Should your cake look good or taste good?

Our wedding cake was made by an old surfer who worked at a quiet bakery across from the ocean in Southern California. His name was Wally, and for years we’d been buying his cakes for birthdays, office events and parties. We had to stay familiar with the tide charts, though, if we wanted to catch up with him. He wasn’t at the bakery in the mornings, or in the afternoons at high tide; He was out at one of the locals-only points he’d been surfing since Woodstock.

As I was preparing for my wedding, I was able to catch Wally one day at low tide. I showed him a photo of a beautiful, perfectly smooth, basket weave Martha Stewart cake. He looked at the photo and then at my mother who had come with me. I think because she was there, he kept his disdain more polite than usual, and limited it to mild mockery. Wally doesn't do fondant.  Wally only made cakes that tasted good. Fondant doesn’t taste good, so he wouldn’t do it.  His cakes were dense and moist and sometimes even a sheet cake was hard to carry because of it’s weight.  That day in his bakery Wally convinced me that he could make butter cream almost as smooth as fondant and that my guests would thank me.  Wally was right.  The cake was beautiful and there was not a crumb left. Even a year later when we de-thawed the topper on our first anniversary, that lovely cake was still moist and delicious. People remember even now how good our cake tasted.

Here at The Elms we get a slice of wedding cake nearly every weekend. It’s my children’s favorite part about having weddings in our home. Every weekend we see gorgeous, towering, confectionary displays of wealth, and every weekend we see trash cans full of whole pieces, minus that one initial bite. Not even the kids will eat most of the wedding cakes brides here have served to their wedding guests. Why bother calling it “cake” if even a kid won’t eat it?

A wedding reception is all about hospitality. Offering your guests pretty but inedible food is nothing less than poor hospitality. We sometimes forget that wedding guests are just that - guests. They are guests who are witnesses to, and participants in, one of our most sacred traditions. Because they have honored us by playing important roles in our lives, and by agreeing to participate in our wedding ceremony, it is our obligation to honor them in return with hospitality after the ceremony is complete. Wally was right: Your guests may remember what your cake looked like. Your guests will remember if it tasted good or not.  

It can cost quite a bit more to have a gorgeous work of sugary art at your reception, but it won’t cost anything more to have one that tastes good. Remember always that the wedding reception is your way of thanking your guests.  Your guests will always remember the hospitality shown to them - or not shown to them - during your wedding reception.  A pretty but inedible wedding cake is all about you, but a delicious and beautiful wedding cake is all about the hospitality of a gracious hostess.