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Ask the Pros: Wedding Cakes

February 10th, 2014 by Jeannine

 
Ask the Pros: Wedding Cakes

Who doesn’t love dessert? Let alone something as beautiful, as tasty as a tiered, well-decorated wedding cake? It’s a treat for your eyes as well as your taste buds so no doubt it is an important decision when it comes to choosing yours. I asked three wedding cake bakers I trust for advice to help you with your wedding cake planning: Jennifer Fedje from Harmony Cakes, Jennifer Stafford from Jennifer Stafford Events (Vancity Vendor), and Kien Nguyen from Kien & Sweet. Here’s what the 3 of them had to say.

How early should couples order their cake?

Harmony Cakes - Maru Photography Jennifer Fedje: “Couples should order their cake after doing some research and making general decisions on what type of cake design they would like. For example choosing between a fondant or buttercream cake or cupcakes and with a general idea of the number of servings they will need as well as pics of cakes that they like or an idea of the style direction they would like to go in. If they have a couple of directions in mind that is certainly no problem, I can quote on each concept or give insight to the pros and cons of each. As far as timing, in the world of custom cakes, the earlier the better. Each cake is a unique reflection of the bride and grooms tastes and style therefore takes time and careful preparation for each project. Custom cakers only take on so many orders a weekend in order to devote the necessary time to complete each project to it’s highest level. I have clients who book a year or even more in advance. On the other hand there may be a few weekends here and there that are available so always ask, you never know!”

Jennifer Stafford: “While I do my best to accommodate last minute orders, it’s usually best if I have 2-3 months notice for wedding cakes, and 1 month for special occasion cakes. But as soon as you have your wedding date secured, it’s great to start contacting your vendors to secure the date well in advance, the final design & flavour decisions can be done much closer to.”

Jennifer Stafford Events - Danielle Dobson Photo

Kien Nguyen: “I would recommend no later than 3-4 months.  But the sooner the better.  Some dates book very early and you don’t want to be disappointed!”

What was your most unique wedding cake design?

Kien & Sweet - photo by Denise Lin Photography Jennifer Fedje: “A custom firefighter figure cake toppers. The bride and groom are Vancouver firefighters and they actually recreated the topper in one of their wedding photos. The bride wore her firefighter boots and the groom wore his firefighter pants, suspenders and boots. Super cute!”

Jennifer Stafford: “I once did a cake that was multi tier, and mostly faux. The top tier was real, as was a sneaky piece in the back of the bottom tier for the cutting ceremony. The design was a combination of ruffles, sugar roses, and lace, incorporating the couple’s colors (navy, pastel pink, and white). My favorite part of the cake was the custom topper- a wedding couple (wooden doll style) done in their likeness, out of fondant, it was fun!”

Kien Nguyen: “Designing 19 two-tiered cakes for one wedding.  All 19 had their very own design and were displayed onto a long table all together.  It was a wonderful sight.  And after the cake cutting ceremony, each table were presented a cake of their very own to cut as well.”

What important info do couples need to bring in to their first consultation?

Harmony Cakes Jennifer Fedje: “Couples should have a general idea of design and style of their cake, pics of cake designs that they like to draw inspiration from, any colours being used in the wedding or even samples of fabric, ribbon, invitations etc.”

Jennifer Stafford: “I ask my couples to bring me any fabric swatches and stationary that they already have picked out, so that I can get a good idea of the feel, theme, and color scheme they are trying to achieve. And I always encourage them to send me emails with pictures for inspiration, or include me on their Pinterest boards, just so we’re on the same page.”

Kien Nguyen: “Some basic information will be helpful on getting started. This includes how many guests you expect at your wedding, the date of the event, and the venue it will be held at.  Also bring pictures or other design inspirations to help us create a cake that is unique to the couple.”

Sugar or fresh flowers on the cake? What would be the budget friendly choice?

Jennifer Fedje: “The budget friendly choice is fresh flowers however there are advantages to using sugar flowers on your cake. Sugar flowers never wilt or brown and are designed specifically for your cake. Another wonderful option with sugar flowers is they can be kept for years as a keepsake.”

Jennifer Stafford Events - photo by Richelle Akimow Photography Jennifer Stafford: “This would depend on the quantity of flowers. For my cakes, I often include sugar flowers as part of the overall design, and cost, so they aren’t ‘extra’, provided there isn’t any additional labor or supply costs on my end. But I also incorporate fresh flowers on my cakes and have been lucky as many of the florists/decorators I’ve worked with have simply included a small bunch for the cake, so they match the other flowers at the reception. At no additional cost to myself as the baker, or to the couple. So both can be economical, they just need to explore their options.”

Kien Nguyen: “For me, my recommendation would always be sugar flowers.  I always will try and work within the couples budget.  Hard to say about fresh flowers, you have to always keep in mind if the flowers are pesticide free and not toxic.”

What would you recommend to a budget bride in lieu of a wedding cake?

Harmony Cakes Jennifer Fedje: “Cupcakes or a macaron tower are always a lovely option. A dessert or candy table or even a pie table are fun options. Also any decor and styling on the cake table adds to the overall look. Flowers, candles, linens, items as unique cupcake or cake stands like vintage suitcases, mirrors, platters etc.”

Jennifer Stafford: “Couples can consider doing a small cake for display/cutting, and having cupcakes for the guests. Cupcakes are still a very popular item and are at least half the price of a wedding cake serving. They are also quite portable on their own, so they could be transported by a guest/friend/etc.. and can be set up by the caterer or friend, rather than incurring a delivery/set up fee (when applicable).”

Kien Nguyen: “I would suggest other dessert ideas like pies or small serving cakes that the guests can help themselves.  That would help cut the cost of a cake cutting fee.”

Kien & Sweet - photo by Blush Wedding Photography What unique desserts have you made for a wedding?

Jennifer Fedje: “I have made cookies and tarts.”

Jennifer Stafford: “Probably just a bunch of ‘one-bite’ style desserts for dessert tables, like pie pops, cake pops, and whoopie pies. I am seeing an increasing amount of requests for dessert tables and all the small desserts that make them up. The more unique requests tend to come with special occasion cake orders.”

Kien Nguyen: “At this moment I am loving layered mini individual naked cakes.  I’ve made ombré coloured mini cakes and they are super cute!”

If a bride wants custom toppings or design without the huge price tag, what do you recommend to them?

Jennifer Stafford Events - photo by Richelle Akimow Photography Jennifer Fedje: “I would recommend creating a smaller cake or a styrofoam cake with all or some of the elements they love for display, cake cutting and pictures and then serving a sheet cake to their guests. There are advantages to this in that as they are doing the ceremonial cake cutting and pics meanwhile in the kitchen cake servings are being prepared for their guests.”

Jennifer Stafford: “I spend a fair bit of time with the couple to go over their options, and encourage them to include me in their Pinterest boards. Sometimes it means doing a part faux cake, or a smaller cake to go with cupcakes, or sheet cakes, or simply omitting the cake and doing a variety of fun sweets, but there are always options with dessert!”

How do you ease couples’ minds if they are worried about what the final product will look like?

Kien & Sweet - photo by Blush Wedding Photography Jennifer Fedje:Often I will draw the cake design out for them. One final tip. At least for me, the more room I have to be creative and take the cake design where I want the more the client ends up getting for their money. When given very specific constraints I am bound to that agreement but when trusted by my clients to use my skill, artistry and expertise I am always motivated to create something spectacular and often goes beyond the budget. I can’t help myself!”

Jennifer Stafford: “Well I hope by having a chance to meet the couple in person, or correspond with them over a period of time, along with photos of my previous work, that they feel comfortable in allowing me to create desserts for their big day. I have to say that I have never had negative feedback from one of my brides :) I’m also lucky to work with mostly referrals from friends, family, and past clients who are already aware of my quality of service and reliability. And I often create desserts for my clients, bridal showers etc.. so they are already familiar with my work prior to the big day.”

Kien Nguyen: “I send all my couples a sketch of their wedding cake.  That way they can have a good idea of what their cake will look like, so no major surprises.”

All photos provided by Jennifer Fedje, Jennifer Stafford, and Kien Nguyen – Hover over photos to determine who created the cake.

Photographer credits: Christine Williams Photography (feature photo – cake by Jennifer Stafford Events), Maru Photography, Harmony Cakes, Danielle Dobson Photo, Blush Wedding Photography, Richelle Akimow Photography, Denise Lin Photography

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