An Alice in Wonderland Birthday cake extravaganza!

Last week we made an Alice in Wonderland themed cake for a 21st Birthday, however, the brief was that it should be in line with the Tim Burton vision of Alice so rather than being bright, zingy primary colours it should be a little darker, grungier, with just a hint of the corpse bride about it. We used dark reds, blacks, and bottle greens, and made sure that our characters had a slightly sinister twist to them. The cake had 3 tiers, with each tier being a different flavour and theme, so the bottom tier was a chocolate cake with decorations from the Queen of Hearts section of the book, the middle tier was all about Alice falling down the rabbit hole and was made of lemon cake, and finally the top tier was a vanilla cake that reflected the mad hatters tea party and the Cheshire Cat.

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We also received a lovely testimonial from the Mum of the Birthday girl: Thank you SO much for the wonderful Alice in Wonderland, Mad Hatter’s tea party cake, for my daughter Carolyn’s 21st birthday party. It was without a doubt the star of the evening and delighted and amazed all the guests. Carolyn was so overwhelmed that she almost burst into tears. You totally understood the theme and Carolyn’s personality and that was apparent in the way you “built” and decorated the cake. I cannot recommend you strongly enough and would love you to post my thanks and comments on your website as a testimonial.

The Carys Wedding Cake

Sometimes in this job I feel like the luckiest woman in the world. You get to meet amazing people who want you to make a cake for them and the whole process is fun, interesting, challenging and just exactly what you want from a job. And so it was with Carys and Craig.

I met with Carys and we talked about her wedding plans and ideas. It quickly became clear that she adored her dress so I suggested that we design the cake to reflect that. Once we’d discussed that, no other option even came close. She also wanted the cake to be something that everyone could enjoy, but not too much of a crowd pleaser that it was bland.

The groom loves Guinness and the bride loves champagne so the cake was 2 layers of chocolate Guinness cake with champagne frosting (it tastes just like a chocolate champagne truffle) with a middle tier of champagne cake with chocolate ganache. The cake was then decorated to match the brides wedding dress. She had an Enzoani gown so I sourced a sample of the fabric from Enzoani and the cake colour was matched to the fabric. The dress has a lace overlay, so we replicated that with edible lace on the cake.

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But there was a challenge. Carys and Craig got married yesterday at Lindesfarne Castle. Such an amazing location and I can’t blame them for choosing it, but it meant that the cake had to be transported a long way. Usually we transport cakes in single layers and assemble on site, but this wasn’t an option so we had to do some creative structural work inside the cake and then some very careful packing. I also gave Carys and emergency repair kit, just in case. Oddly, when I delivered the cake to Carys I think I was far more nervous about it than she was! To give you an idea of the packaging…
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Carys and Craig, You can look at a field of Dandelions and see 1000 weeds or a 1000 wishes. Through your married life, may you only see the wishes.

Watkinson wedding favours and Sweet Cardamom shortbread recipe

A few weeks ago Mr Dandelion Bakery and I got married. Almost from the first moment that we got engaged the question everyone asked was “are you making your own cake?”. Well, no. There were a few problems really: How on earth would I choose a design? There are so many cakes floating around in my head that I would love to make and whittling that down to one cohesive design could have taken forever. When would I have time to make it? The idea of fitting in making the cake around all the last minute appointments seemed like such a bad idea. Who would assemble and hand finish it on the morning of the wedding? well, usually that’d be me but I’d be stuck in a chair having hair and make up done, and assembling a cake can take a good hour and I knew I wouldn’t have a spare hour. So that was quickly ruled out.

I did decide, however, that I wanted to bake some part of the day and wedding favours seemed an obvious choice. Our biscuit favours are increasingly popular with brides and their guests, and they can be baked and packaged a few days ahead of time. Perfect!

I knew I wanted simple, easy to assemble packaging so I asked the lovely Kaoru Sato (who designed this website) if he’d mind designing me a sticker, then all I had to do was pop biscuits into cellophane bags and seal with the sticker. Easy. More importantly, quick!

Then I had to choose a flavour of biscuit. That was trickier… do you go for something generic like a standard shortbread, safe in the knowledge that everyone will definitely like it, or something more personal that reflects our own tastes? I consulted Mr DB. Unfortunately his favourite thing to eat is chillis. Really hot chillis. and I thought chilli biscuits might be something of a surprise to our guests! In the end, we chose three flavours of shortbread: lemon as it’s delicious and summery, green tea and stem ginger because it had a gingery kick for Mr DB but a delicacy that I love (and it fitted with the green theme we had. Yes, I know that’s not a good reason to choose a biscuit flavour, but still) and sweet cardamom because it reminds me of a Starbucks Chai latte (my favourite hot beverage) and it also has a warm, spiciness to it for Mr DB.

I love a sweet cardamom biscuit and often just bake them for myself. I can highly recommend them but you may have not come accross them so why not try making them for yourself with our Sweet cardomom shortbread recipe card.

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Top tips for getting the most from your cake budget

Congratulations! You’re getting married! And by now you have probably realised that weddings can be very expensive so I wanted to share a few tips on how to get the most cake for your money.

First though, a quick word on realistic budgets. I’ve been approached by brides who have a budget of £100 for their cake and they have a guest list of 300 people plus extra in the evening. I would usually recommend that you allow 1 portion of cake per guest, so that would mean that you are planning on spending 33p per guest on cake. 33p per portion buys you a basic vanilla traybake with sprinkles from Asda!

So it’s time to be realistic. Cupcake towers usually start at £1.50 per guest and decorated, tiered cakes usually start at £3 per guest. If you don’t have that in your budget, be honest with your cake designer and try some of the tips below.

General advice

You may have already made decisions in these areas, but these are the headlines when it comes to saving money on your wedding and cake budgets.

Consider the off season

If you are able to get married outside the traditional wedding season, you may be able to negotiate a better price. The summer is always the busiest time so if you are getting married from May to August, expect to pay full price. Christmas and Valentines day are also a busy time now so you’re unlikely to secure a discount at those times, but in late January, March and October you may find that your wedding suppliers are able to offer a discount.

Consider a week day

Most weddings take place on a Saturday, which means that a lot of wedding suppliers have down time during the week. If you can get married on a week day you can usually negotiate a much better price. Some suppliers (The Dandelion Bakery included) offer a discount automatically if your wedding is on a week day.

Worried that your guests won’t be able to make it? If you can give people plenty of notice, your nearest and dearest will do everything they can to make sure they are there! Yes, some people won’t be able to make it, but that can also act as a great filter, which brings me to my next point…

Cut your guest list

Do you really need to invite that friend from school that you’ve not seen in 7 years? Or the uncle that your other half has never met? Your wedding day will fly by and you won’t have time to talk to everyone so think hard about whether you really need to invite 200 people and have a huge wedding, or would your day be just as perfect with 100 carefully chosen guests?

So many suppliers work out the cost based on guest numbers so reducing your guest list will allow you to choose a smaller venue and reduce your food, bar and cake bills. It will also reduce your stationary costs, you will need fewer chair covers, linens, centre pieces, wedding favours and your admin will be so much easier!

Your cake budget

So your date is set, venue is chosen and you’ve already sent out the invites – there are still steps you can take to manage your budget.

Be honest about your budget

Be upfront with your cake designer about your budget. Don’t assume that you can go through the design process, get a price and then haggle them down to your budget. A cake designer will always do their best for you but remember that this is how they pay their mortgage so they need to know how much they are likely to get paid so that they know how much time to spend on your project.

Be flexible

If you have a clear idea of the kind of cake you’d like, great. But if it turns out that your budget doesn’t match up to your vision you may have a problem. If you are able to be flexible then your cake designer will be able to help you to come up with some solutions. Are there any new fashions around that your cake designer is desperate to get into their portfolio? If so, they may be willing to make the cake at a slightly reduced rate.

Simple but effective decorations

Most of the cost of your wedding cake will be the decorators time. Choosing decorations that are time consuming to produce, such as sugar flowers, will automatically put the price up. Choosing decorations that can be produced quickly can save you a lot of money but still give you a beautiful cake.

Consider non-traditional options

Good quality sugar paste is a little pricey and covering cakes takes time and skill, so choosing something that doesn’t require sugar paste can be a great way of reducing your costs. Why not try a buttercream-finished cake? Or a cupcake tower? Or a naked cake?
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They can all be beautiful but without the price tag of a traditional iced cake.

Fresh flowers or fruit

Fresh flowers or fruit can be a great way of decorating a cake without the expense of delicate sugar decorations, especially if you stick to seasonal fruit or flowers. Edible flowers are also incredibly fashionable at the moment.

Off the peg rather than bespoke

Having a cake custom designed for you is an expensive process. You are paying for your cake designer’s time, design talent and imagination. You are also paying for multiple rounds of design, review and refinement. If you’re looking for the couture look without the couture price tag, why not look for a designer who offers an off-the-peg option so that you can get a couture cake for a fraction of the expense.

Take advantage of a free tasting

Does your cake designer offer a free tasting and consultation? If so, take advantage! It will allow you to try a number of flavours and work out what you do and don’t like. It will also introduce you to any premium flavours – a champagne cake is likely to be more expensive. You can then make your choices to suit your budget but be confident that your cake will taste delicious.

Delivery and set up costs

Remember to ask about charges for delivery and set up. Choosing a designer who is based close to your wedding venue or who includes delivery for free will all help to keep the budget under control.