To a lot of people cake is an essential part of the wedding day celebration – it features in some of your key wedding photos – people even choose a specific song to cut it to nowadays, and who doesn’t want to eat delicious cake? However, there are a raft of wedding cake bakers out there, all eager to take your money off you – sadly the reality is, some of those will be happy to take your dollars, but might not deliver the cake of your dreams. We at Nathan Bakes have seen many cake disasters over the years where inexperienced, or untrained bakers don’t know simple construction methods, or even how to bake consistent cake, leaving you with at best uneaten dessert, at worst – a pile of crumbs on the floor before the cutting has even taken place!
So here are some of our top pointers on what to look for in a cake maker:
1. Communications – do they get back to you quickly?
In this day and age of e-communications available whenever, wherever, it’s not a good sign if a supplier takes a week or more to get back to you. OK, so expecting them to email you instantly at 3am probably is a bit over and above, but certainly within 24-48 hours. If they can’t, it might be they are over stretched and struggling to cope with the orders they have, which might turn into you being let down or your cake rushed – neither of which is not a good outcome for your wedding!
2. Workload – how many cakes a day does your bakery handle?
This will vary depending on the size of the bakery, but should be to scale – if it’s a sole owner/baker (who do some of the best work out there, as they are so passionate about their trade) that will mean they don’t have the same raw person power as a large cake store with a full time bricks and mortar showroom, so alarm bells might be ringing if your smaller home baker tells you they handle as many weddings per day as a larger outfit.
3. Servings – how many do you need?
Some cake makers will tell you that you only need enough cake to serve about half your wedding guests. Whilst that’s true in some circumstances (for example you are having a dessert buffet of which cake is only one element), generally this is not the case, especially if you are serving your cake for dessert. The main two reasons cake gets left is because a) it’s terrible cake or b) because people have dietary requirements or preferences (such as vegan or lactose intolerant) and therefore can’t eat it. On average now about 30% of any wedding guest list will have differing dietary requirements, but a lot of them won’t say so on an RSVP for not wanting to put anyone to bother. If you can find a good specialist baker that can provide for those guests, having at least a tier gluten free, or vegan for example (or both!) means those guests can still join in – do arrange a taste test though, or to purchase some cupcakes from that baker so you can still try out the cake – if it’s not good enough for you to eat, why would you offer it to your guests?
4. Qualifications – if they don’t have any – walk away.
Cake isn’t as easy as it looks, it can be a cruel mistress, and not having the training to understand how it works means your cake is way more likely to end up on the floor on your wedding day. After all you’re paying for their professional knowledge and expertise, which is why you aren’t asking Auntie May to make your cake for you.
5. Experience – have they done a wedding like yours before?
If they tend to do 300+ guest weddings in grand surrounds, do they have the ‘feel’ for rustic and intimate? Whilst it’s not necessary to look for a cookie cutter exact match of something that baker has made before, if you’re looking for sugar paste flowers, ask if that’s something they produce, or if your heart is set on an 8 tier masterpiece, have they worked with cake that huge before?
6. Ingredients – do they use artificial flavourings, or packet mix?
No professional cake maker should be using packet mix. Period. If they do – run! Whilst organic might not be important to all, knowing your cake maker works with real ingredients is something to look out for, as artificial additions can give off strange aftertastes – not the experience you want to be leaving in your guests’ mouths!
7. Dietary requirement cakes
If you are looking for gluten free for a coeliac guest, you are better off approaching a specifically gluten free baker – the reason a lot of GF cakes taste like sawdust is because the bakers don’t know what they are doing – and why should they? You wouldn’t ask an electrician to fix your plumbing, so why ask a baker who works with glutinous flour to create a GF cake? If you insist on using the same baker, really grill them on their cross-contamination practices – it’s not enough to just clean down surfaces and wash equipment.
Nathan Schubert, head baker at Nathan Bakes, with over 10 years’ experience of vegan & gluten free baking explains “People don’t realise that gluten is really hard to get rid of – just washing mixing equipment for example, or rinsing it off (as I’ve seen happen in some kitchens) just isn’t enough to avoid a reaction in someone who is coeliac. You really want to have completely separate equipment for this.” Additionally, anyone claiming Gluten Free, Dairy Free or Refined Sugar Free cake is ‘healthier’ should be avoided – these offerings aren’t any healthier than non-dietary creations, they are still cake and have some form of fat & sugar; cake is not health food – if it were, it would be called salad. If you want your cake decorated by a specific cake maker, but are worried about dietary requirements, ask two bakeries to work together – an experienced, dietary requirements baker should be more than happy to supply undecorated cake to another baker/decorator.
One final pointer – place your order, sign your order form, pay your deposit, or your date might slip away! Bakeries get booked up, especially the good ones. Many people think they can just be fitted in, especially last minute, but cake baked the day of your wedding is not happy cake and is prone to falling apart, so make sure you secure your date – enquiring with a bakery isn’t the same as placing an order. Don’t stress, details about your specific design can be changed as you go along, but dates can’t be moved if a baker is fully booked already.
To get the best cake you possibly can get answers to the points above, and you’ll end up with a creation that will leave you and your guests beaming. As we say at Nathan Bakes – life is too short for bad cake!
Ms Zigzag says: This post should be shared far and wide among those who are trying to pin down the right cake maker for them. Nathan Bakes does not mess around! Thank you for sharing these essential tips.
About the author Nathan Bakes: We at Nathan Bakes believe that everyone should be able to eat amazing cake, regardless of restrictions or choice, and he has the skills, knowledge and experience to back that belief up and provide you with cake that will be just as good, if not better, then a non-dietary one.