Outdoor weddings are a sought-after option any time of the year. They offer lovely ambiance and beautiful photos with natural, striking backdrops, but there are some locations that bring additional challenges, especially during the heat of the summer.
Here in St. George, we're much closer to Las Vegas than our northern snow friends, exposing us to the desert heat. (Yup, not all of Utah has great skiing.) Because of that, I’ve learned to avoid summer outdoor wedding cake tragedies in a big way.
Ever been to a wedding where you could literally see the cake melting during the reception, no time-lapse needed? It's the absolute worst...the bride is trying not to look, and none of the guests can stop looking. As a cake artist, it literally gives me one of the sickest, saddest feelings in the world.
To ensure that the cake will remain a beautiful centerpiece throughout an entire event, I try to guide my brides and event planners with the 8 tips below to avoid a meltdown.
Location, location, location. First off, make sure your cake will be in the shade. Not just as your event begins, but if you want your cake to survive in all it’s beauty, make sure it will be shaded as the sun makes its descent and changes positions throughout the event. Trust me. You don’t want to skimp on this. Even if it means bringing in a pretty backdrop (which can be cool for pictures anyhow) for the cake to shield it when the sun is at more of a 30° angle.
More location. Keeping your cake in the shade gives it a leg up, but to seal the deal, place it in an area at the event surrounded by foliage or near running water so its in the coolest locale possible, since temperatures are generally lower near lots of plants or moving water. Avoid displaying your cake near anything that has been heating up during the day and which would also retain high temps through the evening, such as sidewalks, pavement, rock, bricks, the outside of a building, or anything metal.
Fondant (or naked-cake) design. Buttercream is kinda really exactly what it sounds like...creamy icing made with butter as a base. Imagine putting a stick of butter outside in a bowl on a hot summer day, when the temps can get over 110°. You'll have something ready to drizzle over popcorn, and that’s pretty much what will happen to the outside of your cake if you go with a buttercream design instead of a fondant design. If you are dead set on buttercream for your outdoor summer wedding, location can help, but don’t be surprised if your cake starts losing its look after an hour or so. I generally encourage brides to use fondant during this time of year. Don’t worry - you won’t sacrifice flavor too much. Most cake designers put a thin layer of buttercream under the fondant, and then of course, you’ll have the layers of buttercream throughout your cake. Naked cakes also work pretty well in the heat of the outdoors, so consider that option if you really don’t want fondant. In closing on this subject, do yourself, your cake designer, your event planner and your cake a favor...please don’t go with buttercream if it’s questionable.
Cake arrival time. Talk with your cake artist and try to schedule your delivery time for as close to the event start time as possible, but of course, make sure they’ll have plenty of time to set the cake up before guests arrive.
Provide an indoor holding spot for the cake. If your cake shop is unable to deliver the cake as late as you want, secure a safe-from-children indoor area where your cake can live before you bring it out to the right spot. If you go this route, make sure you have someone strong with steady hands and good coordination to move the cake into its intended spot when the time is right.
Make sure you get the best cake photo. Coordinate with your photographer ahead of time so they are ready to jump in on the action and take some cake photos as soon as the cake is placed (and in good lighting), just in case any drooping occurs over the course of the evening.
Chill that cake. The benefit of cooling your cake is that it extends the time your cake will be living at a happy temperature. You may be able to extend your cake's life an extra hour two this way, but this can be a bit controversial, since having your cake overchilled can land you with condensation beading up on your cake like a milk carton. If you live in a dry area where beading won't really occur due to moisture quickly evaporating into the air, talk to your cake designer about cooling the cake in their refrigerators before delivery, but trust your designer's opinion. Also, darkly colored cakes may not do as well with being cooled beforehand because condensation tends to show more easily on deeper colors.
Really in doubt? Go fake cake. If the temps are over-the-top in your area, you may be rethinking your cake after reading this article. Frankly, if you are worried, that’s probably wise. After all, it's best to not stress on your day. Your cake artist can create your look using cake dummies. This saves somewhat on cost (but not a ton - remember, much of the labor put into your cake is the artistry on the outside) and will ensure that your cake will stand the test of the heat. You can make a small layer the actual cake, so you have something to cut into with your love while the guests look on. And if you serve sheet cake or other desserts at your event, it’s very likely that most people won't even think about the difference.
Now that you’re armed, move forward, plan in confidence and don’t look back.
Questions? Comments? Just wanna drop me a line? Please do so below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.