Cakes have been part of the wedding reception for as long as we can remember. Some are fancy and others are plain. Some have white cake, some have chocolate, and others have some other flavor that surprises even the most unconventional guests.
I spoke with Amy Noelle, a master cake designer and the founder of Sugar Flower Cake Shop in Manhattan, to get a slice of the wedding cake experience for brides and grooms.
What does a new bride need to know about the cake for her wedding?
Amy Noelle: Use a designer. Designers can offer insights for how many tiers really make sense and help couples navigate the process of choosing a cake based on the number of people attending and the caterers and banquet staff. He or she can also work with you so the cake complements the flow of the reception choreography.
People often watch cake decorating shows and then mistakenly take on the responsibility of designing their own cake. In some cases, that may work. Unfortunately, these shows confuse them and mislead them about what cake would really be right for their wedding size and budget so the economical aspects get lost for the bride and groom.
What are the most common uses of the wedding cake in today's wedding receptions?
AN: First, there is the traditional cake cutting ceremony where the cake is cut and then the bride feeds the groom and the groom feeds the bride.
There is also the opposite or unconventional use of cakes. This includes a cupcake tower, a dessert table display, or a cocktail-style dessert table with no pomp and circumstance. Sometimes there is even no cutting of the cake at all. The experience depends on the couples' desire and taste.
What is the groom's experience with the cake design and selection process? Does he have to participate?
AN: Most cake designers combine a cake tasting and their consultation into one experience — so the groom gets trapped in this process.
Sugar Flower Cake Shop invites couples to come in for a cake tasting party where they taste both the icing and the different types of cakes. They enjoy champagne while mixing and matching flavors. Grooms often come in for the food. The atmosphere is one of, "Let’s eat cake!" and "Come and get a taste of it." After the cake tasting party, there is a separate second visit for the consultation. Usually the bride comes in at that point with either mom or a best friend. Sometimes the groom will come in; sometimes he will take a backseat.
How do you feel about fondant?
I don't cover cakes in fondant unless it's a cake that needs to be held together. Most people don't really understand how it tastes; they often only understand how it looks. Fondant tastes like cardboard. It doesn't taste good! At Sugar Flower Cake Shop, we use exclusively butter cream. We are one of the few designers that do that. Our focus is on the flavor as well as the design. This sets us apart because we give people a great design that tastes good. We also use local and sustainable ingredients and we can accommodate food allergies and preferences such as gluten-free and others so everyone including the bride and groom can enjoy the cake.
Now a cake that tastes good, looks good and is good for the environment is a win-win-win cake!
How important is it to get the cake design conversation right upfront?
AN: Brides don't see cakes before the reception because it is baked the day before the wedding and dropped off the day of the wedding at the venue. The cake designer doesn't even see the couple on the day of the wedding or have contact with the couple that day. Brides need to be specific at the design stage because once the cake is made, that is how it is delivered. There's no, "Can you do it differently?" What is done is done. Keep reading...
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