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Cooking Up the Perfect Cake

After dinner, there’s always dessert, right?

Of course there is, and a wedding dinner is no different. The thing is, wedding cakes have to serve a dual purpose — they’ve got to be beautiful, but they’ve also got to be delicious.

Lots of decisions need to be made for your wedding cake. Once you’ve found your baker, they’ll lead you through a list a lot like this:

Size

The size of your cake is directly related to the number of guests who will be at your wedding. Cakes are sold by the serving, so you’ll need an idea of how many people you’re expecting when you meet with your baker.

If you’re on a tight budget, ask the baker about a smaller display cake with sheet cakes in the back to ensure that everyone gets a piece.

Shape

Traditionally, wedding cakes are round, but if you’ve spent any time looking at wedding cake designs, you know that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. Cakes can also be square, rectangle, oval, heart-shaped, or hexagonal. Round, rectangle and square shapes offer the most servings per tier, which is something to consider when you’re budgeting for your cake and choosing a design.

Flavors

This is where your decision-making process gets fun. Do you want your cake to be all one flavor, or do you want a different flavor for each tier? BrideBox.com lists these as the most popular cake flavors of 2014:

  • Red velvet
  • Chocolate
  • White chocolate with raspberry
  • Lemon
  • Vanilla
  • Coconut and lime
  • Pink champagne
  • Carrot

You’ll get to choose a filling (or fillings), too. Popular fillings include coconut, custard, strawberry, chocolate, mocha and white chocolate. For spice cakes (like carrot), a cream cheese filling also works well. No matter what flavors you choose, be sure to do a taste test. Your cake should be beautiful and yummy!

Icing

Buttercream or fondant? Royal icing or ganache? It all depends on your tastes and wedding plans. Buttercream icing, which is made with a lot of butter, and ganache, which is made with chocolate and heavy cream, don’t hold up well in the heat and humidity. You cake will start to melt if your reception is outside on a hot day. Fondant, which is a smooth stiff icing made with gelatin and corn syrup, and royal icing, which is made with confectioner’s sugar and milk, hold up better in the heat and don’t need refrigeration. Be sure to let your baker know where your wedding is going to be held so they can make recommendations and plan accordingly.

Decorations

Look at wedding cake pictures online, and you know bakers can work magic. Cakes can be made to look like gift boxes. They can be covered with “lace” or decorated to look like they’re woven or made out of fabric. Flowers that look real are actually edible, made of marzipan (an almond paste) or gum paste (gelatin, corn starch and sugar). Some couples decorate with chocolates, candies or fruits.

Or, you can decorate your cake with flowers. Some brides like the drama of a cascade of blooms that starts at the top of the cake and flows to the bottom. Others opt for one perfect flower set on the top tier. Make sure flowers are pesticide-free if you’re going to put them on your cake.

There is also a wide variety of cake toppers, from brides and grooms (both traditional and funny) to hearts, flowers and doves. Monograms are a current trend, both as a cake topper and as a decoration woven into the cake design.

Outside the Box

Of course, you don’t have to serve a traditional cake at all. Maybe you want to serve something else if cake isn’t your thing:

  • Cupcakes
  • Cookies
  • Rice Crispie Treat cake
  • Cheesecake
  • Pie
  • Ice cream
  • A cake – but in an unusual design, shape, or color