You’ve seen a wedding cake online and you’ve fallen in love! It’s ‘the one’ So you save it to your Pinterest board and screenshot it to your phone. You show this pic to your cake maker and they shake their head. You’re devastated! We want THAT wedding cake! But you get the same response from every cake maker you show it to. Why???
Now I adore Pinterest and all the other platforms, I spend far more time than I should looking at all the prettiness on there. They are great places for inspiration. But really that’s all they are, they are not a shop window. And that can be a little misleading, because it gives the impression that whatever you see there, you can have.
I get shown a lot of images at wedding fairs and at consultations, with ‘can you make this?’ Well yes, I can technically make it, I mean I have the skills. But no, I won’t be able to reproduce exactly what you’re looking at in that image. And this is for several reasons.
Yep, it’s a thing even in the cake world. Most of us don’t bother to copyright our cake designs, working on the ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ theory. But some cake designers do, especially if that cake has been created for a cake decorating class. Or if it has been designed for a client who insists on exclusivity, I did once have to sign an NDA before creating a cake.
A few years ago a cake took Pinterest by storm, it was everywhere! And, inevitably, cake makers were being asked for it by clients. One cake maker did her due diligence and went to the original creator and asked if she could recreate it for her client. She was told, in no uncertain terms, that NO she could not, and that action would be taken if she tried. Turns out the cake design in question was for a class the original designer was charging for, and so she refused to allow anyone to copy it until well after the classes were over. Fair enough when you think of the time and energy that goes into designing these creations, and then turning them into a class. Now, of course, it would be hard for that cake designer to track down everyone who had copied her design. The internet is worldwide after all. And a lot of people wouldn’t have even asked her permission in the first place, because they may not know who to ask. Once a cake (or anything else) is ‘out there’ on the web, it is no longer exclusive. However we put a lot of time and effort into designs, and so we hope that this will be respected.
One reason I can no longer design your wedding cake in full and as an on paper sketch before the booking is made, is because of having designs stolen. Sadly, a few times, I have spent time and a lot of effort sketching out a couples cake, only to then be ghosted by them. A few months later, there’s my cake design on Instagram, posted by the same couple!! They had just taken my hard work and given it to someone who had offered to do it cheaper. It’s a shame when this happens, and thankfully it is rare. And I know none of you lovely people reading this would even dream of doing such a thing. But it does make us cautious, once bitten, twice shy.
Now, of course, these are the extreme cases. And mostly we just shrug and get on with our day, because there are lots of us out there. Inevitably we are going to come up with a similar design to another caker, especially if it’s something that is ‘on trend.’ I have had a few ideas that I think are new, only to find similar already out there.
By this I mean translating a flat, one angled photo, into an actual, 3D cake. Not always as easy as it seems. Especially as you can’t always tell from a photo exactly what techniques and materials have been used. This is always an issue when the cake has been posted by a designer in another country. Every country has different food laws and that can affect what can and can’t be used on and in your cakes. Often when looking for recipes I will see one and then realise that I can’t make it, as certain ingredients aren’t available in the UK.
It can also be tricky when there is a stencil, or a cake lace pattern used. Tracking the right stencil or lace mat down can be difficult. Again they are often only available overseas, or may have been a custom design created just for that cake. I have hand cut a stencil a few times to match up a design from the wedding stationary for example.
Every cake maker will have a certain skill set that they are stronger with, and that is generally reflected in the cakes you will see us producing. You’ll notice that I don’t do the sculpted novelty cakes for example. Not because I can’t, but because they aren’t really my thing. I love seeing them done, but I’m not really interested in doing them. In the same way that a specialist in those sculpted cakes probably won’t make you a delicate cascade of sugar flowers. We all have our strengths and preferences. Personally I will spend days happily making sugar flowers, and often do.
We also all do the same things differently. Going back to cake classes. If you look at the photos instructors post at the end of a class, with all their students showing their cakes. You’ll see that every one of those cakes will be different, even though they are the same design, made at the same time, with the same teacher and using the same materials.
So what do you do? How do you get that dream cake from your phone into reality?
Well you might get lucky and find the original cake maker who made it. It’s a long shot though. Or your cake maker might know them and be able to liaise with them, also a bit of a long shot. Sadly tags and watermarks are often removed from wedding cake photos, making it almost impossible to know who made it. I have one wedding cake with flamingos on that gets pinned a lot. I know that by the time it’s been pinned and shared a few times, no one will know it was one of mine.
When I get shown a wedding cake and get asked if I can make it, I always explain that, although I can’t copy/paste someone else’s work, I can design something just as beautiful. So I will ask what it is about that cake that is drawing you to it? Then I ask to see what other ideas you have been saving for other elements of your wedding. And this is actually way better anyway. I’m sure you’d much rather have a cake that has been designed for you, and with you, than one that’s identical to someone else’s wedding cake? We all know that feeling of horror when we turn up to a party to see someone else in the same outfit! You really don’t want someone saying ‘Oh I’ve seen this cake online a few times.’
So here are the top tips to make sure you get that perfect wedding cake.
1/ Reference photos are great, they are very useful. But don’t be offended if your cake maker isn’t willing or able to simply copy that photo.
2/ Take a good look at that dream cake photo and make a note of what is really drawing you to it? The chances are it’s not necessarily the whole, complete thing. So is it the colours, the shapes, the textures?
3/ Isolate those key elements and discuss those with your cake maker.
4/ Don’t be offended if your cake maker won’t give you a sketch before you’ve booked with them. It’s nothing personal! However how do you know that they will be able to create your vision? Have a good look through their website, Pinterest, Instagram etc, look at their past work to make sure you like their style.
5/ Arrange to meet with your cake maker and have a good chat with them. Develop a relationship with them. When you find the right cake maker, you’ll know. And then you will know that you can trust them to produce your perfect wedding cake for you.