Wedding Cakes

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“How sweet it is to be loved by you” 

Next to the bride’s wedding dress, the wedding cake makes for a great conversation piece. Depending on how high it is and how regal – and some cakes do look majestic – people will likely make a comment or two. “Did you see the way the doves were perched above and how they didn’t even leave footprints on the icing?” “How do they freeze this tower, anyway?” “How many hours do a layer make?”

The wedding cake adds to the décor and is a good dessert to replace the calories after heavy eating and vigorous disco dancing. It goes well with champagne too!

Most of all, however, the wedding cake is the symbol of fertility. Make your wedding a rich display of symbols by paying close attention to cake details. You’ve got to hand it to the expert baker. What splendor his hands can weave out of all that flour and sugar!

As Symbolic as Ever

Rituals have staying power. We can chuckle about them and make fun of them but they have a way of lingering in our psyche, and finding expression during those special moments in our lives. Symbols - whether they be wedding cakes, Easter bunnies or mistletoes at Christmas – predominate in our lives. Rituals are here to stay, like it or not, because they hold symbolic meaning.

The wedding cake symbolizes fertility and prosperity. The traditionally accepted practice is for the bride to have the first bite; otherwise, she’d be childless and barren. There’s a time during the reception when the bride will cut the cake, and again, there is a standard practice for this segment: the husband should place his hands over the bride’s (we’re talking about the knife that’s going to cut the cake, nothing else). The cake should be cut from the bottom layer and never at the top, unless you’d like a replica of the leaning tower of Pisa. After the bride cuts the cake and both she and her groom have had their bites, the cake is quickly wheeled over to the kitchen so that it gets sliced into portions for the guests.

Wedding Cake Costs

Like wedding goblets and favors, wedding cakes have a price range. Your little community baker around the corner can provide cake slices at a dollar per head. It will, however, be a packaged recipe, which you want to avoid because there will be guests at your reception who will certainly know the difference between a cake made out from a cake mix box and one that’s been baked from scratch and finished and decorated to perfection.

In large cities, you will surely find some refined pastry shops and high-priced bakers, and you could be looking at $8.00 to $10.00 per head. You’ll notice the quality right away, though. The primary and secondary ingredients are fresh, and hence the cake tastes better.

Cost, then, would depend on three factors:

  • Quality of ingredients
  • Labor involved
  • Number of guests to be served

Speaking of the labor involved in “manufacturing” a wedding cake, have you seen some cake samples? Pardon the adolescent expression but they’re “outta this world” and simply “awesome.” Some of them look like they’re harder to build than the Tower of London or the Sears Tower, some of them look like gift boxes with ornate ribbons, fragile petals and make-believe drapes. Some cakes are shaped like hearts with the daintiest of flowers surrounding them, still others look like the Pyramids of Egypt with large bows and colorful ribbons marking each layer. The more intricate designs are a sight to behold. You wonder how much talent you need to make a wedding cake, because it does take brawn and brains.

Wedding Cakes for the Budget-Conscious

Beautiful cakes are a welcome treat in any reception because they are natural attention-getters. There is no law, however, that says a simple wedding cake just won’t cut it (no pun intended). Any cake will do, of course, because you don’t want one that will break the bank.

There are ways of saving on wedding cake costs: you can ask the baker to use the more expensive ingredients for the main cake, and the portions that are handed out to the guests can be made of less costly ingredients. If you have a good cake, you can skip a second dessert. Let the cake be the dessert. Or else, serve the cake as the main dessert, and order a less expensive second dessert. You can also scale back on the accessories and the trinkets. They seem like trivia items, but they do add up. Some wealthy couples have cake toppers in the form of expensive monograms, a special gem-studded design, or a word/phrase with precision-cut numbers and letters. All these cost a heap.

Ordering Them

Timing is probably your # 1 consideration for your wedding cake. Order it three months before the wedding date, much earlier if you’re getting married during popular wedding months (May, June, July, August and September) or if your baker is in demand.

If you have invited 100 guests to the reception, don’t give that number to your baker because he will make a cake that will serve 100-115 guests. Be generous when giving headcount, but you must also tell your baker what the specific size should be for guests. You don’t want to serve a “wimp” of a cake to show you were saving on portions, nor would you like a “big Mac” slice.

Flavors – for this aspect, you have a wide selection. Some like butter, some prefer chocolate. Others will order a no-flour cake. You can also order different flavors for each cake layer – raspberry, chocolate, vanilla, or lemon. Or go for the cheese cake or the Italian chocolate mousse one.

In finalizing details with your baker, you may want to ask him if you could taste a sample. Some bakers will be gracious enough to offer you slices without you requesting it, while others put on a tight lip when asked.

You can also ask your baker if your cake will be fresh or frozen. With the price you’re paying, you’d want your cake to be as fresh as possible. Some bakers, for logistics purposes, bake the layers early and put them in the freezer, and take them out only when it’s time to decorate.

Finally, ask if delivery and “installation” will cost extra. Unless it’s a small cake, you wouldn’t want to be a do-it-yourselfer for this particular task. It takes a pro to deliver a cake and set it up properly on the table – especially if it’s a cake with multiple layers or a spiral staircase or imposing pillars and columns. As to the specific delivery time, there’s a bit of a risk if your cake is delivered two hours before the reception and it will be sitting alone and uncared for. Someone could accidentally hit it making it topple over.

Oh, by the way, get all cake details in writing.  

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