Whether you’re planning a very special celebration or a wedding, you’ll need an amazing cake to make the party sweeter! If you’ve never explored the custom cake world, here’s some information that might be helpful with your party planning.
The short answer is this: Once you have the date and the venue, start exploring options for cake bakers. Small cake bakeries will take only a certain number of cakes per date so starting early is a good way to snag your favorite baker. It is not always necessary to know every single detail of the party. Reserving your date is the important factor, especially if you’re having a large party or your party is held during a popular time (i.e., May or October, generally).
In addition to recommendations from friends/family and general online searching, use vendor directories such as Wedding Wire, New Jersey Bride, or NJWedding.com. These directories are valuable resources no matter what kind of party you’re planning. It’s not essential to find a place close to you or your venue since most cake bakeries deliver to not-very-local locations. Note, however, that distance travel will add to the cost of your cake. Check out the styles of each cake designer to see whether this is what you’re looking for. To avoid the process from becoming too overwhelming, try to narrow your choices down to 3 or 4 places.
Reviews are very important since they give insight not only into the quality of the product, but also into the person/people behind the business and those with whom you will establish a relationship. Also check out the social media sites of the business(es) you have in mind. When it comes to cake bakeries, bigger is not always better. Small, artisanal cake shops have the advantage of offering one-on-one attention and can spend time customizing and creating everything from your cake stand to your cake flavors. Look for quality in the finished product. Check into the experience of the business(es) that you are considering, since experience plays standing role in the quality of the finish work. If you are looking for something special, for your cake to stand apart, then look for artistic expression, originality, creativity. Your cake also must taste great so before you add a place to your cake list, be sure to explore (either through reviews or otherwise) that the baking is of high quality. Of utmost importance is that your potential cake vendor operate legally, having in place all necessary health inspections, licenses and insurance.
Your relationship with a cake vendor (or any vendor, for that matter) begins with the first email or phone call. Was this first impression a good experience? Once you’ve met with someone (assuming you are happy with the taste of the cake), think about how you felt when you were there, how you were treated and how your concerns were addressed. Did you leave feeling confused or excited? Cake is happy. You should be happy with your cake designer on all levels.
Some cake bakeries will have a cake tasting fee. A consultation that does not require a cake tasting is usually free. You should inquire of this when you contact those on your list. Cake tastings that are baked and prepared fresh require a great deal of time and preparation. For example, an extensive cake tasting of 5 or 6 cake flavors with accompanying fillings can take up to a full day of baking and preparation. A tasting fee that is refundable with your cake order is often necessary to offset some of those costs and to discourage no-show appointments or those who do not have the intention of ordering a cake. Whether or not a cake bakery charges for a cake tasting is purely a business decision. It does not necessarily reflect on ego or quality of the product so don’t let a cake tasting fee leave a bad taste in your mouth.
What Should I Expect At My Appointment?
Outside of trying some really great tasting cake, you should be prepared to discuss the design of the cake. You’ll want to bring with you any items that reflect the style preferences, party theme/colors, and/or hobbies of the guest(s)-of-honor. If you’ve found other cake photos that you’d like to use as a jumping off point, bring them with you, too. A formal sketch of a proposed cake may be provided or a simple drawing may be done. Also come prepared to leave a deposit should you fall in love with what you taste and see. If you do love what you taste and see, ask for a contract. If you want to give it some thought, ask what the policies are for holding the date. This policy will vary: some places will give you a day or two before taking another booking, some won’t. Be sure that you understand this so that you don’t meet with disappointment.
Earlier this year, I dedicated a blog post to “Budgeting for Your Wedding Cake.” This blog post contains valuable information on pricing for custom cakes in New Jersey and how to work with a budget. You can find it here: http://www.mydaughterscakes.com/budgeting-for-your-wedding-cake-weddings-in-new-jersey/
The principals in that post also apply to other custom tiered cakes, such as showers, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. One style of cake that is popular for party cakes is carved cakes, or cakes made to look like an object (i.e., cars, musical instruments, etc.). When it comes to carved cakes, pricing may be quite a bit higher than that of tiered cake. One reason is that a cake designer needs to start with a greater quantity of material (cake) to be able to carve down into an object. Another reason is that carved cakes often require more time on the finish work in order to achieve the necessary realism and detail. If this is an once-in-a-lifetime occasion, a realistic, carved cake will be sure to be talked about for years to come!
I hope the material presented here is helpful to you. I tried to highlight the salient points of each topic and present each in a simplified manner. Of course, you can feel free to contact me if you need additional assistance or have other questions regarding the cake process. Most of all have fun with choosing your cake and cake designer. It’s the sweetest part of the party planning!