Whether it is a photo opportunity, fertility symbol or gastronomic delight, a wedding cake is a focal point of your big day. As more people personalise their weddings, decoration has moved away from the traditional iced fruit cake to creations that are as varied as the ceremonies themselves.
Where to find your perfect cake
Try your local bakeries, cake specialists, and wedding caterers or enlist the help of a friend or relative. You could even impress your new husband and guests by making your own cake. Major supermarkets now produce a variety of basic, white iced celebration fruitcakes in various sizes, which can be decorated with piped icing, ribbons or fresh flowers. However, do not try to save money by having a homemade cake iced by a professional cake maker, as this is where most of the skill and expense lies.
Ask to see a portfolio of the cake maker’s work. This will demonstrate the styles of cake they specialise in and will give you an idea of the possibilities. Most professionals will be able to incorporate even the most original requirements into their designs. A good baker should be willing and able to copy a picture of a cake, so if one catches your eye in a magazine or book do not hesitate to take it along with you as a suggestion.
The more elaborate the design the higher the price so it is important to discuss the final costs and any extra requirements before making a confirmed order. Reputable suppliers will offer you the opportunity to taste their products before making a final decision, which is particularly important if you want an unusual flavour or filling.
Plan and order your cake in plenty of time as the most delicious fruitcakes are made about three months before a wedding and steeped in extra alcohol for a few weeks.
What can I have?
You can have just about every conceivable style and shape of wedding cake from a simple round single layer for a small celebration with a few guests, to a model of the star ship enterprise if that is your theme. Traditional tier designs are ideal for larger weddings and are best made with fruit, although the upper tiers could be made of sponge to accommodate different tastes.
A tiered cake made entirely of sponge is not possible, as the weight would very likely cause the cake to collapse. However, modern cake stands allow up to three cakes to be stack one above the other, giving the illusion of a tiered cake, even if they are made of a more delicate base.
Decorating your cake
Decorate your cake with traditional royal icing, fondant icing or chocolate to match the colour scheme of the wedding party or flowers. If you want more adventurous flavours, try chocolate, spice, Grande Marnier or even cheesecake!
Look for design ideas from magazines and books and be as unique and individual as your wedding. Choose anything from intricate icing or sugarcraft designs to a plain cake decorated with fresh flowers that match your bouquet. But be as wacky as you like – create the Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower, a daisy-fest or even caricatures of the wedding party at the Top Table!
Displaying your cake
At some stage during the wedding day everyone’s attention will be focussed on your cake so make sure it is given a safe but prominent position either on the top table or close by where it cannot be knocked into by over exuberant guests and waiters. Also ensure that it does not obscure the guests’ view of the top table.
Wedding cakes abroad
Companies that arrange weddings abroad normally include a cake in the package deal but you can’t guarantee the quality and you are often given little choice of flavour or design. Specialist cake companies, will make and package small, travel-friendly cakes especially for weddings abroad but check with the airline that they will allow you to transport it as part of your hand luggage. Once you have arrived at your destination store your cake somewhere safe, cool and dry and out of sunlight.
A wedding abroad is a perfect opportunity to break with tradition and have a brightly coloured or highly flavoured cake, perhaps decorated with exotic flowers to suit your surroundings or you could choose a fantastic dessert instead!
The Croquembouche originates in France where it is eaten at important festivities, but is becoming very popular at weddings in the UK. This is a tall conical or pyramid shaped tower of choux buns (profiteroles), filled with fresh cream and covered in caramel, peanut brittle and a cascading veil of spun sugar.
Although the spectacular-looking Croquembouche does not contain any particularly expensive ingredients, you will pay for the enormous patience and skill that is required to construct it. And do remember that a Croquembouche for 100 people will be up to four feet in height and very precarious to transport and display!
It is impossible to cut a Croquembouche in the traditional way so instead you attack it with a little hammer to break the hard caramelised surface, which allows the buns to be separated and served. As Croquembouche is sticky and difficult to eat it is served on plates and eaten with forks.
Another alternative to the traditional wedding cake is a plate of fairy cakes piled high. Although you cannot cut into them in the same way, perhaps take off the top cake and make a point of eating it together. These can be decorated in a variety of styles and colours to suit your celebrations, with many different fillings and flavours.
Many couples have their cake to double as a dessert or even act as edible favours with guests’ names painted on with icing.
Whichever style of cake you choose make sure that you taste some on the day. Many couples find that they are too excited to eat very much at their own wedding reception so remember to keep a piece of cake for yourselves.