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One way to be environmentally conscious when picking your wedding cake is to go with a vendor that uses local and seasonal ingredients. This is an easy and practical way to reduce or carbon footprint when it comes to your big day!

Plenty of cake makers have different cakes and flavours for different seasons to take advantage of local produce. This also ensures that your cake tastes amazing. As we know when it comes to food, fresh is always best!

Images by Zosia Fabijanska

How to know what if your cake is full of seasonal produce? The best way to find out is to simply ask your cake maker if they have any seasonal recipes that take advantage of local produce.

Plenty of businesses will also custom make recipes if there are some particular seasonal ingredients that you would like in your cake. Don’t be afraid to have a play around with flavour ideas. Cake makers love the chance to be creative and experiment!

 

If you’re not sure what will be in season around the time of your wedding have a little online search. There are plenty of informative lists of produce that will point you in the right direction. These might even give you some inspiration for creating some customer flavour ideas to run by your cake maker!

Ms Zigzag says: Cherry Cakes is preaching to the converted here. I am also a huge champion for seasonal eating and living, and certainly agree a seasonal approach should be taken to wedding cakes. 

About the author Cherry Murphy of Cherry Cakes: Cherry Murphy is a qualified chef and pastry chef. Having moved to the city to study patisserie, Melbourne has become her professional base. Cherry has worked in a number of commercial kitchens with roles including Dessert Chef at the Westin Hotel, Cupcake Designer for Little Cupcakes and Head Chef at John Gorilla cafe. She is a wedding caterer and cafe supplier (and self-proclaimed good time gal!)

Image by Beurre

Hello there!

I’ve been in the midst of relaunching my business, Beurre, as I was living and working in Paris last year. Given that I first started Beurre in 2013, it is time for me to have a hard look at my business and see what direction I want it to go in.

One stumbling block that I keep coming across is pricing, and specifically, what people are willing to pay for their wedding cakes and desserts. I’ve noticed that prospective clients often ask for a quote for whatever type of cake or dessert buffet they are interested in, but upon discussing their budget, it becomes clear that there is a discrepancy between said budget and what the client is envisaging for their wedding cake.

Image by Beurre

Then, I remembered that I’d seen a similar situation play out before. At the patisserie where I used to work, we would sometimes- not often, but sometimes- have customers come in and say ‘why are your croissants so expensive?’ (They were priced either equal to or less than any croissant going around Melbourne, just to be clear). After quelling the initial desired response of piling 25kg of croissant dough on them, you would take a moment to remember that people don’t automatically know the buckets of work and love that go into a croissant (or a cake, for argument’s sake). So we would explain, “we make the croissant dough the day before. We come into work before 4am the following morning to individually roll these croissants by hand. We then proof them and bake them, and have to juggle all the pastries, to make sure that we are ready for trading by 7.30am”. We would then all silently will them to go to Woolworths and eat a pale, margarine-filled excuse for a croissant.

Another push I had to write on this topic came from a friend who sent me a link to this article. I read it and reread it several times, whooping with joy and throwing doughnuts gleefully into the air. It perfectly explains what I’m getting at here (I mean, read that article but also keep reading this one too please and thanks). What we do as bakers and chefs requires expertise and skill. Given this, we respect our own work, and we want to show that respect to you, given that this product is lucky enough to feature on your special day.

Image by Beurre

So, I thought I’d put together a list of what goes into making your wedding desserts. I’m sure you’re getting the feel for this notion, but there is a great deal of care, thought and preparation that goes into the conception, development and execution of something that is delicious and memorable. I have my own set of values and processes that I stick to with Beurre, in the same way that I’m sure other pastry chefs and bakers will have developed for themselves.

Before I go on, I want to be clear that I’m not sitting here telling you to throw away your budget, because I don’t agree with that. Budgets are transparent, and I’m all about transparency. In my book, the budget is an integral part of the planning process for a wedding (or just adulting in general I guess?). This is more about having a fair idea of the value of what you are requesting for your cake.

Image by Selena McLaren Photography

Here we go.

Quote

When you contact me for a quote, I will ask you for your favourite flavours, and colours or themes that you would like me to incorporate into the desserts. I do this because I strongly believe in customisation. So yes, that will mean you and I will spend time to work closely together to create your perfect cake and or dessert table. It’s important to me that I create something specifically for you and your partner that is memorable. So, it will take me around 1 hour to put together some options for you based on the preferences you provided me.

Ingredients

Once the flavours and style are settled upon, I will then spend time sourcing the highest quality ingredients. Sometimes, there are also requests that are tricky, but an equally wonderful challenge for a pastry chef who celebrates all the flavours. Recently, a bride asked if it was possible to make a purple yam chiffon cake as one of her tiers, as she is half- Filipino. So off I went to Boxhill with my husband to look through about 4 different stores before I found what I needed (please be aware that I did scream ‘I’M THE YAM QUEEN’ when we eventually discovered it, much to the confusion of the market-goers around me).

Also, if you know me, you know that the only dirty word for me is the P word. Say it quietly so no one hears you…pre-mix. Everything in my kitchen, and dare I say plenty of other small-businesses, is handmade, from scratch, using the highest quality of ingredients. My batters, macarons, tarts, mixes, fillings; each of them is made by my hands.

 

Sketch

I know that I’m a visual person, and my general experience with couples is that they also love and appreciate seeing what their cake will look like. So, I take around 30-40 minutes to do a hand-drawn, coloured sketch of your cake/dessert-to-be for the couple. I can hear some of you saying “she’s creating work for herself”, but this is my take on it: if a customer is visualising something different to what’s happening in my head (and often, Lord knows what’s happening in my head), then we have a problem. The sketch brings everyone to the same, cake-encrusted page. And I do it by hand for a couple of reasons; 1) I don’t do Adobe Illustrator well, but I can sketch, and 2) it’s a lovely memento for you to keep.

Image by Shevan J Photography

Prepping and baking time

Think anywhere between 5-10 hours to prepare and bake all the layers, fillings and toppings for a wedding cake, depending on its size.

Assembling and decorating

It usually takes somewhere between 1-3 hours to get the cakes and dessert looking beautiful. I’ll be the first to proclaim my love of flavour over anything else, but I also know that something needs to look as beautiful as it tastes because as everyone knows, we absolutely eat with our eyes.

Larger cakes can also require reinforcement through the cake, so that takes time too (those cake time-lapse videos you see on your feed all day aren’t a reliable indicator of how long it takes to build a cake, incase you had any doubts).

Image by Beurre

Packing, delivering & set up

Once the cute beasts are done, they are packed and set up for delivery. During deliveries, I have been known to look like a madwoman muttering to herself for the entire duration of the drive and set up. What’s really happening is that I am reciting every prayer I know, and making any bargain I can with God, to get me through this set up. Every precautionary step is taken to keep that cake stable and cool during transit. And then there’s the whole thing of getting to the venue, only to find there is no available fridge space for a cake or a bunch of desserts for a dessert table, regardless of them knowing that you’re arriving with said cake for um, just the casual wedding being held that day. All you can think is, “good job, event space, good job”.

Image by Beurre

I’m a pastry chef

I guess that heading kind of reads like Brick from Anchorman proclaiming, “I like to eat ice cream”. But my point is that a qualified pastry chef is making your desserts and cakes. Desserts and everything about them, understanding them, creating them; that’s what I do for a living.  I moved to Paris to work in one of the most celebrated patisserie houses in the world to learn new skills and hone in on something that I care about. I am not going to ever hand over something that I am not proud of, because patisserie, whether I like it or not on some days, is intrinsically linked to who I am.

Paying myself

While this one is pretty self-explanatory, I can’t stop myself from saying this: just consider for a moment how you would feel if someone walked into your office, stood over your desk, and asked you to continue the hard work that you’re doing, but for less financial compensation. We can both make a fairly educated guess on how you would react to that. This is definitely one of the more difficult parts of owning your business. I love what I do, but at the end of the day, it is a business that is deserving of the respect and time that goes into growing it.

One final thing that I’d like to gently remind people of:  keep in mind that the above points aren’t necessarily for an elaborate cake. A semi-naked cake, for example, is definitely a more affordable option that absolutely looks gorgeous and effective. However, while something like the semi-naked cake may look effortless, there is still so much effort and preparation that goes into making it. What I’m trying to get at here is that whether you want understated with florals or a glorious, one-of-a-kind masterpiece that Kimmy K would lust over, it all takes time. I completely understand that it’s not immediately clear what goes into a product like your dessert or cake, and in that way, it’s not always easy to discern an appropriate and fair financial expectation. Hopefully, however, this highlights the inner workings of what a high quality dessert business would provide on your wedding day, what we would do for you, and what we appreciate in return.

Ms Zigzag says: This is really important advice to share with engaged couples who are on the hunt for their perfect cake. A huge amount of care, expertise, love and time goes into creating your delicious masterpiece and you’ll need to factor that into your budget. Zahara, you are welcome to write for us anytime. We are loving your thoughtful blogs!  

About the author Zahara Valibhoy of Beurre: We are constantly seeking to provide you with delicious, beautiful and creative desserts, be it a celebration cake or a range of decadent pâtisseries, to mark all the special events in your life. At the end of the day, we don’t just encourage gluttonous behaviour; we demand it.
More about Beurre and Zahara’s impressive experience here.

Mouth watering cakes that are as good to eat as they are beautiful to look at – Sharyn of Blackbird Cakes’ mission is to provide ‘lasting memories of times worth celebrating’. Using only the finest ingredients,  Sharyn makes her cakes from scratch and aren’t they things of beauty? Whether they are simple and semi naked, or stunningly adorned in inky black fondant, or  delicate gold and watercolour Sharyn puts her heart and soul into every masterpiece. I can’t get over the cake created to look like wood with peeling bark (perfect for a woodland themed wedding!) or the simple white cake tumbled with fresh flowers – each just perfect and reflective of the bridal couples’ personalities. When you know that Sharyn has created and perfected your cake especially for you, there is a thrill and a feeling of humility that she honoured your occasion by creating something so beautiful. Here is Sharyn’s story.

Your journey to opening Blackbird Cakes is an interesting one. Would you share it with us?

Baking has always been in my blood. No matter what I have done in my working life, baking and dessert making has never been far from my mind. I spent time early on in my career studying and conducting research in the field of Psychology, along with dabbles in the study of Mediation, Art and Myotherapy. However, when it came to crunch time, returning to the workforce after the babies were at school, my heart yearned for the kitchen. So back to TAFE I went where I obtained my Cert III in Patisserie, and the courage to step out on my own. It was then Blackbird Cakes was created.

Image by Hello Darling Photography

What or who inspired you to take up baking?

I never really thought of myself as taking up baking, as it was just something that I was obsessed with from my early years. Memories of childhood parties seem to centre around what cake was served, and creating fiddly pastry creations was my weekend pastime as a teenager. This all stemmed from watching and helping mum and nan in the kitchen, from the slow and precise folding of a sponge, to the apple pies and puddings created for family meals and get togethers. I only found out at my nan’s funeral, that she in fact worked in a bakery in her teens. Baking is deeper than just a vocation for me, as it seems, it is in my blood.

What is your specialty?

At Blackbird Cakes, we operate without a catalogue. So when you order a cake from us, it is your cake… not Cake A, B or C. Each cake is tailored specifically for the recipient or the event. We also only use the finest ingredients and bake everything from scratch, which provides a premium product for our clients. And we have an open studio, where you can watch us work from behind glass panes.

Image by Qlix Photography

What is the joy for you in creating the perfect cake?

So many joyous moments are experienced along the way of creating the perfect cake. Would you believe me when I said that I still love the baking process (even after baking thousands of cakes!). Torting the cake, filling and layering, getting the straight edges or carving an amazing shape all are joyful. Watching our creations come to life as each layer of decoration is added, to the final look on the faces of our clients when they first see their cake, are processes I never tire from.

Images by Fiona Handbury – The Garage Studio Photography, 

Where do you find you day to day inspiration to create/design unique cakes for bridal couples?

Inspiration is a constant journey. Of course places like Pinterest, magazines and blogs are never ending sources of inspiration. But I like to look further beyond and am inspired by art in many forms, from galleries to street art, patisseries and bakeries, and funky retail spaces and architecture. Mother nature is also a never-ending supply of inspiration.

Image by Blackbird Cakes

Please describe some of the more popular cake and filling options you offer?

We are baking our famous White Chocolate and Raspberry cake for many of our clients at the moment, which is filled with our white chocolate ganache (made with couverture chocolate). We also find that the Gingerbread and our Chocolate, Raspberry and Coconut cakes are sneaking up to the number one position… though they still struggle to de-throne our Chocolate cake from top position.

Images by Qlix Photography

Do you work on adding new cake and filling flavours regularly to keep your cake offerings up to date and different?

The beauty of my job is that I get to taste cakes and pastries as “research”! So yes.. I am always ‘researching’ new flavours and we are keen to supply our customers with custom flavours too.

How long do you have to work on new cakes and fillings before you feel they are perfect for presentation? What does that involve?

We have a tried and true set of base recipes, which have been tweaked and tested, and tweaked again over many years. We always experiment on ourselves and our families, with never a complaint I might add! Our golden rule is that if the cake is not right, it doesn’t go out, so we will test and taste for however long it takes.

Left image by The Wedding and Portrait Studio Right image by Pierre Curry Photography

Do cater to gluten free or other food allergies with your cakes?

We can offer most of our flavours that are made with gluten free ingredients, and we do have a couple of Vegan options also.

We notice that you offer both ganache and naked cakes as well as cakes covered in fondant. What is more popular for 2018?

At the moment, we are providing many ganached and nearly naked cakes to our customers, as they are not only very popular, but particularly gorgeous when dressed. We are seeing an increase of requests for marbled fondant cakes and quite a bit of gold leaf effects coming into play. I must say that rose gold seems to be the big hit for 2018.

Left image by Fiona Handbury – The Garage Studio Photography, Right image by Joseph Koprek Photography

Does the florist supply the fresh flowers for a cake and do you arrange them on the cake to follow thorough with the bride’s vision?

We work with our brides’ florists to produce a beautiful product for their big day, whether we dress the cake with flowers supplied by the florist, or assisting the florist to dress the cake. With fresh flowers, it is of utmost importance to keep the cake from being contaminated and spoiled, which is our equal priority to the cake looking its best.

Image by Kim Selby Photography

How do you keep up with the latest trends in all things cake?

The internet is the most amazing way of keeping abreast of all things trending in cake – Pinterest, blogs, Instagram, videos etc… Along with armchair surfing, we also attend cake shows and classes regularly.

What are some new ideas you’re seeing on the horizon in the world of cakes?

I am in love with hand-painted cakes at the moment, from watercolour effects, abstract shapes and bright features, to leaves and anything from nature adorning a cake. Bold colours and designs, and cakes that are entirely black are my favourite cakes to make.

Image by Shaun Guest Photography

Transporting the cake to the venue must be one of your most nerve-wracking journeys. Any funny stories to share?

Not many funny stories, as you are 100% right in saying that it is the most nerve wracking part of the process… and I may have used the old psychological trick of burying in my sub-conscious the two ‘accidents’ we have had delivering cakes… Thankfully we are super organised and enacting our contingencies did not impact the delivery deadlines – phew! Now, ask me something else… I’m breaking into a sweat J

Away from your daily profession, do you like to cook and experiment with dishes? 

I just LOVE cooking… I love the challenge of cooking from my garden and the pantry. I LOVE cookbooks (and yes, they have pride of place in my home!). I have managed to install a steam combi oven in my home, so I make bagels regularly, along with hand made pasta, pies and other assorted pastries. I love cooking days with my beautiful friend Jo, usually where we cook up a feast to share with our families. My favourite dish.. this is just too hard of an ask to decide on just one… oh, okay then… Jamie Oliver’s Green Chicken Curry in his 30 minute meals book (which takes me well over an hour to make!).

Image by Fiona Handbury – The Garage Studio Photography, 

What do you like to do when relaxing on your days off?

I love the big smoke…so trips to Melbourne (and beyond when I can) to explore everything from food to art is my favourite thing to do. At home, it would be potting around the garden and a long soak in the bath, and of course – baking!

Thank you Sharyn for sharing your story. It seems almost a pity to cut these cakes – they are so pretty, but cut them we must, to enjoy even more sweetness inside. To find out more about Blackbird Cakes visit their website.

Headshot by Fiona Handbury – The Garage Studio Photography,