With the average price for a wedding cake at more than $500 and climbing, it can be tempting to ask one of your chef-like friends to bake one for you (rather than doing it yourself). Face it, weddings are expensive, and most people do not have a venue owner, wedding planner, or dressmaker in their social network. But knowing a well-versed home baker or professional chef is increasingly common. And what better way to bestow a meaningful role upon someone important to you than by tapping them to help with the cake?
According to Emily Post, wedding cakes are one of the oldest wedding traditions. But making a homemade wedding cake is a huge investment of work, time, and money, so it may not be advisable to place this kind of responsibility on a friend who is also a guest. They are a guest after all.
Don't be fooled: Baking a wedding cake isn't easy. Even for a professional baker, it is a laborious project and the results can be "disastrous" if you lack a tried-and-true plan, says veteran Bay Area wedding planner Kathy Higgins. For example, beyond just the baking, somebody has to test, taste, transport, ice, garnish, display, cut, and serve the cake — all tasks that neither a couple nor wedding guest baker wants to worry about, and many of which are typically taken care of by caterers or event planner. (Photo courtesy of Abby Jiu)
But many contemporary wedding planners agree that cakes are no longer as important as they used to be. "The cake has become a more silent character at the wedding. It is there to be seen not heard," meaning that the ceremonial cake cutting is often skipped today, says wedding planner Jessica Hester. Or perhaps there is no cake at all, and instead a tower of cheese rounds, pies, or cupcakes. "Most brides care so much more about having plenty of time to dance," says Hester.
If a cake is going to be a part of the wedding and a friend is being asked to make it there are two sets of perspectives to consider — for the bride, the fundamentals of making the request, and for the friend, there are the challenges of pulling the whole thing off. As such, following are tips for the bride and the lucky baker.
Be Confident in Your Choice It's a cliché, but there's truth in it: Use your common sense. If you're going to delegate cake-making to your friend, you should above all feel confident in the quality of your friend’s cooking, specifically their baking, and hopefully, in your friendship, too. And remember, a great chef is not necessarily a great baker! If you have any doubts, hire a professional.
For a master chef, quadrupling a cake recipe for a special occasion is not a major undertaking, but for an amateur baker without a commercial mixer or large pans, it can be daunting. Your friend might be better suited for a different role, such as a photo slideshow organizer or even a bridesmaid, in which case her bridal party duties alone could easily become overwhelming.
Consider the Size The larger the wedding, the more you're asking for, so a DIY cake is generally better-suited to a more intimate wedding. If it’s a large, destination wedding, a professional should probably bake the cake, says Higgins.
Make the Request Thoughtful Have an honest one-on-one conversation in which you extend the invitation in a calm and clear manner — maybe take your friend to brunch. Emphasize the personal significance of the gesture and avoid putting the person on the spot — don't pressure them by needing an immediate answer or asking in front of others, except maybe the groom if they are close. You want them to feel honored, trusted, flattered, and confident. (Photo courtesy of istock/Nuno)