13 steps to a showstopping wedding cake by Elizabeth Solaru, founder of the luxury Elizabeth’s Cake Emporium.
Interview by Jade Beer.
- I never make the same cake twice. Everything I do is bespoke. I dig into my client’s own dreams and desires in order to create something that is totally unique to them.
- The people who pay the most for my cakes sometimes do not even bother with a consultation. I get told, here’s a pot of money, we’d like something amazing and there is no further consultation with them, although I may consult with the wedding planner. It happened recently at a wedding in the South of France. I never got to speak to the couple at all, to this day I don’t even know who they are because everything was confidential and anonymous. I saw all the mood boards, and what the florist was doing for her designs and I had a vague idea about the dress. It was enough to create something spectacular.
- Quite often the groom will be the one set the task of commissioning the wedding cake because the bride has so much to do. I have a lovely time with grooms because when they come to me, they’re an open book and even if their ideas are a bit unorthodox, they don’t get laughed at. I will always find a way of being kind while questioning if their ideas really fit with the wedding. I recently had a groom who was really into fitness and he wanted the cake to be held up by a body builder.
- In some cultures, the taller the cake and the greater the number of tiers, the longer the marriage is believed to last. Some cultures have very auspicious colours and numbers. I always come out of those consultations having learned something new.
- Any great cake maker should be experimenting with techniques – right now it’s all about the use of wafer paper and rice paper and royal icing is making a comeback. I have to delve into my own expertise and see how I can adapt my cakes to speak to the latest trends while still being very much in my style.
- Bugs, wasps and ants are the greatest enemies of the wedding cake. They love sugar and they will quickly tell their friends where it is. Also, think about the weather. If you’re having your cake positioned outside you must think about the effect of the heat on it. The schedule is really important. Within ten to fifteen minutes it needs to be cut and brought back inside. Also be aware of humidity and its effect on the cake decoration if you are covering a cake. The other thing that can be easily overlooked is ensuring the ground you are placing it on is level and it’s out of the wind. Generally, if the cake is going to be outside, cover it in sugar paste because it will repel some of the elements a little bit.
- My personal favourite cake flavour is lemon. I just love lemon. But the more traditional flavours are super popular with clients at the moment, vanilla and chocolate sponge, but the fillings are getting more exciting – vanilla and Biscoff for example or it might be a funfetti cake so when it’s cut it’s full of sprinkles inside, a real colour explosion. Lemon and elderflower have retained their popularity since Harry and Meghan’s wedding. One of my most popular flavours is the Tuxedo, layers of chocolate and vanilla sponge with a caramel filling in between, people love that. St Clements, a mix of lemon and orange is also popular and so is passionfruit. The massive hit of this summer has been pink champagne and strawberries – it’s a pink cake and it really does taste of champagne with fresh strawberries inside.
- Whatever flavour you’re thinking of having, nothing will be as unusual as the wasabi and white chocolate cake I was asked to make, with a plum jam filling. I thought it was going to be disgusting but it actually turned out great. People always want to give their guests something they’ve never had before because that is all part of the experience. The biggest tier of your cake should be a flavour that is not offensive to anyone and then as you move up the cake to the smaller tiers you can have something that will shock and delight your crowd.
- The best way to ensure your wedding cake gets eaten, is to incorporate it into a dessert table. Have it there for the entire evening then anyone can go up and refuel or serve it as a midnight snack. Clients are very keen to give their guests a feast for the eyes too, so dessert tables are still very popular, especially if you load them with bite sized portions: macarons, cake pops, cookies and biscuits, profiteroles, tiny individual cakes, and dips too – anything instagrammable works. Some people are doing individual charcuterie-style sweet boards – so each guest has an individual board with a little bit of everything – that’s the kind of thing I am seeing more of now. It’s colourful and it’s fun. You can theme the dessert table to the entertainment – a while ago I did an all neon one, really acid colours because the party was a rave – even though the wedding itself was very traditional and sedate for the relatives.
- If you’re on a tight budget but you still want a really wow cake, then consider using faux tiers which are made from polystyrene, although keep in mind you still have to decorate a dummy tier so there is some cost. Or have fewer tiers but taller ones, ten or twelve inches deep. Or use Perspex risers in between the tiers to make the cake look taller.
- According to a newspaper, the most expensive cake I ever made cost six figures. Sadly, those clients don’t come along every day, I wish they did! One of my most memorable cakes was twenty tiers and had to be taken to Vienna. I only met the clients on the day of the wedding. They hosted us in a beautiful penthouse, it was incredible.
- The cutting of the cake it still very much a thing. In fact, in some cultures it can take up to an hour because there is a whole ceremony constructed around it, often with fireworks and dancing.
- If you’re getting married between April and September which is peak wedding season, then I would love six months’ notice to work on your cake. Three to six months is ideal, although this season I had less than a week’s notice from one client who was marrying at Blenheim Palace. I knew the planner very well and I would do anything for them, so it got done. But when that kind of thing happens, it means the team and I don’t go to bed for two nights. Thankfully I have an amazing team of working mums, if you want something done, give it to a busy woman. I give them the flexibility they need. If it suits them to work in the kitchen at 3am, then they’ve got the key they can do it.
If you’d love to find out more about Elizabeth’s gorgeous designs check out her website:
You’ll also find plenty of inspiration over on her Instagram page: