2010 19/06

Cake Tasting: Know Your Stuff

By Megan Peters

As a plus size bride, I certainly like my sweets.  So naturally I am happy to go to a bakery to test a few cakes out. This weekend my fiancé and I will be cake tasting together. I haven’t thought too much about it till now, I mean what all do you have to think about other than enjoy the taste of the cake right? Wrong. There is defiantly some preparation that goes into cake tasting for your wedding. In my case we have already picked out a bakery, through a recommendation. If this is isn’t your case and you want know the best way to go about choosing your cake/baker read further. The best advice I got about choosing a wedding cake was broken into these six steps.

  1. First talk to a few of your friends who have recently gotten married and see what they have to say about their baker and if they would recommend their services to you. After you have been recommended a baker or found one through your own research narrow them down to the top three choices. Call and make an appointment with each baker and request to taste any cake flavors that you are particularly interested in. Gather pictures, and drawings of wedding cakes that you are interested in. Know the wedding cake budget and number of guests that will be invited.
  2. It is important to have had a snack or meal before you do cake tasting as being very hungry can sway your opinion of cakes. Start tasting the lighter fluffier cakes first and move on to heavier and richer cakes last. The pastry chef often has a recommended order in which to taste the cakes in. It is important to taste the cakes, frosting, fillings and embellishments separately this will enable you to taste the true flavor of each item.
  3. Now notice the differences and take note of the textures, is the frosting lumpy or smooth? Then note weather the cake was moist, dry, fluffy, sugary, and buttery? This is a good time to inquire about the ingredients. Are the fillings made with fresh fruit? Can they use organic ingredients upon request?
  4. Try a few combinations, perhaps there are a few flavors you enjoy and the baker can possibly make a special combination for you or has a recommendation.  Think about what you and your groom enjoy the most, then what your guest will likely enjoy. As an option ask the baker if they can do different flavors for each tier.
  5. This one is an important one: cleanse your palate as you taste cakes with milk or water. Do this in between each different cake tasting and that will ensure that you taste the proper flavors.
  6. Take it slow and ask questions. Savor each bite and take note of flavors you liked. Ask the pastry chef about creating custom wedding cakes as well as any extra charges for certain types of cakes. Then inquire about all the details and ask to see their portfolio.

Aside from previous six steps mentioned above you should also know the cake language. Yes, there is a language. If you are currently sucked into cake making reality shows like I am you may not need this advice. If you don’t know what genoise, mouselline, or ganache is then don’t stop reading.  Here is a list of cake vocabulary to brush up on before you go into your tasting.

Fondant: An ultra smooth sugar icing that seamlessly drapes a cake. Its matte finish is an ideal canvas for appliques, royal-icing brocade work, or sugar flowers.

Buttercream: A buttery soft icing or filling that can be blended with anything from apricot puree to burnt caramel. Like fondant, it can be tinted to match your color scheme.

Genoise: A moist European sponge cake, less sweet than the American version. Usually flavored with syrup, this cake works best with a light filling and icing, such as whipped cream.

Ganache: A rich frosting or filling, created by the Swiss, that combines chocolate and heavy cream. Ganaches don’t usually hold up well in humid weather.

Mouselline: An icing or filling enriched with whipped cream for a light, smooth texture. You could have a mousseline buttercream, for instance, flavored with chocolate or fruit.

Marzipan: A paste made of ground almonds, used for edible cake decorations in such shapes as flowers or fruit. Some bakers use a thin layer of marzipan as a filling or to cover a cake.

Creme Anglaise: A smooth custard, sometimes placed under slices of cake. It can be flavored with Grand Marnier, chocolate, or pistachios, giving it a beautiful pale-green hue.

Are you craving cake yet? I am.  I will be sure to follow up with you all on what some of our final cake decisions are. I have step one down plus my cake language, now only five more steps to go till the cake of my dreams, oh wait I mean “our” dreams. I got to get use to that.

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