An intimate wedding – choosing the cake for your “small” day

2020 – well, it’s been a strange year so far, not least for anyone in the Wedding Industry or planning to get married this year.

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many events to immediately cancel, and weddings, even small ones (with just the officiating person, couple and two witnesses) were rapidly banned. Couples had to make a decision – either hold their nerve and hope that weddings in the late summer or autumn would still go ahead, or decide to postpone. Many, including some of my lovely clients, understandably postponed. My heart broke for them, but also for all the suppliers involved in their big day. Some of us are not huge businesses, some of us (for various reasons) are not eligible for government support. We sat and waited along with our couples …

But there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.

From 1st August couples in England are allowed to have up to 30 people at their wedding. Some couples are grabbing this with both hands. The couples that just want to be married, where they aren’t worried about having everyone to celebrate (the party can wait for another time) and just want to be married to each other. The couples who have social anxiety, where the thought of a huge wedding is crippling, where the gathering was only ever meant to be small and perfectly formed anyway. The couples who found themselves furloughed or made redundant, who also lost their business when the world locked down, but who can just about afford a small wedding. And the couples whose original plans have been thrown into disarray – the overseas wedding cancelled, the original venue now bankrupt or unable to reopen just yet.

And across the land, wedding suppliers in all fields are opening up their arms and their order books to embrace these couples – right? Well no, some aren’t. Some are still maintaining their minimum spend or minimum numbers. Some are scornful of the smaller wedding. Facebook groups for suppliers are not full of members leaping at the chance to re-enter the wedding fray all guns blazing. Some are hesitant to rebook a couple for a second or third time, worried that they won’t ever see the final balance or that the date will never come for them to be able to have pride in their work. And some are just not willing to scale down their offerings.

But here at Betty Bee Bakes I am showing the love for the small and intimate, the bijou, the pint-sized and perfectly formed. I am so excited for a wedding cake order I have going out in a few weeks. I was only approached, about the possibility of making the cake, in June. Already in the height of lockdown, but with some optimism that the couple would be allowed a small number of guests to witness their vows and have a meal afterwards. My heart sang with joy that they would (fingers crossed) be able to finally get married, after having to cancel their overseas wedding. The Registrar is booked, the hotel has put the necessary social distancing measures in place, and we are good to go (please don’t let there be a second lockdown). I have temporarily removed my minimum spend for wedding cake orders. I am not going to make and charge you for a three-tier cake when you couldn’t possibly eat it all. I have broken out those 4” tins that usually only see the light of day for large multi-tiered cakes and for seasonal offerings.

So, with that in mind, here are some ideas for having a spectacular wedding cake, for up to 30 people:

Scale down the tier sizes:

A smaller cake doesn’t mean less impact. Choose your decorations wisely and it can be just as stunning as a larger tiered cake. A 4” on top of a 6” will serve 20 portions. A 6” and an 8” will serve 40 and a three-tier 4”, 6” and 8” will serve 46. These are finger-portion sizes, served at weddings after the coffee and speeches (when you are already full from the three-course meal including dessert) or brought out with the evening buffet. If you want a three-tier, but only have 20 guests, think about serving the cake as the dessert instead, where bigger servings will mean you aren’t left with cake to eat for days afterwards.

Small 2-tier by Betty Bee Bakes (inspired by Couture Wedding Cakes by Sweetcheeks)

Think cupcakes:

My minimum order for cupcakes is 12. It then goes up in multiples of six. 30 beautifully decorated cupcakes displayed on pretty cake stands for a vintage feel, or on a cupcake tower for an edgier look, are easy for the couple to source and easy for me as the baker to set up (allowing me a quick in-and-out set up time, great for social distancing and for the venue to manage). Have a cupcake bouquet as a centrepiece for each table. You don’t want pretty cupcakes? This wedding is about you – have whatever theme you want! I’ve made cupcakes for weddings with wizarding themes and superhero themes. It’s up to you.

Wedding Cupcakes by Betty Bee Bakes
Cupcake Bouquet by Betty Bee Bakes

Have a cake buffet:

If your aim is just to feed your guests, and not all about the cutting of the cake, consider loaf cakes, cupcakes, scones, brownies and Victoria sandwiches. I’m doing myself out of a job here, you don’t really need me for this! Get your relatives baking something to bring along (check the venue are happy for outside food to be brought on site though. I have Public Liability Insurance, I bet Aunt Mabel doesn’t …) But if you and your family are not bakers, then I would be more than happy to help.

Pudding all the way:

Ditch the cake altogether and go for a dessert blow-out. All of your childhood (or adulthood) favourites in a massive sugar-hit. Sounds like heaven to me! Or have a donut wall or candy cart. These are still massively popular and will continue to be. 

Dessert Table (photo from Needpix.com)

Go savoury:

And finally, do what Mr B and I did at our evening reception – we had a cheese and pork pie tower. A “cheese cake”, if you will. Find your local deli or artisan cheesemaker and pile cake stands with your favourite cheeses or savouries. Put out the pickles and crackers and you are set to enjoy a wedding day that is truly unique, and no less memorable for being just your closest friends and family.   

Pork Pie and Cheese Cake (photo credit: Sam Jayne Photography)

Just three days ago Princess Beatrice married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in All Saints Chapel in Windsor Great Park. They abided by current rules on numbers at church weddings. Their wedding photos show a relaxed, happy and very-much-in-love couple. Their wedding would have been in stark contrast to their original plans for a May wedding at St James’s Palace. I can’t help but wonder if having some of the pressure taken away, of entertaining countless Royals and celebrities, has made for a happier and more relaxed wedding day? And we all know that where the Royals lead on wedding trends, the world follows.

(P.S I’ve yet to see a picture of the cake, but I am a tad miffed they didn’t ask me to make it – I’m so close to The Great Park I could have walked it up to the reception in the Royal Lodge!)

Clare