I am lucky that some of my awesome #teamBB members are up for guest posting on the blog while I am adjusting to having two kids under three! My new baby is a month old today already and I can't bear it, the time is passing too quickly! When the lovely Sonnda from Hautecake by Sonnda Catto offered to share her tips for small wedding cakes I was really interested in hearing how she makes a small cake look just as spectacular as those huge showstoppers!
Cherry blossom wedding cake: for an intimate springtime wedding
You're having a small wedding. Perhaps it's an intimate family celebration to accompany the main do in another city or even another country. Perhaps it's a coming together of only your very closest friends and family. Perhaps you're getting married for the second time and want to keep things low key. Or maybe you’ve got a tight budget that you need to stick to.
You'd like an utterly beautiful, unforgettable wedding cake; something that will make an instant and lasting impact. But how on earth are you going to achieve that if your cake only needs to serve a handful of guests?!
The first thing I’d say: don't stress about it. It's NOT your problem. Hand that one right over to your cake designer! This minute! Because there are a number of techniques they can employ to make even the smallest of wedding cakes showstoppingly beautiful.
#1: Height, for an instant elegance boost
I designed this cherry blossom wedding cake for an intimate springtime wedding. It features a 6-inch round, which serves approximately 20 people. On its own, I confess that would have looked pretty unimpressive! So I added a dummy booster in underneath, bringing the height from the standard 3.5 inches or so to almost 6 inches. In the cake world, height is very beautiful: an instant elegance boost. Add extra height to maximise the presence of even the smallest of wedding cakes.
#2: Dummy tiers, for make-believe size
We chose not to do so here, but you can also add in whole extra dummy tiers. So a one-tier wedding cake suddenly becomes a two-, three-, four- or even five-tier wedding cake. The sky really is the limit here, alongside budget considerations. Different cake designers have different ways of charging for dummy tiers. Some charge a percentage of real cake, some charge for each of the elements. E.g. I charge for the polystyrene block, plus my usual prices for the icing and decoration. Since polystyrene blocks cost a fraction of real cake, this can be a very cost-effective way of upping your wedding cake's impact.
#3: Additional covering finishes, for extra visual interest
It's relatively easy for big wedding cakes to be WOW! You walk in the room and can't miss their towering splendour. But how do you give diminutive wedding cakes the WOW! factor? How do you prevent them from getting lost in the room? Something else I rely on is to use additional covering finishes on the icing. Beautiful embellishments, either applied directly to or on top of the initial layer of icing. There are a whole host of techniques to choose from, too many to list, but each cake designer usually works with a few personal favourites. Mine are: 1) ruffles, 2) bas-relief (a slightly raised pattern which gives a subtle sculptural effect) and 3) textured finishes.
These extra details - sometimes incredibly intricate – add extra visual interest, pulling people over for a closer look. For this particular wedding cake, we were going for simple, clean lines with a dash of drama. So I used sharp edges at the top with a subtle woodgrain textured finish all around. Nothing too dramatic - I wanted to reserve that for the sugar flowers - but another point of interest. At a distance, you can spot there's something else going on, but can't quite make it out. Curious, people are drawn in for a closer look; once there, there's lots of detail to marvel over.
#4: Statement sugar flowers, for drama and impact
Super-delicate sugar flowers have become a bit of a signature for me. I tend to keep things fairly real in terms of botanical correctness, then veer off into fantasy with the colouring. Because we all get enough reality in day-to-day life, right?! And who needs reality on their wedding day. If there's one day in life when you don't need reality, that's surely got to be it!
So here we've got blue and silver cherry blossom branches. NOT as in nature, but half the fun of cake-making is artistic licence! And that flight of fancy allowed me to tie the wedding cake into the couple's wedding theme. Yes, you guessed it: blue and silver.
To get the structure of sugar flowers right, I always work from nature - from real flowers in front of me. For me, that's the only way to get that organic, natural feel and a lifelike sense of movement and growth. So while I was working on these, I had two vases on my kitchen worktable full of cherry blossom branches projecting out at all sorts of crazy, beautiful angles. Let's just say there's a tree close by that has considerably fewer boughs than it did!
#5: Bold colour, to catch the eye
I adore the soft pinks and pure whites of natural blossoms. I think they’d look stunning on a multi-tier wedding cake. Hell, they’d have looked stunning on this one. But they’re too quiet and gentle to get such a little cake noticed. Small wedding cakes need at least ONE very loud, shouty feature. So that flight of fancy – blue and silver blossoms – served two purposes. Tying into the couple’s wedding theme and petite wedding cake megaphone.
I admit that using bold colour can be a little scary. When I was colouring the blossoms, I had a moment of cold fear when I thought they’d be way too much. But when everything was put together, it was just fine. I think that the strong colour works here a) because there’s only a little of it, and b) because of the simple background. The subtly textured white makes the blue really leap out at you, makes it even more vivid. And by keeping everything else simple, there isn’t too much going on overall. My advice on using bold colour? Go for it, just be judicious!
Images by stillmotion