We spent a lot of time researching wedding cakes – because who doesn’t love cake? You’d think after being in the wedding industry for more than 3 years now that we’ve eaten enough cake to know who we’d like to make ours. Well truth be told we have eaten a lot of wedding cake, mostly by suppliers local to Canberra, the Southern Highlands and Sydney. So we approached Rachel our favourite cake maker in Canberra, owner of Forty-Two Cakes. After much advice she convinced us that travelling 3 hours on steep, windy, narrow roads to the South Coast in the middle of summer with a 3 tier wedding cake was not a safe decision for the style of cake we wanted, and we’d be better off staying local. It turns out that within half an our of our wedding venue, Bodalla Bakery has an unbeatable reputation in the area, and after sampling their decadent chocolate mud cake we were sold.
Welcome to our third blog post in our series on planning a wedding. We like to start out every post by acknowledging that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate your decision to spend the rest of your life together. We want to make it clear that our opinions about our wedding are a reflection of what we value and what’s important to us. Read the other blog posts in our planning a wedding series here.
We turned to Forty-Two Cakes for our engagement party cake instead. Rachel has a pretty extensive knowledge in the world of cake making, and she was kind enough to share it with us in this interview below. All photographs in this blog post were taken by Forty-Two Cakes.
What are the factors we should consider when choosing our wedding cake?
Your desired appearance and flavours are the key considerations for most people, but not the only ones! You’ll also need to decide whether your cake will be served as dessert or with coffee, whether you’d like it to be single- or multi-tiered, the environment the cake will be displayed in (e.g. indoor/outdoor, air-conditioning, time of year), duration of display, and also the distance the cake needs to travel to the venue.
What are the different cake finishes?
There are four main styles of cake finishes at Forty-Two Cakes: naked, seminaked, buttercream, and fondant.
* Naked cakes have no icing on the outside at all, leaving the cake layers and the internal filling visible. This is the most casual style of wedding cake, and also the cheapest.
* Seminaked cakes are covered in a thin layer of buttercream or ganache on the outside that has been scraped back to leave straight sides and sharp edges, with the cake and filling visible through the icing in some places. It’s a good compromise between the rustic charm of a naked cake and the formal elegance of a more traditional cake, which has made it our most popular style this year. Both naked and seminaked cakes look gorgeous with fresh flowers or fruit and, are very popular due to their organic, rustic look.
* Buttercream cakes are covered in a full coat of buttercream, which can be coloured to match your wedding theme colours, applied in multi-coloured finishes such as ombre or watercolour, piped on in swirls or petals, made completely smooth or given a variety of textures including rustic ‘spatula’ texture, ribbed and fluted finishes. Buttercream is an extremely versatile medium that has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years (and it’s also very delicious!). Some of these effects can also be achieved with ganache.
* Fondant cakes are encased in white, dark or milk chocolate ganache and then covered in a layer of fondant. This is the “traditional” wedding cake look, although fondant is also very versatile and can lend itself to many modern techniques that can’t be achieved with other cake finishes. Fondant cakes can be painted, embossed, stencilled, piped on (e.g. lace patterns, swiss dots), covered in gold or silver leaf, geometric tiled patterns, ruffles, frills, and other textures. They’re the most expensive style of cake due to time involved in their preparation.
We’ve heard that fondant these days tastes a lot better than it used to, is that true?
It is! Fondant has a reputation for being left on the plate, but modern fondant recipes have a mild sweet flavour and can be rolled to only a few millimetres thin, which makes them much more palatable than the hard, dry stuff people may have been accustomed to in the past. Many people enjoy the taste of modern fondant.
Can you tell us about your favourite or most popular flavours? You have some pretty unique combinations on your Instagram feed!
Haha! We certainly do. We pride ourselves on creating bespoke flavours and combinations for all our clients rather than having a list for them to choose from, so we can incorporate their favourite flavours to create a unique cake for their wedding. We love it when people come to us with unusual requests! Having said that, there are some crowd favourites. Lemon, vanilla bean, dark chocolate and coconut are our most popular base cake flavours, with more adventurous flavours like earl grey or matcha green tea, black sesame and peppermint making regular appearances as well. Fresh strawberry or raspberry, salted caramel, earl grey and coffee have been popular filling flavours this year. People are also influenced by the season, with cakes incorporating flavours like rhubarb, apple, and chai more common in winter, and fresh combinations like coconut and passionfruit popping up more in the summer months.
How far in advance should we look at ordering a wedding cake?
The more notice the better! Popular cake makers can book out quickly, particularly for the peak wedding seasons of March/April and October. We recommend you start talking to us as soon as you’ve booked your venue (and photographer!) for these periods. For smaller orders or for the off-peak wedding season, we still recommend getting in touch a few months in advance if possible, although we do our best to work with our clients to accommodate orders in the timeframe available.
How much cake do we need?
This depends whether you’ll be serving the cake as dessert, or as coffee portions after dessert is served by your venue. Once we know the guest numbers and serving size, we will work with the client to figure out the best configuration of tiers to achieve their desired look.
How long will a wedding cake last?
It depends on the finish and how the cake is stored. Naked cakes have a short shelf-life as the exposed sides of the cake can dry out quickly, which should be taken into consideration in wedding planning. If filled with buttercream, they also don’t withstand long periods in warm temperatures well, so they’re not a good choice for summer weddings with outdoor receptions, and they should be refrigerated until immediately prior to the reception at all times of the year.
Seminaked and buttercream cakes stay fresh for longer than naked cakes because they are sealed, and can be stored in the fridge for a few days without compromising freshness. However, like naked cakes, they don’t withstand warm temperatures well unless made with ganache rather than buttercream, so are best for indoor receptions or weddings in the cooler months.
Fondant cakes have the longest shelf life as the fondant completely seals them – they can be stored at (cool, dry) room temperature for several days. They are the only kind of cake that can reliably stand up to extended display in warm temperatures (e.g. for outdoor wedding receptions in summer), because the ganache and fondant layers protect the cake and filling from the heat and provide structural support.
Dessert buffet tables are pretty popular these days. What are the pros and cons of having one over the traditional wedding cake?
Dessert tables let you offer your guests a wide range of flavours and textures rather than just cake, they look super fun, and they can provide a great talking point for your wedding. They do usually mean that your wedding cake itself will be a lot smaller (if you’re having one), which is a downside for people who want a statement wedding cake. Dessert tables may also cost more than just a wedding cake to serve the same number of people, due to the preparation of the many individual items.