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Food and Cakes

Small cakes as centerpieces in lieu of one big cake

We are thinking about doing something a little different for our dessert/cake part of the meal and would appreciate the feedback from others, especially if you have seen this done before! 
We anticipate a seated dinner reception for 100-120. Instead of the traditional large wedding cake we thought to do individual cakes for each table. Each cake would be one of four varieties (choc, vanilla, red velvet and carrot) and be decorated with flowers. The cakes would serve as centerpieces and also a way to have people mingle among the tables if they wanted to try different types of cake.
Thoughts? Feedback?
vturnipseed1

Re: Small cakes as centerpieces in lieu of one big cake

  • Yup, everything @SP29 said. I'm not getting up and asking another table for a slice of their cake, even if I know them. Either have all the small cakes the same flavor (which I do think would work) or just have different flavors set out after cutting the cake.
    SP29Viczaesarsouthernbelle0915Heffalump
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    edited January 2016
    I also wouldn't feel comfortable going up to someone else's table to ask for a slice. 

    Also, with these cakes sitting in the middle of the table all during dinner service, I don't know that I'd want to eat it. What if someone spilled their drink? Or dropped a piece of food onto the cake? What if when a plate was being cleared, something fell from the plate on to the cake (a utensil, leftover sauces, etc). 

    charlotte989875
  • jacques27jacques27 member
    Knottie Warrior 500 Love Its 1000 Comments 5 Answers
    edited January 2016
    My friend did this.  I believe she had them under a cake dome to alleviate the concerns climbingwife has.

    Her thought was people would mingle to try different flavors.  That didn't happen.  I knew ahead of time that there were different flavors at different tables because she told me, but most people didn't and just assumed the same flavor was at all the tables.  Even still, I don't think people would have gone from table to table to do that - you'd be better off just having a cake table with different flavors for people to pick if giving people variety is the goal.  I would probably stick to basics like vanilla, chocolate, and/or marble though and not something like carrot which can be divisive if you're going to do the centerpiece thing because most people won't go seeking out other options than what is at their table. 

    People seemed to like it and thought it was cute.  I can't say that it was something altogether mindblowing that really wowed me though.  The only nice part of it was that her caterers were SO SLOW that those of us at the tables in the very back were just getting our salads when people up front were already finishing their entrees so we had cake as an appetizer and no one had to wait for the caterers to bring around the cake.  I'd probably still be sitting at that wedding if I had to wait for the caterers to do that.
  • JoanE2012JoanE2012 Exit 21 (Jersey!) member
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    There better not be carrot cake at my table!  Doubtful I'm going to another table to ask them for a slice of what they have.  I'm also not a fan of food as centerpieces - it sits out for hours in close proximity to people's hands, coughs, etc.  I suppose covering it with domes as jacques27 mentioned would alleviate that, but I'm still not a fan.  In addition, we have a group of friends that would probably eat the cake before the dinner too, so it could be quite comical to see the centerpieces "disappear".
  • JoanE2012 said:
    There better not be carrot cake at my table!  Doubtful I'm going to another table to ask them for a slice of what they have.  I'm also not a fan of food as centerpieces - it sits out for hours in close proximity to people's hands, coughs, etc.  I suppose covering it with domes as jacques27 mentioned would alleviate that, but I'm still not a fan.  In addition, we have a group of friends that would probably eat the cake before the dinner too, so it could be quite comical to see the centerpieces "disappear".
    Meh, my thoughts on that are if you're going to put the food in front of me, you don't get to dictate when I eat it.  So if you're hellbent on people all having the cake to correspond with when you're ready to do your own cake cutting or don't want them eating it before the specified "dessert" time, don't make it available.  So OP, I would only recommend the centerpiece thing if you really don't care when people eat the cake.
    SP29
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    JoanE2012 said:

    There better not be carrot cake at my table!  Doubtful I'm going to another table to ask them for a slice of what they have.  I'm also not a fan of food as centerpieces - it sits out for hours in close proximity to people's hands, coughs, etc.  I suppose covering it with domes as jacques27 mentioned would alleviate that, but I'm still not a fan.  In addition, we have a group of friends that would probably eat the cake before the dinner too, so it could be quite comical to see the centerpieces "disappear".

    I'm not a fan either. I don't like carrot cake and I'm not going to someone else's table to ask for a slice of their cake. Nor do I want to give away my table's cake to people coming by. And I don't think it will encourage mingling. People will eat the cake at their own tables but probably aren't going to go to other tables to get cake, let alone " mingle." I think that even if they get cake from other tables, they'll go back to their own tables to sit down and eat it.

    Many wedding cakes are on display throughout the reception until they are cut and served, but I don't think a table cake will last that long - even a centerpiece cake.

    Bottom line is, I don't see this as practical - especially if you're doing a cutting. And as a means of promoting "mingling" it just comes off as too gimmicky and forced.
  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    Adding on to not feeling comfortable going table to table to get a slice of a certain flavor.  How would guests even know that there are other flavors to choose from?  I would just assume everyone was getting the same flavor.

    Also cutting a cake at your table could just get messy and then you have to worry about Uncle Charlie who cuts himself a slice of cake, licks his fingers, and then goes back for another slice for his wife.  Eww!

    [Deleted User]
  • Super cool and fun idea but I don't think it would turn out how you imagine (with the mingling and such). It would also very likely be much more expensive because, even though the cakes are small, you're basically asking a decorator to dress 12 cakes versus one large one.

    If you want mingling, have a dessert buffet and put some cocktail tables around it. If people want to mingle, they can..or they can go back to their seats.
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    SP29cupcait927
  • I went to a wedding like this. They had different flavors at each table, but we didn't realize this till after most of the cake was gone, making it impossible to switch with others.  I'll eat nearly any cake, but I definitely would have felt awkward approaching a stranger's table asking for their flavor of cake if I didn't like what was in front of me.

    I also want to say, it was kind of awkward to cut the cake ourselves and dish it up, family style. Like no, I do not want that slice of cake that your thumb touched after you licked some frosting off of it - just another consideration. Some people were really bad at cleanly serving the cake. This is a pretty minor worry, though, as most adults should know not do that (but alas, my cousin R failed to do so...)

    I would just do one flavor of cake. For my cake, we actually had a chocolate layer and then a white layer, with a basic (but delicious) buttercream frosting and filling. It worked out well because those who hate one flavor could eat the half they like. Out baker called it a "marble" cake, but the flavors weren't swirled together or anything.
  • A few years ago this was done at my cousin's shower and it worked for that. (Smaller group and less time sitting out, plus her mom made the cakes which saved on cost.)
    I don't think it would work as well at the wedding though for all the reasons PPs have said. Maybe at a cake and punch reception but not full dinner.
  • MesmrEweMesmrEwe member
    Knottie Warrior 2500 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    edited January 2016

    We did this for our wedding and have been to several others that have done it as well...

    1) 6" double-layer cakes or Pepperidge Farm freezer cakes (yes, you really could just go with these for the tables and have a small centerpiece cake done that you use for the photo op) for sizing.  DO NOT allow yourself to be talked into 8" cakes - they're WAY too big and you'll have tons leftover.  A 6" double-layer serves 8-12 comfortably.  Also, one per table, we had one baker try to talk us into putting 8" cakes on every other table which IMO defeats the purpose and is a logistical nightmare as other posters have pointed out.

    2) Remember you're doing these in lieu of centerpieces and a large single cake to serve everyone - budget accordingly.

    3) Good cake gets eaten! DO NOT skimp on having great tasting cake!

    4) Skip putting real flowers into them, stick with a simple iced design or piped design (table number for example). 

    5) Purchase cake servers from either Walmart (they have a $2 metal cake server in their silverware section) and make sure to have at least a butter knife or longer for guests to cut the cake with.  Restaurant supply is another option for the cake knives as is online as there are some cheaper wedding sets out there for the $5-10 price point. 

    6) After dinner service, have the caterers bring the cakes to a central table and provide some take-home container/clam shells ($10 from Sam's) and disposable plates/forks for guests to have a late night snack. 

    7) The mingling and trying other flavors of cake really is dependent upon the crowd.  We did it for DH's cousin and we had a blast going from table to table to try the different flavors. 

    As for the display aspect - cheapest option is a contrasting colored napkin or 20" square (14-16" round) of fabric under the cake.. If you want it raised up a little purchase some boxes and put that under the napkin.  You could rent cake stands but IMO - not worth the headache or expense. 

    At the end of the night, out of the 50 table cakes we had, we pieced together 3.  DH's cousin OTOH had a TON leftover because they used 8" double-layer cakes (and they weren't that great tasting)...  Looking back on the table cakes the only thing I'd have done different is making sure I had actual cake knife/servers there instead of the small knives we purchased instead (which the caterer walked off with).. 

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  • Thanks everyone for all the feedback! This is great. We met with our venue/caterer today and I think we have a plan. We have a wonderful bakery near us where we will get the cakes. MsemrEwe thanks for the hints about size! The servers will remove cakes and slice them, bringing them back to the table so no worries about errant thumbs. I think we'll go with multiple flavors and make an announcement. Our crowd is not shy. If folks don't want to try others they won't be forced to :-)  
    Also not too concerned with the cakes being on the tables, exposed as it were. Our crowd generally follows good hygiene practices and covers their mouths when coughing, etc. Also no one worries about the bread basket that sits on the table, at much closer proximity. The cake would be in the center for 2 hours or so before being eaten, less time than many wedding cakes are out on display during receptions. 
    I'll post pictures in September to show the end results!
  • JoanE2012JoanE2012 Exit 21 (Jersey!) member
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    Thanks everyone for all the feedback! This is great. We met with our venue/caterer today and I think we have a plan. We have a wonderful bakery near us where we will get the cakes. MsemrEwe thanks for the hints about size! The servers will remove cakes and slice them, bringing them back to the table so no worries about errant thumbs. I think we'll go with multiple flavors and make an announcement. Our crowd is not shy. If folks don't want to try others they won't be forced to :-)  
    Also not too concerned with the cakes being on the tables, exposed as it were. Our crowd generally follows good hygiene practices and covers their mouths when coughing, etc. Also no one worries about the bread basket that sits on the table, at much closer proximity. The cake would be in the center for 2 hours or so before being eaten, less time than many wedding cakes are out on display during receptions. 
    I'll post pictures in September to show the end results!
    I'm sorry, but there's no way you can say that you know every single one of your guests practices good hygiene. Are you with all of them in the bathroom to see if they wash their hands? Do you know for a fact that they all don't shove a finger up their nose when they think no one is looking? Call me a germaphobe but a cake sitting out for hours while people are chewing and drinking and talking over it is just not appetizing.
    I agree.  And OP, I don't mind the bread basket - as soon as the server puts it down, I grab a piece and that's it.  It's the first thing eaten, not sitting on the table all night.  As for display cakes, ours was out, but it was near our sweetheart table.  No one came to take pictures or was even near it until we cut the cake.  

    Some people might not care, but I would not eat the cake if it was an uncovered centerpiece - it just skeeves me out too much.


    [Deleted User]
  • I think its a cool idea! I'd probably limit it to 2 flavors instead of 5 or 6 to eliminate the issues others have discussed. maybe do a poll on your website or your rsps and see what the top 2 flavors are your guests voted for and go with that.
  • I think this might be a "know your crowd" type of thing. I've gone to a couple weddings like this, and it worked great! There might have been 4ish different flavors, and people weren't hesitating at all to mingle and try other cakes. When the announcement was made for desert, they did mention there were different flavors, and to not be shy about trying something else. The cakes were moved to one table during the dancing, and take home boxes were provided. 

    To the poster who mentioned 8" cakes are too big...totally agree. As guests, we ended up going home with almost a whole cake because there was SO MUCH left over.
    MesmrEwe
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