Let me introduce myself, my name is Elizabeth Mikkelsen and I have been the co-owner of Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop with my husband since 2000. I have been in the hospitality industry since I was 16 and attended Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration. My husband grew up in a pastry shop in Denmark where he started working with his dad at the age of 11. Wedding cakes are one of the parts of our business, which is probably the trickiest to navigate. While we have made literally thousands of wedding cakes, each one is unique and has to be customized to fit the needs and desires of each couple.
So lets talk about the process. What is the first step for you, the wedding couple? The first step should be to call your desired pastry shop and see if they are available on the date of your wedding and if they deliver to your venue where the reception will be taking place. What they charge and what flavors they offer, etc., won't matter if they are unable to make your cake. Cross them off your list and move on. If they are available, set up an appointment as soon as possible. Most pastry shops will not hold a date without a deposit. Dates fill up very quickly in peak wedding season, which varies around the country.
Should you make appointments with multiple pastry shops? Absolutely! Different shops will offer different styles of cakes, different flavors, as well as different pricing structures. While wedding cakes are traditionally priced on a per person basis, there is no industry standard for what constitutes a serving. It is very important that you compare the whole cake size you are being quoted on. For instance, one shop may say a 12-9-6 (12 inch bottom, 9 inch middle, and 6 inch top) three-tiered cake serves 70 people and another says it will serve 50. You will be paying a different price for the same size cake even if their per person price is the same.
When you call to make an appointment, ask if your date is available and if they service your area. Ask what their starting prices are for buttercream and fondant (these are usually different). You may want to email a picture of the style of cake you are looking for and the number of guest the cake will be serving, if you want a more accurate quote. If they seem to be a good fit for you, make an appointment and request a tasting. Be aware that some places charge for tastings but most do not. We offer three (3) complimentary cake/filling combinations at our wedding appointments.
Once you have set up the appointment what and who should you bring? We suggest the bridal couple attend and one or two other people, besides your wedding planner, tops. Too many opinions can make it hard to decide on details. The only opinions that really matter are yours! You should bring any color samples, pictures of cakes you like, all the times and details of your reception, your desired payment method to leave a deposit (you may want to check in advance what percentage you need to leave and accepted payment methods), the name and number of your florist, catering manager, and of course an open mind.
If you are trying to stay within a certain budget don't be afraid to say so. There are ways to lower the cost and still get the cake you want. A smaller display cake, which is still cut and served, can be supplemented by an iced but un-decorated back up sheet cake, which can bring your price down significantly, especially if you have chosen an expensive design.
When do false layers make sense on your display cake? For the most part, this really only makes sense if you want the display cake to appear bigger then the amount of cake you need to serve.
How are wedding cake prices determined? Wedding cakes will start with a base price for what each shop considers a standard cake and then any extras are added on from there. Why is this done? A simple wedding cake should not cost the same as a very elaborate cake, so the extras are added on after the base size has been determined.
What would incur extra charges? Very intricate piping work, handmade edible flowers, chocolate seashells, fondant ribbons and bows to name a few things. Most cake makers will ask you to supply fresh flowers that will be delivered to the shop, preferably the day before. Why to the shop and why the day before? The person delivering the cake is often not a cake decorator and so not qualified to place the flowers on your cake in your desired style. We prefer to get the flowers the day before to protect you. That way we can tell the florist they did not send enough flowers or they are not the quality you would expect and there is time to rectify that situation.
What is the purpose of tasting cakes at your appointment? Every shop has their own special style of making cakes. Our cakes are European style, so they are less sweet. That style does not work for everyone and it is important you love the way your cake tastes as much as you love how it looks. Remember, it is how your guests will finish their meal! When we are asked what flavors people are doing these days, we honestly answer, “Anything goes!” We do caution you to not go too crazy! Remember, while it is your big day you also want to appeal to a large number of palates that you are probably not familiar with. You may want to skip the coconut or peanut butter, or perhaps just have it only one layer if it is your all time favorite.
Can you have different flavors on the different tiers? Absolutely! We have no problem with that but keep in mind, those tiers have to be cut and served. Our suggestion is to select no more than two flavors so they can be served every other person. Remember the top tier is traditional kept for your first anniversary. Whether you are going to eat it that night or a year later this is a great place to indulge yourself with your favorite flavors!
Wedding cake delivery fees will vary from shop to shop. They will usually vary depending on the distance to your venue. People will sometimes opt to pick up their cake. While we do not recommend this for larger cakes it is an option. Wedding cakes are fragile structures. If your baker is a seasoned professional and they say it can't be done it probably can't.
While your wedding cake is a very important part of your big day it should not be a budget buster. Most cake makers will be happy to work with you to create a beautiful cake within your price range. Just be respectful of the skill and the expertise it will take to make your special cake.