Let's Talk Cake...
I am often asked how much of the wedding budget should be allotted for the wedding cake. The answer to this question is complicated. Let me explain why.
Wedding cakes come in all shapes, sizes, colors and configurations. The importance of the design, color and flavor of a wedding cake varies from bride to bride. While some brides want elaborately decorated, multi-tiered, multi flavored cake, others still ask for almond flavoring with buttercream filling, which in the South is simply known as "wedding cake". Basic cakes start at about $3.50 per slice and depending on their complexity can go for as much at $10 per slice. On average here in New Orleans, a wedding cake will cost you between $4 and $6 per slice, depending on where you buy it from. (Don't forget that delivery charges are NOT included in the price of the cake and should be added to your cake budget.) Also, those beautiful silver stands that you love so much have to be rented, which will also increase the budget.
Here are some tips to consider when choosing a cake for your wedding:
1. More decor means more money.
Simply put, the more time and effort spent by the baker decorating a cake, the more the cake will cost. An easy and cost effective way to add decoration to a cake is with fresh flowers. Real flowers cost less than sugary flower designs. You can arrange with your florist to add as few or as many flowers as you like. Another way to save money is to go with a baker's standard designs. All bakers have three or four standard designs that they offer. These baseline cakes are always pretty, tasty and cost effective.
2. Buttercream icing is your friend.
Not only is buttercream icing much more versatile to work with for a baker, it is less expensive than fondant icing and also much more flavorful. While the smooth finish of fondant icing is certainly beautiful, the icing itself is flavorless. Some bakers add flavoring to fondant icing before it is rolled out and cut, while other bakers place a layer of either buttercream icing or some other filler between the fondant icing and the cake. The process is time consuming which equates to expensive and although you get a pretty cake, often the taste of the cake is compromised by the lack of flavor in the fondant icing.
3. Can't pick a flavor? Pick them all!
A great way to offer more than one flavor of cake is to choose a different flavored cake for every tier. It's nice to offer several different flavors to your guests. Many brides choose to do the bottom tier in traditional almond flavor while making the second tier a gourmet option such as red velvet or carrot cake. The top layer of a wedding cake is always done in the favorite flavor of the bride and groom since traditionally it is saved to be eaten on their one year anniversary. A more cost effective way to change up the flavor of a wedding cake is to have the same cake for every tier but use a different filling in between the layers of each tier.
4. Your venue may already have a cake budget.
Many venues have prearranged contracts with specific bakers. They will often include a "cake allowance" in their food and beverage pricing. Be sure to ask if a cake or a cake allowance is included in your package. Other venues, particularly hotels, have pastry chefs on staff. Using the hotel pastry chef is a very good way avoid delivery fees and cake cutting fees. Most hotel pastry chefs take great pride in their work and provide both flavorful and artistically pleasing cakes.
5. Read the fine print.
One relatively recent addition to the world of wedding cakes is the new "cake cutting" fee that venues want to charge. While you may be told there is an additional charge to cut your wedding cake, my advice is to challenge that cost. There is no reason whatsoever that anyone should have to pay an additional fee for a service that is the responsibility of the venue to provide. From a purely monetary position, if you have a cake that requires 200 slices, at the minimum of $1 per slice, that is an additional $200 from your budget. Unfortunately some hotels are charging up to $6 per slice to cut a cake that isn't purchased from their pastry chef! A good wedding planner will negotiate this charge away. If you don't have a wedding planner, SPEAK UP, or you will end up paying by the slice to have your wedding cake cut and served. Remember, service is part of the deal when you sign on to use a venue. There is no need to pay extra for something that should be included.
6. A true Southern tradition will always cost more.
New Orleans is one the few Southern cities where the tradition of "cake pulls" is used. These charms inserted into the base of the cake and pulled out by select friends of the bride are one of the highlights of the Southern wedding. Each charm represents a different fortune and there is no self respecting Southern woman alive who hasn't secretly desired to "pull the ring" from the wedding cake of a friend. If you were wondering whether or not to have cake pulls at your wedding, my advice is to keep the tradition alive and GO FOR IT! It makes for a great lighthearted moment at your wedding and a truly terrific photo op.
You can find a great selection of cake pulls and other wedding accessories at our online boutique: http://www.oldnewbluenola.com/signature-collection-bride/