Erin Engaged: The Sugary Search for a Wedding Cake

Erin hires a wedding-cake baker after a sugar-high-inducing tasting.

Randy and Erin practice the wedding tradition of feeding each other the first bite of cake at their engagement party.

Mmm . . . cake. It’s literally the sweetest part of a wedding celebration. The cake is a decoration, a ritual, and a dessert all in one sugary package. Shortly after our engagement last summer, the friends who introduced Randy and me threw us a party complete with a three-tiered congratulatory cake. It was the perfect opportunity to practice the wedding tradition of feeding each other the first bite of cake. As Randy aimed his fork for my mouth, his face looking just a little too happy, I gave him the look that brides have been giving grooms for decades, the one that says, “Don’t you dare smash that cake in my face.” Luckily for him, the cake ended up where it belonged, and the bite I fed him was equally well aimed. Let’s hope the same will be true on our wedding day.

Which brings me to the search for our wedding cake. I have a huge sweet tooth, so I knew the cake tasting would be my favorite part of wedding planning. As I did with most of my wedding research, I started by asking friends for recommendations. The unanimous suggestion was Margie, a baker who runs her company, Artistic Cake Creations, out of her home in West Virginia. Margie is famous among Washington brides because her cakes actually taste as good as they look. Aside from the quality of her baked goods, Margie’s popularity may be explained by her incredibly reasonable prices. In this area, wedding cakes can cost anywhere from $2 to $8 per slice, which is a substantial investment when you’re attempting to feed 200 people. Margie’s cakes are more in the $1.50-per-slice range, depending on the type of frosting and the amount of detail required. She does only one cake per weekend, though, so I had to move quickly. Even though my wedding is in October, I got in touch with Margie and set up a tasting date in January.

Although Margie topped my list, I had an earlier tasting with another “sugar artist” who was slightly more expensive but who also came highly recommended and whose cake portfolio was very impressive. After a nice afternoon spent talking to her and tasting her cakes, I never heard from her again. This is something I’ll never understand about wedding vendors. I also spoke to a florist who never followed up with me, after meeting with me for an hour and promising to send me a detailed proposal. Although I could have easily checked in with her to remind her about the proposal, I felt wary about working with someone who wasn’t able to follow through even at an early stage.

The opposite was true with Margie. She was all about personal attention from the very beginning. Most wedding vendors require you to come to them, but because I was Margie’s only tasting that day, she offered to meet me halfway—at a mall in Maryland. I brought my mom with me, and both of us were excited to see what Margie had in store for us. When we reached the food court at the mall, we saw Margie seated in the corner with a large tray of tiny cakes in front of her. After our initial greetings, we started by discussing the type of cake I had in mind. I wanted buttercream frosting, which doesn’t give you the smooth appearance that fondant does, but I have a weakness for the taste. I was interested in three or four square tiers with a ribbon border and maybe our monogram on the top tier in sugar paste.

Then it was time to dig in. We tasted small bites of about 12 kinds of cake, ranging from white chocolate to butter pecan, and dozens of fillings, from lemon to mocha. As we tasted, my mom and I wrote down our favorite flavor combinations. Margie will use a different cake flavor and filling in each tier at no extra charge, which we thought would be fun for our wedding guests. As we reached the bottom of our notepad, though, I realized that the toughest part of cake tasting might be deciding which flavors weren’t our favorites—we liked them all.

After we’d tasted a little bit of everything, Margie gave us the leftovers to take home along with a contract that I could fill out and send back to her with a deposit if we decided that we wanted her to make our cake. My mom and I walked out to our car with a tray of half-nibbled cakes and the dazed look of two people who had just had way too much sugar. We agreed that Margie was fantastic, and there was no doubt that we wanted to hire her.

So come October, you’ll find Randy and me in a ballroom in Alexandria, feeding each other the first bites of our wedding cake. I’m confident that our cake will be right on target and so will our aim.

Read Erin's story from the start here.  

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