All bakers are not created equal. I am a pretty good baker, I make a mean birthday cake for my stepson-to-be every year. And it is awesome. Should I ever offer to bake a cake for someone’s wedding? Absolutely not.
Let me break down bakers into 3 categories. 1) The family friend that bakes. 2) The grocery store baker. 3) The professional wedding cake designer. I think you can already guess which one of the three I am going to recommend. Yup. It’s the professional wedding cake baker.
Your friend may be able to make a great cake for a 1 to 2 tier cake, as can the grocery store bakery. But when you are looking for wedding cake, you need to consider not just taste but also structure and artistic design. What the grocery store and your friend lack is a deeper skill and understanding of the conditions that wedding cakes face. The professional baker does.
Pros for the professional:
1) They understand the engineering and structural integrity of a wedding cake. It really is a matter of building a structurally sound design. Think about it. Your cake has to be transported from a Point A to a Point B. Usually in a car, on highways at great speed, or perhaps on a windy road with many turns. A professional knows how to get the cake transported safely and in one piece.
Many of the bakers I work with have special cake structures, metal bases for the tiers and strong dowels to support a cake. These cost hundreds of dollars and are an investment that the casual baker does not have. The structure brings stability to the entire cake.
2) The professional also understands the difference between buttercreams, fondant and other icings and their strengths and weaknesses. They know at what temperature their buttercream with melt. They know when fondant is needed to protect the cake from humidity. They also know when colors will start to bleed.
3) When things do go awry, the professional has both the skill and tools to fix the occasional “oops” onsite.
4) The bakers I work with use fresh, high quality ingredients. The taste is quite simply superior.
Earlier this summer I worked with a client that really didn’t care much about the cake. That’s fine. Everyone has things that are important and things that really aren’t. They decided to order a cake from a major grocery chain, and it was apparent.
What are the problems here?
1) The frosting was VERY messy and then smeared. And not the kind of smeared that a mere wedding planner like me can fix.
2) As the day progressed, the design that was on the cake started to lose its definition. It was a hot day and it was in the ballroom for several hours before we did the cake cutting. Fondant would have protected the cake and kept it fresher. Or for those that don’t care for fondant, there are some buttercreams that will stand up to the heat. But be aware that at a certain point buttercream is exactly that, butter and it will start to melt.
I recommend professionals that take all factors into account, taste, structure and design. Here are a couple of my favorites!
Lora with Gateau has done something very smart. She has a new line of cakes, called Simply Sweet. Check it out! On the website you will find a page of select cake sizes and designs that are pre-priced for you. You choose 1 cake flavor, 1 design and done! This is perfect for the couples that don’t put quite as much stock in the bells and whistles of cake design but still want a quality cake. You get the exact same ingredients and attention to detail for the design you have chosen. The difference is the back and forth of the cake planning process. Because the process is easy and simplified for both you and for Gateau, they can make these cakes available at a more moderate price. You get a grade-A cake and don’t have to go to a lesser baker to stay in your budget. Perfect!