Charleston baker Jim Smeal, who’s been making his signature wedding cakes in the Lowcountry since 1979, has seen trends come and go (nice knowing you, naked cakes!). One thing has remained constant, however: Done well, a cake can set the tone of a wedding. “It’s not just a cake, but the centerpiece of a wedding,” he says. “It’s something that’s making a statement about you.” We asked Smeal to share some tips on how to get it right.
Go inside or go fondant
Charleston summers aren’t kind to the buttercream Smeal uses to finish his cakes. “If you put the cake table in a sunny spot, that’s a big no-no,” he says. And forget placing it under a clear tent. “That’s like putting it in a greenhouse.” If you’re planning an outdoor wedding, find a totally shaded spot for the cake or, better yet, go with fondant icing.
Save the cake for last
Choose your color scheme and have a general idea of the look of your reception before deciding on a cake, typically six months out from your wedding.
Pinterest is your friend
Smeal likes to get a sense of what a couple’s style is and work from there. “We look at their whole design board and pull something out of that,” he says. For instance, he may decorate a cake with the same vine pattern that appears on the bride’s dress.
Color is key
“Don’t be afraid of not having a white-white cake,” Smeal urges his clients.. “Color can make a cake more interesting and it photographs much better if there’s some contrast.”
Let the groom have his cake
Time was, a groom’s cake was a quirky Southern tradition, but social media has upped the ante for brides who want to surprise their husbands-to-be with everything from confectionary reproductions of the Millenium Falcon to Clemson Memorial Stadium. Fun for sure, but Smeal advises to save these cakes for the rehearsal dinner, which is more about “making a fuss about the groom.”