Sunday, May 30, 2010

With a cake at stake, listen to the pros

four-tier wedding cake
  Cake by Elizabeth Hodes

Oh the cake!

How can you cut costs but still have a beautiful cake? What type of icing is best? Are cupcakes in or out of fashion? asked two New York City-based cake makers for some insights. The first is Sylvia Weinstock, wedding cake maker-to-the-stars, and the second is Elizabeth Hodes, founder of Elizabeth Hodes Custom Cakes & Sugar Art.

What are your wedding cake prices?

Weinstock: Our prices start at $17 per person, less than a New York cocktail. Price depends on [the] amount of art work needed, etc.

Hodes: My cakes start at $10 per serving and I have a $500 minimum. Prices are based on design, not flavor. This is because the sugar sculptures (flowers, animals, etc.) are made by hand and are the most labor-intensive part of the process. It is not uncommon for a cake to have 50 hours worth of sculpture on it.

What is your favorite cake to make?

Weinstock: I have no favorite cake to make but I do like lemon and fresh raspberry in a butter cake.

Hodes: In terms of flavors, my favorite cake to make is carrot. Maybe that's because it's also my favorite to eat. [Also] I particularly enjoy making cakes for traditional Indian weddings because the visuals are so rich and colorful.

What type of icing do you prefer?

Weinstock: We use buttercream icing only. It is an Italian meringue with the best butter one can buy. No fondant; I don’t like it, won’t eat it and therefore will not serve it to

Hodes: I strongly suggest a rolled icing. This means fondant, marzipan or modeling chocolate. A rolled icing is important because it offers the cake much more protection from damage over the course of the event. It also insulates the cake's interior, keeping it fresh. Aesthetically, a rolled icing provides a smooth canvas on which to design. I know, I know -- folks often have negative associations with fondant (we've all gotten the end piece where the fondant is four inches thick). This is usually because the fondant they have encountered is of poor quality and has not been used properly. When it's well-made and applied well, fondant tastes good.

How do you get a cake on a budget?

Weinstock: Get a smaller cake that is delicious and beautiful.

Hodes: The more ornate and intricate the cake is the more work and higher skill level it requires to create and the more it costs. If you keep your cake design on the simple side, you can reduce its price. Also, since so much of the labor is in the flower sculpture, consider using real flowers instead of sugar ones -- just be careful the flowers you put on the cake are organic, free of pesticides and contain no natural toxins. Other strategies include supplementing the cake with alternative desserts. For example, if you offer your 100 guests a choice of cake and pie, a good number of them will select the pie; rather than ordering a cake to serve 100, then, you can order one that serves 65 or 75. Be straightforward with your cake designer about what you can spend. Often, he or she will be happy to try to work out a plan to meet all your needs and wants.

Cupcakes: In or out?

Weinstock: I do not feel that cupcakes are appropriate for weddings unless it is a backyard event, or barbecue.

Hodes: I think they're out. I hope they're out. Cupcakes are cute, but they never have the visual impact of a real cake and there's so much less you can do with them creatively.

How do you suggest people figure out what kind of cake they want?

Hodes: If you don't know where to start regarding flavors, consider the following: what do you usually order for dessert when you're at a nice restaurant? Do you gravitate towards chocolate, vanilla, nuts, fruit, liqueurs or a particular combination, for example, chocolate and raspberry or vanilla and hazelnut? Are there any ingredients you need to avoid (e.g., nuts, seeds, alcohol) because certain guests have allergies or dietary restrictions? If you are having other desserts or special drinks with the cake, what flavors might complement those? Think of the meal as a whole -- what flavors will best follow your seared salmon or beef fillet? Are there any special local or seasonal ingredients that you want to include?

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Great interview. Sylvia is a legend!

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