Katie Matusiak is a colleague of ours and Wedding Professional whom we have known for several years. Katie operates Katie Cakes Cakery based out Cleona, PA. Katie studied Baking and Pastry Arts at Johnson and Wales University and has won numerous Awards for her Wedding cake designs, including The Knot’s Best of Wedding and WeddingWire’s Couple’s Choice Awards, multiple times. We recently sat down with Katie to ask her some questions regarding her business and expertise in the field. The following are excerpts from our conversation with Katie.
Why is a wedding cake an integral part of the wedding day experience?
Wedding cakes can be traced as far back as the Roman Empire, where a cake made of wheat or barley was broken over the brides head and then eaten as a token of good luck. Over the years, the wedding cake has evolved from a dense fruit cake covered in hard white icing into a tiered masterpiece which can be as unique or traditional as the couple themselves. The background behind the traditional white, round wedding cake can be attributed to its sign of virginity and eternity, much like the white bridal dress and the eternity of the wedding band. A white cake also symbolized the family’s wealth. Because refined sugar wasn’t as common in those days, the whiter the cake, the more expensive and finer the ingredients were. Nevertheless, just like any tradition, some ideals have stuck, while others have fallen to the wayside. For many, the wedding cake is still a centerpiece of their reception. Today, it is more of an icon that is representational of the bride and grooms personal style and creativity. It should be beautiful, funky, traditional, chic and elegant or wild and crazy, whatever best reflects the couples’ personality. But most importantly, the cake should be a delicious finish to the meal that leaves the guest with a memorable experience.
What distinguishes you as a cake provider/confectioner vs what a do it all caterer has to offer? How do you accomplish your slogan, “you think it up, we bring it to life”?
All cakes and desserts made by Katie Cakes Cakery are custom made to suit the couples needs and specifications. As a small customized shop, we have the ability to cater to their requests and wishes better than a large scale caterer or bakery might. For example, we have accommodated numerous specialty cake flavor requests such as rosewater, guava, and coffee, all which were not currently present on our list. We were willing to go the extra mile to test recipes and combinations because it was important to the bride. One bride wanted to offer her out of town guests flavors they were familiar and accustomed to versus a generic vanilla or chocolate cake. We pride ourselves on being able to offer this specialty service to our customers. This is a good example of our saying, “you think it up, we bring it to life” shining through. It also holds true with our designs. A customer might come to us with a bunch of thoughts and ideas, not knowing how to tie it all together or how it can come to life with cake. After some back and forth brainstorming, we make suggestions and offer ideas based on budget, time constraints, the number of servings, themes, etc. Sometimes we will even do sketches for the client to help them visualize their thoughts and concepts. We’ve had many clients come back and say, “Wow, that’s cake?! It’s better than we ever imagined!”
Do you have a checklist you go through with each client?
I don’t have a checklist per se, but there are some questions to get the ball rolling in planning and designing a wedding cake. First off, are they interested in a tiered cake, cupcakes, a dessert table, or a combination? Once we have this information, the questions will vary based on their selection. For a tiered cake, I would ask to see some design ideas they like so I have a feel for whether they prefer the look of a buttercream or fondant cake. There are some decorations and designs that must be done in fondant or a sugar paste in order to achieve a desired look. A quilted criss-cross pattern, swags or lace designs are example of looks that would be achieved through the use of fondant.
If cupcakes are what they like, I would show them the two main ways they can be decorated or topped. Either what I call literal toppings, where the topping on the cupcake indicates the flavor, ie. a chocolate peanut butter cupcake topped with chopped peanut butter cups or a vanilla cupcake topped with a fresh strawberry, indicating a strawberry shortcake cupcake. The other option is a bit fancier, using a handmade fondant topper such as a flower or edible pearls. These could be customized to match the color scheme or style of the wedding.
A budget and a rough estimate on the number of guests is also important information to know. This helps us to determine the size cake or the number of desserts needed for a tablescape. It also helps us to offer you the best product and design while still trying to stay within your budget.
Are there any best practices in choosing a wedding cake provider? Suggestions on timeline for booking a cake?
When starting to plan for the wedding cake or dessert, my best advice for brides is to start by asking your venue coordinator or your wedding planner for their recommendations on bakers. They typically have a list of people they have worked with before and are more than happy to give you information on their services. I have found through planning my own wedding, that asking other industry professionals for their recommendations led to the most solid leads for my husband and I vs looking online or in a magazine. These vendors have worked together firsthand so they know the type of product or service they are able to provide.
Once you have done some research, contact the bakeries to see if they have your date available and what their booking process entails. Certain months are much more popular than others, so I always recommend contacting vendors sooner than later. Most people book the cake around the 6 to 9 month mark, but I do have couples that book over a year out or some that have waited until the last minute. You run the risk of settling with a baker you might not have chosen otherwise if you wait too long.
Inquire with your baker if they offer cake tastings and consultations and make sure they are capable of doing the types of desserts and cakes that interest you. Before meeting, I would again recommend to have a budget in mind and to gather some pictures and ideas to give your baker a sense of the look and feel you’re going for. It’s important to keep in mind that some of the cakes seen online or in magazines are dummy or fake cakes which may have incorporated materials that aren’t completely edible or might not be suitable for a real wedding cake. Many customers do not realize how much time and effort might go into a particular cake design and it might not be something you are able to afford. The more time consuming the cake design is, the more money you will pay for it. Many cakes featured on TV or in well-known bridal magazines cost thousands of dollars! However, a baker should be able to offer you suggestions or ways to cut cost and create a similar look that is more cost effective.
What are the trends you are seeing in cakes? Do couples want the traditional look or are they going for more personalization? Are cakes seasonal-trends and styles change per season or just by the year?
The traditional wedding cake in my mind is a round 3 or 4 tiered buttercream cake with lots of intricate piping, possibly some sugar or fresh flowers and a bride and groom topper. I can honestly say I’ve only created this “traditional” wedding cake a handful of times. Most couples are leaning towards more unique designs that incorporate their wedding style. I’ve also seen a big change in the size of the cake. More and more couples are choosing a smaller display cake and then serving either cupcakes or kitchen cakes to their guests. Kitchen cakes are undecorated layer cakes that are only seen once the cake is plated and served. It’s a great way to save money because these are priced lower than the actual wedding cake itself.
Metallics are still big this year; from entire tiers covered in silver and gold sheens to just a few decorative details. Ornate gold and silver cake stands are also a nice touch.
Central Pennsylvania has a ton of beautifully restored rustic barns that fit the country chic charm couples are looking for. This style trend continues into the cake world as well. Lots of textured buttercream cakes with fresh flowers, vintage lace applique details, and tons of ruffles. And don’t forget the wood slab as the cake stand!
The naked cakes is another trend that really took off this year. Naked meaning the sides of the cake are either not covered with icing at all, or very minimal icing is used so that the layers of cake are the shining star. These types of cake can be dripping with chocolate ganache, topped with fresh berries or adorned with fresh flowers. These look great as a focal point to a great dessert table, which brings me to my next trend.
Dessert tables can be simple and sweet or extravagant and over the top! Some dessert tables feature two or three small tiered wedding cakes of different sizes and heights. This type of display creates a nice opportunity to show off your wedding colors and/or theme. Other dessert tables feature an assortment of goodies including cake pops, cookies, cannolis, candy, cupcakes, pies, tarts, and dessert shooters. Some couples do this in addition to a traditional wedding cake, where others forgo the cake altogether. At my wedding reception, the servers rolled out two, 8 foot dessert tables with gigantic sparklers coming out of some of the desserts. This made for quite the impressive presentation!!! Guests are still talking about it!
The hand painted cake is one of the most beautiful and stunning trends of the season. This is one style not all bakeries offer because of the artistic talent and skill it requires. It’s a great way to incorporate color or a design from the wedding invitation.
What about groom’s cakes?
The idea of the groom’s cake originated years and years ago in England as a way to serve chocolate cake at a wedding. It was almost taboo if the wedding cake wasn’t a white “feminine” vanilla cake with fancy and elaborate details. Thus along came the “manly” chocolate grooms cake. Over the years, this tradition has evolved into more of a fun surprise cake for the groom, incorporating his personality and interests with his favorite cake flavor. Some ideas include favorite foods, sports teams, hobbies, beer mugs, or his favorite car. The possibilities are endless!
Goals as a business?
As of today, I would say my goal is to continue to provide excellent cakes and desserts that are not only beautiful to look at but taste excellent and leave the customer wanting more. I pride myself on repeat customers that continue to use my services after their wedding day, whether it be for a simple birthday cake or to celebrate the next milestone in their life!
We want to thank Katie for her insights into Wedding cakes. She is a good friend and trusteed partener. We’d encourage you to reach out to Katie http://katiecakescakery.com/ for any future needs, including phenomenal Wedding and Birthday cakes or many other sweet confections. You will be pleased you did!
Written by Katie Matusiak
phone / 717.383.1689
email / [email protected]
located / cleona, pa