Smart Start with Susan Southerland: Working with Pastry Chefs


One of the most fun appointments during the planning of a wedding is the one with your pastry chef. The wedding cake has become a popular way for couples to show their personalities and enhance their wedding reception décor. Gone are the days of the basic white wedding cake…although all-white is becoming hip once again! Today’s cakes vary greatly in color, taste, and style. I want to help you make the most of that appointment with your pastry chef.

Photo credit Ginger Midgett Photography 2{Photo credit: Ginger Midgett Photography}

The first thing I mention to couples is to not go into their appointment with an exact idea of their flavors, design, or tier number. This is an appointment where you’ll want to kick back and enjoy what the pastry chef has to offer with an open mind. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be prepared, of course! The pastry chef will need to know a few things in order to best guide you in your cake decisions. Some things he or she will need to know when you walk in the door:

1. Your guest count.
2. Your wedding colors (be sure to bring in a dress swatch or your Susan Southerland Secret Color Wheel to the appointment).
3. Whether you’d prefer fresh or pastry flowers (or none at all) on the cake.
4. A list of things you don’t like, such as various shapes, colors, or accents.
5. Any “must haves.” For example, if you want your wedding gown’s lace design incorporated into your cake, bring a sample of the lace with you.

Photo credit Jason Angelini{Photo credit: Jason Angelini}

I encourage couples to bring up to five photos of designs they like to the appointment. Also, if they have already chosen a cake topper, I encourage them to bring it along so the pastry chef can account for its weight in the design. Some of the other goals to be accomplished during this appointment include:

1. The number and sizes of the tiers. The pastry chef can assist with proposing different sizes based on your guest count and vision.

2. The shape of each tier. Today’s bride isn’t limited by traditional round tiers. Your pastry chef can offer suggestions for cakes using square, round, or heart-shaped tiers, or a mix of different shapes.

3. Color pallet and design of each tier. Just as the shape of each tier can vary, the color and decoration on one tier can differ from the next. Consider using a complementary rather than matching design scheme.

4. Outside considerations. The pastry chef will want to know where you might want your decorative flowers placed, where the cake topper will be placed, whether there will be a non-traditional cake table to account for, etc.

5. Flavor of each tier. Nearly all pastry chefs allow couples to choose cake and filling flavors for each tier, so feel free to mix and match!

6. Top tier. When determining the appropriate amount of cake, the pastry chef will need to know if you intend to save the top tier or serve it.

Here are some trends that you might want to consider for your cake: silver, gold, bronze, pastels, rustic, lots of bling, blush and purple, and mixing metallic with pastels and corals. Also, couples are enjoying coming up with fun ways to display or elevate their cakes. Some choices I’ve seen recently include wine crates, wine barrels, and boxes covered in a matching color.

Do you have any other tips for couples who are choosing their wedding cake? Do you have a cake story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!

SusanSoutherlandGetting engaged is such an exciting time. However, the exhilaration of saying “I will” can quickly be replaced by the overwhelming concerns surrounding planning a wedding.

I designed my Smart Start series to take the worry out of planning your wedding. Smart Start will be delivered to your inbox every week filled with tips on the business and the art sides of planning a wedding. It will break up your tasks into easy-to-accomplish segments so you can enjoy the planning process.

If you have questions or ideas, please don’t hesitate to email me at You may also find back issues of the Smart Start series by clicking HERE.


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