From flavor to filling to fondant, there are so many choices that go into designing your perfect wedding cake. Today on the podcast, Marie Soliday of Confectionery Designs, pulls from her 20 years of experience to share with you some tips and tricks for designing your perfect wedding cake and finding the right baker for your big day! Marie and her husband Mark have seen just about everything when it comes to cakes. So if you have questions about how much to budget for your cake or when the cake should be delivered on the wedding day, look no further! This episode of Wedding Secrets Unveiled! is just for you!
My husband, Mark, and I own Confectionery Designs and this is our 20th year doing wedding cakes in the New England area. We relocated here about 21 years ago and worked in hotel chains before we had kids. Mark is also a teacher at Johnson and Wales, so we wanted a career where he could do that, have our kids, and have a small boutique bakery outside of Providence.
That’s awesome. So, you actually have a shop?
We do! We have a retail bakery. It’s been there about eight years. We wanted to wait until the children were a little bit older until we opened up. So it’s open Wednesday through Saturday. And it’s a great way to meet some local people have some fun with different types of doughnuts, cookies, croissants. We also do specialty cakes, birthday cakes, anniversary, anniversary cakes, and so forth.
That’s so fun. Alright, let’s get into the yummy stuff! Tell us about the cake industry.
The cakes industry has certainly just blossomed. That’s the only way to put it. They’re always in fashion. They always will be in fashion. It’s just such a historical thing to do with weddings: you have the cake cutting ceremony, you’ll always feed each other with the cake. So cakes are here to stay, they’re never gonna go away, which obviously is great for us.
Are any other desserts on trend right now?
You’ll find individual desserts such as cheesecakes are popular right now. People take the American classic and put a twist on it. Like, if you’re Irish – maybe having a Bailey’s cheesecake, or a Key Lime cake. We always suggest if you do more individualized desserts that you have a selection to choose from: chocolate, a fruit item, a cookie, gluten free, so on.
Very yummy. What do you see are popular flavors for cakes ?
We do a couple of different selections of actual cake where the cake has three different layers of cake and then two layers of icing. You’ll have a vanilla option, which is usually a chiffon cake or more buttery cake. Everyone has their own preferences. We also do chocolate – there’s been a rise in flavors like Red Velvet. And Carrot cake has become popular. It’s a bit heavier, but people love it. We even had one recently that was a Coconut cake. It’s fun to keep things seasonal, too. Actually, we’re in a spot where we can get a lot of fresh berries. One of our top sellers is our lemon chiffon. Another really popular flavor is Almond Crunch Almonds, which is a really traditional flavor. Chocolate is always popular and we do a Chocolate Mocha.
When you move into the fall, you get Apple Spice, Pumpkin, those kinds of things come in. And we do an Eggnog in the winter! We’ve also seen Orange Cranberry in the winter, too. We’re really lucky because Mark is a trained professional chef. He’s been in the industry for over 35 years. So, our couples will go out and have a meal or dessert and want to recreate the flavor in a cake. He can do it. It’s been a huge selling point for us – being able to meet that client preference!
I love it. So is pricing dictated by cake size, flavor, or something else?
It’s not dictated by flavor. We will always offer two flavors, that’s part of our service. Right now, pricing is definitely impacted by COVID… just like so many other industries. For example, we had trouble finding cornstarch and cream cheese in the winter! So, that’s been reflected in our pricing lately. Just like everyone else. But, obviously we don’t want to overcharge anyone. They’re paying for a premium product. We have to include the price of labor and supplies when thinking about a cake cost. Things like a sugar flower – that can take hours of work to decorate a full wedding cake. Some cakes take upwards of 10-15 hours!
You mentioned those flowers. Are you seeing any trends in cake décor this year?
Sugar flowers are definitely very popular the past year, even last year. We don’t personally like putting fresh flowers in or on our cakes. So, those sugar flowers are popular instead. It’s been fun to recreate new flowers – not just peonies or roses. We’re doing orchids and or other flowers now. It’s super exciting. We airbrush and paint them. It’s truly an art form.
Tell our listeners about the cake process for a wedding day.
We’ll get a call or email about a cake and I’ll start by asking them what kind of guidelines they have. We’ll discuss inspiration, their venue, place settings, and such so that I can get a feel for the wedding day. I have a love hate relationship with Pinterest – it’s helpful for some people but there’s others that have 50 photos of 50 different cakes and we have to get them to narrow it down. Sometimes they have the information, and sometimes they don’t. It’s fine either way. We always encourage tastings as much as possible, so people can come experience the quality of our cakes. I will say, they don’t always choose those flavors but at least they get the overall experience.
Once their date is confirmed, we’ll begin to draw some sketches for them based on what information they have about the décor and such. We’ll do their consult in person or over Zoom and see what they think! Everyone always tells us the cake is one of the least stressful parts, and that’s our goal. You have a vision and we’re here to execute it.
Do you need a guest count to design the cake?
We don’t need the guest count until about three weeks before the event because our cakes aren’t made until the week of the wedding. It’s crazy right now, too. We usually expect 10% of the people invited to a wedding not to show. But these days, it seems like everyone is coming! But, we’re very flexible. Three weeks in advance gives us time to order or find ingredients locally. We also make sure to email the venue or the planner if there’s dietary stuff we have to watch for – like if there’s a gluten free dessert to be served.
How does delivery work?
I do everything like that. The couple provides the venue or the contact person they’re working with and I get in touch with them to handle the timing of the delivery. Once we know that delivery information, we can setup our plan for the day and determine which cakes are going where and when. We have a refrigerated van, which makes delivery way easier! Your cake is basically coming from a fridge to your event. We use fresh items and we seriously want to be one of the last people to deliver your items on your wedding day. We’re not late – we’re purposely the last ones there!
So with that said, how many events can you do in a day?
Honestly, we like to do no more three per day. It’s hard to say no, especially these days. But, we only have so much space to make and store the cakes. Of course, it also depends on the design of the cakes and the details, because that takes a lot of time.
When should couples look for a wedding cake?
At least 3-4 months out from your wedding. You should have your color schemes, date, and venue all picked by the time you see me. It makes designing a cake that much easier. But, if you know that you want to work with a baker, consider calling them to set up your tasting or whatever consult that you need well in advance, so that you can guarantee a spot.
Tell us about the pricing for a baker in New England.
I think pricing is very, very important. I always ask everyone about their price in their budget because it’s important to understand their needs and what their expectations are. We do require a $1,000 minimum for the cake to be delivered. I’m always upfront and honest with couples about our pricing. Things like sugar flowers or beading can run you from $300 to $2,000 depending on how much and detailed you’re going. I will do everything I can to design a cake that fits in the budget they have.
Another thing to talk about with pricing is cake stands. When you see inspiration photos, you have to remember that sometimes (and often times!) those are fake cakes. A four tier cake is not going to work on a little tiny cake stand. But, if its something you like the look of, tell us and we can try to incorporate something similar into the design.
Can we talk about vegan cakes and allergies?
Sure, we don’t actually make vegan cakes. We don’t have the products to support them but we totally recommend other bakeries who do, like Plant City in Providence. Personally, we just love butter too much to create cakes without it! So, we don’t offer vegan cakes. We do offer gluten-free cakes and can offer nut-free cakes. But, we are not a gluten free facility nor a nut free facility. We’re blessed to be in a facility though, so we have different rooms to make product in.
Many people with severe allergies know to just avoid the cakes on wedding days. But, I always make sure to tell the venue or planner if there’s someone I’ve been told about with an allergy. At the end of the day, we do what we can but it’s important that your guests are aware that your bakery may not be totally nut or gluten free.
Is there a right way to cut the cake? Should couples still avoid cutting into the top tier?
The top tier is traditionally saved for the first anniversary. Personally, we actually create a separate tier that’s identical – same flavor, same look, same colors – and put it in a box for our couples with Saran Wrap. It’s much more sanitary that way! That can be kept separately to go home with the couple for their anniversary. When it comes to actually cutting the cake, I recommend going for the bottom tier. It’s just easier! The first piece will always be the most difficult, so give it a little pressure and get the knife down. Try to have the knife and cake a room temperature. Another thing to consider is if your cake has two flavors and one is vanilla, cut the vanilla cake so if something falls on you, you’re not smearing a color or chocolate cake all over your dress!
Do you ever make other custom desserts for weddings?
We do! The groom’s cake has become more popular over the last few years. It was actually something that started in the south, but it’s a second cake that will show the personality of the groom – whether it’s sports, books, a drink. Many times it’s a 3-D sculpted cake! They take a lot of work and are usually very detailed. For many couples, they’re served at the rehearsal dinner, but there’s also been a trend of brides ordering it in secret for the groom and bringing it out at the reception.
Another custom item that’s popular are monogramed cookies. We make the monograms custom for each wedding and create the icing design by hand. I always encourage my clients if they’re doing cookies for the reception, make them custom. If they’re for favors or welcome bags, do your regular chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies there. People aren’t looking at those ones – but they’re looking at the ones at their place settings or on display.
French macaroons are also huge favorites with us as well. They’re very delicate though, so we encourage you to find a box to put them in. You can color coordinate with your wedding details here! Donuts are also really popular and are pretty user friendly. We’re finding a lot of couples are doing afterparties, so we’ll drop off a cake and a bunch of donuts, too. They’ll take them to brunch the next day or to their afterparty.
What are some key points that couples should be asking their baker, when they’re inquiring to make sure that they are working with a professional company to ensure that their wedding day is going to be absolutely perfect?
Quality of the product. I think that’s very important to understand. If you’re investing in a cake, make sure they’re using good ingredients. People will remember your food and your cake if they’re good. So, make them good. Don’t be afraid to ask about the products they’re using. There’s a huge difference between real butter or not, real vanilla or just extract.
Ask them how long they’ve been in the business and if they have a professional kitchen. You want to know if they’re a home baker or beginner. Their expertise matters on your wedding day!
Determine how the cake will get to you. Do they have a refrigerated van? Are they assembling onsite? These are important things to know. You don’t want your cake spilled across a floor the day of your wedding. Someone’s experience will come into play here, too.
Links Mentioned in the Episode
What We Discussed
Which desserts are on trend right now (5:39)
The process working with a cake vendor (12:38)
Cake pricing in New England (22:39)
Tips for allergies/diets (29:31)
The top tier tradition (32:22)
Wrap-Up Question (39:02)
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