Sunday, July 8, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake!

     Cakes have long been a tradition at weddings.  The tradition of wedding cakes began as far back as the Roman Empire.  Back then, traditionally, the groom would take a bite out of the wedding cake and then break the rest of the wedding cake over his bride’s head.  The “cake” was a loaf of barley bread baked especially for the occasion and the tradition was meant to symbolize the breaking of the bride’s virginal state and the subsequent dominance of the groom over her.  Yes, you read correctly!  Hello?... as you eat that cake, wake up and smell the coffee!  Kidding aside, as wedding cakes have evolved into their larger, more modern version, it became physically impractical to properly break the cake over the bride's head.  (Needless to say, the tradition may have also stopped as our society evolved into its more modern version.) 
     Today, wedding cakes still take on a very traditional role in the cake cutting ceremony.  The first piece of cake is cut by the bride with the help of the groom, symbolizing the first task that bride and groom perform jointly as husband and wife. After the cake is cut, the happy couple feed each other from the first slice. This symbolizes the mutual commitment of bride and groom to provide for one another.  Now, we’re talking.
     Wedding cakes are another canvas for creativity and expression.  Brides today have so many options for their cakes.  Different flavors, fillings, icing, decorations, shapes and sizes.  Some brides even opt for cupcakes or pies instead of a customary tiered wedding cake.  Wedding cakes have evolved into visual masterpieces and costly centerpieces of today’s modern weddings.  For that reason, you should consider your wedding venue when making your cake choices.  Whether you decide on a traditional cake or choose a unique alternative, here are a couple of things to consider if you are planning a farm or outdoor wedding.

     Mileage: Make sure you tell your baker where your wedding will take place and be aware of the road conditions on route to your venue.  Some bakers charge extra mileage fees if the location is further than their mileage allowance.  Also, if your venue is in a rural area, are the roads paved or are they bumpy dirt and gravel.  There is only one was to transport a wedding cake through a bumpy road…SLOWLY.  The baker should be aware of this so he can allocate enough time for himself to get there, set up the cake and leave in time to get to his next delivery.  Also, this could result in an extra charge for delivery which you want to be aware of before wedding day.
     Style of Cake and Frosting:  Outdoor weddings are home to the two main nemeses of wedding cake – heat and bugs.  Some cakes cannot withstand the heat or humidity.  Mousses are one example.  A mousse cake sitting for an extended time in some heat is a recipe for a collapsing wedding cake. .  Ganache frostings are not recommended at all for outdoor weddings.  They will melt as well.  A big potential problem for a buttercream frosted cake is that it may "sweat" as it sits in heat.  It is essential that your buttercream cake is in the shade.  Even in 60 degrees, direct sunlight will ruin a cake. If shade is not an option, a better choice would be a fondant cake.  Even though fondant is more expensive and not as tasty as buttercream, it is a sacrifice you may have to make in order to have your dream outdoor wedding.  Your buttercream frosted cake will not survive in direct sunlight unless it's 55 degrees or colder, and if that’s the case, I don’t think you will be having your wedding outdoors.  Also, you're basically guaranteed of having a sweating cake if the bakery delivers a frozen cake, which several places do.  Make sure your baker will not deliver you a frozen cake.  Also, make sure your cake is placed on a sturdy table on a flat sturdy surface. 
     A good idea would be to place your cake under a tent or pavilion for most of the night.   Make sure the area is easily accessible and visible to guests.  You may choose to have lighting to showcase the area so that your guests do not miss out on cake and not see how gorgeous it is because it is dark or because it's far from the center of activities.   Of course, the perfect conditions would be to display the cake indoors in a cool place.  A practical alternative would be to a "mock cake" made for display outdoors and the “real” cake stored indoors.  Basically you just have one bottom layer that the bride and groom can cut and the rest of the tiers are made out of cardboard or something but are iced and decorated to look like cake. When it's time to serve you just have a sheet cake in the back in the same flavors that is put on the plates. This is actually a huge budget saver as well.  Most cake is going to sit out for 5 hours or so before it is cut.  That is the typical time frame for most weddings.  Another alternative is to have your baker set up the wedding cake as close to the reception time as possible, preferably within an hour. 
     Now, let’s talk about bugs, which are another big factor.  Keeping your cake under a tent will minimize anything from falling or flying on it, including leaves.  You may consider putting up mosquito netting around some part of the cake or some part of the tent.  A small fan, concealed of course, set up to blow over the cake area will keep things from landing on it or getting too close.  Fondant is also a better option here than buttercream because it is less sticky.  Next, make sure that you have someone designated to watch the cake or check on it periodically for bugs, etc. You don't want something flying on the cake and sticking.  Also, an outdoor wedding bride will sometimes include family pets on her guest list.  Make sure someone is looking out for animals and pets.  You don't want a cat or a dog jumping up there and helping themselves to a snack!
     A good tip for combating ants is to put table legs in cups that are filled with water and to not let the table cloth touch the ground.  That way, ants cannot climb onto the table and onto the cake. 
     The bottom line is this – don’t be afraid, just plan correctly.  Make sure your baker is aware of what kind of wedding you are planning and where your venue is.  Make sure you choose a baker that is experienced in making wedding cakes for outdoor weddings.  Always discuss your concerns and ideas with your baker before you make your final decision.
     Outdoor weddings do come with considerations and may need some careful planning, but when done right, they are incomparable to anything 

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