Adventures in Cake Tasting

not our wedding cake, but I thought this was awesome.

I think it’s been documented pretty well on this website that Alli and I are getting married (June 4th to be exact, yes we are accepting presents), but lately we’ve been getting some of the important stuff crossed off our “to do” list.  Since we are both pretty big foodies, choosing the perfect wedding cake has become pretty important.  Now, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we started making appointments for cake tasting, part of me had this dream of giant piles of cake that would be given out and even full cakes to take home with us.  Apparently that’s not how it works.  Yes, we got free cake but we also had some not-so-free cake and the volume was definitely less then I had originally planned.

We could have spent 6 months trying out every bakery in town but due to time restraints and being realistic, we ended up only visiting 3.  We had visits with Zillycakes, Pumpernick N Pastry and Muscoreil’s.  Each bakery had either glowing reviews online or we had heard positive things from our family and friends.  The following will be our thoughts about each visit.

Cake Tasting #1: Zillycakes

Our first cake tasting was a Friday night at Zillycakes.  Alli and I had tried Zillycakes back in 2009 and we really enjoyed their cupcake bar.  From everything we had read about the place, I had no doubt they would be able to design any type of cake we could imagine.  Alli and I went with her parents and met Zilly Rosen, owner of Zillycakes.  Our meeting went really well, she was very open to talk about pricing and very open to talk about what we could do to lower the cost of the cake.  She brought several of her cake pans to show us exactly how big the cake would be which was awesome, you really can’t imagine how tall/short a cake would really be without a real life example.  She was very open to playing around with different styles and when Alli showed her pictures on her iPad she was all about using those examples to design something we would love.

In terms of volume of cake, hands down Zillycakes gave us the most.  But they were also the only place where you had to pay for a cake tasting ($25).  I could deal with the $25 (that does not go towards your cake) because they are a small business and I understand that there are a lot of costs that they’d have to cover for a cake consultation such as Zilly’s time and the ingredients that were needed for our presentation.  I’d say there was probably 8 different types of cake, 8 different frostings and 6 different types of filling that we tried.  All of which were separately served on plates so that you could mix and match on your own, which was amazing.  We came up with some awesome combinations, the winning combo probably being chocolate cake with a mix of peanut butter and carmel for the frosting/filling.  I walked out of Zilly’s assuming we had found our wedding cake, but we still had two more appointments made and I wanted to make sure we tried something else.  Price wise, they weren’t cheap and understandably so, they shouldn’t be (delivery is free and they were only place to offer that).  When you’re getting a cake from Zilly’s you’re essentially getting a very personal labor-intensive piece of art. Out of the three I think she understood the design we wanted the best and clearly would put the most time and effort into making it.  In addition, their flavors are also incredibly unique and their fondant (which we want to be featured on our cake) is remarkably edible.

Cake Tasting #2: Pumpernick N Pastry Shoppe

The following morning (yes, less then 12 hours later) we had our 2nd appointment with Pumpernick N’ Pastry at their main location on Clinton St. in South Buffalo.  This place had really been hyped up by our family and friends and I knew they had a great reputation in Buffalo for amazing pastries.  We walked in and initially were skeptical that this place was for us.   For as young and hip as Zillycakes was, Pumpernick N’ Pastry was more traditional and had a crowd that was definitely 65+.  Again, we met with the owner of Pumpernick N’ Pastry (a really nice woman but I can’t remember her name) and you could tell she had been doing this for a while.  She gave us two books with all types of examples of previous cakes and most were ‘traditional’ with lots of layers with elaborate floral designs.  The design of cake we want is fairly modern and simple, round and that “flat, fondant-like” look, which it seemed like they might be able to do but it definitely wasn’t something they do a lot.  After talking with the owner for about 10 minutes she left us with cake samples and in the hands of her daughter in law who had recently started working there.

Alli, her Mom and I each got a plate with 3 tiny slices of cake on it.  Each plate had a piece of their traditional cake, their almond cake and a piece of chocolate cake.  Each piece had some of their frosting on it along with some filling.  The cake was good but really nothing different that what I’ve had anywhere else.  Price wise it was definitely cheaper then Zillycakes, but not enough to make us change our minds.  We left Pumpernick still feeling good about Zillycakes, we also left with some baked goods that we later wrote about.

Cake Tasting #3: Muscoreil’s Fine Desserts

There were a couple weeks in between our visit to Pumpernick and our visit to Muscoreil’s, so in between the two is when we made our visit to try some of Muscoreil’s treats.  We were pretty impressed and we read some glowing reviews online and thought they might have a shot to upset Zilly’s for our #1 choice.  We also realized that they are pretty popular in Western New York when the earliest they could fit us in for a tasting was 4 weeks after we made the appt.  Even when we got to sit down and talk to Dan Muscoreil, we could tell that this place is constantly filling orders (he told us they were already 90% booked for 2011).  We sat in a side room where they had various examples of all the different sizes/shapes, which helped us get an idea of the actual sizes of what we were talking about.  After about 10 minutes of talking about topics like fondant vs. frosting and costs of various sizes, it was onto some cake.

Dan left and brought back a plate and three forks (Alli’s mom joined us for this visit as well).  He prefaced our tasting by saying that the cake was going to be a little cool because it had been stored in the fridge.  However, he strongly emphasized throughout the meeting that his cakes are never frozen.  The cake was delicious; we got to try his chocolate cake, almond cake, regular vanilla and their marbled chocolate chip cake.  With each piece (small but enough for the 3 of us to try) there was a different filling as well, so we had an idea of what they had to offer.  We absolutely fell in love with their marbled chocolate cake with chocolate chip filling; it was amazing.  Their frosting was a bit thick, and kind of hard due to the cooling, but we could see the potential in a fresh cake.  Dan then gave us a sheet with all the options of flavors (they pretty much do it all) and went to work sketching out the cake design we envisioned.  He seemed to have a pretty darn good idea of the direction we were going in and Alli and I were very confident that he could create the look we wanted.  On top of that there are all kinds of perks involved such as a discount shower cake, and a free one-year anniversary cake (since they do not allow you to freeze the top layer of your wedding cake).  We then realized we had a decision to make….

Summary: Our Decision

We decided to go with Muscoreil’s.  Their cake was fantastic and they also could offer basically anything we wanted to do (flavor wise) and they were significantly cheaper then Zilly’s and a little bit cheaper then Pumpernick.  Furthermore, while we knew Zilly would have done an amazing job with our design and would have been very detailed, Dan Muscoreil seemed to also have a good grip on what we wanted and could do it at a much cheaper price.  I’d say that all 3 owners did a good job making a pitch for their cakes, none of them felt pushy and almost all of them were really open about making the price as affordable as possible.  If we were going to attempt a crazy/elaborate cake (like a Nintendo cake) I would have went with Zillycakes.  They clearly have some history with some over the top designs and they place a large emphasis on the actual creative process of making cakes (which is why they’d be excellent on Cake Challenge).  Pumpernick N’ Pastry is an amazing old school bakery and I would love to stop back in and get some more pastries.  In terms of design it seemed like they were more experienced with traditional designs and we felt like our options were limited for what we really wanted.  Muscoreil’s just had everything: their price was very reasonable and their designs were gorgeous and their cake tasted great.  Everything really came together well with their offer and we felt really comfortable with Dan, he was giving Alli all these pre-wedding tips and wanted us to know that he has done this hundreds of times.

For anyone who is wondering, we decided to go with a 3 layer cake (with sheet cakes in the back, great idea to save $$$) with 2 different flavors.  The marbled cake will have peanut butter filling and there will also be red velvet cake with cream cheese filling (Alli’s favorite cake flavor).  I’ll keep the design a secret for now, but I will say it was mostly Alli’s vision and it’s very sleek and modern.  I know a lot of people say “oh its just wedding cake” and I understand many bride/grooms get so overwhelmed that they forget or don’t have the time.  I’m sure, the foodies that we are, we will make sure we get two large pieces of cake on our wedding day, even if its after the reception ends.

6 thoughts on “Adventures in Cake Tasting

  1. We went with Muscoreil’s for our wedding cake back in May. Dan was very nice and worked with us to bring us within budget. We went with the Almond cake with raspberry filling and buttercream frosting.
    http://photos.kaz-photos.com/p532945287/hc68d25c#hc68d25c

    • Don Burtless

      that looks awesome! makes me feel even better about our decision.

  2. Perfect timing! We are also getting married about the same time … and we also decided to go with Muscoreil’s this past Saturday. Before I go any further, let me mention that we both live near Muscoreil’s but are getting married 4 hours away in Pennsylvania!

    We haven’t done the tasting yet — actually, we haven’t even shopped around! We’ve been to Muscoreil’s many times for lunch, pastries, and cakes and always love everything. Before we even started researching wedding cakes, my fiancee announced that Muscoreil’s was at the top of her list. After trying to set up an appointment with them and seeing how busy they are and how quickly slots fill up, we decided to skip all of the hassle and go with a bakery that we are familiar with and know that we love.

    Thanks for making us feel better about our decision :-)

    • Cheryl W

      I would like to thank Alli and her husband for taking part in such a teriffic past time. As Don mentioned, some people don’t have time to go through a cake tesing or just don’t care. Bakeries thrive on this experience. Frankly speaking, who wouldn’t love a chance to sit down with a person(s) and show off what they have to offer? The experience you leave with (hoping it’s good) will be passed on to all your friends and loved ones. And that is priceless! Passing on a feel good story or a feel good experience is one of the best feelings of all. Personalization down to the last detail is not easy. I would like to give a round of applause to all the bakeries on doing a job that deserves more respect, is filled with long hours, and for being such good listeners.

      • Don Burtless

        well said!!

    • Don Burtless

      wow thats confidence! but no problem at all, we didn’t have any prior experience with muscoreil’s and they just completely won us over. good luck getting that cake there!

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