So you have an upcoming big event, be it a birthday, a baptism, an engagement or a wedding, and you need a cake! You settled on your budget (average price per slice of cake in Los Angeles is $4.50-6/serving) and found THE baker who will deliver the cake of your dreams.
Fantastic! But you’re not entirely off the hook yet.
I have had the luck of attending quite a few of the events I have baked for. Although it’s a little intimidating to be in a room full of people who have no idea YOU are the baker while they may or may not criticize the flavor (luckily it has never happened to me), I am so happy I attended those events because it was a huge eye opener for you, my customers. I want to share some of the no-no’s I witnessed first-hand that brought out the stern baker in me.
1. I once delivered a cake to a bridal shower I was attending and was told that there was no cake table setup in the room. I immediately got angry that my poor bride-to-be spent a lot of money on a cake that the hall wasn’t even planning on displaying and politely, but sternly told the hall to setup a cake table RIGHT NOW 🙂 They told me they would place the cake in the kitchen until the table was ready. Since I was a guest at the event, I impatiently waited for them to set up the table. About 30 minutes later I went to the kitchen to see what was going on and I almost had a heart attack right there and then. They placed my cake next to the HOT stove! The cake had over 40 sculpted sugar flowers which were quickly wilting away in the heat. The cake table was ready, but now the bride had to deal with a shiny, slightly wilted cake.
What the customer needs to learn from this: please discuss the cake table with the hall and your party coordinator. Make sure the table is setup and ready for the cake by the time your baker delivers. Some of these cakes weigh over 20 pounds and waiting around is not an option. Also, please discuss delivery times with your baker so that the cake does not end up in your hall’s refrigerator or kitchen. I personally don’t trust any kitchen other than my own with my cakes. Your hall will most likely place the cake next to the raw kebab meats ( yup, I’ve seen this happen. I quickly pulled my cake out of THAT fridge), or next to garlic (which will leach into your cake flavor) or next to a hot stove.
2. Cake tables are actually a very important detail. I have attended weddings where the bride spent $1200 upwards on a wedding cake only to see the cake displayed in the far, dark corner of the hall- neither the guests nor the bride could enjoy the aesthetics of the cake throughout the night. As a baker, I would take offense because I would like to show case my work. But I also get angry for the bride- after spending that much money on an important part of your night you want it show cased properly! I very recently delivered a wedding cake and the cake table was up against a wall. I realized it was an awkward setup for cake cutting but there was nothing I could do about it – even though it wasn’t my fault, guess who got the blame that the cake cutting experience was difficult and awkward? I did.
What the customer needs to learn from this: visit the hall with your wedding planner and discuss the prime location of the cake table. A good spot would be next to your sweetheart table or somewhere that has excellent lighting. Remember, you want to show off your unique cake design! A good idea is to setup the cake on a round table, away from the wall. This allows you to walk around the cake and choose an ideal spot for cake cutting. If this isn’t an option, consider discussing with the venue the possibility of rolling out the cake to the center of the room for the cake cutting.
3. This point is probably the most important one. I have attended many events (I’ll be honest, this happened mainly at weddings) where the cake cutting got delayed so late into the evening/night (midnight!!!) that more than half the guests were gone by the time the cake was served. Considering many bakers like me charge per serving, the bride just wasted a lot of money on her cake because most of it went un-eaten. Not only that, the cake itself went to waste because who wants to take 200 servings of cake home (ok, I know a lot of you are yelling “me! me! me!”). Pity the bride, but also pity the poor baker who labored for hours baking!
What the customer needs to learn from this: While meeting with your party coordinator, make sure you draft a firm schedule that includes cake cutting and servings. While the bride and groom get caught up dancing the night away, the hall will know exactly what time to serve the cake. I recommend serving the cake immediately after dinner while all your guests are still there! Also, I always tell my customers to order less servings than they really need. Just because you have 100 guests doesn’t mean everyone WANTS cake. We all know a few people who are on diets… Instead, I recommend ordering 80 servings of cake and doing faux tiers to achieve the grand look you originally wanted.
4. Faux cakes: it’s no secret a lot of brides want to have a display cake with a real tier for cutting, and sheet cakes in the kitchen for serving. After attending two weddings I baked for, I noticed the following issues:
– the faux cake was left on the cake table even as the sheet cakes were being served. I have seen guests go up to the cake and poke it to see if it was real or fake!!
– the venue CARRIES the faux cake to the kitchen, which has led to some disasters- one guy was so careless he actually dropped my top tier to the floor!
What the customer needs to learn from this: If you don’t want your guests to know the cake is a fake, make sure your wedding coordinator and venue work quickly to remove the cake from sight after the cake cutting. It is also important that the cake be rolled out on a cart to the kitchen, vs being carried out by a single person. It’s more embarrassing for you than it is for me if the cake is dropped on the floor and people realize it is a fake.
5. I recently received a complaint about my sheet cake moistness. I really get very few complaints (I can still count on one hand) so I was surprised when I heard that my cake was served dry. Considering I always do a taste test, it caught me off guard. I actually called the venue and asked how they served my cake. I always deliver my cakes chilled (not frozen) mainly because I live in Los Angeles where it’s always hot. I always tell the venues to keep the sheet cakes in a cool area of the kitchen, but not to place in the refrigerator. Turns out they kept it refrigerated up until an hour before serving- they then removed it from the refrigerator, cut and plated the servings and let them sit out for an hour before the guests were served. Two problems: the cake was probably still too cold by the time it made it to the guests, and leaving the servings exposed to the air for an hour will definitely dry it out!
What the customer needs to learn from this: It’s not always the baker’s fault if the cake is dry. The customer doesn’t know how the venue serves the cakes, so bare in mind that a lot of things are out of our hands! It may help to have your wedding coordinator peek into the kitchen to see if the cake was removed from the refrigerator early enough to let it come to room temperature, and to have them cut the sheet cakes right before serving.
6. On the topic of sheet cakes and cake servings, I have also witnessed a venue serving some of the staff and vendors before serving the guests. This was a surprise to me and I quickly realized that this would throw off the number of servings my customer and I agreed to.
What the customer needs to learn from this: If you plan on serving the vendors cake, make sure you communicate with the baker so the extra servings are accounted for! It would be completely unfair for the baker to be blamed for a shortage of servings otherwise!
I care about the money you invest in your cake, and I also care about the time I invest in them. 🙂 Congratulations on all your upcoming events- I hope these tips help you have your cake and eat it too!