The idea of cake-tasting may be one of the more exciting tasks when it comes to wedding planning, but choosing a cake isn't as easy as it may sound.
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Have you considered how big your wedding cake needs to be to feed your guests? How to deal with food allergies? Or, the dreaded issue of how much you actually need to budget for your elaborately decorated, three-tiered, photo-worthy confection?
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Annie Bennett, founder of Leading Lady Cakes, told HELLO! everything you need to know about your wedding cake – including the biggest mistakes couples make.
How much does a wedding cake cost?
One easy mistake is failing to have a budget in mind before you contact wedding cake designers, and failing to stick to it! Annie said the cost very much depends on the size and decoration of your dream cake, with prices starting from around £500. She said: "[They cost] as much as the amount of ingredients, time and effort have gone into the cake you want.
"There's no set price list, and each baker will price their work according to their own set-up. Some bakers charge per person, but most will base prices on the size of the cake, the detail of decorations required and where the cake is to be delivered.
Annie Bennett revealed everything you need to know about wedding cakes. Photos: Leading Lady Cakes
"It's the decoration that makes the difference. If you want different colours, textures, sugar flowers, etc. then expect it to cost more. Leading Lady Cakes' average is around £500, though if it's seven tiers with intricate details you're after, then be prepared to go to four figures."
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In Annie's case, choosing a 'swirl' of sugar roses, which can involve making up to 100 individual decorations, "can take days or even weeks to make" – which obviously drives prices up.
To make your money go further, Annie said: "I'd recommend considering it as your dessert course. If that's not an option, ask your baker to work out the size based on 'finger portions', this will mean you will get more slices from the cake and it will feed more guests."
How big should my wedding cake be to feed 100 guests?
It sounds obvious, but make sure you cater for the number of guests you have invited – too little cake means not all of your friends and family members (or even the bride and groom!) will get a taste, and too much leads to wasted food and money.
For 100 guests, Annie said you should work on the basis of having 100 'party slices' which can be achieved with a three-tiered round cake of eight, 10 and 12-inch tiers.
"To minimise waste, ask the caterers to wrap any leftover cake, and then take it home and freeze it," she continued, provided it hasn't been previously frozen. "You can then have memories of your wedding for up to three months after it!"
What are the biggest mistakes couples make when choosing their wedding cake?
It's important to choose a cake that's the right size for your guest list
Following on from the issue of getting the size correct, Annie said the biggest mistakes brides and grooms make is: "Not getting to actually eat any of the cake! A tip to avoid this would be to ask your caterers to keep a slice from each tier and box it up for you to take away with you, so if there are no leftovers, you can still enjoy your cake after the big day."
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Timing is also very important, especially with the backlog of weddings following the coronavirus pandemic – so let this serve as your reminder to contact your wedding baker ASAP.
"Many bakers are booked up quite a few months, even years in advance, particularly for Saturdays in the summer months. So, if you leave it to even a few months before, you may well find it tricky to find someone to make your cake for you. That said, if your wedding date is a weekday, you might have more luck.
"My recommendation would be to secure a baker’s services as soon as you know your wedding date," Annie told us.
What questions should couples ask their wedding cake baker?
Picked your wedding baker? Check. Secured them on your wedding date? Check. Now, what to ask them? Over to Annie…
1. Is it possible to have a consultation and try some samples? She said that many bakers may charge for both, but you can sometimes get the money deducted from your total cost when you book.
2. Can I change my mind about my cake design or flavours, especially if my wedding is a year or more away? Some bakers might charge to make changes, but it's important to know if you have flexibility going forward.
3. What is included in the price you quote? Don't assume that delivery, for example, is part of the package, especially if it's not detailed in the quote. Annie reinforced that you should check before making any payments.
4. Can I see your Terms and Conditions? This should include 'What happens if…' type questions, which are more important than ever following the COVID-19 pandemic. She recommended talking to your baker if you have any concerns.
What is the most popular wedding cake?
Cupcakes, brownies, doughnuts or even cheese can be used as a cake
While you may want to try and choose a flavour that all of your guests enjoy, it's important to put your own preferences first – and that means you don't have to pick a traditional fruit cake as one of your three tiers.
"The most popular flavours are white chocolate and raspberry, salted caramel, and lemon. However, many couples still opt for the traditional design, three or four round tiers, with sprays or cascades of sugar flowers," the wedding cake extraordinaire explained. Which delicious option would you pick?
How do you deal with food allergies when it comes to making your wedding cake?
The last thing you want to happen is to make one of your guests ill, which is why you should raise any known food allergies with your baker at the first possible opportunity.
"Wedding cake bakers will know and be able to give you specific lists containing which of the 14 reportable food allergens your cake contains," Annie advised.
"Most will also be happy to provide full ingredient lists for you, though those may not be available in advance, as suppliers may change the contents of ingredients used, and your cake will be baked in the few days running up to your wedding."
What are the best wedding cake alternatives?
If you don't like cake (yes, that does apply to some people!), or you want a more modern, unique dessert, there are plenty of alternatives out there. Annie said doughnut walls, cheesecake tiers and brownie stacks are all very popular – we're getting hungry just thinking about them.
She added: "And for those without a sweet tooth, a 'cake' made entirely of cheese truckles – Cheddar, Stilton, Brie."
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