How to Pick Your Wedding Cake Design

According to an expert.

White wedding cake with fresh flowers and four tiers

Photo by Rebecca Yale Photography

There are plenty of options for serving dessert at your wedding. But the tradition of displaying and slicing a beautiful cake will never go out of style. If you’re planning to serve cake during your celebration, there are two key factors to take into consideration before placing an order: Flavor and design.

While you certainly want to choose a cake flavor you love, the design of your wedding cake is just as important. Your cake will typically be displayed during your reception, making a statement in your venue. But just as with other wedding planning details, there are so many options to choose from to find the perfect fit. Wedding cakes can be single-tiered, multi-tiered, round, square, decorated with flowers, or painted with buttercream. The options are truly endless.

Below, find expert advice on how to pick your cake design for the big day.

When to Choose Your Cake Design

According to Michelle Cousins, founder of Michelle Leo Events, addressing the wedding cake during the overall event design process is helpful. “It’s an element that’s included in the same conversation as color palette, florals, and personalized details,” she says. “We like to wait to have a specific conversation about the cake design until the bride has selected her gown. The gown tends to inspire so many directions for the overall cake design.”

Meet the Expert

Michelle Cousins is the founder of Michelle Leo Events, a luxury event planning firm based in Utah and Texas.

Determining your dream cake design and selecting the perfect baker to create it takes time. Typically, you’ll want to book your cake artist at least six months before the big day. This will give them plenty of time to plan out, design, and make the cake.

Start With Size and Shape

The first two key elements of cake design are size and shape. Determine how many guests you will be serving. This will help to decide how many tiers of cake you’ll need. “Will you be saving the top tier of the cake for your anniversary? Knowing this ahead of time will help your baker better prepare,” says Cousins.

Once you know how many tiers you’ll need, choose between a round or square cake design. Most traditional cakes are round, while a square cake gives a more modern appearance.

Decide Between Frosting and Fondant

There are two main options for the exterior of your cake, and the choice you make will play into your design options. “We most often see buttercream cakes as buttercream tends to be more appealing taste-wise for the masses,” says Cousins. “But don’t rule out fondant! For the couple seeking an extra smooth finish, fondant is the obvious winner.” Traditional American buttercream can either be smoothed, or you can choose a more textured look. Other options include Italian or Swiss buttercream, as well as chocolate ganache.

Dream Up the Perfect Décor

Once the logistics of the design are confirmed, it’s time to determine the decorative details of your cake! “The design of the wedding cake can certainly make a personal statement by tying in event details such as the wedding dress, event florals, location, or a personal detail such as how the couple met,” says Cousins. Consider activities and places you love, along with décor elements that match your wedding theme such as your color palette, venue, or invitation design.

If you’re hoping for a floral design, consider the type of blooms. Do you want something that matches your bouquet, or do you want to highlight a specific type of flower? Consider if fresh flowers are the perfect look, or if you’d prefer to have pressed flowers or even painted buttercream flowers or sugar flowers.

In choosing the color of your wedding cake, the sky’s the limit. Of course, a white wedding cake is beautifully traditional, but that’s not the only option! Instead, you may want a cake with a pastel-hued buttercream, a watercolor motif, or even a black cake as a dramatic showstopper. “Palette cakes have really gained popularity over the last two years and it’s no wonder why—they are literal works of art!” adds Cousins. Adding décor elements such as fresh fruit, greenery, or gold fleck detailing are other great design options to consider as well.

Overall, the key is to work with your event planner and cake artist to determine what will look best in your reception space and match the overall aesthetic, while incorporating key details that are important to you and your partner.

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