the cake, but educate the couple about the cake as well.”

Parting Advice
“Don't wait until the last minute for your cake,” advises McAnulla. “Start at least six months out from your ceremony, and for destination weddings, the sooner the better.”

And most importantly, remember to relax and let the professionals take care of the details.

SIDEBAR ONE

Groom's Cake
What about the groom? While all the preparation seems to be on the wedding cake, don't forget about the groom's cake.
It's not mandatory, but many couples want to include one. It can be served at the reception as the second cake, or served the night before at the rehearsal dinner. Typically the cakes are more outlandish and represent the groom's interest, whether it's a hobby or favorite sports team.

SIDEBAR TWO

Wedding Cake Etiquette
Elise MacAdam, author of Something New: Wedding Etiquette for Rule Breakers, Traditionalists, and Everyone In Between, addresses three popular wedding cake related questions:

Do couples still do the "cake smash" or even feed each other pieces?
MacAdam: Some people still do the cake smash, but it is not at all necessary. Often one member of the couple is sort of goaded into it. I often hear from brides who worry that their grooms will try to do the cake smash because they think it will be funny and their friends want them to. The only way to handle this is to never do the cake smash unless you have talked to your fiancée or fiancé about it and are positive he or she would be as amused as you at the prospect.
Instead of the smashing, couples can easily just go with the simpler gesture where each feeds the other a bite of cake, but again, if either member of the couple is uncomfortable with the tradition, the only thing that will be missed by skipping is that traditional photo op.

When should the wedding cake be served, and who is responsible for getting everyone to where to cake is located.
MacAdam: Wedding cake tends to be cut just before dessert is served (if there is to be any dessert in addition to cake) and this can come immediately at the end of a meal or after a break. It can be nice to use an interval between the meal and the cake cutting as an opportunity to do some dancing.

There are numerous ways to summon people. A few standard methods are: a. the head waiter or host at the reception venue can circulate with the waitstaff to let guests know, b. couples that have the traditional "first dance" can have their band or DJ re-play the first dance song as a cue for guests to gather, or c. if someone (the best man often does this) is serving as an "emcee" for the toasts, he (or she) could announce that the cake cutting is about to commence.
Dancing resumes after the cake is cut.

The cake cutting is a helpful cue to guests because it signals a transition in the proceedings. After the cake is cut, guests can leave the reception without being thought rude.

Do couples still save the top? Is there anything wrong with not doing so?
MacAdam: Couples do often save to top section of their wedding cake and many cake makers have all sorts of techniques to keep the cake in reasonably tasty form after freezing (and they will supply instructions on how to do this).

If the wedding couple doesn't have freezer space or if they are planning to go away after the wedding or if they otherwise just don't want to bother with eating year-old cake, they don't have to. Nothing bad comes from skipping the tradition.