How to choose cake flavours for your wedding.
Updated: Dec 21, 2022
Choosing flavours for your cake. It's got to be one of the best bits of wedding planning. But where do you start? Are there rules to follow?
Not really, but there are some basic tips that can help. I'll divide these into frequently asked questions (with extra tips in blue because I do love a bit of colour coding).
Can I have more than 1 flavour?
If you are having more than 1 tier, yes you can absolutely choose more than one flavour of cake! In fact, I highly recommend having a different flavour for each tier. You're getting married. If you can't do it now, when can you?!
- If you are having especially deep tiers, you could even talk to your cake maker about having more than one type of sponge in a tier too, so that the sponge layers alternate within the tier.
Are there set flavours that we have to have?
Every cake maker will have their own list of flavours. Some favour a core menu that they stick to and rarely waiver from their preferred pairings. Others, like myself, have a wider and more adaptable menu which can be tailored to you.
- Bear in mind that any recipe used has to be structurally secure so they need to be tried and trusted by the cake maker before leaving a stacked cake to sit display for hours.
What are the most popular flavours?
For myself, the most popular flavours I make are Lemon Drizzle cake (with or without Elderflower), Chocolate Fudge, Caramel Biscoff, White Chocolate and Raspberry, Cherry Bakewell and Victoria Sponge, but there are plenty of other flavours to choose from too.
- Of course, you're not going to be able to eat the whole cake yourself (at least unless you want to), so there are some tips on how to choose the flavours and keep everyone happy (see below)...but don't forget to get something you'll love too.
What's the easiest way to choose?
1. have at least one tier as a crowd pleaser flavour (something that people who aren't adventurous will recognise and go for), probably the biggest tier.
2. have something vanilla or chocolate based as one tier and another tier that has fruit flavours (because most people lean one way or the other as their first choice).
3. be sure to have something that you like, because it's not just about pleasing the guests. If it's something a bit left-field then maybe have that as the top tier (which has the fewest servings) and ask the caterers / planner to put some aside for you two to share later.
- Remember that the bigger the tier, the more slices of that cake flavour you'll get.
What about fillings?
On the whole what happens is, you choose a cake flavour, which will come with a choice of buttercream fillings, then you can choose to add extras like a compote / jam / fresh fruit / nuts / biscuit crumbs / caramel / a boozy drizzle / etc.
- Cake makers will always have a good idea what fillings and extra goodies work best with their sponge flavours. Again, some will have a set menu while others will have a more mix and match approach, but they will have tried all these things together and will offer the best advice.
Do we have to have fruit cake?
No, in fact it's really a rarity to have a traditional fruit cake any more. Modern wedding cakes are almost always sponge cake these days, mostly because we use different icings that don't require many days of layering and drying.
- If you do have a fruit cake, it's generally a small cake that is cut up and sent out later on to guests who couldn't come to the wedding (especially to older relatives to whom that gesture is more meaningful).
Can we choose a theme?
Absolutely, but the choices will be dependant on what your cake maker offers. I have a larger menu than most, so have often created tiers on a theme. Popular ones have been a cocktail theme (Mojito, Pina Colada, Gin and Tonic, Pimms Summer Cup...), or traditional flavours from your homeland (Iranian Pistachio and Rose, Sicilian Lemon and Basil, Greek Honey Cake, Caribbean Rum Cake, Black Forest...), or seasonal flavours (Baked Apple and Cinnamon, Slow Roasted Strawberry, Pumpkin Pie Spiced Cake, Rhubarb and Ginger, Pear and Almond...).
- Again, talk to your cake maker about what they can offer you.
How many servings will we need?
As a general rule, in the UK, cake is served as part of an evening buffet and is cut into "wedding sized" servings which come out as around 2/3rds the size of a "party sized" slice. Unless they plan to save some for later, I advise my clients that they don't really need a cake with more servings than they have guests as some guests will want try more than one flavour, but others are unlikely to be pried away from the bar or the dance floor, no matter what the incentive!
- If you plan to serve your cake as a desert though, the serving sizes may need to be larger and you should have a few extras in case of accidents. It's worth asking your caterers if they can provide some fresh fruit, compote, ice cream, etc to go with the cake in this case.
Does the cake really get eaten?
One of the biggest myths out there is that the cake is not really eaten. Honestly, this hardly ever happens and my experience is that where it does, it's almost always because that cake was put out too late or in a place where guests couldn't see it. I've been to weddings where the cake was cut and presented well and put out at the right time in the right place and it was all gone within minutes... and I've been to places where it was basically mashed up with a blunt knife, heaped on a platter and put by the exit (with no plates or serviettes) so no-one knew it was there until they were leaving and most were far too drunk to notice.
- The cake is usually served by your caterers, so it's important to talk to them about this and don't forget that they may need to charge you extra for the additional staffing time, crockery, etc.
Will there be any cake left for us to eat?
Actually my best tip is always to bring some tupperware and ask the planner / caterer to put slices of each flavour aside for you to eat later as the chances of you being able to get to the cake without someone cornering you on the day are pretty remote and it's nice to have that moment for just the two of you ;) ).
- If you plan to save some cake for the next day debrief with your favourite guests, maybe order a slightly bigger cake and ask for more to be put aside for you.
I don't really like icing, do I have to have it?
I know, we don't all have a super-sweet-tooth, and no you don't... but there are things to consider when choosing how to finish your cake and most quality cake makers would not advise anyone to have a cake without a covering for several reasons.
* Icing serves more than one function. It's not just pretty, it stabilises your cake (invaluable when you are talking about a stacked cake on a hot day), allows you a wider choice of sponge cake, enables you to add delicious fillings and keeps it all fresh when it's been on display for hours.
* Usually, when people ask this question they are talking about Sugarpaste icing (also known as Fondant icing, or rollout icing), although icing can also mean buttercream or ganache coverings. You may be able try different types of icing if you are unsure and don't forget that you can often have a less sweet layer underneath (like dark chocolate ganache) to balance out the icing if you'd like to.
* What do you want your cake to look like? The style of cake you have in mind may only be possible by using one of these coverings. Your cake maker may be able offer an alternative though, so don't be shy of asking them.