Some baking tasks are inherently more difficult for home bakers than full-scale bakeries. Enter: wedding cake tastings! While commercial bakeries create cakes every single day and can offer slices to taste-test on a whim, cottage bakers don’t have the same circumstances. However, that’s not to say the task is impossible — or even difficult! In this post, I’m going to break down everything you need to know to offer a wedding cake tasting as a home baker. This way, you can tackle the process with ease and confidence!
How To Prepare A Wedding Cake Tasting As A Home Baker
If you’ve never yet prepared a wedding cake taste-tester, the process may seem intimidating. In fact, I’m sure you have plenty of questions. Here’s what we’ll discuss today:
- What questions should I ask the engaged couple before preparing a wedding cake tasting?
- In what form and size should I serve the wedding cake tasters?
- How many flavor options should I offer for the tasting?
- What is the most efficient process for baking and decorating wedding cake tasters?
- How much should I charge for a wedding cake tasting?
- How should I serve or deliver the wedding cake tasters?
- What should I do if I receive negative feedback about the wedding cake tasters?
- What to do if the client likes my wedding cake taste-testers?
1. What Questions Should I Ask The Couple Before Preparing A Wedding Cake Tasting?
Whenever I start chatting with a couple about potentially creating their wedding cake, I immediately send over a list of questions. This way, I can gather a lot of the pertinent information upfront, and we avoid running into issues later on. For example, what if a couple asked for a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, only for you to later find out that the whole wedding was being held on the beach in the middle of summer — no refrigeration available?! Imagine what a mess that would be, and all the time wasted planning and taste-testing for that flavor.
Here’s what information I ask for, prior to agreeing to anything:
- Wedding date, time, and all applicable details of the location/venue (ex. Is it indoors or outdoors? Is it a far distance from where you bake your cakes?)
- The estimated amount of cake servings they’ll need (Even if they don’t know exactly, getting a general estimate of the size of the wedding is super helpful.)
- Design ideas for the cake (Again, the couple may not know exactly. However, if they are absolutely set on an intricately stacked, gravity-defying cake, you may want to avoid offering certain flavors of cake that just won’t hold up to the requested structure.)
- Allergies and intolerances (Better safe than sorry!)
Below you’ll find a screenshot of my full Cake Questionnaire — it’s not too complicated, but generally gives me everything I need to get a good idea of the potential job. Once you have some answers to the couple’s cake needs and ideas, then you’re in a better position to offer them tastings. For example, you may be willing to create a cake in a more complicated flavor, but only for a smaller wedding with a limited number of guests. Always find out as many wedding plans as you can before you begin to promise things you may later regret.
2. In what form and size should I serve the wedding cake tasters?
This decision is probably the most intimidating to a home baker. You may wonder, “should I bake a full cake for the couple?” “how much is too much?” and, “what is the proper balance of time and effort for me to devote to a simple taste tester?” However, you likely already have all you need in your cake storage pantry to offer a few options:
Option 1: Cupcakes
To offer the happy couple a few choices of flavor, without having to create multiple full-sized desserts all at once, simply make a few batches of cupcakes. You can create three or four flavors, and then give the couple three or four cupcakes to total a dozen. Many bakers use this method and then freeze the leftover cupcakes for another time. To do so, simply wrap each cupcake in a double layer of plastic, then place them into a sealed bag or air-tight container. They’ll last for 3 months, perfectly moist and tender!
If you’d rather not freeze the extras, you can always sell, donate, or auction off the remainders. In anticipation of baking the batches, simply throw a post on social media, letting everyone know you’ll have a limited amount of cupcakes for sale, and be sure to mention the flavors. Ask for donations, or charge your normal fee. Everyone always loves a good flash sale, and your extras will be claimed before you know it — and, the profits are an exciting, helpful bonus! (See topic number five, below.)
Plus, another nice aspect of creating cupcakes is that you can vary the buttercream flavors or fillings. If the couple really isn’t sure what flavor combo they’d prefer, and all of the options they choose are relatively interchangeable, you can leave the cupcakes unfrosted, and then package little containers of buttercream and filling. This way, the bride- and groom-to-be can mix and match to their hearts’ content, and hopefully, find the one — the perfect flavor combination, that is.
Option 2: Mini Cakes
Some cake recipes are perfect but don’t translate well as a cupcake. In that case, all it takes is a little mathematics to transform a traditional eight-inch cake recipe into a mini, four-inch cake — perfect for the bride and groom, and maybe one or two more volunteers! These are my favorite four-inch cake pans, and here is another example of a mini-cake I made a few months ago!
Here’s how the math breaks down: typically, to make two layers of a four-inch cake, you need just under two cups of batter (but we’ll round it to two.) Two layers of an eight-inch cake usually require about eight cups of batter. So to convert your favorite eight-inch cake recipe to fit two, four-inch cake pans, you’ll simply need to divide each ingredient in your recipe by four. In other words, you’ll make one-quarter of the amount of batter.
This way, you don’t have to add additional stress to your workload by creating multiple, large cakes. Mini cakes are easy to handle and only take a few minutes to layer, stack, and frost. Plus, with the wedding approaching, I’m sure the bride and groom might not want to eat that much cake, anyway. I will note, however, that the math is much easier when you are working with weights, instead of cup measurements. However, it is possible to do either way. So open up your calculator application and recall your middle school fractions and decimals class. Divide each ingredient amount by four, and you’ll end up with two beautiful layers, four inches across — the perfect size for a mini cake, and the perfect wedding cake taste tester.
3. How Many Flavor Options Should I Offer For The Tasting?
This question depends on how much work you’re willing to put into a possible sale. However, on average, wedding cake tastings seem to hover around three: three cake flavors, each with a different buttercream type and filling. This is a good balance between variety for the couple and ease for you. Of course, you can always charge for additional tastes.
Plus, I always like to vary my buttercreams, serving at least one American and one Swiss Meringue, unless the couple requests not. Then, I let the couple know which is which, and ask them to consider factors other than flavor when giving feedback and making a decision. For example, if they prefer the texture of the Salted Caramel SMBC, but the flavor of the Raspberry ABC, for the wedding cake, I can make raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It’s a great way to show the engaged couple that they have flexibility in the options that are served at the wedding cake tasting.
4. What is the most efficient process for baking and decorating wedding cake tasters?
Mise en Place, Mise en Place, MISE EN PLACE! Did you hear that? Mise en Place: the French culinary term that means, roughly, “get your stuff organized.” In order to ensure everything is baked correctly while your sanity remains intact, it’s important to prepare well. (You can read more about that, here.) As follows is my method to start and finish the baking in one day, but feel free to adapt it to one that best serves you. I reference “cake,” but it also works for cupcakes, too. What is important is that you double-check your ingredients, set everything out ahead of time to come to room temperature, and stay organized.
- First, I created a list (my “cheat sheet”) with three columns, one for each cake flavor, along with its corresponding buttercream and filling. I wrote down the quartered batch measurements and double-checked the math — just to be safe.
- Then, in the same order as the “cheat sheet,” I laid out all of the pre-measured ingredients in three different sections on my kitchen island, careful to keep a clear division between each one. This allowed all of the cold ingredients to come to room temperature and ensured I didn’t have to do any quick math “on the fly,” risking mistakes and errors. (You can see this and the “cheat sheet” in the first part of this Reel I posted on Instagram.)
- One by one, I baked each cake. I only have two, four-inch cake pans, so I only could bake one cake at a time. If you’re in the same boat, don’t mix the ingredients for the next cake until your cake pans have cooled enough that you can re-oil and flour them. The ingredients are fine on the counter, so just leave them be. Mixing batter too early can have disastrous results. However, if you have enough cake pans to bake multiple flavors at once, first, be sure to remember which cake is which if they look similar. Secondly, be wary about different cooking temperatures and times. Ensure that the cakes should bake around the same time and at the same temperature to avoid unnecessarily opening and closing the oven door, which could flatten a cake yet to solidify in structure.
- As the first cake(s) are baking, feel free to prep your fillings and buttercreams. I worked in the same manner as with the cakes, taking one recipe at a time. However, with something simpler like beating ABC, you may be able to multi-task. Just don’t lose focus. It’s better to go slowly and intentionally than fly through a process only to make a critical mistake.
- Let the cakes cool. As your middle and final cakes are baking, your first one may be cool enough to decorate, especially since they are so small. If so, by all means, go for it! Use your favorite, tried-and-true cake decorating techniques to torte, layer, stack, and crumb-coat those pretty little cakes.
- As for decoration, you don’t have to go crazy. If you’ve been wanting to try a technique, you can use this as an opportunity, but keep in mind that it may leave an impression on the potential clients — whether positively, or otherwise. I like to mimic the style in which they envision their wedding cake but in a simple, subtle way. Again, these cakes are all about the taste, so just keep your decoration clean and minimal.
If you’d like to split the baking from decorating into two separate days (or evenings), simply bake two days prior to delivery. Once the cakes are cooled, wrap them in a double layer of plastic and freeze them. Then, one day prior to delivery, pull them out and decorate them to your liking.
5. How much should I charge for a wedding cake tasting?
This is another tough question. Without having cakes just laying around from which interested parties can sample, a lot of work and effort is involved for a wedding cake tasting as a home baker. So, how much to charge — if at all?
Many bakeries and bakers currently hover around $25-$35 for a wedding cake tasting. However, a lot of those bakers also extend the offer that, if the couple ends up booking with them, they will apply that fee to the final cost of the cake, a small “discount,” of sorts. Others simply offer to waive the cake tasting fee, should the couple book with them. It lends to wonder, then, if those bakeries just add that cost back into the wedding cake quote at the end of it all? Hmm. These are all options from which you can choose.
At the end of the day, it’s important to value your time and effort. No one should work for free unless you’d really like to offer a gift to the engaged couple. Here’s a good way to figure the total cost, which you can use to decide how you charge for wedding cake tastings — as an up-front fee or partially rolled into the final wedding cake cost.
- Add up your cost of ingredients – try to best estimate how much of each bulk item you use. (For example, using one-quarter of a bag of flour that costs $4.00 means the flour in the recipe costs $1.00.)
- Then, estimate how many hours you will spend on the project. Multiply this amount by your desired hourly rate (you can Google “baker hourly salary in [your area]” for some help if you’re unsure.
- Add the results from steps one and two together. This is the total cost of your materials and labor for the wedding cake tasting. Now, you can use this figure to better decide how much to charge for a wedding cake tasting.
P.S. Keep in mind that, if you choose to go the “cupcake route” for your wedding cake tasting, you’ll have extras. Selling these extras may make up a lot of the profits you would lose by offering a free or discounted tasting. This is another way that your small business can remain profitable but still offer wedding cake tasting as a home baker.
6. How should I serve or deliver the wedding cake tasters?
The delivery box and packaging doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should be tasteful. I love to use these for cupcakes, or these beautiful, clear boxes for mini cakes. Don’t forget to tie it up with a simple ribbon for a polished finish! After all, we do eat with our eyes, first!
Depending on your schedule and that of the engaged couple, you may opt for a variety of different delivery methods:
- Asking the couple to pick up the cakes saves you from delivery time, which is especially valuable if you’ve already decided to waive or discount the tasting fee.
- Dropping off the cakes to the couple offers you an opportunity to impress, and also ensure the cakes arrive safely.
- Offering to sit down with the couple for an in-person tasting allows you to get to know the bride- and groom-to-be, and lets you know upfront how they feel about each of the cake flavors. This also affords you an opportunity to talk more in-depth with the couple and perhaps even sway their opinions by offering different options, if they aren’t fully set on what you provided.
7. What should I do if I receive negative feedback about the wedding cake tasters?
Unfortunately, not every encounter will go smoothly (hello — heard the term “Bridezilla?”) If this is the case, take a few deep breaths. Whatever you do, don’t get angry.
First, calmly try to discern the true, underlying issue. Perhaps the whole cake wasn’t “terrible,” but, maybe the flavor of the buttercream was a tad overpowering. Ask a few questions to see what the couple thought went wrong, and what they would change. Then, if possible, offer solutions. Perhaps you can give them a small sample of another buttercream flavor, in keeping with the example above.
At the end of the day, you won’t be able to win over everyone. After all, as individuals, we are entitled to opinions — even regarding our taste preferences. Take a moment to decide if you want to win over the client, or if it’s better to let them move on to someone else. The best business transactions come from a positive, understanding relationship on the parts of both the entrepreneur and the recipient. Hosting a wedding cake tasting as a home baker may provide you with the valuable insight to discontinue a potentially traumatic business relationship.
8. What to do if the client likes my wedding cake taste-testers?
I couldn’t just end this post on a negative note. Contrary to section number seven, what should you do if the client likes your cakes? *Insert happy dance here!* Take a few minutes to celebrate, then calmly try to close the deal.
Ask which flavor they like best, which cake they could see themselves
shoving into each other’s faces eating on the most special day of their lives. Then, organize the information into a wedding cake contract, send it over for signatures, and voila! Now, it’s onto the biggest day of their lives — and, one of the bigger days in yours, too. LOL! 🙂
Hosting A Wedding Cake Tasting As A Home Baker Is Easy As Pie — Er, Cake!
Small bakers don’t have to feel disadvantaged by a lack of resources or helping hands. Rather, with some careful consideration, planning, and organization, you can easily and successfully prepare a wedding cake tasting as a home baker. Follow the steps in this post to tackle the intimidating task with ease and confidence! Feel free to comment on this post with any questions or hesitations. Or, let me know if you appreciate any of these tips! I love your feedback!
Don’t forget to find me on Instagram so we can keep in touch, and be sure to tag me in any photos you post of your wedding cake tasting creations! I love to see your works of culinary art.
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Take care guys! Until next time…
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