Cake Centerpieces - Any Tips?

Decorating By DeezCakes Updated 18 Oct 2007 , 6:04pm by Solecito

DeezCakes Posted 1 Oct 2007 , 1:01pm
post #1 of 27

I apologize if this question has been asked before...

I am going to be doing Cake Centerpieces for a close friend's wedding coming up next spring. I think there will be approximately 18 tables, each table seating 8-10 guests. The bride does not have many preferences in terms of cake flavors, other than voicing her desire to have some variety, and she is really open about the style of the cakes. I was thinking of doing 1 - 8" cake per table.

Can anyone offer any suggestions for how to prepare and execute this undertaking? I do work full time, but would be willing to take a day off the week of the event to help preserve my sanity and pull this off. Any information anyone has to offer (from baking to decorating to storing to transporting to displaying, etc.), would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks!

26 replies
adawndria Posted 1 Oct 2007 , 10:02pm
post #2 of 27

My suggestion would be to keep the design as simple as possible. Other than that, I'd bake and crumb coat on one day, and finish icing/decorating the next day. Oh, and buy the buttercream already made! LOL

*Funny note that the spell checker on the site doesn't recognize buttercream as one word!

indydebi Posted 1 Oct 2007 , 10:27pm
post #3 of 27

Start baking early and putting them in the freezer. Assuming you can bake two 8" pans at one time and assuming 30 minutes per baking session, you're looking at 9 hours just for baking ..... MINIMUM!! And that's just baking time ... doesn't factor the few minutes between batches to remove them from the oven and prep the next batch.

If you don't already have them, buy FOUR 8" pans so you can have one set ready to go in the oven as soon as you take the others out. (I'd actually get 6 or 8 if it was me.) You'll be amazed how much time this will save you....well worth the investment.

Start doing the math ... how long will it take you to crumb coat? Times 18? How long to ice and smooth each one? TImes 18? How long to add borders and other decor? Times 18?

You may need more than just one day off from work to do this much cake.

She may be planning for 180 guests (10 guests max per table x 18 ) but you are making cake for 432 (8" cake serves 24, per the wilton wedding chart, x 18 ). As far as budgeting your time, you CANNOT think of it as making "only" 18 little cakes .... you are making wedding cake for over 400 people.

I hope you charged accordingly.

crazy4sugar Posted 1 Oct 2007 , 10:39pm
post #4 of 27

I was thinking the same thing: these cakes, even with the simplest design, will take you 3 days to complete.

auntginn Posted 1 Oct 2007 , 10:44pm
post #5 of 27

I would enlist the help of someone if at all possible. Four (or even six) hands are better than 2

KathysCC Posted 1 Oct 2007 , 10:51pm
post #6 of 27

I agree with everyone else on getting some help and keeping the design simple.

One way to decorate them easily and quickly is royal flowers that you could do yourself weeks ahead of time. That way it is only a matter of placing them on iced cakes. No time wasted in the days before the event doing any fancy decorating.

Another idea is to purchase gumpaste flower sprays from somewhere like cakedeco.com and use those on the top of the cakes, no work for you but fairly inexpensive and very pretty.

mccorda Posted 1 Oct 2007 , 11:17pm
post #7 of 27

I did 6 inch centerpiece cakes for 20 tables for my nephew's wedding. I wouldn't think you would need to make them any bigger than 6 inch rounds. There were 8 seated at the tables and the size of the slices were plenty big for most people. There was even some left over because some people were on diets or were too full from the meal. (This thrilled my nephew that he could take the leftovers home)

The design was smooth white buttercream with a piped ribbon border at the bottom and some fresh folwers placed on the top.

Definitely buy several of the same size cake pans and slightly overfill them - so you won't need to buy extra bake-even strips - they will rise above the pan so you can trim to pan height before removing from the pan.

She had 5 different colors for her bridesmaids' dresses and I used those colors for the ribbons.

mccorda Posted 1 Oct 2007 , 11:43pm
post #8 of 27

Another thing - have plenty of cooling racks available. They take up a lot of space!

Here are the pictures I have of the ones I did for my nephew.
LL
LL
LL

kakeladi Posted 1 Oct 2007 , 11:55pm
post #9 of 27

You've gotten some good advice. Think this over *very* carefully. It is a HUGE undertaking.
One thing that no one else has mentioned yet is the transporting of them. What kind of vehicle do you have? 18 cake boxes will take a lot of room. And since there is so much time before the event things can change........like the guest counticon_smile.gif You might end up having to make 20, 25 or even 30 icon_sad.gif

weirkd Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 12:03am
post #10 of 27

Yah, thats a lot of cake. I took on a 300 cookie order last year and you really dont think it would be that much but it took me three days to decorate all these cookies. I had even prepared my dough ahead of time and have a convection oven and can bake three trays at once! Then I have a mini van and had to take the back seat out to hold them all.
If you look at some of the UK magazines they do a lot of mini cakes and they use just a simple ribbon on the bottom of them and maybe an imprint of a flower design into the fondant.
I agree, you need to have help with it because even the most organized person could not pull this off in one day. You will need that one day to recoup!

KathysCC Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 12:09am
post #11 of 27

You know mccorda is right about the 6 inch rounds. If each table has 8 to 10 then a six inch round is plenty for them. That cuts your work load tremendously.

Biya Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 12:23am
post #12 of 27

With the right planning you should be able to cut down on some of the stress. My first thought was refrigeration. If you have to bake in advance you made need to consider freezer space. I would talk the bride into coordinating with the florist for cake toppers and do fresh flowers on top. I think it would look beautiful as a centerpiece and cut down on some of your work.

DeezCakes Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 2:56am
post #13 of 27

Thank you all for your tips and suggestions....at least now I have some confirmation that I'm not totally crazy for attempting this.

mccorda - I was thinking earlier that I may be able to get away with the 6" rounds instead of the 8's, so thanks for that thought. I had actually suggested to the bride to supplement the cake with some votive candles around the cake base or some type of greenery (either would be relatively inexpensive) to add some "substance" to the middle of the table.

kakeladi - I have a Suburban, so I'm not so much concerned about space, I just want to make sure I have all my bases covered in terms of organizing them for transport - though if I do 6" cakes, I would probably be better off without having to worry about stacking boxes...

Well, I have my list...buy more cake pans, cooling racks, plan, plan, plan...and continue to encourage my 11 year old daughter to continue to practice her cake decorating skills. I may have her ready by March, yet!

Thank you all so much. As always, I know that I could rely on the wonderful people at CC to provide the information that I needed!

Solecito Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 6:36pm
post #14 of 27

You can make roya icing flowers (as suggested earlier) and ask your daughter to help you out them on the cake. I mean that's one of the things she can make that doesn't take to much decorating experience. You should buy more tha 2 pans. I know it might be expensive but in the long run it's going to help you a lot, believe me I have 6- 9" hearts for valentine's day. If you decide to go with the 6" you can bake 6 pans at a time, I think they'll fit well in a kitchen oven. I think if you plan this very well you can do it without to much stress. One more thing start collecting big boxes so you can put the smaller cake boxes inside of them. this way it'll be easier to carry, like the photo I included, only in my photo they were cookies, but you get the idea. Hope this helps. And good luck. I might be doing the same thing but for 50 tables by december, so, I'l tell you about any problems I had so you can be prepared.
LL

Solecito Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 6:36pm
post #15 of 27

You can make royal icing flowers (as suggested earlier) and ask your daughter to help you put them on the cake. I mean that's one of the things she can make that doesn't take too much decorating experience. You should buy more than 2 pans. I know it might be expensive but in the long run it's going to help you a lot, believe me I have 6- 9" hearts for valentine's day. If you decide to go with the 6" you can bake 6 pans at a time, I think they'll fit well in a kitchen oven. I think if you plan this very well you can do it without to much stress. One more thing, start collecting big boxes so you can put the smaller cake boxes inside of them. this way it'll be easier to carry, like the photo I included, only in my photo they were cookies, but you get the idea. Hope this helps. And good luck. I might be doing the same thing but for 50 tables by december, so, I'l tell you about any problems I had so you can be prepared.
LL

FrostinGal Posted 17 Oct 2007 , 1:05am
post #16 of 27

Just got done with a centerpiece cake order for a friend of mine last weekend. NEVER again! I had never done one at home, and she really wanted centerpiece cakes.
I ended up charging $2.50 per serving, 18 - 6" centerpiece cakes on 8" gold foil-covered boards, and a 6"-8" main cake for the cake table. (169 servings total, not counting top tier of main cake. Per Earlene's chart, 6" rounds=8 servings. More than enough cake.) The cakes were very simple, all red velvet/cream cheese BC with ivory BC icing, a simple scroll design once around each cake, with a ribbon border provided by the bride. It was TOTALLY not enough money!! Centerpiece cakes will now have a PITA charge assessed on them!
I had another cake, a square 3 tier, the same weekend, and that cake was a breeze in comparison!
Originally, she had asked for 12 c/p cakes, then upped the count to 19 at one point! (Blamed it on MIL to be.) I told her that I would make it work, but not ONE MORE CAKE! She emailed me the Monday before the wedding that they only needed 16 cakes, told her I was sorry but she was getting 18, I had already purchased all of the ingredients!
I worked two of my three shifts, calling in sick the night between my two cakes. Thank goodness I had taken the time to create a production schedule, it really kept me on task and on time!
I have three full sheet pans, so I put six cakes on each pan and fit three pans into a sheet-lined trunk. The main cake was boxed and put in the back seat.
For c/p cakes, presentation is EVERYthing! Two plastic "silver" trays separated by upside down wine glasses; a short, squat cylinder vase; glass bricks from home improvement stores; inexpensive, footed cake plates; raised silver platters, the cake should be elevated! Surrounding the cake with flower petals and votives makes it seem more like a centerpiece. You can make silk or fresh flower arrangements in plastic bowl champagne glasses, and taking off the base of the champagne glass, push the arrangement into the cake. The cakes should be at least 4" tall for drama. Mine came out closer to 5".
It's a good thing it was for a friend, because I made no money on this cake. I paid my DD $4 an hour to clean up after me, and paid my mom $100 for all of her help, without which I would have run screaming to the hills! After supplies, extra pans, ingredients, and help, I think I averaged a whopping $5 an hour. DH won't let me do cakes for free, anymore, and I thank him for it. icon_eek.gif
I have two refrigerators, and two KA's. Both got used well!
Things I learned:
--Get large buckets from doughnut shops for holding BC. If you will make it far in advance or require refrigeration, get hold of lots of large bowls with lids!
--Get help! Pay a teen to wash dishes, sweep, cover cake boards, cut parchment circles, do whatever it takes to make life easier for you.
--Start baking a month in advance and freeze the cakes wrapped well in two layers of plastic covered with a layer of foil. Save yourself some gray hairs.
--Give yourself PLENTY of time. It will take more time than you think.
--Create a production schedule complete with a shopping list. Even if you are pretty sure you have it, put it on the list. That way, when you are checking stuff off of the list, you can shop your own cake decorating stuff and get things gathered as you check them off. Save a couple of last minute trips.
--Start buying non-perishables now when they are on sale. If you can't, get to a wherehouse store or wholesaler that sells retail, too. I went to Smart and Final and Costco.
--Do a practice run of how you will fit all of the cakes into your vehicle. We had to switch cars at last minute, to get them to all fit.
I was pretty happy with how they came out, even though I got there well before the florist and don't have a photo of the cakes surrounded by red petals, yet. They were put on clear pedestal cake plates and looked very nice, if I must say so myself!
SO glad that weekend is over!

indydebi Posted 17 Oct 2007 , 1:26am
post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by FrostinGal

Just got done with a centerpiece cake order for a friend of mine last weekend. NEVER again! I had never done one at home, and she really wanted centerpiece cakes.

I ended up charging $2.50 per serving, 18 - 6" centerpiece cakes on 8" gold foil-covered boards, and a 6"-8" main cake for the cake table. (169 servings total, not counting top tier of main cake. Per Earlene's chart, 6" rounds=8 servings. More than enough cake.)




Wow, what great info on a project like this! I especially liked your ideas on elevating the cakes. You are so right in that as a centerpiece, they should have some height, like a floral centerpiece does. I'd never thought of it before reading your post.

THe above numbers are why I use the Wilton chart for pricing purposes. A 6" cake serves 12 (per the Wilton chart .... 50% more servings than Earlene's) times 18 cakes = 216 servings + the 6/8 (12+24=36) = 252 servings x my $3/serving = $756. They are welcome to cut it any size they want, but this is the serving size I use to determine my pricing.

Erdica Posted 17 Oct 2007 , 1:37am
post #18 of 27

Great advice. I was wondering how this all went.

Do you have any pictures to share?

leah_s Posted 17 Oct 2007 , 3:26am
post #19 of 27

I love centerpiece cakes! I charge $34-$40 per cake based on a simple design. I will only do a 6" round. Easier for me and that's plenty of cake per table. I also always suggest that they be placed on four upside down wine glasses or champagne flutes. Its a cheap "stand" looks nice and comes out just the right height.

I deliver all cakes unboxed and I can get quite a few in my SUV.

DeezCakes Posted 17 Oct 2007 , 11:51am
post #20 of 27

FrostinGal, thanks so much for the information. If you have any pictures to share, I would love to see them as well.

Leahs...about what you charge per cake. Have you ever had someone question why it is so much more expensive?

Thanks again everyone for all of the great tips and information.

leah_s Posted 17 Oct 2007 , 12:56pm
post #21 of 27

I use the Wilton chart which says a 6" serves 14. My bc price is $2.60, so 14 X $2.60 = $36.40. The price goes go when they want some extra decorations. It's not more expensive. And overall, since they're not buying a floral centerpiece, and they have to buy cake anyway, it's a budget-saver.

FrostinGal Posted 18 Oct 2007 , 5:33am
post #22 of 27

Thanks ladies, just thought I would share what I had learned the hard way!
Debi, I think I'm going to throw Earlene's chart in the round file. All of a sudden, I like Wilton's better! Who'd have thought I'd like anything of Wilton's better? icon_wink.gif
Here is the centerpiece photo: http://www.cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=gallery&file=displayimage&pid=1149497
Main cake photo: http://www.cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=gallery&file=displayimage&pid=1149496
Forgot my camera and had to make do with a cell phone. icon_redface.gif I plan on buying photos from the photographer of the cakes with the flowers on them. By the time I left, the florist hadn't showed up yet. They were supposed to have red flowers/petals on them per the bride.
So after all of this, and swearing I would never to another centerpiece cake order unless I have my own bakery and a huge oven and walk in fridge and 36 6" pans, I got a phone call today from a MOB whose daughter was at this wedding and LOVED the cake! Have you ever hoped that someone doesn't call back? icon_wink.gif I make more friends now that I do cakes as a hobby than I ever have.
Per your calculations, I gave my friend a $570 wedding gift!

leah_s Posted 18 Oct 2007 , 10:36am
post #23 of 27

There are a coupl eof good Wilton things. (Bet you guys never thought you'd hear that from me.)

The best is the serving charts. You WILL make more money by using them. And since those are the charts that most caterers are familar with and cut to, no matter what chart you use to bake by, the caterer is very likely going to cut to the Wilton size anyway.

Erdica Posted 18 Oct 2007 , 1:13pm
post #24 of 27

Thanks for sharing the pictures. I think they turned out great!!! If I ever have a bride who wants to do this, I'll bring up your photos. I think you did a great job!! Hopefully this will generate some money for the next time you do this.

DeezCakes Posted 18 Oct 2007 , 2:21pm
post #25 of 27

The cakes look great! Thanks for the pictures!

FrostinGal Posted 18 Oct 2007 , 2:42pm
post #26 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Erdica

Thanks for sharing the pictures. I think they turned out great!!! If I ever have a bride who wants to do this, I'll bring up your photos. I think you did a great job!! Hopefully this will generate some money for the next time you do this.




Thanks for the compliments! Per another centerpiece cake thread, I am charging a lot more for the next order, if they decide they want me. No friend discount on that one! Plus, I didn't charge for delivery and setup or anything else on the friend's cakes.
Mostly, I'm just happy to have my kitchen and fridges back, right now! icon_wink.gif

Solecito Posted 18 Oct 2007 , 6:04pm
post #27 of 27

Congratulations on a very wel done job!!! Thaks for sharing your photos and your experience.

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