Cake tastings are more than an opportunity to satisfy your sweet tooth. While it's fun getting to sample a range of tasty desserts for free, the best part comes afterward–when it's time to design the perfect cake for your wedding! Make sure you head to your cake tasting fully prepared to make the most of it.
Choosing the Right Bakery
While there's no law saying you can't go to multiple tastings in multiple bakeries, there's no reason you should waste your time (and the baker's time) if you don’t strongly suspect the bakery will be a good fit. If you see any special occasion cakes that really stand out, ask the party hosts which bakery they hired.
If you're looking for a very specific type of cake, such as a gluten-free or vegan wedding cake, go to a bakery that specializes in that type of baking. While a competent baker can make any type of cake turn out decently, your wedding is an occasion that deserves a master's touch. If you want cupcakes, go to a cupcake bakery. If you want your cake to look like a bouquet of roses, find a baker with a portfolio full of specialty icing photos.
Stumped on what to order? Every bakery has something that's their specialty. If you can't decide between a red velvet fondant cake and a candelabra of chocolate cupcakes, give preference to the type of cake the baker thinks is best. You wouldn’t go to a steakhouse if you were craving a salad, so give your baker a chance to really shine.
Look for cake tastings that seem fairly priced. Many bakeries offer complimentary tastings, or will deduct the cost of the tasting from your cake if you end up ordering one. If you feel like you're being nickel-and-dimed, it may be a sign that you're not dealing with a true professional.
Finally, choose a bakery that makes you feel good. When you walk in, do you like the smell, the display cakes, and the overall atmosphere of the room? Do you feel comfortable around the employees? Are they attentive enough? Are you treated respectfully? If, for whatever reason, you don’t think you'll enjoy working with a vendor, it's a smart move to move on.
Making an Appointment
Although timeframes vary by bakery, it's important to get an early start. Make your cake tasting appointment six months to a year ahead of your wedding. If you don’t have that much time, it's still fine. You can usually ask the bakery to make your cake a rush order for an added fee. Less elaborate cakes won't need as much preparation time.
Popular bakeries will often be booked up to a year ahead of time, so the sooner you make arrangements, the better chance you will have of reserving your wedding date. Expect to put down a deposit to secure the date.
What to Bring
The most important thing you can bring to your wedding cake tasting is information. Good planning on the front end will give you a much easier path to the exact wedding cake you want. Approximate your cake budget and the number of guests you expect to serve. This will determine what kind of cake will best suit your needs. Also, be sure to check with the bakery ahead of time to confirm that they can meet any special dietary needs.
Describe your wedding theme to the baker using as much detail and as many props as you can. If you have your bridesmaids' dresses picked out, bring a swatch of material. If you know the color of your nail polish, bring the bottle. Are you using any photos for wedding inspiration boards? Bring them all. From the type of flowers you're using in your arrangements to the style of music you want to play, each detail will give your baker a better idea of the overall atmosphere of your wedding.
If possible, sketch your ideal cake and bring it to the tasting. You don’t have to be an expert artist. The more details you can give your baker, the better he or she will understand what effect you're going for. The better you can describe your cake now, the more satisfied you will be with the end result.
Don't bring an empty stomach. If you arrive hungry, you will have the skewed impression that the cakes at the beginning of the tasting are more delicious. That being said, however, be sure to leave a bit of room, as you'll be tasting quite a few flavors and you’ll want to enjoy the experience.
Who to Bring
Many bakeries offer complimentary tastings for one or two people, but charge a fee for additional visitors. After all, they're not in the business of hosting dessert parties. Keeping the guest list small also benefits you; while one or two trusted opinions can help you make a better decision, too many opinions can leave everyone confused.
If someone else is paying for your wedding cake, it's pretty much required that you offer an invitation to the tasting. Otherwise, bring your soon-to-be spouse (this is one pre-wedding activity that doesn't encounter much opposition even from the staunchest "no-planners"), a close family member, or a member of your wedding party. If you have a friend who's particularly fond of sweets or who has special baking experience, now is the time to call on his or her expertise.
Savor the Experience
Cake tasting can be a delightful perk in a sea of pre-wedding obligations. Set aside enough time so you can fully enjoy the experience. Take care to really savor each cake sample, setting the fork down between bites and appreciating the texture and flavor of each one. If you're considering multiple icing, filling, and cake batter choices, taste each one independently and sip water in between so you can rate it on a clean palate.
Remember, the tasting is about finding the perfect bakery for your wedding; don't expect to go in and taste an exact replica of your future cake. Many bakeries that offer free tastings only provide samples of their most popular flavors, so if you think you'll want a sample of a flavor that's not on the menu, you'll need to request it ahead of time and may be asked to pay a small fee. You will usually know whether the bakery is to your liking, however, after tasting their standard fare.
Don't be afraid to ask plenty of questions. Your wedding cake should not only be delicious, but you're also commissioning a work of art. With all of the thought, creativity, and skill that goes into your collaboration with your chosen bakery, it's essential that everyone is on the same page. It's your vision, and you're choosing the lucky bakery that gets to bring it to life. Have a great time and savor every second!