Wedding cake shopping is the most delicious part of the planning, but it’s not always a piece of cake.

You don’t hire a baker every day to make a show-stopping dessert to
feed 200 of your nearest and dearest, so the details can be tricky.

For great tips on how to pick the right cake–and baker–for the
occasion, read on for when to put your money where your mouth is.


Book early

Generally, aim to order your cake three to six months before your big day. The caveat: you also want to order it after
you’ve nailed down certain details. For example, your venue should be
booked, you should have an estimate of how many guests are attending and
your color scheme and invitations should be chosen. These specifics
help determine the size design of your cake.


Have chemistry with your baker

Bakers agree that it only takes one face-to-face meeting with the
couple, so make this visit count. Carefully flip through the baker’s
book for past creations–you’ll want to use them as a guide.

“See if personality and priorities jive with the baker. If you don’t
feel a connection, they might not be the right one for you. Do the
baker’s sketches and style make you happy?” says Andrea Boudewijn, chef
and owner of Superfine Bakery in Los Angeles. “This should be a struggle-free process and you should see eye-to-eye.”


Bring visuals to your meeting

Bring your baker lots of print-outs based on your wedding. He or she
wants to see your dress, your invites, your location and so on. This is
the starting point for a conversation you’ll have at your meeting about
the style and design for your cake.

It will also be the time you talk about flavors and taste. It’s okay
for your baker to take charge of this discussion of which flavors go
well together and which clash. Just like you wouldn’t barge into a
restaurant kitchen to tinker with a dish on the menu, heed your baker’s
suggestions. (But if you really don’t like where he or she is going, it may be an indication to move on to another baker.)


Know your frosting

Speaking of flavors, it helps to know the basic vocabulary of wedding frostings you’ll have to consider.

Buttercream is generally thought to taste best but is fragile. It
melts very quickly in the summer so it needs special storage if you’re
marrying in August.

Fondant is the other major category. This icing, often rolled out,
makes a porcelain-like finish and can really preserve the integrity of
the cake (i.e. it’s your best bet in a heat wave), according to Marney
White, owner of Marneycakes in Long Island, N.Y.

Other bakers cover cakes in rolled-out white chocolate, but this is rarer because the chocolate needs special refrigeration.


Size matters

You’ll want to know how many guests are attending, because this
detail impacts your cake’s design. Having 125 guests? You can plan on a
three- to four-tiered creation. Don’t try to convince a baker you want
five. A good baker knows the proportions will be really off to spread
that serving size out with additional tiers.


Find out if it’s frozen

Wedding cake baking is a time-intensive process. It can take upwards
of 12 hours to make one cake (a good reason why you’re not doing it
yourself to save money!). Some bakers freeze pre-made cake layers,
sacrificing taste for speed.

“Many do it for maximum efficiency (and profit), but it damages the
texture of the cake, making it hard and dry,” says Boudewijn. “A good
indicator of whether or not a bakery freezes is if they offer fillings
with fresh fruit. Fresh berries and such don’t survive in the freezer.
If they offer fresh fruit fillings, they likely don’t freeze their


Prep for the cost

This isn’t your typical special-occasion cake, so brace yourself for a
bill that exceeds your normal price range. “It is is likely the most
expensive cake you will ever buy,” says Boudewijn. Most pricing is done
per slice, from $2 to $20.

Of course, the price depends on how complicated and labor-intensive
your design will be. To cut corners, you can always add your own DIY
elements to a plainly frosted creation. You could order a pair of these
customized cake toppers from Lil’ Cake Toppers, for example, and skip the intricate sugar work that can cost more. What you think is cuter is all up to you.


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