Monday, June 21, 2010

Wedding Cakes- Experience Helps, part 1

When brides choose their wedding professionals, they're looking at a lot of things. Quality of work, pricing, different options that the pros offer, etc. One of the things that I think they should be looking at first and foremost is experience.
If you're a bride, it shouldn't be your job to think of all of the details that are necessary for each professional to get their job done. You should be able to hire someone who has enough experience to know what needs to be double-checked, and let them take care of it.

I recently wrote about delivering a wedding cake to an outdoor location on a hot day, and how I had insisted that the cake be covered in fondant. Everything went fine, but it could have been a lot different if I hadn't had some experience with the venue. First, this is the driveway that I had to go down to get to the reception site. This was literally two miles (I measured it on the way back) of large gravel and ruts, and it was the kind of driving that makes your fillings rattle. You either have to decide to go really fast and hope that it's over soon, or go really slow and hope that the vibration of the car doesn't shake the cake apart. I opted for really slow. (On a side note, when mapquest says "road partially unpaved" this is what they mean.)

Next, the issue of the heat...The bride had arranged for the cake to be inside the house until after the beginning of the reception, so that it would stay cooler. Even inside the house, though, it was about 85 degrees, no air conditioning, and I was sweating from the humidity just setting the cake up.

Those were the two major issues of the day, but neither one bothered me. Why? Because I'd delivered cakes to that location many times before, and I already knew about the road and the lack of air conditioning. I took the cake unassembled and set it up on site, so the shaking of the car wouldn't bother it, and I insisted that the cake be covered in fondant even if it was going to be inside for a portion of the time. I was ready for that particular location's quirks, and I knew how to handle them because I had experience delivering cakes there before.

If I had never been out there, the bride would have told me that the house was cool enough to store a buttercream-covered cake, I would have taken it there assembled, it would have shaken to pieces by the time I got there, then whatever was still standing would have melted.

So for all you brides out there...Make sure that whoever you hire has the experience needed to accomplish what you hired them to do. Whether that's someone who's been in business for twenty years and knows all the tricks in the book, or someone who's been in business for a year but has a lot of experience working with your venue, check them out. You don't want to be the experiment/portfolio-builder!

 Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at and


BellaLovesPink said...

I'm a hobbyist and will be making my 3rd wedding cake this week. I certainly wish I had all the knowledge of a pro like yourself, but I also don't bite off more than I can chew and I'm certain to divulge my limited skill set to friends. If a bride knows what and who she's working with, she should expect similar results.

Kara said...

Everyone has to start somewhere, and as long as you know your limitations you'll be fine. It's the people who have never done a cake before who are online the week before the wedding asking what size pans they should use that are the ones to worry about! I'm sure we've all seen people who post a picture of a complicated wedding cake, then say "I'm going to be making this next week and it has fondant on it. How do you do fondant?" More people seem to be going the DIY route, and the blind leading the blind won't have a good result. The second part of this post is going to be about being able to fix anything that does happen, and many inexperienced people wouldn't be able to do that, either!

Shayna said...

Excellent advice, Kara, that crosses over plenty of trades under the wedding industry umbrella. People simply don't realize that there is a monetary value that comes with experience that shows in the enormous number of situations we avoid simply because it has become second nature. That's not to say that any wedding pro is perfect, that we can't mistakes, or that a new pro can't do a great job. But you get one wedding day (at least at a time) - you really have to weigh the risks of "if this goes totally wrong, how will I feel". Excellent advice.

Anonymous said...

I am not too sure if you give advice but I have a bride that wants a ganche covered cake outdoors. Will ganache hold up to heat and humidity? I make mine with bittersweet chocolate and cream, no butter.

Kara said...

I would say no on the ganache. Any other opinions? I haven't done that before, but since it's only cream and chocolate, I'd assume that it would slide off the cake pretty fast on a hot, humid day. I wouldn't do it.

Jennywenny said...

The australians seem to swear by ganache under fondant for their hot weather, but I think thats only if its actually under fondant....

I agree that everyone needs to know fully the situation, if a baker is inexperienced its a bad idea for them to overstate their capacity as it could be a horrible disaster.

veron said...

I started doing weddings last year. For newbies like me regarding a location I am not familiar with, hubby and I make it a point to visit the location a week or 2 before the wedding to know where it is and where the entrance and unloading is for the cake - mainly because we hate surprises on the day itself. On the form I give my bride, I ask who their contact/coordinator is including phone # so I can give the place a call, let them know I am dropping by if I am not familiar with the place, let them know what size table I will be needing, know how I could pick up my cake stand and when etc.
I also tell the bride upfront what I can and can't do, for example I hate coloring fondant for a cutting cake, so I only offer them in white. :)