The Expert Files {How to Pick Your Wedding Cake}


Happy Wednesday blogettes! Hope you're sitting down to read this addition to the Expert Files on an empty stomach. Because I've got everything you need to know right here about cake, cake and more downright yummy delicious cake from super talented baker and cake artist Erica O'Brien. From what to expect from a cake artist to the common misconceptions about wedding cakes I think Erica has done a fabulous job of covering all the basics for you brides-to-be who may be stuck in sugar-induced state of confusion. Now if only I could sink my teeth into her delectable cakes. Scroll on to catch all the goodies. And I'll be off over here drooling on my key board.


{What are the most important things clients need to know when selecting their wedding cake?} Make sure you prioritize. If you're a foodie and cake is very important to you, know that you will likely pay more for a cake from an artisan who makes everything from scratch than you would at a typical bakery. Wedding cakes can and should be delicious, but like many things, you get what you pay for. When it comes to design, select a baker whose style works for you. You wouldn't commission a modern, abstract artist like Picasso to create a painting in the style of Monet. The same is true for cake design. Look at the designer's portfolio to be sure his or her style meshes with your own. If not, you should probably move on. 

Also, always request a tasting, and expect to schedule one several weeks in advance. Cake designers are busy people, particularly on weekends. The best days for a tasting are earlier in the week - Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday - before the weekend rush when the designer has a lot of time to sit down and chat with you. Be on time for your tasting. Appointments are usually schedule back-to-back, and you don't want to cut into your allotted time by showing up late. Bring some designs ideas to the table. They need not be other cakes that you like, although that helps give the cake artist a feel for your style. A good designer can use anything for inspiration: your wedding invitation, the print on a swatch of fabric, your grandmother's lace doily; anything.

{What are some common misconceptions you find people have about wedding cake?} One common misconception is that wedding cakes don't taste good. Your cake should be as delicious as the best dessert in the finest restaurant. Here's the problem: many bakeries - but not all and certainly not ours - use shortening instead of butter. Shortening is a lot cheaper and has a higher melting point, so the heat of your hand won't melt if you are piping a design, but neither will the heat of your mouth. If you've ever eaten a bakery product that gives you that greasy film on the roof of your mouth that you just want to scrape it off, it's not butter and that's usually a sign that the product has been made with shortening. Real butter has a lower melting point and is therefore melt-in-your-mouth delicious. We make all our cake with real butter and we make a French butter cream to fill them, so they're absolutely scrumptious.

{Name three big wedding cake faux pas} One Asking a family member or friend to make the cake. Wedding cakes are best left to professionals for many reasons. To decrease the chances of food-borne illness, you want a cake that's been baked by someone properly trained in food handling in a commercial kitchen approved by your local Health Department. Also, transporting and assembling wedding cakes is tricky business and it helps to have someone experiences. Lastly, you'll have enough stress - and so will your sister, your mother and your best friend - on your wedding day. Don't add more by having one of them bake your wedding day cake. Two Setting expectations too high. The best way to avoid disappointment is to be realistic about your budget and what kind of cake your money can buy you. Check prices in your local area before you get your heart set on a cake you can't afford. Three Assuming guests won't eat the cake. Although this might be true for some cakes, we find that even those who usually pass up the wedding cake can't resist our cakes' buttery goodness. You wouldn't have a dinner party for eight guests and only prepare food for six. Don't invite 100 guests and order a cake for 80, or you could end up with 20 upset (and hungry!) people at your wedding.

{What is your favourite design, colour palette, and style of cake? Do you have a design speciality?} My style is recognized for its clean lines and edible interpretations or graphic designs. I take a lot of cues from fabric, stationary and other art forms. I've pioneered several techniques, such as my ruffle cake, fondant "fabric" flower and painted appliques that define my style. I love cakes that offer a modern viewpoint while still maintaining the integrity of the traditional wedding cake.

{What is the difference between buttercream and fondant?} Buttercream is essentially eggs, butter and sugar and is spread on with an icing spatula. It is silky and creamy and compliments almost any cake well. Fondant was originally used to covered fruitcakes in England for shipment to the new world. A sugar paste made with powdered sugar, glucose, glycerine, and gelatin, it is rolled out like a dough and placed on the cake. Fondant firms up when exposed to air and forms a seal around the cake, keeping it fresher than buttercream would. A lot of people say that fondant doesn't taste good but I don't actually mind the taste. What I object to is the gummy texture of the fondant against the crumb of the cake. It is however impossible to get buttercream to look as smooth and pristine as fondant, so it's usually worth the trade off.

{Are there any helpful hints brides can benefit from if they are looking to save a bit of money?} Faux cakes which are Styrofoam dummies covered to look like real cakes, can be an economical option and no one will know the difference! Designers can decorate faux cakes in advance since no one will eat it (and fondant isn't perishable), saving them precious time. Clients who get a sheet cake (intended only to be served not seen) save them the time-consuming process of filling and icing smooth a real cake, and save themselves money in return. Think about your venue and where the cake will be displayed too. If the cake table will be against a wall, you might consider a design down the front of the cake only, since no one will see the back. The fewer details, the less time the designer spends on your cake, and the more you save.

{Explain a bit about the process of making a wedding cake} Oh the process! Here's just a glimpse of what you're paying for when you commission a wedding cake: the designer's experience and expertise, the cost of ingredients, labor t o set up and clean up, torte, fill, ice and smooth your cake - and that's all exclusive of design! Cakes can take upwards of ten to forty hours to decorate. Some sugar flowers must be handcrafted petal by petal. One rose can take even an experienced artisan an hour to create so a cascade of gumpaste roses might take 60 hours to make. Also, we always provide a sketch of the cakes (a necessary but time consuming step) so we can ensure that we are creating the exact cake the client is ensuring. Finally, think about how much you would pay an artist to create an original painting for you. When you purchase a custom cake, you are commissioning an edible piece of art.


{What is the most memorable cake you have ever created and why?} I'd have to say my wedding cake just because it was so close to my heart. I tried not to obsess too much about the design. I just sat down with my coloured pencils and let the design flow naturally. It wasn't my favourite design, then or now, but I felt like it represented the bright, fun, happy feel of my wedding. We had three cake flavor pairings: vanilla bean cake with blackberry buttercream, chocolate chip cake with vanilla bean buttercream, and chocolate cake with chocolate hazelnut ganache. Many of our guests said it was the best cake they'd ever had.




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Lavender cake: Lane Dittoe / Pink and gray cake: Henry Chen / Blue floral cake: Jessica Claire / Gray and beige, and blue and red cake: Ashley Johnson Photography / Yellow and gray cake: Ja Tecson / Cherry blossom sketch and cake: Courtesy Erica O'Brien Cake Designs / Four tier floral cake: Courtesy Erica O'Brien Cake Designs

16 Lovely Comments:

M. said...

i'm so fascinated with wedding cakes.
it's a shame they taste so good.

xoxo

Mel {The Oceanside Bride} said...

LOVE all these cake designs! I love the fresh modern look!

simplyvonne said...

all the cakes look amazingly beautiful..too beautiful to eat!!

Miss K said...

so exciting! i just had my cake tasting on Sunday and these tips will definitely help in determining my design

Brooke said...

oh my gosh! Thank you so much for this :) I love the Expert Files!

la petite coquine said...

Of course I'm starving now-such a wonderful interview!

But really, I just called John and asked him to buy cake. I've been asking him this every night this week...oh dear!

xo, Lena

Shana said...

Oh yum! Makes me want to throw the cupcake idea out the window!

Jess said...

mmmmm yum! With so many amazing choices, it's still hard to choose though!

Rosie said...

Oh my...I love the dark grey 3 tier cake with the white flowers in the middle tier...gorgeous, I don't think I would want to cut it!

Kelly said...

Love that ruffle detail. Though I'd want to scrap it off and eat it...

thewannabebride said...

I am in love! These are stunning!!

Naomi Goodman said...

Rhi! First of all I have a sweet tooth but not just for anything...for cake...so it's good when they are too good looking to eat...but that doesn't last long. My favorite of your selection is the first image and the white cake with blue and yellow flowers. Love the gray one, too! When we meet lets eat a cake...

Eliana @ ellyB said...

So in love with your blog!

christine donee said...

why can't I have wedding cake every day??

Megan said...

Love this, Rhi!! I wish that I could have some wedding cake right now. We do have that anniversary layer in the freezer. Hmmmmm. ; )

Jenny said...

Love this post! I'm a baker and I know the feeling of everything she said....