For my big sisters, choosing a wedding cake was easy. My mother was a confectioner and she made beautiful occasion cakes. They were the traditional fruit cakes with marzipan and icing. I can remember her now, at the kitchen table, making delicate flowers to put on my big sister’s cake. The colour palette for the wedding was based on yellow: sunflower gold and bright lemon, so there were yellow and white icing sugar roses with gold ribbons tucked amongst them.

Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to have a talented and creative trained confectioner for a mother. However, there are some lessons to be learned from the process that my sister and my mother went through when they were choosing what the cake should look like. They pored over women’s magazines and talked about what was fashionable, what my sister liked and what my mother could achieve. The result was a combination of an idea from a magazine and my mother’s adaptations and interpretation of it.

In those days, everyone had a traditional fruit cake, with tiers, because fruitcake can be stored and they would keep a tier of the cake for the christening of their first child. Nowadays, marriage is not solely about having children and the choices have opened up for different kinds of cake. Not everyone likes rich, heavy fruitcake and it is not a great choice for a hot day. A friend of mine had a cake made of flapjacks arranged in tiers. You can have any kind of cake you really like. Sponge cake can still be iced, but you can have it decorated in all sorts of other ways, too. You may need to consider your guests’ allergies, so it may need to be gluten free or free of nuts. You can discuss this with your baker.

The cake can be white, like my sister’s and decorated with flowers, lace and ribbon, or you might want one in an unusual shape or to an unusual theme. The flapjack cake I mentioned earlier was iced to make it look like the countryside and it was topped with a tiny village made of icing sugar and made to look like Trumpton (the village in the well-known children’s programme).


You don’t even have to have an individual cake, although you would need to come up with an alternative to the traditional cutting of the cake ceremony. I have seen profiteroles piled up into surreal chateaux or mountains of cream, choux pastry, caramel and chocolate. The beauty of something like that is that it is easy for the guests to help themselves. That choice could still be considered quite formal, as it is a traditional French dish, but a less formal choice that I have seen is doughnuts, decorated and placed on pretty hooks on a painted board mounted vertically on a wall. Another choice that keeps some of the traditional elements but still allows guests to help themselves is to have highly decorated fairy cakes arranged on tiers: a brilliant opportunity to be creative with colour and flavour.

With all these choices, it can be difficult to narrow it down. However, once you have considered what you and your guests like to eat, the style of the wedding, and its season, you and your partner will be able to make your final choice.