Cake decorators range in style, products

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With many options breaking the traditional molds of a wedding cake, couples can spend hours pouring over designs, serving sizes, cake toppers and extras to make each cake as unique and symbolic as possible.

While TheKnot.com recommends taking advantage of free initial consultations and trying out several cakes and talking to a few different decorators (you wouldn’t buy the first wedding dress you try on in most cases, either), the difference between larger chain stores’ bakeries and local cake designers can mean a difference in choices and decisions.

Mindy Wilson, owner and cake designer at Blue Sky Cake Designs in Manhattan, said she sees some similar concepts in what her clients are looking for, such as the traditional multi-tier cakes and the use of monograms and fresh flowers as cake toppers, but one advantage to a small local designer is the ability to help design a unique, non-cookie cutter cake.

“Couples can really put a signature on their own cake [by going through a local cake decorator],” said Wilson.

Wilson, a K-State graduate, said she offers many options that cater to each couple’s needs, and while she might do things a little differently than larger bakeries, it’s to the couples’ advantage.

From having the option to work within any budget by implementing styrofoam tiers camouflaged under the frosting and decor of the rest of cake and adding a sheet cake or cupcakes to cut cost, to adding fresh flowers as not only cake toppers but accents as well, each couple will be purchasing a cake made from scratch, in a licensed, city-registered home kitchen.

As far as her tips for ensuring the unique experience local decorators like her offer, including the complimentary service and extras that come with each order, Wilson recommends booking a free initial consultation and sampling anywhere from 6-18 months in advance, depending when the wedding is being held. Wilson doesn’t go by a typical price list either, as she feels that each cake is unique, and a case-by-case pricing strategy fits this idea.

She also said that monogram cake toppers, a popular trend right now, are great keepsakes that can be used for future celebrations from the first to the 50th wedding anniversary.

A different route for ordering a wedding cake is to go through a larger chain bakery, like Hy-Vee or Dillons.

Hy-Vee offers a fairly firm set of cakes styles with similar basic looks and more traditional options. Christina McCoy, cake decorator for Hy-Vee in Manhattan, said the basic price, which is based on how many pieces are served, or “per cutting,” includes a simple two- or three-tier square cake with ribbon accents in a chosen color. Additions such as flowers are welcome, but will be used as decoration at an additional charge.

McCoy also offered a different timeline for contacting Hy-Vee to place orders, which could be helpful for couples planning a wedding in a minimal amount of time. She said that couples should meet with their bakery just a month in advance at the latest to design and order their cake.

“A 12-inch cake serves about 50 people depending on how it’s cut,” said McCoy, who recommends ordering a little more cake than the minimum that might serve each guest if the budget allows. McCoy also said another pro to ordering from Hy-Vee and similar stores is the ability to get an extra sheet cake ordered and decorated even the day before the wedding to accommodate last-minute guests, or to put a worried bride’s mind at ease to ensure plenty is left.

McCoy echoed Wilson’s experience with choosing silver monograms as cake toppers by putting the bride’s and grooms’s first initial each on one side of a centered initial of the newlyweds last name.

Marley Conine, senior in accounting, has already put together a design for her cake and plans on having her fiance’s cousin bake and decorate the cake for their October wedding. Conine needed an alternative to the usual three-tier cake that serves each guest as attendance at her wedding could exceed 500 guests.

She and her fiance decided to go with a smaller tiered cake (complete with a Vera Bradley print-like decoration) to serve the wedding party, but found a good alternative for the other guests.

“We’re putting eight-inch round, double-stacked cakes in the center of each table so guests can serve themselves,” said Conine.

Simple white cakes topped with flowers will double as centerpieces at each table, so they aren’t trying to bake a cake two or three times the average size.

Different circumstances require different resources, but taking into account several factors within ordering a wedding cake will make overall planning easier, and can help you keep a budget (at least for the cake) in check.

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