Is it a good idea to let a friend or relative make my wedding cake?
Please read this blog post in the spirit with which it was intended. I’m not wishing to preach to you or to scare you – all I want to do with this post is to educate you about the makings of a wedding cake, so that you can make informed decisions. I hope you find it informative – many thanks, Gaynor
So, you’ve recently gotten engaged – congratulations! Having nailed down the venue, dressmaker and photographer – that gets the big items out of the way. Now you can get your head around the other suppliers such as DJ, stationery and of course your wedding cake.
Your favourite aunt (or bestie) gets in touch and says – “hey, I love making cakes; please let me make your wedding cake. It will be my wedding gift to you both!”
You think: “Wow, that’s fantastic! I get a beautiful cake for my wedding and it’s all paid for. One less thing to worry about.”
It all sounds perfect. But, before you accept this most generous and very loving offer, consider the following reasons why it may not actually be a good idea.
A serious time commitment is needed to create a wedding cake.
Planning and researching the design of the cake can take quite a few hours, both for you and your cake creator. You may have chosen something quite intricate that requires careful thought to be sure it can be achieved, or you may have a general idea and want some guidance or suggestions. These processes take time.
Unlike other aspects of your wedding, making your wedding cake cannot be done weeks or months ahead of your Special Day. It all happens in the 72 hours before you say “I do”. Will your aunt (friend) be able to set aside 3 or 4 full working days to do this or will other priorities such as work and family commitments get in the way?
The cake is made – phew! But the time commitment doesn’t stop there. On the day of your wedding, the cake must be transported to the venue and then constructed and decorated. This all has to happen ahead of your guests arriving at the reception. If you are getting married away from the venue, then there’s a problem as your aunt (friend) can’t be in two places at once.
Skill and Know-how
Your wedding cake is not just any cake. It’s the cake you have always pictured in your mind for your wedding day. It’s the cake that makes a statement about you as a couple. It’s the cake that will be seen and admired by all your guests and ultimately tasted. It is hugely important that this is the best cake ever!
This is not about whether your aunt (friend) can make cakes – I’m sure that they can make the most amazing, delicious cakes; but rather if she can make a wedding cake.
To create a wedding cake that lives up to your dream requires skill and know-how. It doesn’t happen by luck or good fortune on the day.
The skill and know-how needed to create your dream cake is built up by making many wedding cakes. All of which will be different, because all of those couples are different. Each cake will require a combination of basic and specialist techniques.
Just to illustrate the point: each cake layer should first be “torted” – which means that it is cut so that it is exactly flat. A basic technique, but it still needs practice to get right. Who at home ever bothers to torte their cake? Without this step, by the time the 3rd tier goes on, the cake could start to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
To round off skill and know-how – transporting the cake and setting up at the venue is a skill in itself. Getting a fully formed 3 tier cake to survive a car journey (along a dirt road?) is a minor miracle in itself. For this reason, very often, each tier is transported separately. At the venue, the cake is constructed, which can be just as nerve-wracking as transporting it. The venue is not the familiar surrounds of your aunt’s kitchen, sometimes there is very little room in which to work and the clock is ticking. This is most definitely not like making a cake at home!
Skill and know-how alone won’t go very far to make your perfect wedding cake.
Baking equipment – a lot of it – is needed to empower the skill and know-how. The obvious candidates will immediately come to mind, such as oven, mixer, cake pans and fridge.
Unfortunately, the list doesn’t stop there. To prepare, cover and decorate the cake can require a whole mass of tools and aids. The more elaborate the decoration, the more tools may be required.
When it comes to your wedding cake, size does matter. Is the oven big enough to take multiple cake pans? Can the mixer cope with the amount of cake batter that has to be mixed up? And finally, is there enough room in the fridge to take the tiers that make up your cake?
Another aspect to consider is where your cake will be baked and decorated. Unless your aunt (friend) is lucky enough to have a dedicated studio, the kitchen in which your cake will live for 3-4 days is also where the family dinner gets prepared. Your cake must compete for room with all the pots, pans and dishes that will come out, get used, washed and go away again – not to mention the comings and goings of other folks and possibly pets. Just imagine your cake in the fridge, surrounded by the contents of a normal family fridge! Without having to worry about cross-contamination, just think about the hassle for your cake and its creator.
Wedding cakes can cost a lot of money. But then, everything about a wedding costs a lot of money!
On average, for a typical R100k wedding, the cake may cost around 5% of the budget. If you are looking to make some savings on your budget, the cake is probably not the best place to visit, given the mountain of hassle that will be visited upon the kindly aunt who has volunteered to create your cake.
Standing in the shoes of your aunt (friend), it is probable that when she offered to gift you the cake, she was just thinking about the cost of the ingredients.
It is pretty unlikely that either you or your aunt (friend) will prepare a detailed costing of what will be required to create the cake from bag of flour to sitting on a cake stand. So, as the process goes on and the shopping lists get longer, your aunt will begin to realise that the cost of the gift she has generously offered is an awful lot more than anyone expected.
What if it all goes wrong
This is where you cake gets to be famous on YouTube for all the wrong reasons.
Months ago, you agreed on the most beautiful design with a photo from Pinterest and now the cake sitting in the middle of the room looks nothing like it at all. The colours are all wrong, the icing is all saggy and yep “Leaning Tower of Pisa”! If you surf YouTube or Pinterest for fails, you will see many examples. Please don’t be one of them!
There’s a whole host of things that can go wrong. An experienced cake creator works really hard to minimise all the risks and learns from the oopsies for the next time.
Is it fair?
At the time of the offer to create your wedding cake, it all seemed such a fantastic, kind, amazing idea.
But now that you know that there’s so much more to it than meets the eye, it may actually not be fair on either of you to accept this generous offer.
For an experienced cake creator every commission takes a lot of time, concentration and often a bit of stress – but this is the job.
Is it fair to allow a relative or friend to take this on?
My advice is to thank your aunt or friend for their very kind, loving and generous offer by perhaps saying “your company is all the gift we need”.