Wedding Cakes 101

One of Michael Angelo's show-stopping masterpieces. One of Michael Angelo's show-stopping masterpieces.

After the wedding dress, the wedding cake is the next important and delicious ingredient in wedding planning. With countless options and flavors, ordering the cake is not always a piece of cake. So I caught up with Matthew Ciocca, co-owner of Michael Angelo's Bakery & Chocolatier, to find out the sweet facts on wedding cakes, because let's face it, it's not every day you hire a baker to create a show-stopping dessert for hundreds.

There are wedding cakes and then there are Michael Angelo's wedding cakes. Located in Broadview Heights, Ohio, this family-run bakery seems more like an institute of art behind the scenes, with a photographic studio to capture shots of their masterpieces once completed. Thanks to the creative expertise flowing in this family's Italian blood, their wedding cakes (and not only) always seem too pretty to eat. But as you can imagine, it takes appointments, planning, and lots of time to get the perfect show-stopping cake. Which brings us to Ciocca's first and most important tip: plan ahead; as soon as you know your date, number of guests, and venue make a b-line for the baker. Wedding season is nothing to joke about in a bakery and even though every bride doesn't like to think so, but news flash, they're not the only bride in town. Prior to just walking in any bakery, call ahead and make an appointment.

Next, it helps to show up to your appointment prepared. Ciocca explains that it is helpful to bring the ideas you have for your cake. The possibilities are endless, so it is extremely easy to get lost and feel overwhelmed-and that's the last thing you want. However, if you do not have a clear idea, no worries, the designers are there to help you decide what type of cakes fits your style best. Also, if you have a color scheme or wedding theme, bring them all to the table, along with your appetite, because cake sampling is the best part.

Just how there's countless different styles of cakes, there are just as many different flavors. While you may have a precise flavor already in mind, don't be afraid to try new things. Remember, the baker is the expert here, so it's ok to let him or her take charge during this aspect of the appointment. They may suggest combinations that you have never thought of in your sweet dreams. What are Michael Angelo's most popular cake flavors? According to Ciocca, "the traditional Italian strawberry cassata cake." Chocolate mousse takes second place and chocolate raspberry in third. However, if you have in mind certain cake flavors and fillings, Ciocca advises that it's always a good idea to ask ahead before the appointment. This way, the baker can prepare the proper samplings. It's also helpful to know some baker lingo prior to the appointment. Knowing the difference between butter cream and fondant can make for a smooth appointment. You may also want to take into consideration the different frostings according to the season. "Fondant just gives you a look that the butter cream cannot; however most butter cream cakes are smoothed out to look just like fondant, to give you that porcelain-like finish," explains Ciocca.

So far the cake appointment sounds like fun and delicious, but there is definitely a business aspect to it. Ciocca suggests not being afraid to ask questions. Each baker is different, so it's important to inquiry about fees such as a reservation fee or a delivery fee. Certain bakers may charge you extra for certain cake ornamentations. If you are on a budget, Ciocca recommends in asking your florist for some extra flowers. Real flowers as oppose to fondant ones are most cost effective. The baker should have no problem in beautifully placing the flowers on the cake once the cake is delivered. Which leads to another important tip from Ciocca-make sure to ask the wedding coordinator at your venue whether or not they provide a cake stand. After all that beautiful work and effort, you won't want to place your wedding cake on just anything. Venues usually offer cake stands, but most bakers rent stands (for a fee) for the day. Certainly, if you have been gifted one, why not use it on this special day.

As long as you stick to these key points, the rest will be a piece of cake.