Skip To Content

    19 Things To Know Before You Pick Your Wedding Cake

    Your *actual* one true love.

    Friends, fam, we are gathered here today to witness and celebrate the creation of my favorite food group: wedding cake.

    20th Century Fox Television

    AKA the real reason anyone gets married in the first place.

    While there are approximately (*checks the Knot*) one bajillion things you're going to have to account for in wedding planning, this is inarguably the most fun task. But that doesn't mean it's going to be a...piece of cake.

    1. It's best to have these three things squared away before you even start making cake-tasting appointments: your wedding date, your venue, and your estimated number of guests.

    Modern Frames Photography / Via

    The wedding date is important because the folks at the bakery need to know if they have the capacity to take you that weekend — wedding seasons get hectic, FAST. Your venue is important too, because odds are the bakery will be delivering the cake, and they need to build a schedule around you and whomever else they're making deliveries for on the big day. The guests will determine the size of the cake, but don't get too hung up on this if it fluctuates — most bakeries are fine with your calling to add or subtract a reasonable number of guests two weeks out.

    2. Most wedding cakes are priced by the slice, not by the number of tiers.

    3. Do you have a small number of guests but still have your heart set on getting a wedding cake the size of a small toddler? You've got options!

    Amazon / Via

    You generally have to hit a minimum number of people you're planning to feed to get a three-tier cake or above — but if you're having a small number of guests and want multiple tiers, you don't always have to order a bunch of extra cake. You can ask the bakery about a "dummy tier," which would mean that one or more of the tiers is made of plastic foam and decorated just like the other tiers. The only thing better than cake is cake with a SECRET.

    4. If you're budget-conscious, most bakeries will give you price estimates on designs before you go, or at least ballpark them for you.

    5. When it comes to wedding cake design, Pinterest and Instagram are your two new BFFs.

    6. There's a difference between "layers" and "tiers." The number of tiers in a wedding cake is how many levels the cake itself has. The "layers" refer to the cake and filling within each tier.

    Fluffy Thoughts / Via

    So, say this is a slice from the bottom tier of a wedding cake, and that for some reason it hasn't been gobbled up by my bare hands yet. If you chose, say, a confetti (rainbow sprinkle) cake filled with strawberry cream cheese frosting (get at me, though), each individual tier of cake would consist of four "layers" built like this: one layer of confetti, strawberry filling, another layer of confetti, strawberry filling, another layer of confetti, strawberry filling, and one more layer of confetti.

    TL;DR: You get MULTIPLE layers of cake in each tier, and that is where all the flavor goodness will come from.

    (You can check out Fluffy Thoughts' wedding cake gallery for more info/inspo!)

    7. You can get pretty creative about the fillings that go into the layers — the bakery will likely have some combos in mind, but if you're looking for something even *more* specific, it never hurts to ask!

    8. You don’t have to be ~married~ to a certain flavor combo.

    9. Ignore the "flavor" of the frosting on the outside of the cake.

    10. You can learn about frosting's (love) language from a few different resources, but don't sweat the details too much.

    Fluffy Thoughts / Via

    If you want extra credit, though, here's a lil' frosting crash course. The outside of the cake will typically come in any of three types of frosting: American buttercream, Italian meringue buttercream, and fondant.

    American buttercream: This is probably the kind you encounter most — it's sweeter, made with sugar, butter, and milk, and has more of that birthday cake–frosting consistency. It's a little more difficult to apply because of its thickness but can lend itself to beautiful textures; it can also generally get a smooth finish if that's what you're looking for. It's definitely the one to pick if you have a "sweet tooth" (or if, like me, all of your teeth are sweet).

    Italian meringue buttercream: It's lighter, fluffier, and less sweet than American buttercream. It's also smoother to work with and lends itself to a shinier finish. That said, it's a little more fickle when it comes to holding up against the weather — in warmer temperatures it will get a little melty, so definitely consider that factor if you're planning a summer wedding.

    Fondant: This is a firm sugar icing that people have a LOT of opinions about, since it doesn't have the texture of typical cake frostings. That said, it looks beautifully polished on a wedding cake and makes it a lot easier to add other design elements. If you're opting for a colorful wedding cake, this might be your best bet, too — it won't dye guests' mouths as drastically as a strong color would with typical buttercreams. (Also, if you're on Team Never Fondant because of the taste, keep an open mind — as I mentioned, people aren't really going to be tasting much of the outside of the cake.)

    The choice of one of these is totally about personal preference and what you'll need to accommodate your design. That said, scatter my remains into the ocean with a vat of American buttercream, ashes to ashes, frosting to dust.

    (You can check out Fluffy Thoughts' wedding cake gallery for more info/inspo!)

    11. You can get creative with your tiers.

    12. There are approximately infinite ways to texture frosting and decorate cakes, and enough terms to fill an encyclopedia.

    Magnolia Bakery / Via

    They're probably not worth stressing over unless you suddenly get so deep into wedding cake shopping that you decide to quit your regular job, enroll in a pastry arts program, become the next Cake Boss and leave your old life behind, but if you want to know more, there's a very helpful glossary of cake-decorating terms on Love & Lavender. It might be worth perusing if there are any super-specific design elements you have in mind to communicate with the decorator, but photos will usually do the trick — decorators are used to talking to people who don't have cake jargon in their brains!

    (Check out the rest of Magnolia Bakery's cake design gallery for more inspo!)

    13. Don't be afraid to think outside the pastry box.

    14. You can significantly cut the cost of your cake by applying flowers yourself or having the florist apply them at the venue for a fee.

    15. Ask how many weddings the bakery already has scheduled for your wedding weekend and how many they're planning to take.

    16. If you're worried about your wedding cake being dry, you can ask for simple syrup to be drizzled in it.

    Amazon / Via

    I know it sounds a little weird, especially because I'm going to use a word that makes some people cry when they read it, but this keeps the cake (*lowers voice*) moist. The reality is, your wedding cake is not getting baked day of — or likely even the day before. So if you want some insurance that the cake will still have some moisture, ask the bakery to drizzle simple syrup between the layers before they assemble it. (It will make it taste marginally sweeter, so also bear in mind that this advice is coming from an unrepentant sugar fiend.)

    17. Make sure you love whatever flavor you decide on for your top tier.

    Modern Frames Photography / Via

    Traditionally, you save the top tier and freeze it for a year to eat on your one-year anniversary. That said, life is too short for freezer-burned cake, so I'm a proponent of going to clown town together on the top tier right after the wedding is over and then ordering another 6-inch cake in the flavor you liked when your one-year anniversary comes along.

    18. Fall in love with too many flavors? That's what rehearsal dinner cakes are for.

    19. Remember that cake is supposed to be fun!!

    Apatow Productions

    Like, it's cake. If something goes wrong, there will be other cakes to eat, and so many days to eat them. And if there's booze at your wedding, there's a 90% chance y'all are gonna be buzzed by the time that cake is getting served, and it's going to taste like the eighth wonder of the culinary world. Don't stress yourself out over cake. That's what the rest of the wedding is for!!

    Thanks, y'all, for going on this cake journey with me. I hope it was helpful to your legally binding marital dessert needs.


    If anyone needs me, I will be in the corner, either eating cake or thinking about eating cake forever and ever, amen.