Whether you opt for a seven-tiered cake adorned with rhinestone-encrusted ribbon, separate his 'n her cakes or individual mini cakes (one for each guest!), choosing your cake is the sweetest element of wedding planning. Here, Dana "The Sugar Daddy" Herbert, a celebrity chef and winner of season 1 of TLC's Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker, serves up his best tips for what couples need to know when it comes to their wedding cake.
If you're just getting started: Do your research. Get recommendations from friends, read online reviews and check out bakers' websites to see photos of their work. You want to choose a baker whose style is in line with the vision you have for your cake. "There are all kinds of bakers out there that are capable of different things, but not everyone does every style or technique," Herbert says.
If you've booked a consultation: Once you've chosen a baker that fits your style, book a consultation so that you can discuss how your dream wedding cake will look and taste. Herbert suggests that couples bring a copy of the wedding invitation, swatches of color(s) from bridesmaids dresses or decor elements, a picture of the reception room and photos of cakes that you've seen in magazines or online that you love. Plus, you'll get to do some tastings to determine your favorite cake/icing combo.
If you can't agree on a cake design or flavor: They say marriage requires compromise, but choosing your wedding cake doesn't necessarily have to! Herbert has a few suggestions for couples who can't say "I do" to the same cake style or flavor. Mix it up and choose a different flavor for each layer, to be covered with the same icing on the outside. Go half-and-half by decorating one side of the cake from a female's perspective and the other side from a male's perspective. Or, have two separate cakes: one for the bride, with the flavors and decorating that she loves, and one for the groom. Some grooms choose a traditional cake in the flavors he likes best (red velvet with bacon, anyone?), while other grooms choose a cake that reflects their favorite sports team, beer or pastime. If neither of these options work, you could always go with an assortment of cupcakes, which Herbert says are still very popular for weddings, so you can each have a bite of your favorite cake on your wedding day.
If you want to wow your guests: It's those unique, personalized details that are going to make your wedding memorable for guests and serving individual mini cakes is a great way to wow them. You can either display them on a stand, as you would do with cupcakes, or, to really dazzle them, Herbert suggests having them plated and already at the table once the guests arrive. "It's impressive," Herbert says of this presentation.
If you want to save money: Anyone who has planned a wedding knows that hidden costs lurk everywhere. But there are ways to save a dime or two when it comes to your cake. Cupcakes are an option since you won't have to pay the caterer a fee to cut and plate cake slices. But if you really want the look of a traditional wedding cake, Herbert suggests ordering a cake with faux tiers to display at the reception and serving guests slices from a less expensive slab cake that will be kept in the kitchen. It's the best of both worlds.
If you want something truly unique: It's amazing what talented bakers can do with flour, sugar and eggs. Whether it depicts the story of how you met, or your favorite shared interests, cakes can be so much more a tower of frosted tiers. Herbert once made an elaborate creation composed of a tow truck with the groom inside pulling the bride in a car on a winch! It told the story of how they met: the bride's car broke down and the groom was the one who was called to come and pick her up -- Prince Charming in his tow truck! Talk to your baker and make sure they're capable of such elaborate designs if this is what you have in mind (and ask for photos of previous original creations they've done).
Image(s): From top to bottom: Courtesy of Desserts by Dana; Herman Van den Brandt; Desserts by Dana.