Monday, November 21, 2011

How to choose the BEST tasting wedding cake: 7 steps to success

Delicious Red Velvet Cake with luscious cream cheese filling

When I started making wedding cakes nearly 25 years ago, the options for flavors were few and not particularly dynamic. The norm was goopey buttercream that hurt your teeth when you took a bite and plain dry white cake that frankly was just not worth the calories.

Since then there has been a tremendous change in taste palates in general, but also the expectation of what a good wedding cake should taste like. The appreciation and expectation for good food at a wedding has also expanded, and caterers and cake bakers are stepping up.

One of the forces that drove me to start a wedding cake business was that I just couldn't understand why wedding cakes had to taste to terribly. Sure, they had to stand up for hours before serving, but did that mean that a dull, blah cake was the only alternative? I have always made my cakes from scratch, and some of the recipes are family heirlooms that pretty much any one of us can recite by memory. Though cheap and easy was the norm I always used mounds of fresh creamery butter, fresh real cream in my mousses and the best chocolates I could find. The result was people could taste the difference. I put a lot of effort in finding the perfect buttercream that was not overly sweet. I tweaked my recipe to make it just right, and so our buttercream has been a favorite of many for it's light and delicate consistency. As a cake designer I've always loved it for it's beautiful decorating fineness and it's ability to stand up, even on some warm days.

I've heard people say that their wedding cake was not memorable- but that should just not be the case if you plan correctly. The wedding cake is a quintessential part of any wedding- and a rare event for most- so take the time to choose the best cake and leave a lasting impression with your guests. They WILL remember, I promise.

Toasted Almond cake with Cannoli Cream

Choosing the best cake for your reception first starts with the right baker. Seek out a baker with a good reputation first. Ask around- ask friends, your caterer, your photographer etc. Getting good feedback from those who've had a good experience can be invaluable.

Things to know before meeting with your baker:

1) Go prepared with a good idea of what your wedding menu will be like. If your caterer is including other sweets it's also good to bring along that menu as well. You will want to choose a cake that is in balance with your meal and other sweets. As a chocoholic I could easily serve all chocolate desserts, but it's not everyone's favorite, so you want to balance out the options.

2) Check to see if anyone in your intimate circle is allergic to anything specific. There is no way that you can accommodate everyone's needs so just focus on those that are most important to you. If you suspect that you may have a guest that is highly allergic to the point of reaction your might want to let them know. Put the flavor of the cake on the dinner menu card which will give them a head's up in advance. Anyone that is severely allergic will come prepared as they would in any social situation- but the folks that are "sensitive" will appreciate it.

3) When you meet with your baker try not to taste too many combinations at one sitting. It can be overwhelming to your taste buds and it can also be too rich for your tummy. As tempting as it is to play around with different possibilities, consult with the baker first to get a good idea of what direction you should go in and follow his/her lead.

4) Do not appeal to the lowest common denominator. It is often a mistake to choose a "safe" cake flavor that everyone will love. In fact it appeals to less people and as a result you get that "I don't remember the cake" reaction.

5) Choose a cake that is different enough to be exciting to your guests but not so wacky that people remember it for it's weirdness rather than good taste. I have seen flavors such as Bubble Gum, Saffron Butter cream, Purple Velvet- ugh! Different is good- weird is for Halloween.

6) Think about choosing a flavor that might have some personal significance. Was your first date over coffee? Perhaps a Cappuccino filling. Is your fiancee Italian? Fresh Cannoli filling will delight the parents. It is also a great opportunity when you are standing up before your guests for the cake cutting to share an insight like this. It makes the evening more intimate and it will make your guests appreciate your flavor choice as well.

7) Lastly, when all else fails, choose a cake flavor that you and your beloved will enjoy. A reality for most couples is you don't really eat a whole lot at the reception due to all the socializing and picture taking. By the time you get to the cake cutting you can be HUNGRY, so go for a flavor that you will look forward to eating.

When you follow these steps I guarantee you can turn around the notion that wedding cake is not interesting and instead, your guests will leave with a good taste in their mouths.


Tony said...

The cake in the picture looks so tasty. I really want to have tasty cake like that for my wedding day that makes all guests who try it said "wow".

Anonymous said...

I've been using canned coconut milk with its fat instead of water and butter in my cakes. They have a lighter taste (I don't replace the salt from the missing butter).

Anonymous said...

This is awesome! Very helpful indeed, I really like how descriptive you are in the post :) I used for cake inspiration, but that only really helps with the look of the cake!

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