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Gone are the days of plain and simple wedding cakes. Cheese wedding cakes are growing in popularity, and they’re a boon to savvy cheesemongers and delis who are keen to show off their creative flair and their expansive cheese range.
For the uninitiated, a cheese wedding cake is a stack of cheeses that resemble the tiers of a wedding cake, often decorated with edible accompaniments. They’re increasingly being served in place of or in addition to a traditional wedding cake, or at other celebrations.
For cheesemongers or individuals looking to make their own DIY cheese wedding cake, Speciality Food speaks to two experts who offer their pointers.
Daniel Williams is the fifth generation of the family-run Godfrey C. Williams & Son in Sandbach, Cheshire. He has won the Best Cheese Celebration Cake at the International Cheese & Dairy Awards for the past five years in a row and has prepared hundreds of bespoke cheese wedding cakes for customers, so suffice it to say he is full of cheese wedding cake ideas.
“British cheesemongers are lucky to have so many great cheeses available to us, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find cheeses that look and taste great,” he says. With so many options, he advises choosing a theme such as cheeses local to a region or cheeses that match a similar tonal colour scheme.
Worried about two cheeses impacting each other’s flavour or appearance? Daniel uses cake boards to separate cheeses like Stilton and Wensleydale.
For cheesemongers who are advising customers how to make their own cheese wedding cakes, it’s important to note that they understand the sizes and weights of cheeses, and this information isn’t always easily available for the public, Ian Wellens of The Cheese Shed tells Speciality Food.
His shop has created a unique cheese builder tool to help customers design their own cheese wedding cakes while factoring in the many variables. “You’re trying to do a lot of things: get the right quantity of cheese for your numbers, achieve a good shape (I aim for a nicely graduated pyramid), and have a good range of contrasting cheeses. Sometimes this may be complicated by some ‘must have’ cheeses, or ‘must NOT have’!”
It’s important to keep an open mind. “I would avoid going into cake creation with a really fixed idea about what the cake must include. You may need to be flexible in order to end up with something that really works. You may adore Cheese A but find that its size is a problem, and perhaps the similar Cheese B is a better choice. One more thing: remember it’s not just you who’s going to be eating the cheese. You may hate goats’ cheese but in your 100 guests there will be some who love it!”
From his point of view, the only cheeses that are really difficult to incorporate are ones with a curved top or bottom. “People always worry about putting weight on Bries, though in practice this is fine as long as the Brie is not too ripe,” he says. “It needs to be soft enough to be nice but not anywhere near the runny stage. A well-chosen brie can easily have 6-7kg of cheese on top of it.”
Image: Daniel Williams, Godfrey C. Williams & Son
Once you’ve chosen your cheeses, decorations will make your display sing.
“Biscuits, fruit, chutney, flowers, and foliage are all great additions to cheese wedding cakes,” Daniel says – and they’re a surefire way to stand out, as he says these touches are often overlooked by cheese wedding cake providers.
“My favourites to incorporate are Miller’s Cranberry & Raisin Toasts, Tiptree Blackberry Jam, and Cottage Delight Caramelised Red Onion Chutney. They add fruity hints which compliment most cheeses well.”
Ian agrees that a selection of crackers, biscuits and chutneys is a must. “We would also tend to include a set membrillo-style preserve: you can slice these to have with cheese. Either quince (like membrillo) or another flavour such as pear, fig or damson,” he says.
Portioning is a big consideration to be factored in at the creation stage, according to Daniel. “We recommend 80-100g of cheese per person, then tweak that depending on factors like other food available. A six-tier, 12kg cake may look stunning, but it will often be too much cheese for a wedding with 50 guests,” he warns.
Don’t forget to consider how the cheese wedding cake will be served on the big day. “Make sure that there’s a plan for the cutting, portioning and disposal of anything left at the end,” Daniel says.
While it’s easy to lose sight of serving amidst the excitement of choosing cheeses and accompaniments, it’s important to agree this with the couple upfront. “Make sure that all parties know who is responsible for this, be it your business, the venue, the caterers or the couple themselves,” Daniel says.
When it comes to cheese wedding cakes, you can get creative with added extras.
“Upselling goes beyond cheese biscuits and chutney,” Daniel says. “Consider offering bespoke knives, personalised wooden boards, and other souvenirs from the day that can be kept long after the cheese has all gone!”