Wedding Planning Q&A

How Long Will Wedding Cake Last?


How Long Will Wedding Cake Last? Terry Hatfield, professional Wedding Cake Maker discusses the pro’s and con’s of decorated vs naked Wedding Cakes.

Listen to Terry on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…


Terry Hatfield from Terrific Cakes


James: [00:00:00] Terry’s very kindly prepared a video for us on what to expect when you commission a bespoke wedding cake. So we’ll play that and then we’ll come back and take some questions. 

Terry: [00:00:18] This is what brides see when they come to see me about a consultation for their wedding cake. What you can see here gives you an idea of size, design, shapes, and all sorts of other different factors that come in to designing the wedding cake. These are just the examples. But sometimes like the one you’re looking at there in the middle, I do a dummy if somebody has asked for something specifically that I haven’t done before. I will try it out on a dummy first, before I do the actual cake. So then people get a better idea of what the cake will look like. It’s also for my benefit, because I like to try out new designs and new things for the cakes. You’ll also see that on the display there are some cakes, like the one at the back there with the lead crystal droplets. And the one at this side with the crystal centrepiece. And this stand here with the ice crystals down the centre of the supports. These are all stands that I hire out and there are quite a number of different separators on cakes here. They would be too expensive to include in with the price of the cakes. We hire those out at a fee. And I do have other ones, I have up on my shelves up at the top there different ones that you can hire out. Depending on the design of your cake. So this gives you a general idea of what is available. 

James: [00:02:17] Brilliant. All right thanks for sharing that Terry. So has anybody got any questions that brides and grooms should be asking Terry about commissioning bespoke wedding cakes. 

Tanya: [00:02:29] Well I’m always interested in how long… What’s the best sort of lead time for you really Terry, you know, if somebody comes in and wants something particular. How much notice would you need. I know weddings are usually booked a long way in advance, but if they not. How long do you need? 

Terry: [00:02:49] Depends on how busy we are. I mean, you have to remember that some of the things on the wedding cakes, particularly things like the handmade flowers on that last cake you looked at. They do take a long time to make, so they’re things that we have to do in advance. The cake itself, I can do a cake at a week’s notice, but I don’t recommend it. Brides start looking early, I mean I take orders a year in advance now. I’m advertising that if you book a cake in advance now for next year, then you’ll get a discount and anybody quoting Wedding Espresso will get an extra discount on top of that. So normally you’d get 10 percent discount if you book a wedding cake from this, from me, you get 20 percent discount. That’s a lot of money off a wedding cake. But the one top tip is don’t go for cheap wedding cakes. There’s a lot of people out there doing them. I mean I teach, so I know how many people are out there doing it. And what you’ve got to remember is that most of these people are not that experienced, and you need to see what you’re getting from the cake maker in the first place. So you need to see photographs, or in my case, I have a room that’s dedicated just to showing examples of cakes I’ve done. In order to show shapes, sizes, designs that you can have on your cake, and then you don’t have to pick those. They’re just the tip of the iceberg and you do get to see a lot of photographs as well, which are put up on my television screen, in order to view the cakes I’ve done in the past. 

Tanya: [00:04:28] What about tastings and things like that? 

Terry: [00:04:32] You can book tastings. That’s something that’s new now because at one time, everybody had fruitcakes. But they don’t have fruitcakes anymore now, and this is another problem that we have with wedding cakes, we can’t start doing them in advance. We could start doing them weeks before with the fruitcake, but with the cakes that we do now, and there are a wide variety of cakes, they’ve got to be done within days of the wedding. But saying that, once a cake is covered it will keep up to a fortnight provided you haven’t cut into it, but you can freeze it. 

Carly: [00:05:07] I have to say I was having this discussion yesterday, and I love fruit wedding cake. I was very unpopular when we had the discussion because everyone was saying “no, you know we love a sponge cake” and I was like “no give me proper fruit wedding cake with marzipan and icing”, love it. It’s my favourite. 

Terry: [00:05:25] That’s it, yeah. You could have a mixed cake. You get a variety of different flavours now. I would say if anybody did want a fruit cake, then it has to be the bottom tier because it’s a heavy cake. Even though we dowel the cakes, we don’t want to take any risks on anything collapsing like you see on TV. You know with the M&S cakes collapsing. Usually because somebody hasn’t properly dowled them, and I get hotels phoning up saying “have you dowled the cake? Because we’ve got a sprung dance floor and the floor is going to be vibrating when everybody gets on the dance floor”. So we don’t want the cake moving and going over. So these are all things you need to think about. A lot of the amateurs don’t know how to dowel a cake. 

Tanya: [00:06:12] That’s right. 

Carly: [00:06:12] It’s something you wouldn’t think about. People who have friends or family or whoever make a cake, would never think to dowel it. 

Terry: [00:06:28] No they wouldn’t, no. Then you wonder why the cake starts sinking then. With the old royal icing cakes, it wasn’t a problem because the icing was so hard, nothing was going anywhere.

But we don’t have that anymore now. We have sugar paste and now everybody wants butter cream cakes. In fact, I’ve just been helping a friend actually, I’ve just done a butter cream cake… Nightmare! 

Tanya: [00:06:56] I was going to say here where I am, lots of people are having these naked cakes. They are hardly covered in any thing at all. It’s just a little tiny bit of buttercream. So they must be a nightmare too. 

Terry: [00:07:12] The problem with that is that they wont stand waiting around because there’s nothing there to protect the cake. Anything that we cover the cake with, whether it’s butter cream, or whether it’s sugar paste or royal icing, whatever. It keeps the moisture in and keeps the air out. With a naked cake, because the cake is virtually naked. The air is going to get at it. And I mean a friend of mine, when she’s done them, she’s always said you can have it for the evening do, but don’t have it stood there all day, because if you do, it’s not going to be edible. 

Carly: [00:07:44] Oh gosh I suppose then there’s no keeping it for your first anniversary or anything like that. It’s not going to last. 

Tanya: [00:07:54] But as you say brides will not think about the practicalities of it being sitting out all day. 

Terry: [00:08:05] The problem with that is it’s one of these trends that comes and goes. At the moment I’ve been asked to do them and I’ve said no, because the problem is that you’ve got to do it at the last minute. You can’t do it days in advance like we can a covered cake. You’ve got to do it the day before. That means depending on what you’ve got on, you’ve probably got to work through the night. A lot want soft fruit on, which is another problem, because halfway through the day, it’s going to be all running down the cake and making a real mess. Personally I don’t like them. 

Carly: [00:08:38] My cookery skills leave a lot to be desired. I’d be terrified of what if something does go wrong and you know, you don’t have any leeway at that point if you’re baking it, you know straight away. I’d be so worried. 

Terry: [00:08:55] Yeah well this is why we like plenty of time to sort things out. You know, I mean the way I do it. I bake the cakes from the beginning of the week and then I cover the cakes. That means that they’re fine then. I’ve got the rest of the week to do anything that I need to do on it.

Depending on how busy you are, you can be working till quite late into the night. But, you know, a lot people don’t realise how much time goes into them and this is where the cost comes in. Because you’ve got to remember everybody works on an hourly rate, and if you think about the average pay. Work it out on how long it takes to do a cake, because people ask “so how long did it take you to do it”. Well I mean personally if I’m doing a wedding cake, I can do one in a day, but that’s eight hours, eight times whatever. That’s not including materials. And then you’ve got to take into account baking it, and everything else you’ve got to do you know. In fact I’m now making my students time everything they do and cost everything up. 

Carly: [00:09:53] Yeah and I think actually when people are newly self-employed, it’s one of the things that people forget actually, is that you do have to cost your time accordingly, because you’ll rob your business of any income, because you’ll be working to a point where you can’t do anything else and you won’t be making any money. It is a dangerous trap to get into. Definitely. 

Terry: [00:10:16] Well this is why businesses go under when they do that, because they don’t think about that. Just because you’re getting money coming in and you’ve got money going out you think you’re making money, but you’re not and you’ve also got a very short season. 

Carly: [00:10:30] Because obviously I do a lot of American weddings in that it’s customary, it’s probably the wrong word, to put 20 percent on top for tips and gratuities or whatever. And we do get a lot of backlash on that in the UK because when we see it as a tip, and we think tipping is is you know…

But when you look at actually what you’re being charged for, the cost out there is a lot lower, but 20 percent is essentially making it doable for the business that you’re working with. And I think that we don’t necessarily give that credit to people who are doing very creative jobs, but actually are putting a lot of time and effort into your wedding. It’s an interesting one I think when you’re working for different cultures, it doesn’t always translate very well. But you know you have to make a living. 

Terry: [00:11:27] It depends on how important they think it is for the wedding you know. I mean the thing is it’s a hell of a big difference between what we charge up here to what you pay down south. So when I’m saying a big difference, I mean a really big difference. Yeah I’ve heard of wedding cakes down south costing £1000 – £2000. For a 3 tier cake. Yet up here from somebody like myself it’s more like £300 or £400. I have done cakes into the thousands but you’re talking about big cakes. 

Carly: [00:11:58] Yeah. very, very big cake. 

James: [00:12:03] So from the Bride and Grooms perspective Terry, is it cheaper, is there any cost benefit to having cupcakes rather than a full blown tiered cake? 

Terry: [00:12:10] No. That’s a misconception. The problem we get is when people phone up for something like that and say, well how much. And you say £1.50 per cupcake. Which they will go into a shopping centre where they’ve got these stalls selling cupcakes with a swirl of buttercream on, and they’ll pay £1.50 and not think about it. But when it’s a wedding “oh that’s expensive”, but then how many guests are you having? “Oh well I’m having 200 guests”. Well you might as well have had a wedding cake. You get more cake in it, and better value and something that looks a lot better, because again, with cupcakes, the problem we’ve got is that the bun cases come away if you leave them too long. So they’ve got to be done the day before, you can’t do them any sooner. There is nothing to protect them like there is on a cake. 

Carly: [00:13:01] Yeah I think as well for the small weddings that I do, a cupcake is fantastic because you’re probably saying, well there’s 10 of us so we’re going to get 10 cupcakes. 

Terry: [00:13:10] Yeah that’s fine. 

Carly: [00:13:12] But how many weddings can say, well I’ve got 250 people and therefore I need 250 cupcakes. I mean you could have anything from about half the people having them to somebody having three. I know my family wouldn’t stop at one cupcake. 

Terry: [00:13:27] I had somebody phone up and say I want 600. 

Carly: [00:13:31] Wow. That’s a lot of cupcakes. That would be, like with my family there would be 50 of them, but you know, we’d need 600 cupcakes… definitely. 

Terry: [00:13:42] I’d have to have a team of staff to do that. I couldn’t do it on my own you know. I mean, it’s just absolutely ridiculous, because you’re not doing one cake you’re doing lots of different ones. When we have a big exhibition in the cake decoration industry at Birmingham NEC, which is held at the beginning of November, and there they’ve got a massive competition area and you’ll see some of the most lavish wedding cakes you’ve ever seen. But cost wise, they would be ridiculous. And they have a section for cupcakes. And if you saw the amount of work that goes into them, you’d understand why they have to be so expensive. They’re not something that you can do in five minutes. Some of the things on them just take weeks to do. 

Carly: [00:14:26] I find it amazing actually, as I’m sure most of us do. I love watching Bake Off. I think it’s brilliant.

And I find that interesting because I can’t think what year it was, but they did the wedding cake as the final. And you think they get something like six hours, and you think surely anyone can make a cake that looks good in 6 hours… And they looked awful. And these were the people that won. You know, if they can’t make a cake look good in six hours, what are us mere mortals going to do about it. It’s hilarious to think about, they’re so much more work than we realise. 

Terry: [00:15:01] Like me, I’ve been doing it for 30 years and I’m still learning. 

Carly: [00:15:06] I’d be no use, it would look awful if I did it. 

Terry: [00:15:11] The trouble is they’re not trained. I mean there’s a lot of training that goes into it. 

James: [00:15:19] Great! Well thanks very much Terry. That was a heck of a lot of information in there. A lot of stuff that I’d actually never even heard of before, so I’m sure that’s going to surprise quite a few people. 

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