Updated: Mar 24, 2021
If you've found your way here then I expect you are trying to narrow down just what style of wedding cake to go for and who you want to make it. Now most people start their wedding cake journey flicking through images on social media and google. But with so many design styles out there from ganache origami cakes, to elaborate sculpted fondant cakes and simple and rustic buttercream naked cakes and everything else in-between you might soon find yourself reaching for the G&T as you fall down the rabbit hole that is social media.
Sure Instagram & Pinterest are great, you can search new trends and particular styles, and follow cake designers that you like the world over to get a good idea of how trends are changing. Brilliant, and if you are lucky you find a style you absolutely love, and you decide to hunt for a designer who can make it for you. The problem with this is cake designers are artists, and as artists the best designers specialise and have signature styles all of their own. One designer may specialise in chocolate work, another may work exclusively with edible flowers while a third may only create contemporary fondant cakes. If you do start with google and social media use this just for inspiration to start with and don't get too bogged down with a particular dream cake.
With this in mind, I feel the best place to begin is with the designers themselves. I recommend at least trying to keep to the same county or neighbouring ones, as delivery can be costly if you go too far afield. I'd recommend being specific in the search terms you use in Google or other search engines. You'll probably find that if you just type in 'wedding cakes' you'll just be overwhelmed with hits. 'Wedding cakes Cornwall' for example will narrow it down, but you're still going to come up with quite a few to sift through.
Think about key terms that describe what you are looking for. Perhaps you are having an eco-wedding so organic and sustainable will be key terms to include. If you want real flowers, include edible flowers in your search. If you are dreaming of a naked cake include that, though you will likely still get a lot of hits off of that one. Most of us are guilty of never making it past page one on google, but I recommend going further, as not everyone can make it onto page one, and you might just miss a gem. You'll probably find that wedding directories take up some of the space on page one anyway, sift through these too, a lot of us use these. Using google maps to search designers who are local to your venue and working from there is a great way to tackle googles rankings, you'll find designers who might not rank as high come up here too, and if an eco wedding is what you are going for, keeping it local is always a good shout. If you do want to search specific styles here are a few you might want to try to start you off.
Edible flowers wedding cakes 'location"
Buttercream wedding cakes 'location"
Organic wedding cakes 'location"
Eco-wedding wedding cakes 'location"
Sustainable wedding cakes 'location"
Naked wedding cakes 'location"
Sugar flowers wedding cakes 'location"
Luxury wedding cakes 'location"
Budget wedding cakes 'location"
Wedding cupcakes 'location"
Painted wedding cakes 'location"
Contemporary wedding cakes "location'
Vegan wedding cakes "location"
Getting a feel for a designers website and their gallery, or even better Instagram feed, as this will probably be more up to date. Here you can get an idea of who they really are, what their signature style is by sifting through their past work. I touched on this a little earlier, most designers have very specific styles and mediums that they work with. It's not just a case of this designer works with buttercream and that one fondant, some are very niche. If you look through Red Robin Pantry's website and Instagram for example you'll find that we specialise in buttercream, but if you look further you'll realise that our signature style is even more niche than this. Predominantly we create painted buttercream cakes, amongst one or two other styles. So if that's what you are dreaming of I wouldn't suggest asking a designer who just works with edible flowers, or who decorates their cakes with drips, macarons and sails as they'd likely not know where to start. You'll have even less chance of getting the cake that you want if you ask a fondant specialist to create it. I often receive images of cakes that couples want me to recreate that have modelled figures or sugar flowers, which of course I am by no means the best designer for the task. This is the best way to start ruling out designers. If you can't see anything remotely like what you want, they probably aren't the designer for you. That's not to say that during this journey you won't discover a designer who completely blows you away with something you never thought you'd find yourself wanting, because the odds are you'll just find one who suddenly blows you away, maybe even two or three
Now that you've narrowed down your designers, look through their websites and find out more about them and their company. Does their ethos fit with yours? Are they within your budget? Not all cake designers make the later very clear on their websites, after all,
it's hard to create price lists when you create something that is bespoke, but you should be able to see the starting prices for different sizes of cakes. Though this will not include decoration, which depending on what you want may add considerably to the cost, so if you need a certain size of cake don't set your budget at the starting price for that cake size, you will likely be disappointed. Pay close attention to the portions for the different sizes of cake, this is a much better way to compare between different cake designers if budget is your primary concern, as this can differ drastically. A three-tier 6", 8" & 10" could be double the size from one cake designer than another. At Red Robin Pantry our cakes are 6" tall at least, that's at least double the traditional height. So pay attention, cake tiers could be 3", 4" or 5" tall depending on the designer.
You might then decide to contact your chosen designers for quotes on a certain design. The best designers should really be creating a bespoke design for you, not copying someone else's work. But you may be able to get an idea of costs from this at least. I personally think it's better to decide on a budget, but try to be practical in this. It's no good deciding you have a budget of £200 for a 4-tier wedding cake that is fully iced. That's a lot of work after all. If you are unsure of what you need to budget for your wedding cake for your number of guests, ask when you enquire with your cake designers. They can give you a price range for different styles of cakes at different sizes.
Now it's time for the fun part, eating cake! Currently, you'll probably be offered postal sample boxes and a followup video consultation. Normally most designers will offer in-person consultations. Some charge for this but then reduce your deposit to account for it once you book, some only offer this once you have paid a deposit, and I've heard of some not offering them at all. If the later is the case, I would be concerned, your wedding cake is going to be the most expensive cake you will ever purchase and you want to know that it will taste amazing for one, but you also need to try a few flavours before you choose what you are going to have.
Now I'm a firm believer that your wedding cake should be the best cake you've ever eaten, or at least up there. You may have been very lucky and had a gran that was the best baker in the entire world. Lucky you, my gran used a lot of cooking chocolate when I was a child. We still all fought over her chocolate refrigerator cake though! That being said, you may have to compromise if your budget is also very important to you. Do you want your cake to taste amazing or look just as you have always dreamed? If it's the first, your designer will always try to create something that fits your budget if they can. This might mean opting for a naked cake instead of a fully iced cake or choosing fruit decoration rather than real edible flowers or elaborate hand painted decoration. If the overall finish of the cake is more important to you, then you may have less choice. Perhaps only have small details of decoration, lots of my clients choose to have just one painted tier on a wedding cake, or even just a small section or part of a tier painted. If budget is really important to you, you may find that no matter how your designer adapts your cake, they just can't create anything within your price bracket for the size of cake that you need. This is why it's important to establish a budget range beforehand if budget is a concern, and confirm with your designer that they can create something within your budget for the number of guests that you have. I wouldn't go in expecting them to give you a good price. Most cake designers start to fill up at least a year maybe two in advance once they are established. Because they can only make and deliver so many cakes a week they have to make sure that they are pricing for their time correctly. Your cake is likely going to take days to make so if you even just imagine that as minimum wage, never mind what your highly skilled designer is worth you can see how wedding cakes can become expensive. Art takes time.
If budget is less of an issue for you then fantastic, but this may be the point when you need to decide if you are happy to increase your budget to get the designer that you want or perhaps look at designers that can create cakes on a budget, there are many out there. You may have to sacrifice on the quality of ingredients, what is used to decorate your cake and/or the skill level of designer. For example, I decorate all of my cakes in an
Italian meringue buttercream. There are several benefits to this buttercream, it's less sweet as it's made with a sugar syrup, not icing sugar, and the ratio of this is much much lower. The lack of icing sugar and the meringue base gives the buttercream a wonderfully velvety and delicate texture, so it works so much better for special occasion cakes where the cake needs to be truly special. It holds its structure so much better in warm weather, allowing for 3D sculpting and also means it won't start to melt on a warm day and turn into the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Well so long as you don't leave it in a window in the baking sun, nothing made of butter can survive that, but in a hot marquee, no problem. It does, however, take time to make compared to a standard American buttercream. I spent 6 hours earlier this week just making the buttercream for two cakes, and those were fake cakes, I didn't even need any to fill them. It can take an hour or more to make a single batch as you have to cool the meringue before you can add the butter, which on a hot day takes a lot longer. Meanwhile, a single batch of American buttercream only takes 10 minutes. Little things like this make a vast difference. A three-tier wedding cake may require 4-5 batches of buttercream to ice and decorate. Most of the budget cake designers would opt for an American buttercream, and those at the luxury end would use one of the meringue buttercreams, as there are actually quite a few. Again it's choosing quality or budget. So you really need to decide early on which of these two is most important to you.
Once you have chosen your designer it's time to work with them to create the perfect style and design for your day. They'll need to know your colour schemes, the general theme for your day, and any ideas that you have already had for decoration. Maybe you have a Pinterest board or saved images on Instagram that you can share for inspiration. If any of their past designs called out to you, tell them about those, they probably have hundreds of ideas similar that you might just love even more.
I hope I've helped you start out on your wedding cake journey. I know it can be daunting when there's just so much out there, but one of the great things about there being so much out there is that you are sure to find a style and a designer who's the perfect fit for your day. Thanks for reading and if you are getting married in Cornwall and you are considering a buttercream wedding cake, why not have a peruse through our Instagram gallery and the rest of our website to get more of a feel for who we are.