Wedding Cakes: An Essential Guide
After a beautiful ceremony, a fun-filled reception, and a memorable day, a slice of cake is the sweetest way to wrap up a wedding. When it comes to choosing, buying, setting up the dessert table, and figuring out all the specifics of your wedding cake, though, things can get tricky.
Our essential guide to wedding cakes will answer all of your most-asked questions and help you have your (wedding) cake and eat it, too. This may be a difficult time to work on in your wedding budget, but it'll definitely be the sweetest!
Where to Get Wedding Cakes
There are several options for deciding on where to get your wedding cake, whether that be from a professional, a crafty friend or family member, or taking on a DIY project and creating your own. Most wedding experts will agree, though, that ordering from a bakery will ensure the best possible results (and peace of mind) on your wedding day.
Not only do bakers have the experience necessary to bake wedding cakes, but they follow strict protocols and guidelines to make sure that all of your expectations are met. Bakers can advise you on flavor profiles, decorations, and serving sizes — all working within your budget. Hiring a professional will also free you from the hassle and worry of having a novice bake your cake. When deciding on a bakery, be upfront about your wants and needs, and make sure to ask the right questions. For extra help, use Easy Event Planning's bakery directory to find the right choice in your area and get a quote.
If you choose to hire a baker, there are important criteria you should look for and certain questions you should ask to ensure that you end up with the best dessert possible. Start with these simple questions at any local bakery or cake shop.
1. Are you certified by the state?
Ask if the bakery is certified by the state — because if not, then it's likely that they have not passed a health inspection, and you will want to explore other options. You want to know that wedding cakes are coming out of a business that maintains high health and safety standards, so doing a bit of a background check on your bakery is essential.
2. Do you have a portfolio available?
Always ask for a portfolio! You want to see what kind of work the bakery does, what styles they work best with, and try to determine if they can bring your vision to life. Different bakeries specialize in different wedding cakes, styles, and techniques, so make sure you do your research and find out exactly what it is they offer.
3. Do you offer custom wedding cakes?
Some bakeries offer custom wedding cakes, whereas others ask clients to choose from a preset selection of designs. It is important to consider which of these options is a better fit for you and if you feel that a completely unique design is better suited for your event. Make sure to ask about the price difference between the two.
4. What flavors and fillings do you offer?
Find out what kinds of flavors the bakery offers. This can apply to cake, cupcakes, cookies, or any other type of pastry. With wedding cakes, in particular, you will also want to find out what types of fillings are available. Other questions to consider: is the bakery willing to mix-and-match flavors, or do they prefer for clients to stick to just one? Can they accommodate dietary restrictions (like vegan and gluten-free diets)?
5. How do you price your wedding cakes?
Find out how the bakery breaks down its charges. Does it charge by the slice, by tiers (in the case of cakes), by the dozen (for cupcakes and cookies), or by some other means? Are there extra costs for using particular decorations? Find out the breakdown of costs so that you can stay within your budget.
6. What is the delivery process like?
For some smaller desserts, it is feasible to simply pick them up from the bakery on the day of your event. However, for larger orders (like wedding cakes, for instance), the dessert may need to be transported. Ask the bakery what their delivery process is like — what their fees are, if they provide set-up on location, what their policy is for damaged goods, etc.
7. How far in advance do you need to place your order?
Ask how long it will take the bakery to complete your order so that you can determine how far in advance you need to place it. Don’t wait until the last minute and allow the bakery plenty of time to create your perfect wedding cake.
Wedding Cake Cost
Depending on the area, time of year, and your individual preferences, the cost of a wedding cake can vary dramatically. In general, wedding cakes range from $125 to $700, with an average price tag of $350. No matter the cost, though, try using a few of our favorite tips to save money.
One option is to serve smaller slices at the reception, or “half-servings.” Smaller servings can help cut costs and decrease the amount of leftovers that end up going to waste. A second option is to use fake tiers — iced and decorated — to get the same look as a real, multi-tiered cake. A final option is to opt for a smaller cake used exclusively for the cutting ceremony, then serve other desserts to guests. Macarons, fruit tarts, and parfaits are all great, crowd-pleasing options.
Wedding Cake Flavors
After selecting your bakery, it’s time to decide on the details of your cake. When it comes to wedding cake flavors, the four most popular choices are vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet. Common icing flavors include traditional buttercream, cream cheese, and chocolate ganache. Adventurous parties, however, are encouraged to get creative and mix-and-match flavors: think Italian cream, amaretto with apricot filling, or lemon sponge with raspberry cream.
Or, for the trendsetting couple, try some of the year's most popular flavors: coffee and cognac, dark chocolate and blood orange, or dulce de leche. Can’t decide on just one? It’s common to incorporate several flavors into your cake, but make sure to have at least two so that guests have options to choose from. Ask your baker about their specialty flavors, and make sure to take part in a taste test before making your final choice.
How Many Servings in a Wedding Cake
Another important consideration for ordering your wedding cake is how many guests it can reasonably serve. In general, different sized tiers can serve a set amount of people. 12-inch tiers, which are typically the bottom tiers of a wedding cake, can serve 45-56 guests (depending on how they are sliced). 10-inch tiers can serve between 30-38; 8-inch tiers can serve 20-24; and 6-inch tiers, typically placed at the top of the cake, can serve approximately 10. To construct your perfect cake, it’s important to consider how many servings you can get out of each tier so that you can feed all of your guests.
How Much Cake to Order
Once you have a better grasp of serving sizes, consider the number of people on your guest list. This will help you to decide how much cake to order. Advice varies, but a good rule of thumb is to have enough cake for roughly 80% of guests — which factors out guests who were invited but unable to attend the wedding and those who will skip out on cake altogether.
For example, for a 150-guest wedding, plan on ordering enough cake for 120 people. If you plan to serve a groom’s cake or other desserts alongside your wedding cake, this number can be adjusted as well. Your baker will be able to help you pinpoint an exact number. In any case, though, it is essential to make sure that there is enough cake to go around.
How Far in Advance to Order Cake
Most bakers will agree that the earlier wedding cakes are ordered, the better. Some businesses allow couples to book up to a year in advance, or, on the other end of the spectrum, as soon as 2 months leading up to the big day. A number of factors play into booking times, including the size of the bakery and whether or not you order during the busy season (spring and summer months). Smaller bakeries, for example, may only take one or two orders per weekend.
A good goal to reach for when booking is approximately 6 months in advance. This timeframe will allow you and the baker adequate time to design, construct, and work out the specific details of your cake. Helpful tip: most bakeries will charge a deposit (generally 50% of the total cost) at the time of booking.
When to Cut the Cake
On your wedding day — after your cake has been ordered, paid for, and carefully delivered to your reception site — it will finally be ready to enjoy with friends and family. Traditionally, the newlywed couple participates in a cake cutting ceremony before guests are served. These ceremonies are flexible, but experts agree that the most popular (and anticipated) time to cut the cake is at the reception, after dinner and right before the couple’s first dance. This provides a smooth transition into the evening’s events and gives older guests the option to leave, if they don't feel like partaking in drinking and dancing later in the night.
Who Cuts the Cake
At the cutting ceremony, tradition dictates that the bride and groom slice the first piece of cake together and feed it to one another (cake smash optional). From there, the task is handed off to a third party — either a friend/family member or a professional — who slices the cake for guests. Bakers, as well as some caterers, will offer to cut the cake for a fee of up to $1 per slice. This fee ensures that the job is done with efficiency and precision, but it can raise the price tag significantly.
On the other hand, a group of friends and family members can cut the cake, but they should be knowledgeable of specific cutting techniques (see below) and have practiced prior to the big day.
How to Cut Wedding Cakes
How to Cut Round Wedding Cakes
When it comes to actually cutting the cake, techniques vary. For a round wedding cake, there are two cutting options. The first of these is the ring method, which is ideal for cutting larger tiers. To use the ring method, start off by unstacking the tiers of the cake. Then, take the base tier and cut a 1” circular ring around the outer edge. Once the ring is cut, slice it into 1-2” slices of cake to serve. Repeat the process until the entire tier is sliced.
The second method involves cutting the cake into rectangular slices. To do this, start out by unstacking each tier. Cut straight, even lines down the center of the cake, before turning it clockwise and repeating the process to make a grid-like shape. Make sure to regularly wipe off the cutting knife to get a smooth, even slice every time.
How to Cut Square Wedding Cakes
To cut a square wedding cake, start off by making 1” cuts from the outer edge of the bottom tier. Be careful to make even slices, so as to ensure consistency from one edge to the other. After making the initial cuts, turn the cake 90 degrees and make 2” wide cuts. 1”x2” is the typical size of a slice of cake, but be sure to ask your baker what measurements they use so you can get the perfect piece.
How to Cut Tiered Wedding Cakes
A tiered wedding cake adds a sense of sophistication to your big day. To cut a tiered wedding cake, begin by unstacking the layers from top to bottom. Many couples save and store the top layer to enjoy on their one-year anniversary (more on this below), so decide if you would like to save yours or share it with guests. Next, remove any dowels or support systems holding the tiers together. Depending on if the cake is round or square, use a proper cutting technique to slice through it and serve guests accordingly.
How to Freeze Wedding Cake
As mentioned above, some couples opt to save the top tier of their wedding cake and share it together on their first anniversary. To ensure freshness, freezing is necessary. Start off by pre-freezing the cake so that the icing hardens. Once the icing is frozen, take the cake out of the freezer and wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap. Next, place the cake in a box and wrap the box in several additional layers of plastic wrap. Or, for the best possible results, store the cake in an airtight container. Then, put it back in the freezer for safe storage.
How to Defrost Wedding Cake
Once your one-year anniversary rolls around, or you and your spouse simply get a sweet tooth, you will need to defrost your cake. To do this, remove the cake from the freezer and discard its wrapping. Then, immediately place it in the refrigerator to thaw for 24-48 hours. Just before serving, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature for approximately 2-3 hours — then viola! Your wedding cake is ready to enjoy.
Weddings are one of the most memorable occasions in life, but a good slice of wedding cake can make it even sweeter. Once you've secured your cake, you can mark it off your wedding checklist! With these tips, tricks, and practical pieces of advice, you can find the perfect wedding cakes and be sure that the slice is right.
Check out other helpful wedding ideas to help you plan the perfect wedding.
Written by Taylor Gregory; Contributors: Deesha and Daisy Gonzales-Quezada