Sampling cake flavors and choosing from a rainbow of frosting colors make working with a top wedding cake designer a truly delicious task. To be sure you're just as satisfied with the end result, follow these steps to sweet success.
Begin your wedding cake designer search about three to six months before the wedding—even sooner if you want an in-demand pro. Some bakers' schedule their wedding cake commitments about a year in advance. Where do you begin your search? "Word of mouth is the most powerful tool," says Jan Kish of La Petite Fleur, in where they found their wedding cake. Many wedding caterers, reception sites, photographers and florists have favorite bakers.
Many wedding cake designers showcase confections they've created on their web sites; you can also get an idea of whether you'll like their work from a phone conversation. Ask how they would define their wedding cake style. Is it traditional, simply elegant, modern, whimsical, intricate? Don't forget to ask for an estimated wedding cake price range per guest. Then, "Interview two to three bakers," advises Ron Ben-Israel of Ron Ben-Israel Cakes, in New York, NY.
In your initial meeting, look through the baker's portfolio of wedding cake designs, and double-check that the details you know you want—say, intricate sugar flowers—are part of his or her body of work. If not, does he show versatility and an experimental spirit? Does she have the resources and background to do what you want? Some small bakeries may not have the manpower or know-how to create the grand, geometrical wedding cake structures in which others specialize. Also, be sure to taste samples of the baker's work. "The flavor of the cake should be as good as any dessert you'd serve to guests," says Narcisa Vieira-Castillo of Cakes Unique, in Falls Church, Virginia. "Do not compromise taste for the look of the cake."
The major deciding factor? "A good personal connection is very important," says Ben-Israel. "You must be able to trust the person." The ideal wedding cake designer is someone whose personality sets you at ease and with whom you communicate well.
After you've booked your wedding cake designer, you will begin to create the cake. Go back to the baker's portfolio, and note the details you like and dislike. Show him photos of wedding cakes from magazines that have caught your eye. Provide the baker with as much information about your wedding as you can: the location, the level of formality, your wedding dress, the colors, the wedding flowers, the menu. You can even bring in your wedding invitations to show your pro—they may inspire her. "The whole idea is to customize the look of the cake," says Ben-Israel. "I often work with a swatch of the bride's dress, to replicate the lace."
During this process, taste four or five cake-and-filling combinations, to find your favorite. "Some flavors, like mango, are suitable for certain seasons, like summer," says Vieira-Castillo. "Others, like white chocolate with raspberry, are year-round favorites."
Wedding cake price will be based on the size of the cake, the amount of labor needed to create it and the cost of its ingredients. More experienced or reputable wedding bakers are usually pricier.
To ensure you get the exact wedding cake you want, check that all the details, including the date, place and time of the wedding, plus the style and flavors of the cake, are in your contract with the designer. Your baker should update the contract anytime you change your mind, and as you choose further details. Whether it's with a written description or a sketch, it should be clear to you exactly how your cake will look on the wedding day.