Cake Tasting

Sylvia, her mom, and I went for a cake tasting at Bittersweet recently and it was a pretty interesting experience. We came in and sat down and spoke to the owner about ideas of what we wanted and it was all very wedding-y. Thankfully Sylvia was pretty on top of some good ideas in terms of how it should look. I don’t have much of an eye for art or design, so I would only really pipe up when something looked really off to me. I’m hoping that my small comments like this over the whole wedding process are actually helpful and not annoying, but she hasn’t pulled me aside yet and said anything, so I’m going to keep doing that. Anyway, after throwing out enough ideas for the owner to take some notes, she wandered to the back of the shop to get some samples and I got excited to try some cake.

I didn’t think that it’s a common experience that you have to put in a large order of food where you actually have to sit down and taste and evaluate all of your options before you even talk about price or particulars. I mean, sure you can put in a large food order for either a company catered event or maybe for a private party for 50 or 100 people, but the way the experience of a wedding cake is presented, you’re required to put a lot more thought into how it all comes together. If you’re putting together a food package for a non-wedding event, I’d wager that you probably pick some sort of package and generally that’s enough as there’s enough variety that about 95% of anyone showing up will find something they like. Wedding cake though is something where you’re really expected to put a lot of effort into getting the right taste combinations down. It’s kind of ironic now that I think about it more because I don’t think the best wedding cakes are ever remembered for their taste, only their design. You might think the cake didn’t taste the best, but wasn’t amazing what they did with the shape of the tiers and how did they get that one piece hanging off of the side like that? It’s crazy because you can probably have an amazing cake that tastes great, but isn’t as memorable because it wasn’t “elegant” or “amazing” or “artistic” enough. That’s just…I don’t know. I don’t like it. It’s cake. It’s supposed to taste good, right?

While I was mulling all this over in my head, the owner came back out and brought the most designed set of cakes, frostings and fillings that I’d ever seen. Each of the eight or so cake flavors were cut into different shapes so that they each stood out in an equal way, but were different enough that you could easily locate it again after you’d gone and tasted the other varieties. She also brought out a tray with about ten or so small ramekins with different fillings along with two small scoops of frostings to try. I kind of didn’t want to even try anything because the presentation was so amazing. However, it was a tasting and not an exhibition, so we all started randomly selecting small bits of filling and pairing it with equally small pieces of cake. Everything I tasted was amazing. I think the only cake that I didn’t care for was the super dark chocolate, but that’s only because it was so rich and that didn’t really strike me as a wedding cake should. Sylvia, Diane, and I tried a bunch of different combinations and they had much stronger opinions about what they thought worked and what wouldn’t. We ended up actually coming to a fairly quick accord in terms of what would likely be the best thing to have  and then there were more discussions regarding the actual design of the cake and I gave myself the option to let my thoughts wander a bit more as I processed everything that had just happened.

As I thought about it more and more, I don’t think that I’ve ever had to taste anything that other people were going to be eating, much less something in the vaulted pantheon that is delicious cake. I have a pretty poor sense of smell, which I think results in about 95% of anything I eat being pretty tasty and I’ll eat pretty much anything other than collard greens. Even then, I’m sure I’d like those if they’re cooked right, but nobody has ever managed to make them palatable to me. Anyway, my point is that I don’t think I’m a terribly reliable judge in terms of what everyone would actually end up liking. The only thing I ended up realizing and adding in was that we were going to have some guests with an allergy to chocolate that we should consider. I can’t remember if that ended up influencing any part of the discussion, but I felt it needed to be brought up. We do also have some friends with wheat/gluten intolerances, but there really is only so much that you can do to cater to your guests eating experience, especially when it comes to cake.

As the discussions winded down, we were told we’d have a quote within a few days and that we could go from there. Diane headed back to Evanston while Sylvia and I walked back home and that was the night. We liked everything about the experience, but what I didn’t realize was that Sylvia and Diane already had at least one other appointment lined up to taste cakes.

They ended up going to another tasting, just the two of them, as the only time was in the middle of the day and I couldn’t get off of work. Sylvia was super nice and brought some of it home for me to try and it was just as amazing as the stuff that Bittersweet had which only had me thinking again about how I can’t be counted on to be an accurate gauge of good cake. What Sylvia said was interesting as it wasn’t like Bittersweet, so the guy they spoke to was a completely different personality. Wedding cakes were all production to him as opposed to the artistic experience/viewpoint of Bittersweet. I’m sure there was a difference in cost as well, but I’m not exactly clear on what that was.

Oddly enough, we still haven’t settled on a bakery for the cake as there are yet another one or two places to check out. It’s strange to me that you can shop around for the best this or that for a wedding as I’m the kind of person who finds what they like, makes sure the price is right and then just makes the deal. It’s interesting going through the process of selecting a bakery, much less a cake as I see so many good options as is. I dunno, the one thing that I’m confident of is that I know we’ll have a great cake when it finally comes time to get that locked in. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone remembers anything about it 6 months after the wedding too.


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One Response to “Cake Tasting”

  1. Sylvia Says:

    No, no one will remember it 6 months later. But that’s how it goes.

    Also…I totally get your point about doing the research, swooping in and if it feels right just saying yes and moving on (like our photographer). But WHO doesn’t want to taste as many free cakes as they can? Its the very best part. 🙂

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