by Tom Tsatsos
The wedding cake is one of the most important features of your reception. In fact, it is the centerpiece of your reception. You should begin shopping for a baker 6-8 months before the wedding. If you plan on having your reception catered, ask your caterer if they will bake your wedding cake. However, you do not have to choose the caterer to bake your cake. You can also buy cakes from commercial and boutique bakeries, custom wedding cake designer, a culinary school or someone you know who makes cakes from home.
Begin by calling bakeries or cake decorators in your area to check for date availability. If they are available, make an appointment to go in and check out the designs, taste and skill level of the business. Many specialty cake decorators require that you book six months to a year in advance to reserve your date, whereas commercial bakeries may require 3 months due to larger staff and their ability to do a larger quantity of cakes.
Since most weddings are on the weekends, baker's deadlines also coincide with that timetable. A phone call to make an appointment to visit with the individual or bakery about your cake will be appreciated. If you just walk in and expect undivided attention, you may be disappointed if they do not have time to visit with you at that time.
Ask the baker to provide samples of the cake flavors, icings, fillings, etc., during your interview. The taste, flavor and texture of the cake itself will be the most important decision you will make when you order your cake. The outside beauty of your wedding cake will be important for your pictures and your personal statement, but the inside of the cake is what you will be serving to your guests. You want a cake that is flavorful, moist and good to eat.
Before your meeting with the baker, collect pictures of wedding cakes that appeal to you. Be sure to take those pictures with you on your interviews so that you can give your baker an illustrated idea of what you are looking for in a wedding cake. Here are some key questions you need to ask them:
- Flexibility-Will they bake a cake according to your specifications?
- Is the cake made from scratch or is it from a cake mix?
- Request to see pictures of their work. Most bakers will have a portfolio of their cakes.
- Certain cakes are not good for particular seasons. For example, if you are planning an outdoor wedding in August, you want to avoid cakes with mousse, meringue, whipped cream or buttercream filling. Ask the baker what cakes are in season.
- What is the price per serving? Prices can average between $1.50 a slice to $15 a slice depending on the cake you choose. The price depends on frosting, decorations, architecture, etc. Understand that the more elaborate the cake, the more expensive the "per serving" price will be.
- What are the extra charges? Most bakers charge for renting the pillars, columns, cake toppers, delivery and set-up. There may also be extra charges for certain cake fillings, flavors, styles, etc.
- Who will be setting up the cake?
- What do they provide in the set-up? Talk to your baker about how you'd like the cake table to be set up.
- If you plan on using fresh flowers on your cake, who is responsible for providing the flowers, the baker or the florist?
When interviewing the baker, make sure you know the number of servings required, your desired type and design, and your budget for the cake. Be up front with the baker about the maximum amount you are willing to spend on your cake and ask them if they are willing to negotiate. Click here to see how you can save money on your wedding cake.
After you have decided on a baker and all the details, make sure to get everything in writing. Your contract should include the following:
- Detailed description of the cake type, style, and description of the decorations.
- The number of layers and fillings for each layer if applicable.
- Type of frosting.
- Wedding date, time and location of delivery
- When, how, where and by whom the cake will be delivered (or picked up). Make sure to include the complete address where the cake is to be delivered.
- Name and contact information of the baker
- List of rented items (pillars, cake stand, cake table, etc.)
- Delivery and set-up fees
- Total price
- Deposit amount
- Balance and due date
- Baker's cancellation and/or refund policy
If you do your homework, buying your wedding cake will be a smooth process. Remember to be realistic, and don't spend your entire wedding budget on your wedding cake.