Here's What A Pastry Chef Wishes You Knew Before Ordering A Wedding Cake

While weddings are supposed to be joyous occasions, planning them can be a major pain. Should you go boho or traditional? Keep it small or invite all 5,000 of your Facebook friends? And just how ugly do you want those bridesmaid dresses to be? Decisions, decisions. One choice you'll have to make could be so much fun, though, that you may want to prolong the decision process as long as possible ... after all, selecting a cake is a great excuse to sample slice after slice.

While we'd never want to ruin your cake-eating fun, you'll eventually have to settle on one of those cakes, preferably before you can no longer fit into whatever dress you said yes to. Your guests will probably appreciate the best-tasting cake you can find, but if an impressive appearance rates higher on your list, or you want to strike some kind of balance between the two, it helps to be as well-informed as you can about issues specific to wedding cakes. In order to get some tips to help you prep for this important cake choice, Mashed spoke with Mathieu Lavallee, Executive Pastry Chef for ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Vegas, of course, is a top destination for those about to be hitched, so he's overseen his fair share of wedding cakes and has plenty of useful advice to share.

Consider the logistics

While you can't plan out every last detail of your wedding down to the actual weather, not even if you're marrying a meteorologist, you should, at least, be aware of certain details before you get down to choosing the cake. In what season will you be tying the knot? What location? Indoor or outdoor? Lavallee says these things should all influence your cake selection and, in particular, how that cake can be decorated.

Frostings especially are a big factor. Lavallee points out that buttercream, fondant, and whipped cream are all very different. Not only is it not possible to create every kind of design with each type of icing, but some frostings will be more appropriate than others for certain situations. As an example, he says, "a whipped cream cake with fresh fruit is beautiful and delicious, but if it's going to be sitting outside on the patio for a few hours, it will not survive." For an outdoor wedding in warmer weather, he suggests fondant as a far more stable icing option. One more thing Lavallee notes is that the cake itself, if good quality, will be made with butter and cream, so no matter the frosting, keeping the cake chilled will be a necessity. "It's really important," Lavallee emphasizes, "that you ask about refrigeration and time delivery at your event location and set-up accordingly."

Know what's possible

Yes, we all love watching those baking shows on TV where chefs compete to see who can create the most epic replica of the Eiffel Tower in cake and fondant. Don't expect that you'll be able to score something similar for your wedding, even if you can afford to hire Duff Goldman or Buddy Valastro to do your baking. Lavallee suspects that some of the cakes you see on the Food Network, as well as many of the Pinterest non-fails, are — shhh!! — really made of (or at least enhanced by) Styrofoam. The only way you'd be able to get away with that at a wedding is if you have a stand-in cake double back in the kitchen to be served to guests. If you're going to stick to standard protocol of cutting the cake in front of a crowd, you'd better skip the Styrofoam.

Instead, what you should do is to talk to your potential cake baker and inquire about just what they'll realistically be able to do based on their equipment and expertise level. Be aware that they may not be able to produce an exact clone of that cake you pinned to your inspiration board and might need to make a few tweaks to the design. As Lavallee advises, "Be open-minded to any changes your baker suggests. In the end, the baker really wants to do what's best for your special day."

Trust your baker to do the right thing

While you don't need to go all bridezilla and start trying to micromanage the cake design, you're more likely to get what you want if you're able to communicate your ideas clearly and supply any necessary details. Lavallee says to be as specific as you can when you're working with the baker to plan your dream cake. If what you want is cake frosting to match the color on your wedding invitations, give the baker one of these invitations to use as a template. Don't just email it, actually provide a physical copy since, as Lavallee says, "printers print color differently, so it may not be the same blue on our machine as it is on yours."

Lastly, Lavallee reminds us that a "cake designer is an artist at heart," so he says that you'll get the most beautiful wedding cake possible if you can just relax and allow the baker some creative freedom to interpret your design. This, Lavallee says, "allows the designer to make something special just for you." At best, you'll get an amazing, one-of-a-kind creation that will be remembered as long as you keep forcing the kids to watch your old wedding videos ... and at worst, you'll get an amusing anecdote that could last even longer.