So cake might be up there among our very favourite things, but we reckon cheese makes a firm case for second place.
And luckily for us (not-so-much for our waistlines), cheese wheel wedding cakes have never been so popular.
From a creamy brie to a sweet Wensleydale, or a punchy blue to a smokey cheddar, cheese can add a refined yet rustic foodie feel to your wedding.
Adorned in grapes and figs or berries and flowers, cheese wheels make a quirky alternative to your wedding cake, or a chic twist on your typical dessert or late night snack.
But while we’re something of experts in the merits of chocolate biscuit and Baileys buttercream, when it comes to choosing the right tiers for a cheese wheel, we need a little help from the pros.
Meet Andy Swinscoe of The Courtyard Dairy in Settle, North Yorkshire, England. As winner of Cheesemonger of the Year at the 2013 World Cheese Awards, and with experience developing cheese wedding cakes with John Lewis, it’s safe to say Andy knows his Camembert from his Cambozola.
So who better to guide you on your way to the perfect cheese wheel wedding cake?
Take it away Andy…
1. Order extra supplies of the top (smallest) tiers.
Most people buy a cake without realising they’ll have less of the cheeses at the top! As you get higher up the tiers so the cheeses get smaller. That can often mean you’ll get a tiny cheese on the top to split between all your guests.
If you want an even selection for everyone to taste, order a few extra of these smaller ‘top-tier cheeses’ to be served once the cake is cut.
2. Make sure you’ve pre-tasted all the cheeses in your cake.
Taste is so important – you want people to be amazed by the cheeses in your cheese wedding cake. Good cheese shops will let you come in and taste the cheeses first.
But if you don’t have a great cheese shop close enough, the best ones will allow you to mail-order a sample box of your selection of cheeses.
The Courtyard Dairy regularly sends out sample boxes so that their customers can be sure of the quality and amazing flavours on offer.
3. Size and colour matter too.
The very best cheese wedding cakes will look stunning, as well as taste amazing – and although it’s not all about the size, choose your cheeses so that the layers go up in nice increments, with at least 2cm difference in diameter between each layer.
Add a bit of colour to the cake for an extra-special effect (you can use cheeses like Sparkenhoe red Leicester or Shropshire Blue, but this can also be done with fruit decorations too.
4. Try to balance styles.
A cheese wedding cake shouldn’t contain cheeses that all taste the same and have the same texture! This can be a problem if you simply concentrate on the diameters of cheese rather than the colour, texture and taste. So be careful when you’re choosing.
Try to select a range of styles – at least a hard, a soft and a blue – but think about adding a goats’ cheese and a crumbly Lancashire, Cheshire, or Wensleydale too.
It’s worth noting that the harder cheeses will probably be the most popular so you’ll want the biggest quantity of those.
5. Build your own.
The Courtyard Dairy, and most good cheesemongers, will let you book an appointment so you can taste cheeses and create a cheese wedding cake to fit your requirements perfectly, but you may prefer to build your own.
If you have a favourite cheese, you could ask your supplier to cut it in flat circles rather than the normal wedges so you can build up tier after tier.
If you are thinking of building your own cheese wedding cake, take a look at The Courtyard Dairy’s cheese diameter dimensions web page to help you build the ideal tapering tower.
6. Don’t be afraid of using a soft cheese in the lower layers.
Although a soft cheese will deform under the weight of the cheeses on top, there are a few tips and tricks you can use.
Cut out a small circle in the centre of the soft cheese and insert an egg cup. The next layer will then rest on this, and you won’t be able to see the egg cup. If it’s a wide cheese, use three egg cups with a cake plate on top.
7. Add height to your cake.
You can give your cake a bit of extra height in a relatively inexpensive way. Simply use glass tea-light holders between each layer – this will add height to the cake and give you space to decorate.
8. Small can be beautiful.
For something quirky or different, you could create an individual smaller cheese wedding cake for each separate table.
By using two or three small cheeses, for example Tunworth Camembert topped with an individual goats’ cheese such as Dorstone, you can create a cheese table cake your guests will love!
9. Serve your cheese at room temperature.
Cheese tastes so much better at room temperature – so make sure it’s out of the fridge a couple of hours before it’s cut – not too long though – you don’t want the Brie running down the aisle!
10. How much cheese do you need?
70g-100g of cheese per person is ideal for a normal cheese plate serving. If it’s to constitute a main part of the meal – double that quantity.
Photo by The Courtyard Dairy
11. (The extra one.) Be safe and minimise the worry.
Always order your cheese wedding cake well in advance so you can be sure that the cheese will be perfectly ripe on the day.
Make sure you get it delivered a couple of working days before the big day, so that’s one less thing to worry about.
Is it too early for a glass of red wine with that?