Look at these cakes.
They’re spectacular and they’re created by Jess – the genius behind Myrtle and Clay. Obviously she knows what she’s doing, so we decided to ask her all the questions we’ve ever had about wedding cakes – from choosing flavours to their relevance at today’s weddings.
Read on for her (very honest) insights.
Hi Jess, how many hours does it take to make one of your cakes, from start to finish?
This will vary on the size and design of the cake and also whether the client has a clear direction in mind but on average, each cake will take me anywhere between 10-12 hours from start to finish. This includes things like client communication, ordering and sourcing materials, baking, icing, decorating, packaging – and it will take longer if I am also delivering the cake.
What’s your advice to people trying to choose a cake?
I don’t feel like it’s about choosing the exact cake design you want, but rather choosing the overall style direction for your day. I generally don’t like to produce cakes that are exactly what a client asks for – I know that sounds horrible but allow me to explain…
I ask all my clients to fill in a questionnaire which gives me lots of detail on their overall plans. I like to know the overarching theme, colours, who their stylist and florist is or where their inspiration is from, the textures they are using in other aspects of the day, what outfits they are wearing, what the location is and any other significant details. I then form a design from that.
I think the real power in hiring creative professionals is when you let them have creative freedom. When you give them a little taste of what you’re looking for, then let them go nuts, that is where you get the best results. That is where we thrive, get inspired and produce our best work. It’s a win for everyone!
Do you think the cake cutting is still an important part of a wedding?
This is going to be a little controversial but absolutely not. I think people still have this feeling that it is or that it should be – which mostly comes from the wedding checklists that you see online (which induce far more stress than any real benefit). I find when it happens on the day, it’s super underwhelming and isn’t worth the fuss.
I think we’re definitely seeing a shift more recently where wedding cakes are thought of as purely aesthetic and used as a design feature, which I am totally for – provided you don’t have a huge amount of waste, because that’s not cool. This is one of the reasons why I only offer my cakes on a small-medium scale. That way you can still have them as a design feature and serve your guests, but just not in the traditional form where you cater for everyone at your wedding.
How much does an average wedding cake cost?
Again, this varies quite a bit but generally my wedding clients will spend somewhere between $500-$700. Keeping in mind that I only offer my cakes on a small-medium scale, which will feed up to around 100 guests. It might seem like a lot for a smaller cake, but if you were to go to a more traditional caker and order something that would cater for your whole guest list, this price will easily jump into the thousands – with most of it left on tables and wasted once the dance floor opens up!
Why should people pay hundreds of dollars for something they’re just going to eat?
Well, I think if you have this attitude, then maybe you should be looking at alternatives. Although I have a cake business, I don’t believe you should purchase anything for your wedding, unless you truly are crazy about it!
For me, the cake is a styling component to your wedding – that is edible! Double win! And by making them on a smaller scale, there is far less waste, meaning what you purchase is actually eaten and enjoyed. Not everyone is a sweet-tooth, so don’t cater for everyone – but the ones that are will very much appreciate the addition to your grazing table later in the evening once they have used all their energy on the d-floor!
How do you feel about dessert bars that offer up lots of different sweet options vs. the traditional wedding cake?
I love it! Often my cakes are ordered with the intention of having them on a grazing table or dessert bar later in the evening. I think the best ones offer a range of savoury and sweet options to satisfy all your guests’ taste buds! Don’t go too big though depending on the time you’re offering it and how well it will keep, as it might not get eaten and might not be any good for you to take home the next day. I find that small grazing tables by the d-floor with a mix of savoury and sweet things later in the evening are super popular because guests start feeling peckish once they start dancing. It’s a great way to satisfy some late night cravings while keeping the waste and price tag low.
What are some of the less traditional flavoured cakes that you create?
I only offer a handful of staple mud flavours, as I prefer to focus heavily on the design aspect. But I guess mud-cake is pretty untraditional for a wedding? Isn’t it supposed to be fruit or sponge cake? Who knows! I am really not in this for the tradition! Ha!
How long before a wedding should a cake be made?
I generally start making my cakes roughly a week before the day but depending on the type of cake you’re having and the icing being used, some cakers will make your cake or at least components of it weeks before your wedding day. Generally, I will start baking on the Monday, which leaves time for any errors should I need to start again. I refrigerate the cakes for a couple of days, collect fresh flowers if required on the Wednesday, cut, build and ice the cake on the Thursday, before decorating them and adding florals the day before the wedding if using dried flowers or on the day of the wedding if using fresh flowers.
What should you do with any leftover cake you have after your wedding? How long will it last?
There isn’t usually too much left over since I don’t cater for huge numbers but if there is, keep it and eat it! It is literally one of the best snacks for the next day when you’re hungover and totally exhausted! One of the perks of using mud cake is that it actually tastes better with time. Obviously don’t keep eating it a month after the day but a week or so will be totally fine if refrigerated. Lots of my clients will ask their venue to save the smaller top tier for later and just serve the bottom tier to their guests on the day.
What are the origins of the wedding cake?
I literally had no idea so I turned to Google! Haha! Apparently the origins of the wedding cake date back to ancient Rome, when weddings concluded with the groom breaking a loaf of barley bread over the bride’s head, symbolising fertility. But that doesn’t sound too friendly to me so I’ll just go back to it being an edible styling component to your wedding
What are the benefits of getting a professional baker to make your cake vs. a friend who’s handy in the kitchen?
Oh, where to start?! Aside from the obvious things like food safety, reliability, insurance and trained knowledge, it’s actually a lot harder than it looks and takes a lot more equipment and time than you might think. I get that the price tag might seem unreasonable initially but when you add up the time and equipment involved to make the cake itself, followed by all the time and money previously invested to attain the knowledge and have the relative qualifications and assurances – it’s a no-brainer.
Also, making a tasty carrot or banana cake on the weekend vs. a structurally sound, completely smooth, multi-layered cake, adorned with heavy flowers are two very different things. And that’s before I even get started on using fresh flowers, knowing what is safe and how to treat them so that you don’t accidentally poison your guests! Have you ever searched “DIY wedding cake fails”? Ha! You should!
Should your wedding cake tie in with your overall styling or should it stand out?
I feel like you can really take this in either direction and there are just so many variables. I think at the crux of it, it comes down to your style. If you have quite an understated style, monotone and soft on the eye – absolutely tie it in! However, if you’re going for a really punchy and bold style whether it be lots of colour, grungy or just super dark modern tones, it makes sense for your cake to be bold and maybe have a big pop of colour in it. This is something that will change from client to client and it’s something we’ll discuss along the way. Most of the time, once I’ve read your brief, there is an obvious choice and I will come back to you with a few options outlining which is my fave and why.
How much cake do you actually need?
Not as much as you think!! I don’t believe in catering for your whole guest list – it’s expensive, there is a tonne of waste and it’s simply not needed. I offer them on a small to medium scale, so not catering for your whole guest list but rather as a statement on your grazing table or a design feature that can be cut up for people to grab or saved for yourself for later on. If cake is your only dessert and your venue is going to serve people on platters as they do drinks, then perhaps 2/3 of your guest list is a reasonable amount to cater for and you’ll still get to take some home. But if you plan on having a grazing table next to the d-floor you can get away with 1/3 or less!
What’s the deal with florals? Are they included or will our florist need to add them on the day?
This will vary depending on who your caker is but for me, they are most definitely included. Florals play a very big part in the design of your cake and this is something I like to have control over. I will usually have a pretty clear idea of what the overall floral direction is for your wedding, so I will use that to steer the design of your cake.
Although I sometimes use fresh flowers or collect a couple of hero flowers from your florist before the day, I also like to use a lot of dried florals and there are a few reasons for this. One, they weigh much less than fresh flowers, which is better for the structure of your cake given mud cake is quite heavy already. Two, they last longer and don’t wilt – meaning your cake will look great for the whole reception and it can be picked up or delivered the day before! Three, many flowers and foliage take on a whole new life when they are dried so this is something I like to experiment with and keep my own little stash on hand. And lastly, dried doesn’t always mean beige – I have dried stems in all kinds of colours so most of the time I can cater for any theme with what I have on hand at the time and I never waste any leftover foliage.
If, like us, you’re smitten with Myrtle and Clay (and her cake designs, too), you can order a gorgeous slab of yum for your big day via her website myrtleandclay.com.au. And if want to see a truly beautiful Instagram feed, they’re at @myrtleandclay.
Looking for more wedding FAQs, advice and inspiration? Head on over here.