Remember that you should take the same care in choosing your cake that you would in choosing the other food at your
reception, and that while appearance is important, flavor is just as crucial. You shouldn't settle for an "okay" cake any more
than you'd settle for food that was just okay but not what you really liked.
One amusing remark that I heard recently was that you don't see people posing with a half-eaten plate of food at wedding
receptions, but you do see them taking pictures of the cake. They'll remember (and talk about) a bad cake just as much as a
HIRING A BAKER:
Q: Why should I hire you to do my wedding cake?
A: I will make your wedding cake experience easy and worry-free. I take care of the delivery and setup myself, and you don't
have to lift a finger.
I bake from scratch, never use mixes, and I do a limited number of cakes per week. I can give your cake the attention that a
bigger bakery can't, because I'm not churning out 20 wedding cakes a week.
I've been doing this for over 15 years, so if something goes wrong I know how to fix it. But nothing will go wrong, because I
also know what not to do when delivering a wedding cake.
You'll get what you asked for, since I don't promise to do things that I know won't work just to get your business.
I'm licensed, insured and inspected by the state, so your cake won't give your guests food poisoning.
If I do your cake, it won't show up on the cakewrecks blog in the "what the bride wanted/what the bride got" section Check
them out here.
I know every reception venue in town, what their delivery issues are, and how to work cooperatively with other vendors. Your
cake is in safe hands with me.
Q: What do you NOT do?
I don't do cupcakes, and I only do groom's cakes for those clients who also buy their wedding cake from me.
Q: What should I be looking for when I interview bakers?
A: When interviewing your baker, you should ask a few basic questions. I think that scratch-vs-mix issue is the main
consideration because I personally don't like the taste and gummier texture of cake mixes. The majority of bakeries that do a
large number of cakes per week use a purchased mix to start, and may or may not add other ingredients to the mix to create
different flavors. (This is generally because the mixes contain chemicals that make it easier to maintain a consistent batter if
you have a large number of people who do the baking, and it's faster to use mixes for larger production kitchens.) Some
people claim that adding things to a cake mix counts as “baking from scratch,” but I disagree. I can taste the chemicals and
gums in the mixes, and I personally don't like them, so I don't ever use mixes in the wedding cakes that I sell. The taste may
or may not bother you, so ask if mixes are used and try samples of the baker's cakes before you hire him or her.
You should ask about the baker's experience with the type of decoration that you are thinking of for your cake, and if the
person you talk to is the one who will actually decorate it. No one is familiar with every decorating technique, so make sure
that the baker you hire is able to do what you want for your cake.
Ask how many cakes per week the bakery produces, to make sure that your wedding cake won't be lost in the shuffle of a
large production line.
You should also ask about delivery. Who will be delivering your cake, and what experience do they have? You want to be sure
that the delivery will go smoothly, and that the delivery person has the skills needed to fix the cake if something happens while
it's being delivered.
Ask specifically if the wedding cakes that you're being shown are cakes that the baker has made, or if they're photos of
cakes that someone else has made. I've seen photos of cakes in some bakers' portfolios and advertising that I know were
from other sources, such as books and magazines. I've also had people take pictures from my website, put them on theirs,
and claim that they made my cakes! It's unusual for people to do that, but it has been done, so make sure to ask.
Schedule a tasting appointment so that you can sample a few different flavors before committing to one. Bring photos of
wedding cakes that you like to the appointment so that the baker can see what you like and work with you to design a cake
that you will love. I prefer to design cakes individually for each client, but if you see a wedding cake that you love, I can make
it for you.
If you're not dealing with a larger, established business, ask if the baker is licensed, inspected by the Health Department, and
insured. Some reception venues don't allow you to bring in outside food from unlicensed vendors, so if you plan on having an
unlicensed vendor make your cake, check with the venue first. Their insurance may prevent them from taking the
responsibility for the cake.
Finally, make sure that you feel comfortable with the baker, and that they seem eager to help you make the perfect cake for
your big day.
Q: How far in advance should I hire a baker?
A: Many wedding magazines suggest 3 to 4 months in advance, but it depends on who you're planning to hire. If you decide
to use a larger bakery that does more cakes per weekend, that timetable might be fine since they'll have more availability.
However, if you decide to hire someone who does fewer cakes per week, like myself, I would book your date at least 5 or 6
months in advance, if not more. Also, if you are planning a wedding in a popular month (May, for example,) you might want to
start booking vendors farther out. Never feel that you're calling too far ahead!
Q: There's a friend of a friend who says that she will do my wedding cake, but she doesn't have a cake business. What
should I watch out for?
A: I would advise brides to stay away from relying too much on family and friends to do jobs at your wedding. There are some
details that you might get people who'd like to help with do, such as make wedding favors, address invitations, etc., but for
large jobs such as photography, flowers, and cakes you should get someone experienced. If that's a friend, great, but be
aware that you should still sit down with them and get a contract spelling out the specifics. I've received many calls from
people in a panic because the friend who was going to make their cake backed out the week before the wedding because
she was suddenly too busy to do it. If you have a contract, then you at least have some assurance that the person will be
responsible for your cake. It might also make someone who isn't really taking your cake seriously see that they'd better think
about it before promising to do the work for you.
If you haven't seen the cakewrecks blog yet, and you haven't experienced the entries for “what the bride wanted/what the
bride got” then got to cakewrecks.com and do a search for wedding cakes. Yet another reason to hire a professional!
Q: Do you do cupcakes?
A: I don't do cupcaks.
Q: Can I buy only a groom's cake from you, but not the wedding cake?
A: I will only do groom's cakes at receptions if I'm also doing the wedding cake. This is because my reputation is dependent
on the quality of the cake, and if a cake that's not up to my standards is served alongside one that I made, your guests have
no way of knowing that and it could reflect badly on my work. Also, if multiple bakers are being used and there's something
physically wrong with one of the cakes, I could be blamed for something that I wasn't involved with.
Q: How can I cut the my costs for the wedding?
A: For me, and for every other wedding vendor in the world, here's the trick to cutting your costs: Get the guest list under
control! The price of everything is based on the number of guests that you have. There have been a lot of articles in
magazines, newspapers and online recently dedicated to cutting wedding costs, but I haven't seen one that suggested cutting
the guest list.
It's common sense...A cake (or dinner, or invitations, etc.) for 100 people will cost less than a cake for 300. A cake for 50
people will cost less than a cake for 100. If you can rein in the guest list you will cut your costs across the board. Remember
when you're pricing out ANY wedding service that the vendor's
numbers are based on your numbers. If you have only X amount for your wedding budget, it's easier to decide how many
people that will cover, rather than inviting everyone and their cousin and then trying to fit your budget around that number.
Q: Why are wedding cakes so much more expensive than cakes that you buy at the bakery?
A: There are a couple of reasons for this, mainly quality and quantity. In the first place, wedding cakes are just bigger than a
sheet cake! The more servings, the more anything will cost. Taking 50 people out to a restaurant for dessert will be more than
taking 5 people. In addition, bakery sheet cakes are usually baked in bulk, often frozen and shipped in from a separate
location, sometimes pre-decorated as well, then pulled out of the freezer and decorated as needed. This will cut down on
cost, but certainly doesn't enhance the quality of the cake.
Wedding cakes are also much more labor-intensive than a basic birthday cake. The difference lies in the fact that many of the
decorations on a wedding cake have to be made ahead of time, and the cake itself takes much longer to assemble due to the
fact that they're larger. They're built with a system of supports and separators that prevent them from collapsing, and it takes
time to put it all together.
I will generally bake the cakes two days before the wedding, frost and get them ready for assembly the day before, and finish
decorating the day of the wedding, often assembling them at the reception site. For wedding cakes with perishable fillings and
icing, I will sometimes wait until the morning of the wedding to frost and decorate the cake. The cost of the ingredients, while
more for some types of cake than others, is usually not the deciding factor in the cost of a wedding cake. Rather, the type of
decoration and the time involved in assembling the cake itself is what determines the final cost. You are also paying for the
expertise of the baker/decorator, and this is one time that you often “get what you pay for.”
In addition, the planning process for a wedding cake involves tasting appointments, multiple client contacts, etc., so that also
adds to the total time required to produce a cake.
People often ask me how long it takes to do one cake. That's hard to say, because there's time included in shopping for
ingredients, prepping, making decorations in advance, baking, decorating, and cleaning up. In a normal week I'll work 30-40
hours total, and during the busy “wedding season” months I'll often work 60-70 hours a week once everything is said and
Q: How are wedding cakes priced?
A: It depends on the baker. These days, most people charge by the serving, although some people still charge by the pound.
Keep in mind, however, that you won't know the true cost of a cake until all the fees are added up, including delivery fees, “art
fees” (which is another way of saying decorations for the cake,)extra fees for different flavors on each tier, etc. Everyone
calculates the cost of their cakes differently, so one person's seemingly lower beginning price may not end up being any lower
once all of the other factors are added in. People can say that prices start at $2 a serving, then add all kinds of decorating
fees, extra charges for fillings and flavors, cake shapes, etc., and end up at more than $5 or $6 a serving.
I calculate my prices based on a flat per-cake price plus a delivery fee. The per-cake price is based entirely on the size of the
cake plus the cake design itself, so I can't really give a firm price until I work out a design for your wedding cake with you. A
general range for an average-sized, basically-decorated cake if there will be 120 guests attending your reception would be
somewhere between $350 and $450 including tax and delivery, depending on cake design, whether you want buttercream or
fondant, etc. More guests will obviously increase the final cost, as will more detailed decorations.
Feel free to email with questions about pricing on specific cakes designs, and I'll try to give you a ballpark estimate.
Q: Do you charge more for different shapes, such as squares?
A: No I set my pricing by the size of the cake, not by the shape. Square cakes will give you more servings per tier than round
ones, but that just affects the number of tiers on the cake, not the overall number of servings that you have to buy. The only
limiting factor with the non-round cakes is the sizes of pans available, but most bakers should have a good selection of cake
pan sizes, and shouldn't have to carve different shapes out of larger cakes
Q: I've heard about renting fake cakes as a cost-effective way to have a cake made.
A: Wedding magazines and talk shows have recently been pushing this as a great money-saving technique, but all I can think
is that they haven't been doing any real research about it. I think that any savings you might see by doing this would only
materialize if you're in an area where cakes generally sell for a LOT of money. Remember that on top of the cost of the cake
you'd have to pay for shipping to and from the rental shop if it's out of your area, plus you'd have to buy sheet cakes to serve
your guests. I've priced this out compared to the average cost of one of my cakes, and even if you buy sheet cakes from a
grocery store it ends up being more to rent a fake cake. Personally, I see no point in doing that, since it just adds something
else to your to-do list for after the wedding. If you're in an area where you can't get custom designs, or the prices for cakes
are very high, it might make financial sense, but for the Richmond area it really doesn't.
Look at it this way: It takes the same amount of time and materials to decorate a styrofoam cake as it does to decorate a real
cake. It takes the same amount of gas and time to deliver it, and after you pay for the fake one you still have to buy sheet
cakes to serve your guests. I personally wouldn't make a fake cake that I put the time into designing and decorating where
the actual cake being served was coming from a warehouse store that doesn't use butter in their icing and prepares
everything from pre-made, frozen sheets. Call me crazy, but I don't think that would reflect well on me! Why not just buy a
cake that's beautiful, decorated the way that you want it to be done, baked just for you and not frozen ahead of time, and
actually tastes good?
Q: What about having fake tiers to make a small cake larger?
A: You can add a styrofoam tier to a smaller cake , but you'll still need to buy enough cake to serve your guests, so it won't be
a money-saving move. Styrofoam cake dummies aren't really cheap, and often cost as much or more as the ingredients for
the cake, depending on how big they are. Your baker can add one to a smaller cake to make it look bigger, but since the
main cost of a wedding cake is the time to decorate it, you'll need to budget for paying your baker to decorate the dummy as
well. Renting a cake stand might be a better option to elevate the cake off of the table if you're worried about the height
looking too small.
Q: I have a limited budget, and I'm not sure if I can get the cake I want for what I can afford to spend.
A: Don't be afraid to bring up your budget with your baker or other vendors. I would rather have someone tell me how much
they've been planning on spending up front rather than finding out after we've gone through the design process that the cake
we've worked out is beyond their means. I find that most people who come to talk to me have a reasonable idea of how much
a cake will be, but the cost of some types of decorations can add up. It's better to talk about your budget right away if it's a
big issue, so that we can work with it while designing the cake. In addition, please keep in mind that when dividing up your
budget into categories, you should put the most money into areas that are important to you. If you really want a certain cake,
it will be worth it to pay a little more to get it and spend less on something that isn't as important to you.
Q: Do you offer a “budget” cake option?
A: Some bakers have started offering a cake “special” or a budget option, but I've chosen not to do this for a few reasons. I
prefer to work with each client individually so that I can do a cake that will really fit you and your event. Most budget options
that I've seen restrict you to no tasting appointment, the top tier isn't included for free so you have no anniversary cake, and
there are restrictions on design and flavors. As soon as you want any type of changes to the design, you're back to the
regular pricing. If that's what you're looking for, I'd go ahead and get it, but I prefer to work one-on-one with each client as
opposed to selling cakes from a catalog. If you have a firm budget that you need to stay within, by all means let me know right
away. I'll tell you honestly what we can and can't do, and you'll still get a custom cake that fits your budget.
Many bakers have publicly states on cake sits that they use the budget option to lure clients in, they they upsell them so that
they’re right back to their regular pricing. I’m not interested in that kind of bait and swtich, so I’ll leave that to the shifty people.
Q: I'm trying to figure out ways to cut the budget down. Is there a good way to cut the amount I'll spend on the cake?
A: There are ways to keep your costs down (the main one being the above-mentioned controlling your guest list). I have
talked to many people who want to pay less for the cake in an effort to make up for overages in other areas of their costs, but
there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, as I mention above, the wedding cake is the centerpiece of your reception.
Your guests will be looking at it before you arrive, all through the reception until it's cut, and it will figure prominently in the
photos of your cake cutting ceremony. I once spent a very amusing wedding reception watching a poorly built wedding cake
tilt slowly as the night went on, and while it made for interesting conversation with the other guests, that probably isn't the kind
of attention you want your cake to get. Second, most bakers can give you a lower price, but to do this you'll be limiting the
types of designs that you can choose. Talk to your baker, but people need to realize that certain cake designs just cost more
than others due to the labor involved and the skill of the baker.
CAKE DESIGN/ORDERING SPECIFICS:
Q: What about using fresh flowers on the cake instead of sugar ones?
A: Different bakers have different responses to this question. Some won't use anything on a cake that isn't edible, so won't
put fresh flowers on their cakes at all. Others prefer fresh flowers, often because they're doing a lot of cakes per day so the
decorating is less labor-intensive that way. Because I don't like the idea of having flowers that have been treated with floral
preservatives and pesticides touching the icing, I prefer to do sugar flowers for my cakes. However, I will put fresh flowers on
the cake if I can get in touch with the florist beforehand to work out the details. I will place the flowers on the cake myself if the
florist leaves them at the reception site for me...I actually prefer to do that to make sure that stems aren't inserted into the
cake itself. (Keep in mind that some flowers are poisonous, so shouldn't be used on a cake at all. In that case, the sugar
version is a better option.)
Q: I want to have an outdoor reception. How will this affect my cake choices?
A: Since heat is the natural enemy of buttercream, an outdoor reception will limit your choices, sometimes severely.
Depending on the weather, you may have to go with fondant as a covering for your cake, since buttercreams will melt and
slide off the cake if it's too hot. (Some types of buttercream will hold up better than others, but they're all subject to being
damaged by the heat.) You may also have to avoid fillings that are perishable, depending on how long the cake will be sitting
out in the heat. If it's at all possible, you could arrange to keep the cake in an air-conditioned area until it's time to cut it, and
this might open up your options a little. Depending on the month, I won't do buttercream for outdoor weddings at all.
Q: My baker said that they can adjust the recipe of the buttercream, and that it will hold up in the heat so that I don't have to
A: When bakers talk about “adjusting the formula” for buttercream, they're talking about making a confectioner's sugar-based
icing that has more crisco than butter in it. Sometimes, there ends up being no butter at all. There are techniques to get
buttercream to look like rolled fondant, but they involve large amounts of thick crisco icing and very little real butter. If you like
that it's fine (some people like the super-sweet icings) but I wouldn't put crisco on my toast, so I don't want it to be the only
shortening in my icing.
I use both confectioner's sugar icing, which has equal amounts of butter and shortening, and Italian buttercreams, which are
true European buttercreams with no shortening at all. Food preferences really are personal, so I will use either or both of
those types of icings depending on what the bride and groom like. I just think that a buttercream should have butter in it, so
unless there's a really compelling reason I don't change the formulas of my icings to eliminate the butter.
Q: How much cake should I order?
A: In general, you should see how many guests will be at the reception and order a cake for about 80% of that number.
However, there are many other factors that might affect how many servings you'll need, including how many flavors of cake
you choose to have, whether you'll be serving alcohol at the reception, whether your friends and family are big cake-eaters or
not, and whether the wedding cake will be the only dessert. You should discuss these factors with your baker to decide on a
Q: I would like to have a cheesecake wedding cake instead of a regular cake. How does that change my options?
A: Cheesecakes can be a delicious and interesting alternative to traditional butter cakes. I make my cheesecakes in two
layers, with a layer of filling, just like a “regular” wedding cake. They're iced with a meringue buttercream, and can be
decorated the same way as butter cakes. However, if you're having an outdoor reception in the summer months, you should
forget about a cheesecake for the main wedding cake. The heat and the perishability of the cheesecake will not work well
together. I generally won't do cheesecakes during the summer months at all.
Q: Do you ship cakes? And do you deliver?
A: I don't ship cakes at all because it's just too dicey a proposition. I deliver in the Greater Richmond area, but outside of that
it depends on my schedule for the day in question. There are added delivery fees for locations outside of Richmond.
If you're feeling adventurous, and if the cake in question is small and will travel well (depending on its design, etc.) I am willing
to allow you to pick the cake up and transport it yourself. If you choose to do that, though, you have to be willing to take
responsibility for the cake when you drive off, and your choices of fillings, etc., may be more limited due to lack of refrigeration
Q: Can I get more than one flavor of cake, or does it all have to be the same?
A: I can do different flavors of cake on separate tiers with no extra charge. If you do choose to have more than two flavors you
may want to order a larger cake than you would normally, because people tend to go back for seconds if there are more than
Q: I have concerns about food allergies/special diet requirements (vegetarian, etc).
A: I can do vegan cakes and since I bake from scratch I can tailor my recipes around certain food allergies.
For nut allergies I can keep nuts out of the baking process, but you need to be aware that I do bake with nuts at certain
times, so the appropriate warning would be that the cakes are processed in a facility that also processes nut
products. For more information, see the link on the flavors and pricing page that addresses special-diet cakes.
Q: I saw a cake in a wedding magazine that I love. Would it be possible for a baker to copy it?
A: It's possible, but be aware that many of the cakes that are shown in magazines are very labor-intensive. When you get a
price quote from a baker for the design that you want, it may be substantially more than you were planning on budgeting for
the cake. If that's the case, you should work with your baker to imitate the elements of your cake that you love, but eliminate
some of the other details.
Also remember that cakes in magazine shoots are generally dummies, which means that they are styrofoam forms that have
been decorated like a real cake. Because of this, some designs that are shown in magazines are impractical for real cakes,
and are done mainly for artistic purposes.
Also, keep in mind that since cakes are decorated by hand, each person's style will be slightly different. I can mimic designs
pretty well, but there will always be the imprint of my style on the cake. For example, I tend to make flowers in a “soft” style, so
if you brought a picture of a cake with very precise, angular-style flowers, I won't be able to make them look EXACTLY the
same. I'm detail-oriented, but I'm not an extremely fussy person, so my cake designs tend to reflect that!
Q: I'm going crazy trying to narrow down my cake options. Any suggestions?
A: If you're confused by all the design options out there you're not alone. I often tell people that one way to narrow down what
you want if you're totally lost is to look at your wedding dress. If there's a specific design element in the lace or the embroidery
that you love, it can often be recreated on the cake. Have your baker look at your dress with you, and you might be surprised
at how easily you decide on a cake design. You should also think about the overall tone of your wedding. For example, a
casual outdoor reception might call for a different cake design than a sit-down dinner for 200 at a formal club. You can also
go to the cake design ideas page on this website to get started.
Q: One baker I spoke to told me that the bottom tier had to be pound cake. Is that right?
A: I've heard things like this before, but I have no idea where the idea came from! It might be traditional in some areas to use
a pound cake for the bottom tier, and perhaps some bakers were just taught that and have always done it that way.
There's no reason that a cake has to be any specific flavor. Wedding cakes are constructed in such a way that the tiers aren't
resting on each other, they're resting on supports that are placed inside the tiers below them. You could do an angel food
cake for the bottom tier if you wanted to, and as long as the cake is constructed and assembled correctly it should make no
Q: I have a family recipe that I'd like to use. Is that something that can be done?
A: As long as I can try the recipe out first, and I know that it will work, I will do that.
Q: I have a family member who has offered to make the wedding cake for me, but she doesn't want to decorate it. Will a baker
decorate it for me?
A: I won't do this because of liability insurance and the requirement of many venues that the baker have a licensed business.
My kitchen is inspected by state health inspectors, and all of my recipes have been approved by the department of
agriculture, so if I'm bringing food in to decorate I'd probably be violating some restriction somewhere! I will use a family
member's recipe if that's the issue, but I won't use cakes that someone else has baked.
I do have an etsy shop that sells "cake kits" that include gumpaste flowers, and if you have someone who wants to make the
cake then buy those, they can decorate the cake using them.
Q: Do you have a blog?
A: Yes, I have a blog... I also have a facebook page, and you can follow acaketoremember on Twitter and Pinterest.