Thursday, January 21, 2010
Why does wedding cake cost what it does?!
As wedding season gears up for 2010, so do the articles on how to save money on your wedding. Now some of these actually offer legitimate advice, however there are more than a few that are so beyond ridiculous I want to call up the editor and ask them if they did ANY research. I figured I'd attempt to explain why wedding cake costs more than a grocery store sheet cake.
Wedding cake should be fresh, baked with the very best ingredients and stunning enough in appearance to have your guests oohing and aaaahing. Right now, this moment… forget that nonsense about how you say the word “Wedding” and we vendors triple the cost. Not true. In fact, that’s insulting!! You probably would think nothing of paying $5 to $7 to a yummy slice of chocolate molten lava cake at the restaurant, correct? But why would you expect fresh baked cake laden with high quality ingredients, delivered and set up at your location to stun and entice 100 plus of your nearest and dearest without a worry to you to cost any less? A cake your baker spent anywhere between 8 and 40 hours on? For real! It takes a lot to make a cake that deserves a top spot at your reception!
Let me explain how much time and how much stuff goes into a typical wedding cake:
Look at the cake pictured. Before any baking and prettifying happens, there is a free tasting. A tasting involves several kinds of cake (about $35.00 worth of ingredients in your samples) and sometimes up to three hours of time... and, if you're familiar with how I do meetings, I'm driving to you. After the meeting, sketching happens. This particular cake was a little easier and took about an hour.
In preparation for the cake, there's the shopping for ingredients. More driving and usually a trip to three locations. One for the bulk stuff, one for the fresh stuff and one for the supplies needed to support the cake upon stacking. At least three hours here. Sometimes it really is like Ace of Cakes and so toss in a trip to Home Depot as well. Back to the kitchen (rent and possibly an assistant or two to pay)...
This cake served 150 and each layer was a different shape and a different flavor. The different layers (the layers are made up of either two thick layers or three thinner ones) took roughly 8 hours to bake and had (I'm going to round out here) 35 pounds of sugar, flour, butter, eggs (oh my lord the amount of eggs used!), cream, vanilla, fresh lemon juice and zest, dark chocolate, fresh raspberries and blackberries, white chocolate mousse and half a bottle of Bailey's Irish Whiskey. After the layers are baked, they need to cool and settle. We’re at a high altitude here and the cakes need time to compress so you don’t end up with that very unprofessional looking bulge around the middle of your layers. I let mine do their thing overnight while wrapped tightly in plastic wrap to keep moisture in.
Fresh icing is made, and this cake took eight batches of it. That's more butter (1 lb per batch), more sugar (2 pounds per batch), vanilla bean and cream and a good hour or two of listening to the mixers whir as each batch takes 15 solid minutes of mixing to get it to the right consistency. Sometimes, I swear, I hear that noise in my sleep! Icing it smooth and all of the detailing took roughly four hours. Each pristine layer is placed upon its own cake board and the last thing I do is cut the supports that go into each layer. These keep your cake from doing a Poltergeist house on you. We've all seen videos of it... pretty funny when it's someone else, but imagine the horror if it was your cake imploding!! Not cool.
So the cake is finally ready to go! The cake was delivered to an outdoor venue in late summer and was set up on site, whereupon I also added the flowers provided by the florist. This particular delivery was pushed to the last possible moment because it was pushing 95 degrees out and was humid to top it off. The bride was actually walking down the aisle when I started doing my thing. We quickly unloaded all of the layers, stacked them and then the last little border was added. We placed the flowers on and took a few quick pictures and were out of there as their guests were clapping and cheering the end of the ceremony. Phew! Yes, there was a little high-fiving in the parking lot... this was one that tested the typical time line of things, however delivering earlier was simply not an option in order to keep that cake from melting!
I hope this helps explain all that goes into the creating of your wedding cake. The cake has become such an important and expected part of a wedding. Sharing a piece with your newly beloved symbolizes the beginning of great things to come. Imagine the smile the photos of this magical moment will induce when you and your sweetie are reminiscing. And how fabulous does a piece of lavender infused lemon cake filled with layers of fluffy white chocolate mousse and fresh blueberries, raspberries and blackberries sound after dancing your tush off all night? Yeah, it sounds fabulous!