The Enthusiasts Guide from “Yes” to “I Do”

Host Leah Longbrake is pulling back the veil to bring you honest advice and creative ideas from those in the wedding industry. From the Engagement to the Honeymoon, get all the details you need from wedding and event experts on how to make it your best day ever!

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

Let Them Eat Cake! How to Budget and Select the Perfect Desserts

Let Them Eat Cake! How to Budget and Select the Perfect Desserts

Courtney Bonning, owner of Terrapin Bakery, shares with us the many layers involved in choosing your wedding cake and desserts. She’ll give the details on how to choose your bakery, budget and how soon you should place your order. And trust me, she doesn't sugarcoat what you should and shouldn't do when selecting your sweets!

Get to know Courtney:

Courtney Bonning is a Hospitality Management graduate from Kent State University, and a graduate of the Pastry & Baking program from The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Courtney has worked as a pastry chef in Napa Valley, CA, as well as Seattle, Washington for Tom Douglas, and The Ritz Carlton in Cleveland. Courtney has worked independently from 2010 on, and owned and operated BonBon Pastry & Cafe before selling and starting Terrapin Bakery. Courtney also works as a hospitality consultant, and mentors people interested in starting foodservice businesses in the Cleveland area.

Follow Terrapin Bakery on Facebook and Instagram!

This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Executive Producers David Moss, Gerardo Orlando, Production Director Brigid Coyne and Audio Engineers Eric Koltnow, Sean Rule-Hoffman and Declan Rohrs.

Where to Listen

Find us in your favorite podcast app.

Leah Longbrake:

How did you get started with being a pastry chef and your business Terrapin?

Courtney Bonning:
Oh, okay. Two totally different questions. But I have to bring it to right and this moment in the news, because I'm incredibly that Napa Valley is on fire right now with the glass fire, because it was 2004... and Cleveland did not have a self-esteem yet. I think we've gotten to the point where everybody's got a self-esteem, and we forgot that we didn't like ourselves for a real long time. So I just wanted to... I wanted to leave. And I graduated from Kent State, and I was managing a restaurant. And I needed a reason to get out of here, because I was 24 at the time. And I knew that I wanted to be in restaurants, because I absolutely love it, and I love being around people, but not in that specific scenario. So I was, "I want to be a baker. I want to take out too many student loans and drive to California and go do this," But sometimes that's just what you need to do in life. Seriously.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Courtney Bonning:
I was searching for literally the pastry school that was furthest away from home that I could afford.

Leah Longbrake:
But not France.

Courtney Bonning:
That I could afford. Yes, because it would have a been France. I'm so jealous [Britt 00:09:03]. She got to go to France. I went way later. I went way later. So I drove across country and went to the Culinary Institute, because I knew that if I looked at the industry I was in, and I really wanted to hone all my skills, being a pastry shop is really where it needed to be. And it was awesome. To all of your listeners, if you want to do it, do it. That was a great school. It's a great program, especially for adults, because it is a sped up program. It's nine months of intensive of just cooking, so that-

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, yeah. Great.

Courtney Bonning:
Oh, my God. You go to school in a castle on a hill, and you're just making pastries with this internationally-renowned pastry chefs. And it was magical.

Leah Longbrake:
Wow.

Courtney Bonning:
I have nothing bad to say about that years. It was crazy. But I was working as a pastry chef there. And then, I got ambushed on Craigslist, back when people looked for jobs on Craigslist. And they were like, "Hey, who wants to be a pastry chef in San Francisco?" And I was like, "Me." And they were like, "Psych. It's in Seattle." I'm like, "Okay. I guess still me." So I went up, and I tried out for this position as the pastry sous chef for Tom Douglas. And if you're not aware of Tom Douglas, he is the Michael Symon of Seattle, but more established restaurant-wise, than Micheal Symon is. I think he's up to eight restaurants at this point.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, wow.

Courtney Bonning:
Oh, my God. He's huge. He's a big personality. He's really nice. He loves his employees. It was a really, really great place to work. And I was there for a while, and I can't... It's still is surreal to me that I was in the Pacific Northwest for as long as I was, because it feels like decades ago at this point. But that was fun. But you know what sucks about being in the Pacific Northwest? You're not at home with your family, and your home is where your people are.

Leah Longbrake:
And Cleveland is home.

Courtney Bonning:
Yeah. It's really true. I really just wanted to be... I really just wanted to be back. There was one Christmas where I wasn't around my family, and I'm like, "I didn't realize this would hurt so much."

Leah Longbrake:
Aw.

Courtney Bonning:
"Wow, this sucks so bad." So I'm like, "You know what? I can't do this anymore," and hopped in my car, drove back across the country and wound up getting the job at the Ritz-Carlton. So I was there for three years. And the Ritz-Carlton is great place to work. And I got to make giant gingerbread houses, and it was super fun. But I was doing it for other people, and I didn't want to do that. I feel like this is such a long story. God, I'm so sorry.

Leah Longbrake:
How do we get to Terrapin?

Courtney Bonning:
So after we got through the Bonbon era, I did some soul-searching. And what Terrapin really is the culmination of all of the efforts of all of the things that I just told you, because I can take a little piece out of all these experiences and know that it's something I want to carry with me, and it's something that I want to do every day. And what I've done is I've taken the employees out of it, so I can have one-on-one conversations with my brides, with my clients and execute things for them. I don't have to worry about how they're going to come out. I know that they're they're only touched by my professional hands, and that's why Terrapin is really important to what I'm doing right now. And I have a feeling I'm going to be doing it for a long time, because, as we dig deeper, I realized that this is more... this is closer to my soul than anything I've done before. So yeah, it's been a really good move.

Leah Longbrake:
That's awesome, and I'm so happy to hear that.

Courtney Bonning:
Thank you.

Leah Longbrake:
And I think it's really important for brides and grooms knowing that there is love and care from the baker that they choose, that going to be putting in those details and that hard work. It's not just you're hiring this person, and they're going to put together this layered cake and that's all it is. There really is a passion and love behind it, and they are looking out for your best interest.

Courtney Bonning:
Well, I think you, as a bride, can understand... From all the brides I talked to, you're talking to so many people, and you've got so many balls in the air, and this is not your profession. To a lot of brides, this is brand new, uncharted territory. And you're looking at something on Pinterest or you're looking at an idea, and you're like, "God, this is so cool, and I don't know how to make this happen," and you really need someone to guide you through it that's going to be with you the whole way-

Leah Longbrake:
Yes. Yes.

Courtney Bonning:
... and just make it happen. So I understand the nervousness when it comes to the big day, and all of the balls that you've got in the air, and the fact that you did need a village to make this happen, to make it special.

Leah Longbrake:
Great way of putting it. You really do need a village. Now with that, Courtney, how soon could couples start looking for their baker or the company that they're going to work with? And once they do find someone, what's the next step?

Courtney Bonning:
Well, I think as soon as you know that you've got a date set, and you have talked to the place where you're having the event, and you understand all of the things that that event place can service, because, man, it's like the Wild, Wild West out there, because it goes from complete DIY, you've got this white box warehouse or a barn or a patch of grass, to full-service Ritz-Carlton type of stuff. So once you have your event space, then I think you can reach out, preliminary wise, to a baker like myself or A Cookie and a Cupcake or White Flower or all of those things and just say, "Hey, this is my date, and when do you want me to get back to you?" Because all of these places are going to have a different set of rules. You clearly went there, because they fill your aesthetic in some way. But White Flower, who specifically does wedding cakes, they might be booked out for two years. I don't know.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh. That's true.

Courtney Bonning:
It really depends on the date. It depends on maybe you're trying to do your wedding on Labor Day, it's really important. You have a lot of people coming in from out of town, and date is a hot date. It's going to be booked. So get together with them, find out what deposit be need, or you can come to me, and you're going to be, "Hey, I'm getting married in a year and a half." And I'm going to be, "Talk to me in a year," and I'm be like talk to me in a year, because I'm not booked out in that way, because my specialties are more dessert buffets and a la minute things, and I don't... You can try to book me, but it's not going to be practical. You're going to forget information. It's going to be that kind of thing. So reach out preliminary and find out what kind of information they need from you. But also, use that time to really reign in what you want, because you're going to start off, "Maybe you did. Maybe you don't. Tell me how this worked for you," or you're, "Oh, my God. I want to have my wedding on the moon, and I want everything to be covered in balloons. And I want a fountain. And I want an ice sculpture." And then, suddenly you're, "Wait. I don't want to pay for any of this. This is all silly." Does it change over time?

Leah Longbrake:
We're going to get to budgets in a minute, but for me, personally, all I knew was I wanted confetti cake. That's all I knew. It's my favorite cake.

Courtney Bonning:
Are your Tosi fan? Is that it?

Leah Longbrake:
What? What? I don't know what that is?

Courtney Bonning:
Tosi from Milk Bar, because confetti... Funfetti cake, confetti cake, she made that happen.

Leah Longbrake:
I've loved it since childhood. I have it for my birthday cake like I love confetti cake.

Courtney Bonning:
I'm going to end up sending you a Milk Bar cake at some point, so you can understand [crosstalk 00:16:58].

Leah Longbrake:
I love it. Do it.

Courtney Bonning:
[crosstalk 00:17:00] love it. Okay. All right. Tell me more about you.

Leah Longbrake:
No, I just knew that. And then, so we had found the company we ended up going with through, actually, a bridal fair, and she had this-

Courtney Bonning:
The one at the IX Center?

Leah Longbrake:
No, but we did go to that one. It was one at a mall. And it was Cakes By You in Mentor. Debbie's the owner, and she had this amazing confetti cake. And I was just, "Let me learn more about you." And you know what? She blew me away, because what we ended up doing... and I didn't know existed... was we just did a simple two-tier cake. The top half we took home with us. And then, we slice into the second one for the cake cutting. And the rest got split up to the wedding party. But then, below that... and I have photos on my website LifewithLeah.com... there's three tiers of what is like Flintstone push up pops-

Courtney Bonning:
Oh, I'm definitely checking this out.

Leah Longbrake:
... but they're cake pops.

Courtney Bonning:
That's so awesome.

Leah Longbrake:
But they're cake pops. So instead of the normal cake balls or cupcakes, we did these like Flintstone push up pop that they're cakes. So we had red velvet-

Courtney Bonning:
So she set it up in the cylinder and [inaudible 00:18:13] them.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah.

Courtney Bonning:
Awesome.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah. Think of the champagne girls that walk around at events so you can pull at champagne out of their skirt. It's like that, but under the cake.

Courtney Bonning:
I love that.

Leah Longbrake:
And they had caps to them, so you could walk around on the dance floor or put them in your purse and not ruin the cake.

Courtney Bonning:
Did they do a monogram or something fun on top of them, too?

Leah Longbrake:
Nope.

Courtney Bonning:
No.

Leah Longbrake:
Mm-mm (negative).

Courtney Bonning:
It was just very simple.

Leah Longbrake:
No, it was just plastic. Very simple.

Courtney Bonning:
[crosstalk 00:18:34].

Leah Longbrake:
And you can see the cake layers, because they're clear. So we had red velvet one layer, which is my husband's favorite. We did a delicious chocolate in the middle. And then, we bookended it with the confetti with cream.

Courtney Bonning:
Dude, that's fantastic, and it's probably easy for-

Leah Longbrake:
And something fun and different.

Courtney Bonning:
... them, too. I love that idea. That's so [crosstalk 00:18:53].

Leah Longbrake:
People loved it, and they... Actually, one couple had booked them to do their wedding that got postponed, because of COVID.

Courtney Bonning:
I think 2021 is going to be a really hot year for weddings, because all of 2020 is getting pushed back. I only ended up doing one wedding this summer. It was beautiful. Yeah, I think a lot of people are going to end up postponing, because there are some people who absolutely cannot do the 15-person wedding, which is the one that I got to do. Reach out to people though.

Leah Longbrake:
It's nice you still got to do it though.

Courtney Bonning:
Yeah.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah. Really, especially with COVID. And you have newer brides. Like some of our listeners right now that our newly engaged, and now they're going to have to compete with brides postponing for dates. So back to, once you find a baker or company, what is a tasting process normally like? Do you just have flavors that you generally do laid out, or should a bride and groom's say, "Hey, these are what we're looking for off the rip?"

Courtney Bonning:
I think you need to... I think you definitely need to do some research and spread it out. Go to a few different people just to gather information. You may or may not end up doing tastings with them, but if you can go, "This is my budget. This is how many people I'm trying to serve." And they'll usually the cake flavors available for you to just look through online. You'll be able to narrow it down, but cast a wide net, narrow it down to a few people and get the conversation going with them. All of my websites and all of my menus, I have set flavors. I have 16 set flavors. I was just working on my website today.

Leah Longbrake:
There really is something for everybody.

Courtney Bonning:
I'm really hoping you can find something on there that you like, but even with those 16 set flavors, you might go, "Can I do this with a change, with a twist, with a... This is what I want." Most people are going to be willing to accommodate, but I think once... I've been doing this for the last 17 years in this particular role. And I've gotten to the point where I have a set menu, because I realize it's a work smarter not harder situation. And I do know dealing with a veteran like me is going to be different than dealing with somebody who is a new and awesome baker, because they might be willing try a million different flavors with you, and they've got the passion, and they work really super hard. So I feel like you're going to end up fighting this aesthetic. Everybody's so connected on social media that they're going to be, "Oh my, God. Vegan Burial Grounds Bakery is amazing. And she's doing all these crazy flavors," or "Dramatic Snax is amazing. She's doing all these crazy flavors." And you're going to naturally be drawn to them. But the one thing you need to keep in mind is your budget, and you have to one. You can't just be, "Oh, I just really need a thing. Charge me anything you want."

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah, let's go into that like right now, because I think it's super important before we really dive in even deeper, because it can be so overwhelming to hear a number once you get an idea in your head. Maybe you are that person that dreams of a five-tier cake with a fountain off the top or something, which is beautiful-

Courtney Bonning:
I've had those.

Leah Longbrake:
... but you get shell shocked when you hear what it actually costs to do it. And you don't want your dream totally killed. There's ways to modify your dreams to fit your budget. What's a healthy budget that we should be considering when it comes to the different... we'll start with the tier cakes?

Courtney Bonning:
You know, I was thinking about this podcast today, and jus the various things that get thrown at me. I know you've heard the saying, and I'm going to butcher it, but it's, "You can get things well-made or you can get things fast or you can get things cheap. And maybe you can get two, but you're never going to get all three."

Leah Longbrake:
Correct.

Courtney Bonning:
And you guys need to keep this in mind. It starts inwardly before you go outwardly. You know what your budget is as a human being, and if your budget is a hundred dollars, then your budget is a hundred dollars, and shocker, you can feed a hundred people cake with a hundred dollars. You may end up at Costco, but, hey, guess what? Costco's got delicious cake. So you have to think about what's important to you, but it really starts with you.

Courtney Bonning:
Because, I have to admit, from the other end, it is also so hard for me, as a baker, when a bride comes and they're, "I want this fountain on top of this cake, and it needs to be five tiers. And it has to be at least six stories tall, because my third cousin had this crazy cake five years ago, and I have to top what she did. Give me a number." Oh, you've just sent me into a tailspin. I have no idea what to quote you. There's so many details. There's so many aspects to finishing. There's so many things that I need to pull from you. And probably, while we're having this conversation, you haven't decided on all the factors of your cake yet, so I can't even give you an accurate quote. So when you're shell shocked by these quotes, it's because your baker was probably giving you a high quote to cover all of the requests that you're about to make for them.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah, because buttercream's different than fondant.

Courtney Bonning:
So different. A tub of fondant... One tub of fondant that cover a cake that could be 150 people, just the cost of the fondant, is around $80, if you're buying good fondant.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, wow.

Courtney Bonning:
Just the cost of the fondant. And that doesn't include-

Leah Longbrake:
Wow.

Courtney Bonning:
It doesn't include what's going to be probably 15 to 40 hours of work, depending on what you want to the finish work to be. And the difference between fresh flowers... which I'll only charge people cost on fresh flowers, because I don't have to do anything to them... versus gum paste flowers. They'll last forever. They have a specific look to them that some people are going for, but they are 20 times the cost. They are $5-$20 a flower. If you were to purchase them on Etsy... And you know, it's funny. You can really go on to these websites. You can go onto Pinterest. You can go onto Etsy. And you can see the actual cost of what people are spending on these things.

Courtney Bonning:
So just to get back to it... Again, start with your own budget. And if you have a budget of $500, and you only have feed 100 people, you're going to get a more elaborate cake. But if you have a budget of $500, and you have to feed 500 people, then you have to understand that you might have to do a little work yourself, like sourcing flowers, maybe from Etsy or having your florist cover your cake with flowers and getting something that's structural, but having your florist actually cover it, which is something that I do a lot. But it starts with you, and that's the best way to go about it.

Leah Longbrake:
I think something important the budget to bring up, that I didn't realize until I was a bride myself, was also certain fees. I didn't realize that there would be the fee for delivering the cake the day of. I'd never considered it. I didn't think about the fee for the stand, the rental fee, with the money comes back, if all the parts are there and is delivered, but it's still money gone for a minute that you need to think about.

Courtney Bonning:
Absolutely.

Leah Longbrake:
And so, deposits. Those are other budget things that should be considered. Is there anything else that I haven't mentioned as far as that goes that we should probably bring up as well?

Courtney Bonning:
Well, hopefully, your deposit is going to end up going towards the total cost of cake. When people give me a deposit, that just means, "I'm serious. I want to work with you. And I will be giving you more money in the future." Essentially, what I do with the deposit... mentally, if not physically... is I go and I buy the fondant. I go and I buy the flour. And I have procured all of the actual products that I need to make it, knowing that later I'm going to end up getting the other half of the deposit, and that is for my labor to actually put this together.

Courtney Bonning:
Some people will charge for stands. Sometimes you can get your own stand. By the way, I have to digress for a second. If you are buying a heavy multi-tiered cake, something that's more than two tiers, and you want to put it on a pedestal that has just a single pedestal in the middle, that is a terrible idea. It is scary. You're putting something very heavy on something that has almost no weight at the base, and you want to cut into it. You want to put more pressure onto it as you and your partner are doing this beautiful thing, and that is going to end up on America's Funniest Home Videos. Don't do that, please, God... or do just two tiers and have everything else be just cupcakes or whatever you need it to be.

Leah Longbrake:
But don't do the bar in the middle.

Courtney Bonning:
Don't do the single pedestal. Put it on a solid base. But a lot of people, a lot of bakers will offer bases that are just included. It's usually a foil wrapped... It's called a cake drum. So you don't necessarily have to do that. So if somebody's coming back, and they're, "You have to buy this base," you probably don't. It's good to talk to your baker and go, "Look. I'm just not willing to spend the money on this," regardless of what it is. No one's looking at the base of this. It's going to be covered in tulle. It's going to be covered in glitter. This is a silly thing to spend money on.

Leah Longbrake:
No one cares.

Courtney Bonning:
Yeah, no one cares. "Nah, I don't want this." It's just going to go on the floor, or whatever you're doing with it. Delivery is a big deal, because you're usually... A lot of these places aren't where you're living. So you might live in downtown Cleveland and go to a baker that's in downtown Cleveland, but you might be getting married somewhere in a barn somewhere. So it's not just your baker that has to go. A lot of times, for me personally, I don't feel comfortable delivering a wedding cake by myself, because it also turns into this crazy double-dare dare, where they're, "Okay. Courtney, you made this 75-pound cake, and now you have to carry it up a flight of stairs and through a gallery and out of a barn and over a bridge and somehow set it directly in the middle of a 6-foot table. And all of these things have happened.

Leah Longbrake:
It's a recipe for disaster.

Courtney Bonning:
Yes. So it's not... When you're going, "Oh, my God. It's $100 for delivery," you are literally paying two people to probably spend three hours doing nothing, but trying to get your wedding cake safely into a space. So that is why it costs so much. But you do have to keep that in mind. And again, it comes down to, "I only have a budget for $500. I have to feed 500 people. Baker, can you tell me what you can do, and this is my aesthetic." In the days of Pinterest... and I know everybody's scrolling, and they're saving... bring that with you. It's such good. Information. I want to see all of your inspiration pieces, and not just for cakes that have been done. I want to see your gown inspirations, and I want to see your flower inspirations. I want to see your colors, and I want to see where it's going, because-

Leah Longbrake:
Absolutely.

Courtney Bonning:
... all of it plays into me helping you create something unique, because I don't necessarily feel comfortable completely plagiarizing a cake that you found... although if that is what you want, I will take your money, and I will make it for you.

Leah Longbrake:
But artistically, you could do something that's uniquely for them, but that's loosely based off of a inspiration they had.

Courtney Bonning:
You know, you're not just one photo. You didn't decide to go in a certain direction for your wedding in one hour. You've spent hours and hours thinking of this, and you are a person... like an onion, so many layers of inspiration and so many layers of background. And if you give them the opportunity, but also the information, to make something for you, they will gladly. Everybody will be so excited for this. And it actually simplifies the process. It gives us the opportunity to give you a quote that's more honest probably lower, because we're not confused by what you could possibly want. You lower because we're not we're not confused by what you could possibly want, and it's all good things. It's really just you being organized in your head, and even if just organized in your head is just a gallery of photos, that is great.

Leah Longbrake:
So I want to get to cake cutting in just a second, because it's the super fun part. You get to finally eat. But before that, when it comes to the flavors, what do you do if you are still deciding on your cake, and you're hardcore wanting your confetti cake like me, and you are significant other is, "I hate that," or "I want this also." How do you kind of referee that situation and what are some options?

Courtney Bonning:
Well, there's the groom's cake. And usually the groom's probably not, "Hey, I want this beautiful cake with lilies and pansies on top of it."

Leah Longbrake:
So is it still a thing?

Courtney Bonning:
Still a thing.

Leah Longbrake:
Groom's cake is still a thing?

Courtney Bonning:
Oh, my brother-in-law, I made him a groom's cake, and he absolutely wanted nothing other than a Rice Krispies cake with Batman on top of it. Would settle for nothing else. That is what he got. So, yeah. No, I think groom's cakes are so totally a thing, but-

Leah Longbrake:
I just think of Steel Magnolias with the giant armadillo-

Courtney Bonning:
[crosstalk 00:33:02].

Leah Longbrake:
And he hacks into, and he's, "Nothing like a good piece of..."

Courtney Bonning:
It is my favorite-

Leah Longbrake:
It's so good.

Courtney Bonning:
The color they got on the blood of that armadillo was perfection. It was so beautiful.

Leah Longbrake:
"Looks like the thing is bleeding to death." I have that movie memorized. Sorry, guys.

Courtney Bonning:
I need to re-watch it again, because it is so fantastic.

Leah Longbrake:
But, yeah, so groom's cake is an option to share in the love of cake.

Courtney Bonning:
It is an option to share. A lot of people request to have a few different flavors within a multi-tiered cake. I think a lot of people are coming around to the idea... even though cupcakes may be so 10 years ago... they're so utilitarian, beautiful, easy self-service. A lot of people still go for them. So just having different things like that, or if you're having... A lot of people, too, when you get to cutting the cake, especially if you're trying to expedite the process... like you have that wedding a 500 people, that budget of 500... and you need to have this cake cut, you're probably not going to have it all in the tiered cake that people see. You're going to have it in the back in a sheet cake that's already been cut and been plated.

Leah Longbrake:
I think that's a secret that people don't realize, because it never really dawned on me until I was cake shopping myself that you could just have that option.

Courtney Bonning:
Oh, yeah. No I love that idea. Yes, please. Please order the sheet cake, because I can give you such a better deal on a sheet cake, but also... And it's more from my Ritz-Carlton days, the people who opted to have a smaller display cake that was really for cutting, and it would still come back. I would still... I have these great memories of just taking both my hands and gloves and just peeling the fondant back... because no one actually wants to eat the fondant... and then cutting it. It's the world's messiest process, even to get the cleanest-cut wedding cake. But they would order... because they were very large weddings... they would order one or two sheet cakes, because a whole sheet cake will feed 100 people.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, wow.

Courtney Bonning:
And it's usually about $80 to $100, so you're going to get the most bang for your buck just have that, taking it back. And it's so easy. And we'll actually score it for people. So especially if you're incredibly concerned about the amount of food, because some brides and grooms are, "Oh, my God. What if we run out of food?" That's ever going to happen. But I can also guarantee it's not going to happen when it comes to cake, if you're getting a sheet cake, because it's predetermined on top. There's no... You slice where the lines are. That's all you have to do.

Leah Longbrake:
It's a great pro tip though. What a way to save money and still delicious. You're not losing the flavor and...

Courtney Bonning:
Not at all. And you're not losing your cake. You're not losing the display. You're not losing the theater of that one romantic moment that you have with your significant other where you're slicing together. So I think it's really cool.

Leah Longbrake:
With that, when do you think is the best time to cut the cake?

Courtney Bonning:
Oh, man.

Leah Longbrake:
Because some people try to do it towards the beginning. Some after all the dances.

Courtney Bonning:
From the pasty chef's perspective?

Leah Longbrake:
From your perspective. Bring on the inside track to us.

Courtney Bonning:
I think, honestly, you're gonna be holding more people's attention earlier in the night. So you bring people in-

Leah Longbrake:
You mean when they're not drunk, Courtney?

Courtney Bonning:
I don't know what you're talking about. I have never imbibed in my life. But you're holding people's attention earlier in the night, so if you really want them eyes focused on you, especially when you have a lot of people there, get in, get them a cocktail, have them have hors d'oeuvres. They're eating hors d'oeuvres. You're doing announcements. And go in immediately and cut the cake and get it in the back... for so many reasons. You really want to have this picture opps. People are going to look nicer. They're going to be more attuned to you. But also, I'm not sure what your scenario is, but brides like to get married in the summer when it's really hot, and they like to ask you for beautiful things like pastry creams and lemon curds and all of those fancy things that love to melt. They love it.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah, that's something definitely to consider if you are an outdoor and summer bride.

Courtney Bonning:
Yeah. You've planned this August wedding, and honestly, it could be thunderstorming and 70 degrees, or it could be 95 degrees with 100% humidity. And if you really want to have a beautiful moment in front of a sculpture that you ordered that's made of sugar and butter, just get it out of the way. And I promise you you're going to feel better about it. Your baker's going to feel better about it. They might offer you more options, because I've actually said no to people that I've had August weddings, and they're, "I want a naked cake, but I want it filled with lemon curd. I'm getting married in an outdoor tent." And I'm, "No. I refuse to set you up for failure."

Leah Longbrake:
That's just melting a couple hundred dollars.

Courtney Bonning:
The worry never goes away. It doesn't. You don't you don't graduate from worrying about your cake once you've dropped it off. That never goes away if you care about your job. I have had so many instances where I have sat in my car in the air conditioning for an hour, because I realize that they're not planning on cutting the cake until 9:00 PM, and it's so hot outside that it's going to be terrible. And if you're unhappy, I'm not going to be happy if you call me and tell me your cake slid off, and there's nothing I could have done [crosstalk 00:38:48].

Leah Longbrake:
And there's nothing you can do.

Courtney Bonning:
We do take precautions. If you're ordering a wedding cake, you have dowel rods in each layer, and you have a dowel rod through the center layer. So your cake isn't going anywhere. But it doesn't... Even if it's fondanted and buttercream, even if I put it in the freezer to make sure it's super duper set for you, it's still battling nature. There's only so much you can do.

Leah Longbrake:
If you decide to forego a cake all together, or you want to have other options outside of a cake, what are some good suggestions? You mentioned, obviously, cupcakes before, which they were super trendy before, but it doesn't go out of style. It's like a classic bride. It's a classic option. But what else can we do?

Courtney Bonning:
Well, I think the cupcakes are really if you're dead set on cake. If you're really a cake lover, and you really want to give people a lot of options in that specific area. But I think dessert buffets are huge. And I think that there are a lot of people that are actually getting away from wedding cakes. Wedding cakes back in the day, early last century and before, wedding cakes were a single 8 or 10-inch cake. It was something that you baked at home, and it was only for the bride and the groom and the immediate family. It was a small, nondescript, white cake that they would put doves on generally and fresh flowers. A lot of people are realizing that, and they're going for that small cake that they're cutting and they're keeping it, and they're not giving it to anybody. And then, they're doing the dessert buffets which are great. A lot of people are really into pies. A lot of people are... Whoopie pies are really big right now. I love that they're coming back.

Courtney Bonning:
And people are... There are so many different things that you can do from a visual standpoint. So you have your French macarons, which everyone's doing, or you're getting a pumpkin roll that's cut, or a beautiful fresh fruit tart is going to be one of the most colorful things that you can have on there or pieces of chocolate. And then, you got to the fact that gluten-free is a big deal. Vegan's a big deal.

Leah Longbrake:
Vegan.

Courtney Bonning:
But not everyone is gluten-free, and not everyone is vegan. So when you're limiting yourself to just cake, especially if the bride and the groom don't happen to be those two things, you do leave out some people. And some people might not care. At that point, they might be, "I've had so much champagne.. that's also gluten-free and vegan... it doesn't matter." But if you have a dessert buffet, you can do things that you've either gotten from different spaces like you've ordered gluten free from Philomena or Cleveland Vegan and all of their delicious vegan things, or you've got a more natural route and you have a buffet of beautiful carved fruit or mendiants with chocolate from Cleveland Chocolate Company. There are so many different things if you source local, and you get a little bit of everything.

Courtney Bonning:
So you have a 500-person wedding, and you have 500 pieces of each flavor. And that is not how people eat. That is actually a constant conversation that I'm having with everybody. It's, "All right. You have 500 people. Please anticipate that they're going to have two bites of things." So if you order five items, you only need to get 25% of them, maybe 100 of this item. Maybe 150 of this item, based on whether it's chocolate, whether it's a comfort food. If you've decided to spend a little bit more on a decorated cookie, people won't actually eat them. They won't eat them, so get a few less.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah, you'll go overboard. But with you saying that, though, with our wedding, I'm really proud of my Polish heritage. So aside from having the cake pop, I made sure we also had kolaczkis, because not only am I proud Polish, but so much of my family side is. So a recommendation I would have, too, is find a connection with either your heritage or if you and your fiancé have your candy, maybe you eat M&M's all the time or something... It's something fun I think you can do, too.

Courtney Bonning:
If you want it to be consumed, definitely go with that. If you're doing thing... If you're going to a Polish wedding, and they have kolaczkis, you know everyone's going to be, "Oh, my God. I know this is going to be awesome. I love kolaczkis. I wait for these events, so I can eat them." But if you go weird, and everything's a cardamom-based, weird nonsense, and they look at it, and they can't identify it completely right off the rip, they're less likely to eat it. A lot of the [crosstalk 00:44:11]-

Leah Longbrake:
Or some many options that you don't know where to start, because you're stuffed.

Courtney Bonning:
You know what that leads to? You look at all of these empty tables where people are out dancing, and all it is is plates packed with desserts that have one bite taken out of them or none at all. And it's so hurtful. It just sucks, because somebody has put so much effort into it. But you know what? Did you have a lot of people bring desserts to your wedding, because I know some of-

Leah Longbrake:
No, we had ours at Great Lakes Brewing Company, and so we could bring our bakery in, so we did that, bu the food was catered by Great Lakes.

Courtney Bonning:
Well, I know a lot of people let... especially some of larger ethnic venues... will let people's-

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, yes.

Courtney Bonning:
... families bring in stuff, like cookies and things like that. I think that's an awesome option. I love it when they offer that.

Leah Longbrake:
It's so fun. It's personal.

Courtney Bonning:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's personal, and again, going back to the ethnic heritage, whatever it is, these are the people that know what their families want to eat. And so, they're cooking for smiles. They're not trying to use their creative process to inspire people.

Leah Longbrake:
Or copy a Pinterest page.

Courtney Bonning:
Or copy of Pinterest page. Those comfort foods, I can't emphasize it enough. They will be eaten before anything else... the chocolate chip cookies, the brownies, the lemon bars. The things that you think are so boring is what everyone... Doughnuts... My cousin... This past summer, my cousin got married. They're amazing. They did a 300-person wedding. They ordered 400 doughnuts. And I'm, "You don't need this many doughnuts, but okay." But I was wrong. I was so wrong.

Leah Longbrake:
You guys went through them?

Courtney Bonning:
They went through them in an hour. I was just watching them get destroyed.

Leah Longbrake:
That's impressive.

Courtney Bonning:
It was so impressive. But I will say this, the only thing they offered was doughnuts. They did not offer another dessert. So if you're doing cake, and then you also want cake that's cut, that's served, plus a dessert table plus French fries and sliders and coffee and all of these things, you're probably going to be left with a lot of food for the staff to be eating at the end of the night in the back of the house.

Leah Longbrake:
And that's a lot of money that's being cost.

Courtney Bonning:
It's so much money. And it's a big deal. A lot of people need to really reserve their resources for a better wedding gown-

Leah Longbrake:
Try to be realistic.

Courtney Bonning:
... flowers.

Leah Longbrake:
You can have your dream and be realistic.

Courtney Bonning:
Yeah, sure.

Leah Longbrake:
Okay, so with doughnuts... With doughnuts, though, that leads me to my next question.

Courtney Bonning:
Sure.

Leah Longbrake:
What are some of the trends we're seeing for '21-'22, because doughnut walls were thing that I saw-

Courtney Bonning:
They were a thing.

Leah Longbrake:
... all over Pinterest. I'm not sure...

Courtney Bonning:
I don't think French macaroons are going out of style anytime soon. As a baker, I'm constantly looking for what isn't cool now, so that's going to be cool next year. And I'm seeing a lot of... hummingbird cake was also last year.

Leah Longbrake:
I love hummingbird cake.

Courtney Bonning:
Yeah, it's delicious. So I'm hoping that that trend stays together for a little while. But mini eclairs and cream puffs, I think we're going to see those come back, because they're simple, and people haven't been focused on them as much. And I'm waiting for things like fudge. Simple things, that nobody's been paying attention to lately, that are actually delicious, because... You these cake pops, and it's just basically anything on a stick that's dipped in a thing is super cool. And I have to admit, you don't get dirty, and you can still eat it, and you don't need a napkin.

Leah Longbrake:
Yes.

Courtney Bonning:
So this trend is going to keep going, because it's utilitarian, and all of those utilitarian trends are going to keep on. So I think things like that. I think you're going to see more sweet and savory things. But, honestly, everyone's been hunkered down, so I'm still sitting and waiting and seeing what people are asking for, because I still think that through '21-'22, it's going to be smaller weddings, and I think they're going to be more streamlined and minimalistic, reflecting on what's happening in the economy and in the world. I think it's going to be comfort foods, steak dinners, things like that. Basic, beautiful cakes. Fresh flowers are huge. Fresh flowers are so great. There's so inexpensive. They have every color, and they're they're just so easy for the baker to use. So I think you're going to see things like that.

Leah Longbrake:
Love it. You saying "sweet and savory" makes me think of chocolate-covered pretzels, and it makes some of them right now.

Courtney Bonning:
Mm. Yeah. Exactly. All of those [inaudible 00:48:59], which are just these tiny, dry things that you would eat with coffee... so beautiful biscottis, beautiful mendiants, the chocolate-dipped marshmallows and the chocolate-dipped pretzels and all of those things that might not sound fancy... People are coming up with new ways, new designs... chocolate-covered strawberries... that they can do all of these things simply for you, and make it really awesome, make it really pop.

Leah Longbrake:
Last question: What is your final piece of advice to couples out there that are looking to choose their wedding cake or bakery?

Courtney Bonning:
Stick with your budget definitely. Source information from a lot of people, but definitely go with the people that make you feel the most comfortable. Go with the things that are close to your heart and not try to keep up with something that you've seen or try to impress somebody in particular. This is your day. Keep it simple. Do not get dark navy or black frosting or icing on anything ever. That is my suggestion to you.

Leah Longbrake:
Especially your white dress or suit.

Courtney Bonning:
Your white dress, your suit or literally everyone's teeth, everyone's mouth.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, I even think about your teeth.

Courtney Bonning:
Don't... Nothing. Nothing. Nothing a dark... Of emeralds come back, emerald colors come back, it's going to be terrible... or get them as part of a box or a packaging or something like that, because you're going to stain your teeth. You're going to stain everyone's clothing.

Leah Longbrake:
And there goes all your pictures.

Courtney Bonning:
Goodbye. If you absolutely have to have a black cake, get that black in fondant. Do not get that in buttercream. Spend the extra money, because clearly you need a thing that bad. That's really it. Keep it simple. Keep it easy on you. Stick to your budget. Know your budget before you talk to people. And do not order black icing.

Leah Longbrake:
Thank you so much for being with us, Courtney.

Courtney Bonning:
It was so fun.

Leah Longbrake:
Those are amazing tips.

Courtney Bonning:
[crosstalk 00:51:13].

Leah Longbrake:
It was so fun. Now I want all the sweets.

Courtney Bonning:
You and I need to get a cocktail and talk about your wedding, girl. I want to hear all about it.

Leah Longbrake:
Yes-

View Less

Recent Episodes

View All

Real Bride Callie Meredith: Planning Her Wedding During the Pandemic, and Being a Military Spouse

Weddings Unveiled with Leah Longbake
Real Bride and Host of Call to Marriage podcast, Callie Meredith, shares her story of being a military spouse planning her wedding during the pandemic.
Listen to Real Bride Callie Meredith: Planning Her Wedding During the Pandemic, and Being a Military Spouse

Five Things Wedding Vendors Think You Should Know with Wedding Planner Megan Gillikin

Weddings Unveiled with Leah Longbake
Megan Gillikin, Owner and Industry Consultant at A Southern Soiree, shares with us her top 5 tips on what wedding vendors think you should know.
Listen to Five Things Wedding Vendors Think You Should Know with Wedding Planner Megan Gillikin

DJ and Band Advice From "The Bearded DJ" Eric Smith

Weddings Unveiled with Leah Longbake
CLE Music Group DJ Eric Smith, a.k.a The Bearded DJ, shares his advice on how to select your DJ or band for your wedding.
Listen to DJ and Band Advice From "The Bearded DJ" Eric Smith

DIY Do's and Don'ts with Wedding Planner and YouTuber Jamie Wolfer

Weddings Unveiled with Leah Longbake
Wedding planner and YouTuber Jamie Wolfer discusses what you should spend your time and money on when it comes to DIY-ing for your big day.
Listen to DIY Do's and Don'ts with Wedding Planner and YouTuber Jamie Wolfer