An Essential Guide to Wedding Cakes
One of the best parts of wedding planning is deciding on your wedding cake! You may already have some idea of what you want, or you may just not know where to start at all. With so many variations of cake shapes, flavours and designs to choose from, it can be difficult to find a starting point. So, we’ve put together an Essential Guide to Wedding Cakes, to help you decide on your dream wedding cake design.
This article covers:
- Amazing UK cake designers
- The history of wedding cakes
- Different wedding cake shapes
- Different wedding cake flavours
- Types of wedding cake finishing
- Types of wedding cake decorations
- How much does a wedding cake cost?
- What is a cake cutting fee?
- Can I make my own wedding cake?
- How far in advance should I order my wedding cake?
- How much cake do I need for my wedding guests?
- What happens at a wedding cake tasting?
- Delivering and setting up the wedding cake
- How should I display my wedding cake?
- Alternatives to a wedding cake
With over 10 years of experience, awards, and many returning customers, you and your wedding cake are in safe hands with Lisa Adams Cakes. Skilled in traditional and modern techniques, they can create a huge range of stunning wedding cakes, no matter your style. Customer service is at the heart of Lisa’s business, and so they guide you through the entire cake process, from design, flavour, stature and style. Every crumb and decorative element is designed and handcrafted just for you. They create cakes for occasions when taste and detail matter, to be remembered for years to come!
Lisa Adams Cakes can be delivered all across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, London and the Cotswolds.
“Lisa made an absolutely wonderful cake for our wedding. We met with her to discuss the theme and she had some brilliant ideas about decoration that fitted in perfectly with our plans, creating a cake with a flower-meadow and bee motif. We went away from the first meeting feeling reassured that everything to do with the cake was sorted and that we wouldn’t need to chase up and check anything (a very good feeling when you’re planning a wedding!) Sure enough, Lisa sent us a photo of the cake just before our wedding, and it looked absolutely beautiful. The delivery went smoothly, with the cake arriving at the right time, and it looked fantastic amongst the rest of the decorations. It was also delicious! It still tastes as good as new a couple of days after the wedding. I can highly recommend Lisa’s cakes to anyone planning a special event – she has fantastic ideas, and the cakes are brilliant. We’ll certainly be using her again for any future big events!” – Ally, Feb 2020
With a wealth of experience in creating beautiful bespoke cakes, Karen also supplies delicious dessert tables, cupcake towers, mini and sphere cakes, cheesecakes, cookies and more! All of their cakes are baked fresh to order using only the finest quality ingredients. They offer a large selection of flavours including Madagascan vanilla, champagne and strawberry, salted caramel, elderflower and lemon and many, many more. Karen will work with you to create the the perfect design for you, to wow your guests and perfect match your wedding day theme and decor. Gluten and dairy free cake options are also available, so none of your guests have to miss out!
Karen offers you a personal and comprehensive service from the initial consultation, tasting, design to the delivery and setup at the venue of your choice. If preferred, you can have virtual sessions to discuss your wedding cake requirements, and cake tasting samples which can be posted out to you.
Karen Liddle Cakes can be delivered all across Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire.
“The service from Karen was fantastic. Karen gave us lots of ideas and nothing was too much trouble. The cake looked and most importantly tasted great. I would highly recommend Karen as not only was the service brilliant, but so were her prices.” – John, Apr 2012
Lola’s Cupcakes offer fresh, handcrafted and simply delicious wedding cupcakes and cakes. Their stunning new range of ready-made wedding cakes are available for delivery throughout London, Birmingham, Stevenage and more. With a range of beautiful colours to choose from and both single and double tiers, you’ll find they have the perfect wedding cake for you! Handcrafted every day in their North London Bakery, all you need to do is choose the delivery date and time, and your wedding cake will be delivered straight to your chosen location.
For Heaven’s Cakes are based in West London and have been creating bespoke cakes for every special occasion since 2006! Their bespoke service means your wedding cake can truly compliment the theme of your special day: any flavour, any size, any style you like! They can also cater for a variety of dietary requirements for you and your guests, including nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. For Heaven’s Cakes can also provide cupcakes, cake pops, macarons and biscuits, to make your wedding dessert table complete.
Sweet Chic creates luxury, artisan wedding cakes that are bespoke, hand-crafted and totally delicious. Whether you’re looking for your dream wedding cake, cupcakes, elegant wedding favours or showstopper dessert bars, they can do it all! Sweet Chic pride themselves on providing a personalised and friendly service to all their customers throughout Yorkshire, the North West of England and beyond. With over 15 years of experience, everything they make is designed and lovingly handmade to order.
Working from a professional kitchen in Enfield, Middlesex, Centrepiece Cakes by Kerry cover Central and other London regions. Their stunning wedding cakes are designed according to your individual tastes and they always aim to exceed your expectations. Kerry will ensure that your cake will truly reflect your special day and your personality, whether you’re looking for delicate icing flowers, cupcake bouquets or edible bride or groom cake toppers.
With over 20 years of experience, Wedding Cakes by Lisa Broughton creates stunning wedding, civil partnership and celebration cakes using only the finest ingredients. Based in Surrey, Lisa is also a recommended supplier for wedding cake design at many venues across the South East. As well as creating bespoke wedding cakes, she can also create delicious dessert tables complete with cupcakes, mini cakes, decorated biscuits, macaroons and cake pops!
The Little Sugar Box is a fabulous wedding cake company located in Kent. Their stunning wedding cakes are designed and handmade by the talented cake designer, Ali. You’ll never believe their stunning sugar flowers aren’t real! Whether you’re looking for a large tiered cake, a simple single layer wedding cake, or even a dessert table full of beautiful cupcakes, The Little Sugar Box can do it all! Specialising in soft and delicate designs, you’ll definitely have a real showstopper to enjoy with your guests!
Mrs Macs Cakes is based in Wickham, Kent, and supplies stunning wedding cakes across the surrounding areas. Their bespoke cakes are handmade with the finest ingredients and with the utmost care and attention to detail. Whatever design or flavour you are looking for on your special day, they can cater for all and will surely wow your guests! So, whether you’re wanting traditional designs or the more unconventional, they will strive to provide the magical cake you desire.
Established more than 30 years ago, Meg Rivers Artisan Bakery is a modern, forward-thinking bakery and gift business based in the heart of the Cotswolds. Their delicious cakes can be delivered straight to your door, across the UK, by overnight courier. With over 30 years experience in mail order deliveries, you can be sure that your wedding cake will arrive in perfect condition. Meg Rivers’ Two Tier Wedding Cake is baked to their award-winning Rich English Fruit Cake recipe. Every cake is hand-baked, using only the best ingredients.
Did you know the original tradition of ‘wedding cakes’ dates all the way to Ancient Rome? It was custom for the groom to break a savoury wheat or barley loaf over the bride’s head, as a symbol of fertility and good luck for the marriage. In medieval times, this translated into the stacking of slightly sweeter foods such as biscuits, scones and buns. In the 16th century, elaborate wedding pies filled with all kinds of expensive meats were very popular. A century later saw fruit cakes for the groom and white-iced pound cakes for the bride; the white icing symbolising purity and wealth. When refined sugar became much more affordable, the wedding cakes we know and love today started to become commonplace. It wasn’t until the 1980s that couples started to move away from square white royal-iced cakes on pillars, with soft fondant iced sponges, lemon, chocolate and carrot cakes becoming popular. In the 1990s, the first chocolate-covered wedding cakes were seen, opening the way for the more creative styles we see today.
The most popular wedding cake shape is now round. However, there are so many alternatives to choose from. Square cakes are having a huge revival and there are plenty of other options such as hexagonal, heart-shaped, or even cakes that are made to look like objects.
Your wedding cake shape is also affected by how many tiers it has. While the traditional wedding cake has three tiers, there are no rules as to how many tiers you can have! From a single-tier all the way up to staggering heights, the only limit is your budget!
Tiers can be stacked, freestanding or with pillars between each layer to add extra height. Also, double-height tiers are becoming very popular, where two identical cakes are stacked on top of each other before being iced to look like a single layer. It’s worth noting that some very tall tiered wedding cakes actually have a fake base tier to help support the weight of the rest of the cake. But don’t forget that one tier, beautifully decorated, can be just as stunning as a ten tier cake.
Image: Lisa Adams Cakes
Some couples still prefer to go for the traditional British wedding fruit cake. However, don’t feel you have to settle for tradition if you don’t want to. There are hundreds of different flavours you can choose from. Many like to take the opportunity of modern cake flavours to create something unique and personal to their tastes and wedding theme.
You may also want to be influenced by your wedding season when choosing your cake flavours. For example, light, dainty flavours for a spring or summer wedding and rich, heavier cakes for an autumn or winter wedding. If you are struggling to pick just one favourite flavour, why not have a different flavour for each tier? One could be a crowd-pleaser, such as chocolate or vanilla, then you could choose something more unique for the other tiers. If you’re having a naked cake this looks truly spectacular with the alternating coloured sponges!
Remember, if you offer guests too much choice, you may need to allow for extra potions for them to sample more than one! Here are some of our favourite cake flavours for inspiration
- Classics: Vanilla, Chocolate (combine with peanut butter for a twist, but beware of any nut allergies!), Fruitcake, Coffee, Red Velvet.
- Fruity: Lemon, Blueberry and Peach, Passion Fruit and Raspberry, Strawberry and Champagne, Carrot and Orange.
- Unusual: Spiced Ginger, Pistachio and Cardamom, Lavender, Earl Grey, Amaretto.
Image: Sweet Chic Cakes
Wedding cake finishings refers to the final look of your wedding cake. This often means the type of frosting or icing you use and how you use it. Icing can either be a simple base for further decoration or stylised as part of the decoration. So, here we have the most common types of wedding cake finishings:
Fondant or royal icing
Fondant icing is the most popular icing for wedding cakes because it is so versatile. The icing is a combination of sugar, corn syrup, gelatine and glycerine. It is rolled out in sheets and then wrapped around each tier of the cake, leaving a smooth and clean finish to the cake.
Royal icing is a thick paste made from egg whites and sifted icing sugar. It is soft when piped onto the cake and then it dries to a hard finish. This is the icing that is often used to create beading, latticework, flowers and other creations that need to stay firm. Royal icing is mostly used for decoration, although traditionally it was used to ice the entire cake, spread over a layer of marzipan.
Images: Lisa Adams Cakes
Chocolate covered wedding cakes
Chocolate is becoming a more popular choice for couples, and there are so many options with how it can can be used. Either as a shiny glaze poured over the tiers, as curls or scrolls attached to the tiers, or as chocolate fondant, rolled out and wrapped around the tiers in the same way as white fondant.
Images: For Heaven’s Cakes
Buttercream frosted cakes
American buttercream has become a popular type of icing, as it is soft, easy to cut and quick to apply. In skilled hands, it can be used for decorations such as a basket weave, swirls, fleur-de-lis, rosettes and swags. The texture is smooth and creamy and not overly sweet. Genuine buttercream is made with real, unsalted butter. So, a cake iced with buttercream will need to be kept in a cool place away from direct sunlight to prevent it from melting.
Italian and Swiss buttercream are another two popular buttercream options for cakes, both made with meringue. Cream cheese buttercream is also another fabulous option and is made simply by adding cream cheese to the buttercream to create a nice blend. This type of finish perfectly compliments carrot cakes, red velvet cakes and lemon cakes.
Naked Cake Finish
Naked cake finish is also known as bare cakes, exposed, pound or tomboy cakes. This is where the humble sponge cake is left bare of exterior icing. These typically have no outer frosting, so you can see the sponges and their fillings. These often look fabulous adorned with berries, flowers and icing sugar.
A semi-naked cake, or crumb coat finishing, is similar to a naked cake. These will have a very thin, translucent layer of (usually buttercream) frosting so that the sponges aren’t bare, but are still visible.
Hand-finishing cakes mean you can get certain finishes like beautiful hand-painted cakes, gold leaf finishes and metallic cakes. These are cakes that have been covered in fondant, dirty iced or left naked and then finished with a layer of dripping chocolate, caramel or a sweet, coloured ganache trickling down the sides.
Images: Wedding Cakes By Lisa Broughton
The decor you choose for your cake will add that extra personal touch. Whether it’s a simple ribbon trim, sugar flowers, or a hand-painted pattern, there are literally thousands of decor accents you can choose from. From simple and traditional to pop culture themed, you can make your wedding cake completely unique using many decoration techniques. Here are just a handful of wedding cake decoration options to inspire you:
- Flowers: These could be fresh, pressed, fondant or sugar flowers. However, be aware of the risk of transfer from chemicals on fresh flowers. We recommend consulting both your cake maker and florist before using fresh flowers in your decorations.
- Ribbons and bows
- Hand piping, such as ruffles, swirls or small details
- Hand-painted and calligraphy designs
- Edible embellishments such as hard sweets or chocolate pieces
- Moulded chocolate
- Metallic finishes like gold leaf and rose gold designs
- Fresh fruit
- Cake effects such as marbling or ombre
Image: Mrs Macs Cakes
The cost of ingredients and materials will be in the region of £40-70 but most of the cost is in the time and skill involved. Standard high street cakes cost around £200-£350. If you are ordering a bespoke wedding cake from a designer, you can expect to pay anywhere from £450 to £750 for a cake for around 80 people.
The cost of your wedding cake is, of course, significantly influenced by the size of your cake, as well as your choice of ingredients and decorations. The prices above are an average which may range depending on these factors and location.
Most couples use a specialist company to supply their cake but if your venue usually includes the wedding cake as part of their package they may charge you a small cake cutting fee if you supply your own. This cost pays for the venue staff to cut up your cake, plate it and serve it to you and your guests. Sometimes, there might also be a small fee to hire the venue’s cake stand and cake knife (if not using your own). It’s worth checking with your venue to see if this is included in your wedding package.
Yes, but you’ll need to practice several times beforehand and make sure you have the right equipment so it often costs more than employing a professional. You will be limited on the size as domestic ovens aren’t designed to ensure an even bake for tiers over 10″ across.
Couples who have asked a friend to make their wedding cake often realise their cake is not exactly what they had hoped for and wish they’d budgeted to have a professional instead. Many venues ask for proof of liability insurance to ensure that cakes supplied have been professionally made to indemnify them from the risks involved in storing and serving a cake that hasn’t been made under strict protocols.
A professional cake designer will not only have the right tools to bake and decorate the cake, but also the technical knowledge of how to properly stack and dowel the layers to ensure they are stable. The last thing you want on your wedding day is a structurally-unsound cake toppling to one side, or completely crumbling under the weight. Believe us when we say that cakes are heavy and need a lot of support!
Image: Lola’s Cupcakes
Many couples choose to have wedding cakes that are multi-tiered and have very elaborate decorations. Making such a fancy and beautiful cake takes a considerable amount of time and effort on the part of the confectioner. Thus, it is essential that you order your cake much in advance of the wedding. We recommend you order your wedding cake at least 4 months prior to the wedding, if not more. This gives the baker enough time to devote to making it perfect for you as well as blocking out time on your wedding day to get it delivered and set up if required.
Generally, three tiers will serve 80 to 100 guests; you’ll likely need five layers for 200 guests or more. However, there are several factors that might influence this decision. Take into account that not everyone may want cake, but you need to order more cake if you have multiple flavours for your guests to try. Your wedding meal also affects the amount of cake as people are more likely to want cake after buffet-style food than a full 3-course meal. Also, if you have alternative sweet options, it is less likely your guests will eat the wedding cake. Generally, as long as you can guarantee yourself a slice of every flavour, that’s the main thing!
Wedding cake tastings are incredibly important when trying to find the right cake, and cake maker, for your wedding. At a wedding cake tasting, you are invited into the bakery to sample the quality of their cakes, ask questions and review portfolios. It’s not practical for a baker to have all possible cake combinations available to sample. So, if you are wanting to taste a particular flavour let them know in advance. Our recommendation is to use the tasting to see the quality of the bake rather than taste a particular flavour.
Every wedding cake consultation is slightly different, but you can expect to cover a few key topics: the cake maker’s experience and business, your wedding colours and theme(s), wedding cake designs, cake flavours, cake set up on the day (venue, stand, timing), costs and payment. As you’re talking through designs and ideas, your cake maker may start making some rough sketches of ideas, or may even show you pictures of other wedding cake designs to help you visualise what you’re all talking about.
This is an excellent opportunity to meet bakers, bond with them and fully understand the range of their abilities. Picking your baker is a big deal—you’ll want to get to know their personality and make sure they’re genuinely excited about your wedding day too.
Most wedding cakes are pieces of art to be admired. Cake designers put a lot of time and effort into bringing your cake to life. So, your cake will likely be on display before it’s cut and consumed. Make sure there’s a designated cake table that allows the most elegant presentation possible. A round table is perfect for round cakes, but a linear cake design may call for a rectangular table.
Have fun dressing up your cake table; drape the table with fabrics or have your florist help you with flowers to match the cake. Look out for unusual cake stands; if you can find a traditional silver stand, they add far more grandeur than the standard imitation silver stands. The cake stand should be at least 8cm larger than the bottom tier.
Be mindful of where you place your wedding cake. You don’t want to block emergency exits, or risk anyone accidently knocking it. If your wedding cake is iced with buttercream, it’s also a good idea to keep your cake away from any heat sources or direct sunlight. You don’t want it to melt!
Maybe a traditional wedding cake just isn’t your thing. So, what alternatives are there? If you have a sweet tooth, why not consider a tower of doughnuts, cupcakes, macarons or brownies instead? Your wedding guests will love something different and it saves having to cut up a whole cake. If you’d prefer something more savoury, why not have your wedding cake made of cheese? Godminster creates the most delicious cheese wedding cakes that you can decorate however you like.
Ready to book your wedding cake designer? Find them on Guides for Brides.
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