'By Melissa Mayntz.'
Every bride- and groom-to-be knows the importance of the wedding cake, but an engagement cake is a recent trend that many couples use not only to celebrate their new commitment to one another, but also to help with the beginning stages of their wedding planning.
What is an Engagement Cake?
Specialty cakes are a staple for many different parties: baby showers, birthdays, graduations, and even engagement parties. The sweet treat is a favorite of party-goers, and is often a focal point of the event with glowing candles, elaborate décor, or whimsical figurine toppers. While there is no set formula for determining what type of cake to use, there are several different types that couples tend to favor.
Types of Cakes
There are two basic types of cakes that appear at engagement parties: fun celebratory cakes, and more formal centerpiece cakes. A fun cake may be themed to match the party or may simply be decorated in bright colors with the couple's names, proposal date, or anticipated wedding date in contrasting icing. Most fun cakes are sheet cakes because they are more economical, and many families bake the engagement cake themselves in honor of the new couple.
A formal cake should be used for a formal engagement party. If out-of-town guests are invited and the event is catered or otherwise meticulously planned, a more elaborate cake may be appropriate. While these engagement desserts should not approach the size, formality, and decadence of the wedding cake, they should generally coincide with the tone of the celebration at hand.
Purpose of the Engagement Cake
While the principal purpose of a cake is just to celebrate the couple's commitment and upcoming wedding, it actually can serve an additional function: a trial run for the wedding cake itself. Many couples will choose a bakery or cake style they are interested in for the wedding to create the engagement dessert, allowing them to examine the taste, texture, and quality of the cake without as much of a price commitment. Furthermore, an engagement party is an excellent opportunity to try out unique flavors and taste combinations, including:
- Chocolate cake with fruit or other complimentary fillings
- White chocolate for a decadent taste without sacrificing traditional wedding white colors
- Candy-based cakes that incorporate nuts, caramel, or other types of confections
- Different textures and flavors of icings
Many bakeries are willing to create engagement cakes in a range of flavors - perhaps as different layers or several small cakes - to give the couple a wide set of options and choices. This is a delightful alternative to traditional cake tastings and gives friends and family members the opportunity to offer their opinions on different cakes as well. Some bakeries may even offer discounts to couples who do eventually choose to work with them based on their experiences with an engagement confection.
While the cake may serve tasting and trial purposes at an engagement party, it should not become as much a focal point of the festivity as the wedding cake eventually will. Having a cutting ceremony or other staged photographs with an engagement dessert may be considered too presumptuous for many guests, since those are events traditionally associated only with a wedding. Different families may have different etiquette expectations and customs, however, and whatever actions the couple feels most comfortable with should be honored.
Is This Really Necessary?
While a cake is certainly traditional and expected at a wedding, it is a relatively new engagement trend and is not required for any party or other celebratory event. Some couples may not have the budget to include an engagement cake in their planning, while others may already know what type of cake they are interested in and want to save it for the wedding itself. Still other couples may just not like cake and want to experiment with other dessert options.
An engagement cake is a delicious new tradition for many couples, with the added bonus that it allows them to experiment with their wedding cake options long before the big day. At most parties, food is a focal point, and an engagement dessert can be as fun or formal as the couple desires as they begin their sweet journey to the alter.