Sifting Through Wedding Bakeries

Check out my new interview on Wedding Venture to learn everything you need to know when selecting a wedding bakery.

4 Essential Questions to Ask About Your Gluten-Free Wedding Cake

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The cake is a centerpiece of wedding celebration, so it’s important that you have one that everyone in your party will enjoy — including those with dietary restrictions. For many couples, that means a gluten-free wedding cake is a must. But as anyone who’s tried their hand at gluten-free baking knows, these specialty recipes aren’t necessarily a piece of cake. That’s why it’s important to turn to the experts for advice before you order a gluten-free cake for your special day. Libby Godecke, principal baker at Chicago Custom Cakes and gluten-free baking expert, shares four essential questions to ask your baker when ordering a gluten-free wedding cake:


Question #1: What’s your setup?
This is an increasingly important question as more and more bakeries provide gluten-free offerings. Depending on the severity of the gluten intolerance, you’ll want to understand the risk of potential cross-contamination. Ask about the kitchen layout: is it a commercial kitchen, is the kitchen shared, is it a completely gluten-free building? Inquire about the sanitation practices, and what kinds of extra cross-contamination courses or certifications your baker might have taken to get a better sense of the baker’s expertise.


The right choice for your wedding cake will depend on a lot of factors. If you’re dealing with a deadly serious allergy, it’s best to try to locate an entirely gluten-free specialty bakery so the risk of cross-contamination is zero. But if the intolerance isn’t life-threatening, bakeries that are careful with their ingredients and sanitation practices should be just fine. Only you know what level of caution is right for you, but you can’t make the right decision unless you have all the information. So make sure you ask!


Question #2: Can I get a bite?
Of course, everyone wants to like the taste of their wedding cake. But this step is especially important for gluten-free cakes, because every baker’s gluten-free recipe is a little different. This can get especially tricky when it comes to flavor, since bakers use a variety of ingredients for their bases and some of these can come through the cake more strongly than others.


Some bakers will use a nut base, which can work well with rich flavors like chocolate. But nutty undertones don’t always blend well with delicate flavors like vanilla, not to mention the potential nut allergy concerns. Of course, not all bakers use nuts — many (including Chicago Custom Cakes) also use potato, rice, and tapioca as the non-gluten starch base, or a chickpea formula. The base flavor of the cake will also have an effect on not just the taste, but the texture, too. Gluten-free chocolate can get a bit spongier, while vanilla tends to be a bit more dense. The best way to figure out if you like the flavor and the texture is to try it! Even if you’re confident that your gluten-free vanilla cake will taste amazing, don’t skip the sample. You want to be sure.

Finally, if you want a specialty flavor, make sure to speak up early! Because of the amount of orders they process, some larger bakeries may not have as much flexibility to create specialty
flavors. But there are plenty of smaller bakers out there who have the time to dedicate to make a specialty flavor happen. These bakeries are willing to go above and beyond to help you achieve your perfect cake. It’s always worth asking!


Question #3: What kinds of cake can I get?
Deciding you want a wedding cake is just step one. These days, there are so many different options for cakes presentation that you’ll be able to tailor one to meet the exact needs of your wedding reception. For example, if it’s only one half of the happy couple who has a gluten sensitivity (and it’s not severe), a tiered cake might be a promising option — you can arrange your cake so that only the top tier is gluten free. That way, when you slice into it you’ll be able to enjoy a slice of the gluten-free goodness without paying for an entirely gluten-free cake.


And if you have a mix of guests that are gluten free and those with no dietary restrictions, a popular option is to order separate satellite cakes or cupcakes. You’ll get a gorgeous visual with the array of cakes, and everyone will be able to satisfy their sweet tooth. And if you like dabbling in wedding cake trends, consider cake pops or their newer cousin, cake shots. These bite-sized treats make for a great photo op, encourage mingling, and are just as yummy as a regular slice of cake.


Question #4: When do we make it official?
The last thing you want is to procrastinate and be caught without a wedding cake. Although gluten-free cakes are becoming more common, they’re still just a fraction of the popularity of traditional cakes. That means that specialty bakeries — especially those that are entirely gluten-free — tend to book up very quickly. To be on the safe side, book your cake at leas  three months before your wedding day — earlier if possible. Aside from the price, you’ll also want to inquire about the process of paying for the cake. How much is the deposit? Can you request flavor or decoration changes before the big day, or are you locked in when you sign? When does the bakery need a final headcount? Many bakery owners know that wedding plans can change as you get closer to the date, and are willing to work with you to get the perfect cake. Make sure to ask what your baker’s ideal timeline is for confirming your order and receiving your payments, so you can plan ahead.


A gluten intolerance doesn’t mean you have to give up the wedding cake of your dreams. These four questions will help you get the perfect gluten-free wedding cake for your special day!

The Biggest Cake of 2018

 © Kensington Palace Twitter

© Kensington Palace Twitter

The world watched this weekend's royal wedding with great anticipation. It goes without saying that every choice, from the dress, to the bouquet, to the music, will be setting trends for years to come. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding cake felt like a breath of fresh air, with its understated elegance and simple beauty. Many of its unique elements can be used to inspire your own wedding cake.

As most people have heard by now, the cake was composed of lemon sponge, with Amalfi lemon curd and elderflower butter cream filling.  A light and fluffy elderberry Swiss meringue butter cream covered the cake, and it was decorated with 150 fresh flowers, including peonies, garden roses and greenery.

The cake featured a butter cream finish. The icing looked organic and natural and even had a certain rustic, casual elegance. The swoops of icing really showcased the texture of the Swiss meringue butter cream. Swiss meringue has a silkier texture and is less sweet than American style butter cream. You can almost taste the light and airy flavor. Butter cream has been becoming more popular in the United States, but is still seen mostly at more informal occasions. The royal wedding will cement butter cream’s place as a modern favorite even for the most formal weddings.

There was a lot of talk about the flavor of the cake. After all, a wedding cake is the sweet spot in a reception and the taste is key. This cake combined a classic wedding sponge cake flavor, lemon, with a less traditional elderberry syrup and butter cream. It's a lovely way to make the cake something all guests are familiar with and can enjoy, with a little surprise that speaks to a couples' preferences.

What really set the cake apart was the unique way the cake was constructed and displayed. The royal wedding cake was a two tier, straight stacked caked, along with two smaller satellite cakes. Straight stacked cakes are multi tier cakes stacked without pillars or separators between each layer. Satellite cakes are single tier cakes that are not part of the stacked cake, but are placed on platforms that complement the main cake. It is unexpected for such a formal wedding with so many guests to feature only a two tier cake. Royal wedding cakes of the past have impressed with their height. Princess Diana’s wedding cake used pillars to separate five tiers of cake. Straight stacked cakes have been popular since the 90s, but this modern take on the satellite cake shows that modern brides have the confidence to look beyond height to impress their guests.

The use of fresh flowers on the cake is also a break with more traditional formal wedding cakes. Prince William and Kate Middleton’s cake incorporated over 900 sugar flowers, ribbons and bows.  Many people feel that these more costly design elements are the best fit for formal occasions. This cake went in the other direction, featuring local, in-season blossoms with lots of foliage. While sugar flowers can wow guests with their intricate, hand crafted detail, using real flowers gives the cake a natural, easy beauty.

The final aspect that sets this cake apart is the unique styling of the main and supplemental cakes. The satellite cakes used cake stands of varying heights to create a graceful and elegant design. The tiered cake was placed upon a more traditional antique, footed, gold cake stand.   It managed to look magnificent, yet not distracting. The side cakes were on two less traditional, urn-like stands. They were stunning pieces from the royal family’s collection. The table was complete with white table cloth and more foliage. The whole effect was effortless elegance.

When it comes to modern wedding cake, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle show us that there are no rules. Couples are free to select luxurious cakes for casual weddings and even the most regal of occasions can highlight a caked with a more relaxed style.  In the end, the right cake is one that is unique and reflects the couple who it was made to honor.