Wedding Cake 101
Ana Parzych of Ana Parzych Custom Cakes in Cheshire, who designed and baked this exquisite cake for us, advises that to get the cake of your dreams, you look at the portfolios of one or more cake designers to get an idea of what they can do — some decorative techniques require specialized skills. Keep in mind that while cake designers can work within a budget, price often depends more on complexity of design and decoration than on cake size. If you want a custom cake (usually the most expensive option), bring to your design consultation pictures of your dress and flowers, fabric swatches, your invitation — anything that conveys a sense of your personal style and the feel you want for your wedding. ( Designers may suggest different choices based on these elements, as well as your ideas, your budget and the season.) Although predesigned cakes may be ordered on relatively short notice, custom cakes may have to be ordered six months or more in advance.
The cake and filling:
This is a white butter vanilla cake splashed with Chambord syrup; other popular cake flavors are dark chocolate and almond. A variety of liqueurs and extracts can be incorporated into a syrup to accent the flavor, and each tier can be a different flavor. The keys to good flavor and texture are gourmet recipes, quality ingredients and no freezing before assembly. (Avoid bakers who use commercial mixes, additives and preservatives.) The filling here alternates layers of fresh raspberry and zesty lemon mousseline. Some of the most popular fillings are ganache (a decadent combination of chocolate and heavy cream) and mousseline (buttercream flavored with fresh fruit purées, nut pastes or chocolate). The best buttercreams are Swiss and Italian meringue buttercreams, made fresh and flavored with liqueurs or the best-quality vanilla.
Handcrafted sugar flowers. Petals and leaves were individually cut, molded and glued to form flowers, then left to dry and dusted with food powder colors. Sugar flowers are very realistic and can be matched to the bride’s bouquet or centerpieces.
Gum-paste plaque with piped monogram surrounded by a fondant pearl border painted with an edible luster dust. On all the tiers, the cake sides are textured with fondant pressed lace. Each tier is finished with a fondant pearl border in graduated sizes. Handcrafted sugar flowers accent the tiers.
This cake is iced with white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream (made with whipped egg whites, sugar and butter) flavored with Madagascar bourbon vanilla. Buttercream can also be flavored with chocolate and a variety of liqueurs (though delicious, buttercream alone is not recommended for hot weather—it should be covered with fondant or marzipan, which is made from almond paste, egg whites and confectioners’ sugar). The outermost layer of lemon-infused fondant (made from confectioners’ sugar, glucose and gelatin) gives the cake a satiny polished look and serves as a smooth base for decorations. Marzipan is another option for the outermost layer.
Size and color:
The cake pictured, with ivory-colored fondant, is a five-tier round that serves about 200 guests. The size of your cake and the number of tiers are determined by the number of servings you need (the average cake has four tiers and serves about 150). Nowadays wedding cakes come in many colors, though most brides still prefer a traditional white or ivory cake. Your cake designer can help you choose the right color to complement the general atmosphere of your reception site or to match a particular theme.
The bride’s beautiful dress appliqués (fondant pressed lace), the invitation (the monogram) and the bride’s bouquet (the sugar flowers).
Your wedding cake will be on display for your guests during most of your reception, so it should be a beautiful centerpiece as well as tasty. The best cake designers work closely with their clients to ensure that the final product is something that reflects the couple’s vision and will create a delicious and beautiful memory, one that will last a lifetime for them and their guests.