I’ve created a lot of wedding cakes over my time in this industry, and there are certain things you need to check on before you book in your wedding cake (as well as most other vendors!). Every cake decorator is different- each will work a different way, follow a different process, request a different set of info from you, create a different finished product. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to select your wedding cake maker, because what works for you may not work for someone else, but no matter who you go to, it’s important to understand certain elements of how your potential cake decorator works. Here are ten questions to ask your shortlist of cake decorators, to help you make a final decision.
How far in advance should I book?
Most decorators will tell you straight up, the sooner the better, but each decorator will be a bit different in their lead times. Cakes are a time-consuming thing to make, so some decorators may only have a small window of availability to take on orders, and therefore may request a lot of notice to fit you in. Bigger businesses (perhaps with whole teams of decorators working) may have a shorter lead time request for orders, meaning you don’t need to book in until closer to the date. But by asking, you will get a better understanding of how much time you have to either make a decision, or get together the deposit needed to secure your spot.
How much is the deposit, and is it refundable?
As with most other types of vendors, a deposit will be a must for securing your wedding cake. It’s important to check how much they will ask of you, so you can ensure it fits in your budget, and it’s also important to check if anything happens, and you need to cancel your order, what their refund policy is.
Do you provide cake tastings?
If for no other reason than the chance to eat cake, asking if your potential decorator does cake tastings will give you a chance to try different flavours and combos, and make a decision on what you will serve to your guests. And with the vast variety of cake flavours out there these days, it can be difficult to make a choice! Find out when, where, and what it costs (if anything) to taste before choosing.
Does the quoted size include or exclude the top tier?
The tradition of keeping and saving the top tier is not as popular these days- and the choice of fruit cake for said top tier is even less popular (in four years of working with engaged couples, I can count the number of fruit cake top tiers I’ve been asked to do on one hand). But that’s not to say the tradition is completely forgotten- and some decorators may automatically assume the top tier will be kept, so it is important to check that when they quote based on a size and the servings it will give, that it includes the top tier. Of course, if you are opting to keep the top tier, the reverse is important- tell them you want to keep it, and ensure they quote on a big enough size to feed your guests, excluding the top tier.
How much is the delivery fee?
For the most part, the quote on a cake will not likely include the delivery fee. Distance will make a difference to the cost of delivery (a great reason for looking for vendors in the area that your wedding is being held), so make sure to check what it will cost to get them to deliver to your venue. If you are opting for a vendor who is a long way from your venue location, you may also choose to ask if there is an option for someone to pick up your cake for you, and take it to the venue instead.
Are there any additional costs?
Cakes vary in size, detail, and decoration. Depending on how your cake decorator works, they may quote on a base cost at the beginning, with additional extras added on later, or they may confirm a full design and provide a final costing at the very beginning. The level of detail applied to a cake may alter that base cost though- things such as sugar flowers, or intricate beading, or perhaps even customised flavours or fillings may add additional costs. Your decorator should advise that certain additions or changes will incur additional fees, but it’s best to ask if they don’t mention anything upfront. Also bear in mind some decorators may charge things like administration fees if late changes or requests are received etc.
Do you work with buttercream or fondant?
As someone who works exclusively with fondant, this is one of the most important things my clients need to know. Some decorators will happily work with both, but some will work with only one or the other. If you have your heart set on a particular style, it will be easier to find someone who uses the frosting you prefer, as opposed to trying to convince someone to use something different (and you’ll probably get a better result!).
Can I opt for fresh flowers on my cake, and do you provide them, or my florist?
Most cake decorators will be fine with having fresh flowers put onto their cakes. Each decorator will have their own set of requirements in terms of preparation and handling of said flowers, and some may request your florist look after them, but if you’re going with fresh, be sure to ask their policy on using them, and if it affects any part of your cake process (such as providing additional contact and info between your cake decorator and your florist). My top tip here is to opt for your florist to provide the fresh flowers for your cake (if allowed), simply to ensure that they match the rest of your floral décor.
Do you provide a cake stand?
If you’re opting for having your cake on a stand, the first person you’ll probably check with is going to be your cake decorator. Not all of them will have stands for hire, so if they don’t, ask them if they have a preferred supplier you can contact, and if you can liaise with both parties to confirm size, colour, and style to match your cake.
Do you make custom designs, or do we choose from a set selection?
There are two elements to this question. The first is about ensuring you’re going to be able to fit your cake in with the vision of your day. If you have a highly elaborate idea in mind, but you’re opting for a decorator who has a set selection of designs to choose from (and if they do, they are generally tweakable), you may have some difficulties. Of course, if you have absolutely no idea what sort of style you want, being able to be guided by a selection of designs will be perfect for you. The second element is about choosing someone who creates along the same line you’re thinking. Even decorators who do custom designs will have a specific style, so be sure to check what their limitations are (or simply take a look at their portfolio to get a better idea of what they might be able to do for you!).
There’s a lot to know about organising your wedding cake (well, there’s a lot to know about organising a whole lot of your wedding!), but by getting all the information at the start, you’ll find the process clear, easy, and a whole lot of sweet fun. Enjoy!