Plan well in advance. Unless you already have a firm idea of the kind of cake you'd like, there will need to be time to look around at options, as well as booking the cake creator, allocating the funds, and finding any special decorative elements. So be sure to give yourself plenty of planning time. Be aware that cake makers who are in high demand can be booked out during the high summer season, so don't leave your booking too late if marrying at this time.
Start looking for ideas. While your wedding theme might automatically suggest the type of wedding cake, this won't always be self-evident or in line with your other preferences. When choosing a cake style, consider looking at the following research resources:
- Read wedding magazines that feature cakes
- Look online at wedding cake ideas
- Look in baker's displays, particularly those who specialize in cakes and fine pastry making
- Look in old family photos for cake ideas (especially nice if you want to carry on a tradition).
Know the traditional and alternative wedding cake choices. The following cakes are among those considered appropriate for the wedding context. While a big, complicated single cake perfectly covered in frilly frosting or smooth fondant may be beyond a typical home baker's skill, several cheery alternatives aren't!
- Tiered fruitcake with marzipan (traditional): This is the standard type of wedding cake that has a long history behind it, and is said to be modeled on London's Bride's Church (England) This cake is rich and not everyone likes the taste or the formality of this kind of cake.
- Cupcake wedding cake (alternative): This kind of cake has gained a lot of followers in recent years. It's a tower of cupcakes that are usually in different flavors. The frosting can include many different types of symbols, initials, flowers, fruits, etc. as preferred. While many bakers are happy to make this kind of cupcake, this style is also great for a wedding reception planned for home as the cupcakes can be made easily in advance and frosted by generous family members just prior to the wedding. Or, buy them in bulk pre-frosted, and add a few finishing touches!
- The tiered stand is widely sold as a "cupcake tree".
- Croquembouche (French traditional): This high cone of profiteroles with a cascade of toffee (to which can be added sugared/candied almonds, chocolate, flowers, ribbons, etc.). This cake can usually serve around 30-40, so if you have more guests, consider several croquembouche. As a form of dessert, Croquembouche takes care of the dessert menu, which can be an excellent solution for a tight budget. As a delicate cake, you need to be assured of careful delivery.
- Chocolate cake (French): Chocolate cake has had an avid following at weddings for quite a while now and the French wedding cake is lavishly decorated with a lace style. The relevant baker would be a French patisserie.
- Cheese cake: For the bride and groom who don't much like cake, a cheese cake is an option. This isn't a cheesecake, it's a layer of cheeses! One large cheese disk is on the base, with smaller cheese layers working their way to the top. Flowers and other decorations are added to the cheese layers. This can work out to be much cheaper than a traditional wedding cake but still lets you have the "layers".
- Theme cake: There is a definite tradition of theme cakes for geek weddings. Cakes from Star Wars, Star Trek, and other sci-fi flicks are not unusual, as are cakes from beloved themes such as manga, anime, Hello Kitty, and anything that takes the fancy of the bride and groom. This sort of cake will come naturally to you if both of you are huge fans of something!
- Cookies. A lavish "cookie table" assortment, often carefully arranged, is a Pittsburgh-area tradition. It could accompany a simpler cake, and many people can contribute without needing to coordinate efforts much in advance.
Decide on your budget. Once you've got some idea of the type of cake you'd like, you'll need to work out how much money you have to spend on the cake. Be realistic and compare the prices of various cake vendors. When it gets down to the time of choosing the baker, you can ask for quotes and then compare these and ask for discounts where appropriate.
Visit the bakers and caterers who specialize in weddings and that seem like good choices to you. Ask to see their portfolios of cake ideas. Ask them to show you photographs of previous cakes. Don't rush this step–take time to compare and contrast the different styles and specialties provided by each baker.
- Ask for demonstrations of decorative elements such as writing in chocolate if you're not sure.
- Always ask to taste their cake. You need to know if the bakery's cakes have the texture and flavor you like. Even if it's a place you already purchase from, ask for a taste of their more recent cakes, in case anything has changed such as ingredients or methods. Good bakeries will offer a small selection to taste from.
Choose your baker. Keep working with the baker regularly to improve and adjust your cake ideas. Ask for sample mock-ups to help you through the process. Be sure to let your baker know about decoration and design wishes, and if you intend on providing any of the cake decorations, get these to the baker on time.