Choosing your wedding vendors is sometimes a hard task. What do you look for? What questions do you need to ask? What should their work look like? Are they a trained/ very experienced professional? Do they have a lot of previous work I can view? Etc, etc!
There’s so many things I could have spoken about in the vlog, but as we are all time conscious (and sometimes remembering everything when you’re on camera is a tough gig even when you have notes!!), I want to just add some more tips, and expand on what I did say for you here so you get the full picture (and you’re armed with some cakie knowledge!) In specific relation to cake decorators, here are some tips and advice on what to look for, and what to look out for.
The first big point is how to tell if someone is a professional in their field… This will show itself in the quality of their work, the amount of previous work they can show you (photos, display cakes, etc), and from what they can tell you about their service, as well as their training/ experience/ business in general. Can they explain to you easily how their cakes are structured and what actually goes into making up their cakes? Can they offer the right advice in terms of cake sizing (and why it should be that size), and is their product of true quality? Can they tell you all about the finishes of their cakes, and how many layers/ flavours/ details/ products/ techniques they’ll be using to achieve what you’re asking for? In short, each cake decorator you deal with needs to be able to answer these questions and explain to you the why’s and how’s of your cake, your cake quote, and your cake order in general.
Recommendations from venues or other vendors, or other couples who have dealt with a specific cake decorator is another good way to gauge whether they are professional to deal with and create a quality product, as well as giving reliable service, guidance and advice. Word of mouth is always very strong to lead you in the right direction (or steer you away from danger!), but still do your own research and see for yourself, as sometimes the recommended decorator isn’t the right fit for you and what you want.
Research is really the KEY. Look for someone who is reputable, experienced, longevity of business, read their testimonials and reviews, ask them for a quote which can be followed up with a consultation so you can speak in person and also view their work in person. You’ll also want to ask for a tasting for your wedding cake, if they haven’t offered it to you already. Sometimes these are a small one-off fee, sometimes they are free, and sometimes payment for a tasting/ consultation comes off your order total when you book in (that is my way of doing things, so I am covered for my time and products even if the couple choose to not book in with me. If they do, that amount counts towards their deposit, so they are not paying for an extra service in the end). SO REMEMBER… it has to taste as good as it looks! This is my business cake motto – one without the other is not cool, and does not work (well, it doesn’t for me and many others I know!) Make sure the taste AND the look are everything you are wanting. (Touching on the taste area, sometimes decorators bake from scratch, and others use packet or pre-mix… this also affects the price and time it takes, so that’s another good thing to ask them!)
You’ll find that some cake decorators are fully trained in their field, others are very experienced, and some are not trained, or are self-taught. Cake decorating is one area that is not governed by definitive training, or qualifications. There are decorators that have been around for a long time, those that have been through many courses, or patisserie training, those that are just starting out, or have only been in business a small amount of time, and some that have not been to classes, and aren’t professionally trained. Not discounting anyone in any way (and this is of course your choice to choose whom you like), just make sure you are comfortable with your chosen decorator, and CONFIDENT in their abilities. We all know different things, we sometimes do things a different way to someone else, but we should all have an extremely high level of service, experience, responsibility and skill when choosing to specialise, or even start to make wedding cakes. I started six years ago with my first wedding cake, and that was only after I was trained and experienced enough to be truly confident in creating someone’s amazingly special, delicate and stress-inducing wedding cake! These days I still make wedding cakes with the utmost care and detail, not walking away until every detail is as absolutely perfect as I can possibly get it! It’s less stressful for me these days as I now have a few hundred under my belt, but there is always a huge amount of responsibility and pride in creating the edible show piece of your special once-in-a-lifetime day! Basically, choose someone who values your day as much as you do, and loves what they do (and that goes for any and all vendors you choose)! It really is an honour to be a part of someone’s wedding day, even in a small way, by creating their cake!
When you have a consultation, or even in your quote (via email), your decorator should explain the sizing of your cake, show you examples of that sizing, and let you know how many serves are included. They should let you know how many flavours you can have, and what options they offer. They should be able to describe and possibly show you the techniques and finish that you want, and also offer guidance on cake stands and the size (and sturdiness) required. If you’re having fresh flowers on your cake they should also know how to safely wire and tape them (and arrange them) just in case the florist doesn’t do that for them. Same for sugar flowers – they need to know how to make them and be skilled in that area.
Structure is another key element, and something you should ask about – if you have a tiered cake you need to ask what the internal structure is like (ie: how does it hold up during transport, and stay together?) Generally, each tier should have dowels to support the tier above, and anything from a tall 2 tier cake to a multi-tiered cake should have a centre dowel support. This is absolutely cannot-do-without-and-don’t-you-dare-not-structure-your-cake-properly stuff! (Decorators that was primarily for you!) As you can see, this is all stuff most of you wouldn’t know, but a little insider tip like this can save you from a cake wreck and a whole heap of drama by choosing someone that knows how to do this. (Yes sometimes decorators stack their cakes on site, but the kitchen still needs to move it, so you need to make sure it’s secure and structured well to avoid accidents).
One defining thing you will find with decorators is what they do and don’t specialise in, and you’ll find this out when you ask for a quote and send an inspo pic or two. Some decorators can create a lot of different styles and finishes, and others only specialise in just buttercream, or just fondant, or only other types of cakes. You need to know your cake decorator can make what your asking, so be specific with what you want, find inspiration pics, and think about what you want it to look like. Whatever you’re asking for needs to be in the decorator’s skill-set. If they aren’t experienced in what you want (or they’re unavailable), they should refer you to another professional who is skilled in that area.
Along with experience and training generally comes a higher price tag for cake. And before you go UH OH, think about it as a guarantee of peace of mind (especially when the decorator’s fabulous quality of work backs up their price). I’m not saying the best charge more and the less experienced always charge less (unfortunately that’s not always the case!) BUT you should not just choose someone because they are cheaper, OR more expensive! (AGAIN, RESEARCH IS KEY!) Ever heard that saying ‘Good cake isn’t cheap, and cheap cake isn’t good’? Sometimes it is that way (not always), but yes sometimes you get what you pay for… and we know this is true about furniture, hair cuts, and clothes, etc! Sometimes the investment you make means you get a superior product, and you are much more inclined to invest in that product because you know you won’t have to replace it, or have any problems with it once purchased (all this is backed up by your research too remember!) Just saying that things like unbelievably cheap cake quotes are sometimes a red flag. If you have a confident, skilled and accomplished professional, they should price their product accordingly. But you will see variations in price, and it is completely your choice with what you go with. One thing I do is allow the couple to pay off their wedding cake after an initial booking deposit is paid. This usually helps with costs, and if you do decide to go with someone who is fabulous and has a decent price tag (and might be more expensive than others), you generally won’t mind paying a little more to get your dream cake, as you don’t have to pay for it up-front, and you know you’re going to get an amazing cake.
You also need to compare apples with apples! As I mentioned, we all work differently, and we all have ways of making our cakes that are unique, or incorporate the way we were trained/ the way we learned. For example, I layer my cakes – this means each regular sized tier of cake has 3 layers of mud cake, and 2 layers of ganache in between, creating a 4-5 inch tall tier of cake. The cake is then coated in ganache, and sometimes sealed with fondant (as an example). But this isn’t always the case for everyone – some decorators don’t layer with anything, and others just have one layer of filling. Someone who doesn’t have 3 layers of cake probably won’t charge as much, as it takes them less time, so comparing the two is hard (like apples and oranges). It comes down to what you prefer! Layering and filling cakes breaks up the taste, keeps the cake moist and can also give flavour variations to your cake. Comparing apples to apples also means comparing each decorator’s experience and skill level as well – we aren’t all the same, so make sure you dive a little deeper to get to know us and ask about our background to set your worries at ease if we haven’t already told you, or if you haven’t read about us on our websites, etc.
Bottom line is research, ask questions, look, taste, compare, trust and invest in the person you know you’ll be happy and comfortable with to create your wedding cake. Hopefully you’re now more aware of what to look out for, what to ask, and how to tell if a decorator is indeed the right one for you!
Watch the vlog here;
Join me next Wednesday for a new vlog, and more in-depth blog post right here!