What is the first thing the wedding guests notice when they enter the ballroom, other than some really bad dancing? The wedding cake! What is the last thing they will taste? The wedding cake! Why then is this glorious creation an afterthought? Cutting corners on the main event is a recipe (pun intended) for disaster!
The best way to make sure that your wedding and event cakes are special every time is to employ your own pastry chef. It just makes sense to use the talents of a wedding cake specialist or small custom bakery. If the cake is crummy (pun intended) the guests won’t tell anyone, they will tell EVERYONE! If the cake is delish, the attendees will stuff their faces with seconds and thirds and hate themselves in the morning. Having been in a variety of pastry chef positions over a span of 30 years, I have many keen insights and helpful tips. It all began with a single wedding cake for a friend in California, followed by a job in a French Bakery, owned by a Japanese company with a Spanish speaking mentor! Lorenzo, showed me everything he knew about baking and decorating cakes. The rest is history.
Should you hire your own specialist? Maybe and maybe not.
Here are some of the good, the bad and the ugly so you can decide for yourself. Let’s begin with…
• Team Member: A trusted and talented person on your tea
• Handcrafted: Your product. Made with love.
• Consistent: Same baker. Same great recipes and
• Attention to Details: Clients LOVE specialists.
• Increased Sales: An all inclusive package means the bride and groom won’t have to worry about the cake. You’ve already done that for them.
The person you are considering doesn’t have to be a
culinary arts graduate, although it wouldn’t hurt. Someone who has attended years in the “School of Hard Knocks” is a perfect candidate too. But there are certain qualities to look for either way.
• Passion: Wedding cakes, backup cakes and
pastries galore require devotion.
• Experience: Especially in high quality baking and decorating.
• Easygoing: For those times when the wedding cake falls off the back of the delivery truck.
• Presentable: Neat and communicates well.
Which brings us to: Let your clients know that they can speak to the cake specialist. This can be a plus for the pastry chef and the client.
The Bad and the Ugly
• Personality or ego conflicts: The man with the tallest hat rules. This fact became painfully obvious when the angry head chef, was flinging chafing dishes like a frisbee at my co-worker. It was then that I decided to seek employment elsewhere.
• Salary: A specialist may cost more.
• Space Needed: Actually pastry chefs don’t take up much room at all. Find a usable corner or spot in the basement. Been there, done that.
• Equipment Needed: Large mixer with a couple of bowls, oven, cake pans, work table, refrigerator and room for the Grand Finale in the walk-in freezer.
The Next Best Thing
Find a high-quality custom bakery or home based business that you trust. Order the cakes weekly and have them delivered.
This is precisely how I work as a specialist. When my services are needed I deliver cakes to Hathaway/Young in Millerton, New York. Executive chef Bruce Young tasted my cakes during a friend’s birthday party. His previous thought of what a cake could taste like was shattered with each and every delicious bite. In other words, he liked it. Pete Hathaway and Bruce Young don’t cut corners, which guarantees success. Their clientele are like rabid pit bulls in the pursuit of quality.
The Next, Next Best Thing
Send your brides and grooms to a talented and trusted outside source, someone whom you know makes amazing cakes. Your clients will love the fact that you are connected to talented local pastry chefs.
Hire help for your pastry chef during the busy season, or they will burn out like a tiny asteroid.
Train the waiters to be a teeny bit more careful when carrying wedding cakes. A wedding cake is actually priceless; it cannot be duplicated. When a waiter slings the cake over his shoulder single-handedly, it can cause heart stoppage to its creator.
Bottom line is…treat the wedding cake as you would any Grand Finale! Pack it with a punch. Make it awesome!
So what came after that first apprenticeship at the French bakery you wonder?
I moved on to supplying the areas finest with yummy wedding cakes and pastries. Next in line was a pastry chef position for a lovely place called The Candlewood Inn, owned by entrepreneurs John Royce and Thomas Montague. The esteemed La Chateau in South Salem, New York is their most recent addition to an existing array of successful venues. With six in total, I would say these guys are doing something VERY right.
My Grand Finale
Happily running a small custom cake business accompanied by a website, YouTube Channel and a book about… you guessed it, Wedding Cakes. All created to help others with whatever their cake dreams may be.