Art from the bakery

Wedding cakes come in variety of sizes, prices

JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Jennifer Saxon, of Jennifer's Cakes in North Augusta, said customers are also buying beauty and artistry in their wedding cakes.
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Two things happen when guests arrive at a wedding.

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Erin Mills, 29, of Augusta, works on a groom's cake designed to look like a mallard duck at her shop Big Day Cakes on 9th Street in downtown Augusta. "There's something very satisfying about making something for someone's special day," Mills said.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Erin Mills, 29, of Augusta, works on a groom's cake designed to look like a mallard duck at her shop Big Day Cakes on 9th Street in downtown Augusta. "There's something very satisfying about making something for someone's special day," Mills said.

“First, they want to see the wedding dress,” Dianna Tornow said. “That’s a given.”

But the second the reception begins …

“They’re only thinking about the cake,” said Tornow, an Aiken resident and the baker behind Dianna Tornow Cakes. In 2011, she competed in an episode of the Food Network Challenge.

“I tell brides, ‘It’s the centerpiece of your wedding. You’ll want to make it great.’”

Several local bakeries report that business is booming, and they only expect to grow as more brides begin to plan their weddings.

It’s common to begin on a cake several months before the wedding, according to Jennifer Saxon, of Jennifer’s Cakes in North Augusta.

Some businesses offer last-minute changes. Others offer delivery or special discounts. Whatever the baker’s terms, get them in writing, Saxon suggested.

Prices vary, with most bakers charging per slice.

“You have to remember, it’s not just the flour, sugar and eggs you’re paying for,” Saxon said. “You’re paying for the beauty, the artistry.”

There’s a bakery for every price point, said Saxon, a former pastry chef.

“We all have our own style,” she said.

“We love really elegant cakes. We love to do buttercream piping. We love sculptures and sculpted cakes.”

Tornow specializes in elaborate sugar flowers and very large cakes. “The bigger, the better,” she said.

Tornow generally works with brides planning weddings for at least 150 guests.

“To some brides, the cake is very important, and they’ll budget for that,” said Tornow, whose cakes start at $750.

It surprises people to learn that a single cake can take 20 or 30 hours to make, said Erin Mills, of Big Day Cakes, which moved to a downtown Augusta storefront in June 2011.

“People ask, and I usually joke, ‘Oh, I did that in 20 minutes,’ but really, it takes a lot of time,” she said. “It’s a three-day process.”

Most shops bake on Thurs­day, decorate on Friday and deliver on Saturday for a traditional Saturday wedding. That ensures the cake is as fresh as possible.

Good recipes will even improve over the day or two delay, as fillings seep into the cake.

“The cake gets even more moist,” Saxon said. “It’s delicious.”

In recent years, brides have been asking that cakes be decorated in edgier color combinations, such as grey and yellow or hot pink and teal.

Bling is in, said Saxon, who sometimes incorporates “edible diamonds” into her work. The gems are constructed from Isomalt, a type of sugar.

Classic designs such as monograms, damask and lace continue to be popular.

“Every bride comes in with totally different designs,” Mills said. “Tastes and flavors change.”

Mills used to make cakes in just vanilla or almond flavor. Now, they take a backseat to mocha, red velvet, or carrot cake.

“It’s whatever suits the bride and groom,” she said.

Once the decoration is complete, it’s perhaps most important to get the cake delivered on time and in one piece, Saxon said.

She drives slowly to ensure her 2-foot-tall wedding cakes survive the ride. So slowly, in fact, that Saxon made a sign for her van that says, “Please, be patient. Wedding cake on board.”

She reports that drivers have been noticeably more patient since she put up the sign.

“Wedding days are stressful enough,” Saxon said.

“The last thing you want is to be worrying about your cake. The right baker will take it off your hands. The only thing you’ll be thinking about is just how good it tastes.”

BUY A WEDDING CAKE

Local bakers offer these tips for choosing the right cake for your wedding:

• Make an appointment as soon as you have key details, including the date, place and perhaps the wedding dress, decided. Bakers will often use those as inspiration for the cake, said Dianna Tornow, of Dianna Tornow Cakes in Aiken.

• Let your fingers do the walking. Browse the Internet or magazines for examples of cakes you love, and bring them to your consultation. “Simple but elegant means different things to different people,” said Jennifer Saxon, of Jennifer’s Cakes in North Augusta. “A picture helps.”

• Ask to see examples of the baker’s work, and not just pictures, when possible.

• Budget accordingly. “Expect to spend at least $500,” said Erin Mills, of Big Day Cakes. “But often, something can be done to negotiate with a small business. Be flexible, and they will be, too.”

• Have a taste. Some bakeries only offer samples of the frosting, cake and fillings. But unless you’re tasting a slice of cake, it might not accurately represent what you’ll receive on your wedding day, Tornow said.

• Ask for what you want. Suggest ideas for flavorings. Most bakers can be flexible, said Saxon, who has made vegan cakes on request. Once, a bride suggested a white almond sour cream pound cake with praline chocolate ganache filling. It ended up being one of Saxon’s favorite creations.

• Plan accordingly. If you are serving no other sweets at the wedding, it can’t hurt to size up with a wedding cake. But if cookies or other treats will be offered, it’s often possible to downsize the cake.

WEDDING EXPOS

WHAT: Aiken’s Premiere Wedding Celebration
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 14
WHERE:
USCA Aiken Convocation Center, 375 Robert Bell Parkway
ADMISSION:
$10
MORE:
www.uscatix.com

WHAT: The Georgia Bridal Show by Elite Bridal Events
WHEN:
12:30 to 4 p.m. Feb. 5
WHERE:
Bell Auditorium, 601 7th St.
COST:
$9
LEARN MORE:
www.eliteevents.com


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