Candid Considerations: 12 Things Your Cake Designer Wishes You Knew

Photo by Rachel May Photography

Ines Aranguren of Sky’s the Limit Bridal Sweets dishes it out in this informative article for brides and grooms. Read on for candid cake considerations and smart tips from one of Charlotte’s most well-known couture cake designers. No half-baked ideas here!
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  1. “My cakes aren’t going to be as inexpensive as the discount stores’. But they’re not going to be as cheap, either.” When it comes to anything in life, you get what you pay for.
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    Ines of Sky’s the Limit cakes explains, “There’s this triangle of quality (taste and ingredients), artistry (design and beauty), and cost.” If you have a beautiful cake that tastes amazing, expect for the cake to cost a bit more than the national chains.
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    “This is because you’re getting something custom, not just pointing to a national grocer’s binder of stock images and UPC numbers.” Years of expertise as well as countless hours of design work, baking, and decorating go into a single cake.
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  2. Please, just don’t be ridiculous. Don’t ask if you can order a tiny presentation cake from a cakery or designer in the hopes of cutting costs by pairing it with sheet cakes in the back from the grocery store. Cake designers pride themselves on their quality all around. No one wants their reputation tarnished when guests associate a different or lesser product with their brand.

    No respectable baker would ever want to share their reputation with another baker – especially not a bulk retailer.

  3. But you can cut some corners (literally) to have your cake and eat it too. For larger weddings, ask if your cake designer will augment the presentation cake with a kitchen cake to add additional servings for less dough. A kitchen cake is NOT a sheet cake; it’s multi-layered. Once cut, the servings look identical to those cut from the the tiered display cake. When the presentation cake is brought to the kitchen to be sliced, the kitchen cake pieces are easily snuck back out on the same trays. This smart and seamless presentation will make sure guests aren’t left wondering: why does my piece look different? What’s different about it? Did I get the cheapo slice of sheet cake? But you can still save a few bucks as the kitchen cake won’t need as much design-wise.
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  4. Cakes need controlled environments. The ideal cake temp: 55-70. You can’t expect a cake to look absolutely perfect past 75 degrees, in direct sunlight, or with lots of humidity. Even body heat from over a hundred guests in a building is a consideration. In the case of humidity, icing colors and hand painted accents may bleed. If the cake gets too warm, the icing can become melty or structural problems may occur with shifting and sliding layers.
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  5. On that note, make a solid game-plan for that outdoor wedding. You’ve got several options to consider. You may want a faux or “presentation” cake made for display and to keep kitchen cakes refrigerated inside. You’ll also want to consider fondant in lieu of frosting if bugs could be a consideration. While frosting acts a bit more like fly paper, fondant stays clean and smooth! If you’re dead-set on doing a real tiered cake, make sure it is stored somewhere temperature controlled and brought out at the last possible second.
  1. Hours of design work goes into wedding cakes. It begins with a consult with the bride. Is there a specific theme? Is there a detail in her wedding dress that can be recreated and incorporated into the design, e.g., a flower applique or lace pattern? From there, the cake is sketched out. Flavors, colors, and a multitude of other options are chosen. Then, there are numbers to crunch and logistics to consider (such as guest count, numbers of slices and tiers), new and trendy techniques to learn, and even materials to shop for (e.g., custom sugar molds or specialty ingredients).
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  2. From there, the baking and decorating processes are just as extensive. Once the design is finalized and the big day is within sight, the multi-step process of baking begins.

    We bake the layers, chill them, frost them, chill them more, and frost them again. Next comes decoration – roll out that fondant and decorate it. And some techniques even have a wait time in between. From there, we strategically transport it (either in a specially designed ‘cake safe’ or tier by tier) and assemble it. The very last step is the fresh floral design to avoid wiltage.

  3. Plan for fresh flowers. Some brides run into issues when their baker isn’t comfortable placing the flowers on the cake. The florist may have multiple weddings and wish to set up at the venue much earlier than the cake will arrive therein creating a challenge. Be sure to coordinate this task between the two.
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  4. If there’s a technique, the best of the best cake designers will learn it. You name it, several cake designers in Charlotte have perfected it – airbrushing, metallic accents, fondant draping, quilting, intricate hand-piping, incorporation of fresh florals, tie dye, hand painted accents, and gum paste flowers galore.
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    Fancy the oh-so-trendy décor featuring chalk boards and hand lettering? “I even have a technique that mimics a black board that’s been wiped down,” says Ines. “Or take these hand cut tiles,” she explains while pointing to a faux cake, “I airbrush with pearlescent luster dust for a capiz shell look.”
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  5. Want to use a trademarked logo or character? Prepare to pay a small fee and do some paperwork. If a cake isn’t just “inspired by,” design ideas and statements of use may be sent along with a nominal amount of money for permission. Examples include: collegiate logos, sports teams, cartoon characters, etc.
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  6. Many cake designers take intellectual property very seriously. Don’t be surprised if your cake designer wants to put their own spin on that Pinterest pin. Ines can’t count the times that cakeries across the country have called her to ask for permission to recreate one of her designs after a bride has found hers on Pinterest or Instagram. And she is more than happy to give the go-ahead.
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    “But many times, the baker will send a photo afterwards, and they’ve found some way to really make it their own and add unique design elements,” Ines adds.
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  7. While many objects can be recreated as edible accents on cakes, others can be simply added in a food-safe manner. Figurines and frilly flowers are sculpted out of gum paste. Modern floral elements are made of wafer paper. And metallic sheen makes certain accents – frames or even chains – look like the real deal. Other times, designers will add inedible cake jewelry. Brooches and other inedibles can be affixed to gum paste flowers and then to food-safe skewers to be held in place.
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