Wedding Cake 101

Wedding cakes are one of the most iconic and definitely the sweetest part of a wedding. However, these large, beautiful cakes require a little more effort than a trip to your local grocery store bakery. Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Crystal DeZao from Azucar Bakery and chat about what the wedding cake process looks like and what couples should know before heading to cake tastings.

Before you go a bakery:

First things first, before you start looking at cakes, you should have chosen and booked your venue. Although cake tasting is one of the more fun appointments you have in your wedding planning process, it is crucial that you have your date and location finalized before you pick a bakery. They will need this information in order to check to make sure your venue is within their delivery range and that they have a delivery driver available for your date.

Another crucial detail that you should have ready is an estimated guest count. It does not need to be exact, but the closer you can get the closer your quote price will be to your actual price. You will give final numbers to your bakery a few weeks before your wedding, but the number you give them now, will help them estimate the cost and size of your wedding cake.

Before you start meeting with any bakeries or cake designers, you should sit down with your future spouse and look through some inspirations images. Inspiration images allow your cake designer to see what you are envisioning and can help them better estimate costs. Crystal recommends couples select two to three of their favorite images to share. Also bring in any other inspiration images you have for your wedding, including color palettes, floral arrangements, photos from your venue, or anything else you’ve already picked out. Your cake designer can help you design a cake that best fits your wedding days as a whole.

Another important element that you should discuss with your future spouse is your budget for your cake. In all likelihood this is the first wedding cake you’ve ever purchased, so you might not have any idea of what you should be expecting. This is where a wedding planner (or some light google searching) can come in handy. Do keep in mind that larger tiered cakes or cakes with a lot of details, like sugar flowers or hand painting will cost more. Additionally, do consider that there will most likely be delivery fees for your cake as well. You’ll want to have at least some idea of what you’d like your budget to be based on your guest count, what you are looking for in a cake, and your overall wedding budget. A good bakery and cake designer can work with you within your budget (as long as it is reasonable), but they have to know where to start.

Now you can start researching bakeries and cake designers in your area. Instagram can be a valuable resource to see what kinds of cakes match what you’re envisioning. Most bakeries and cake designers create a wide range of cakes, but you still want to go with someone whose overall aesthetic makes sense for your wedding. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a couple different bakeries, check their website for cake flavors and other specific details about their process.

Most bakeries won’t have specific prices for wedding cakes online because their price varies so drastically, from cake to cake. Azucar Bakery has an online quote form, but most bakeries will be willing to give you a rough estimate of cost via email. If possible, you’ll want to get a price estimate before you schedule a tasting. If your budget is $300 for your cake, but this bakery’s wedding cakes start at $800, then there is no point in going in for a tasting. You can also check to see if they have any availability on your date, if not you can immediately cross it off the list.

At your tasting:

You’ll want to schedule your tasting at least six months out, but the sooner the better! Bakeries have a limited number of delivery vehicles and the longer you wait to book, the less likely it will be that they will have availability. Make sure to bring all the information we talked about earlier: venue, date, timing of your event, guest count, inspiration images, and your budget.

During this meeting you’ll try several flavors of cake (make sure to ask ahead of time if you are looking for a specific or nontraditional flavor) and then you can chat with your cake designer about specifics of what you’re looking for. You probably already got a rough price quote, but this meeting can help you get into specifics and get a more accurate price.

These people are cake experts, so ask lots of questions and listen to their recommendations. Your cake designer is here to make things work for you, so they can recommend great ways to help you to stay within your budget, but still create a cake that fits your vision. They might suggest having a small cutting cake, but having a sheet cake for the majority of your guest to cut costs. Or just give some helpful information like dark butter cream stains mouths, so as much as you love the idea of a burgundy cake, going with burgundy ribbons might be a better move.

You can and should talk about what specific elements you love about your inspiration images. Do you love the floral design or are you more focused on the way they use color? Do you want sugar flowers or do you want to use real flowers? Also mention any traditions you want to include. Are you planning on freezing the top tier of your cake for your 1st anniversary? Are you planning on getting a cake topper? They’ll be able to guide you through the best ways to incorporate those traditions.

You should also talk about some the logistics of your wedding day. Will they be delivering the cake? Most bakeries and cake designers deliver wedding cakes, especially larger cakes, because transportation is tricky and there are often elements that need to be assembled on site. You’ll want to make sure you’re factoring that cost into the total cost of your cake. Additionally, you want to chat about renting things like cake stands. It’s pretty common to rent a cake stand, so you’ll want to find out if that is an additional cost and what the return process looks like for those rentals pieces.

Can’t Do a Tasting?

No problem! Whether you are doing a destination wedding or just can’t fit a tasting into your schedule, don’t worry. While a cake tasting is a fun appointment and allows you to work through design decisions face-to-face, most major decisions can be made over email or phone calls. Another option is sending in a representative, whether that’s your mom or your best friend, to do the tasting on your behalf. You’ll still be in control of the design decisions, but it gives you the peace of mind that your cake is still going to taste amazing.

Working with a Florist

If you’ve decided to add real flowers to your cake, you’ll need to work with your florist to incorporate that element into your overall floral plan. It can be helpful to bring inspiration images, along with a size estimate of your cake to your florist, so they can give you an estimate on the cost of flowers.

You’ll also want to discuss with both your florist and your cake team who will be placing the flowers on the cake. Different florists and bakeries work differently, but Azucar Bakery prefers to place the flowers themselves, since they have the tools necessary to fix any damage that may have been done to the frosting during the placement process. Knowing who will be doing what will help you figure out the best timeline for set-up.

2-3 Weeks out!

Final guest counts are typically due to the cake team two to three weeks before your wedding day. This allows them to make any necessary adjustments to make sure you have enough cake. You’ll also want to confirm their delivery time and make sure it makes sense with your other vendors. Ideally your cake should arrive later in your set-up window, so that the cake table is set-up and your cake has less time to be affected by the elements. Now’s also a great time to pass along any specific delivery instructions from your venue and your floor plan, so your cake delivery team knows exactly where they will be dropping the cake off and where the cake will be set-up.

Cake from Azucar Bakery