Hedgesville baker offers tips for choosing a wedding cake
Keshia Schoenadel speaks cake.
Her excitement about fondant is perceivable, and her passion for buttercream perhaps even more so.
“I am able to get my buttercream really smooth. It’s kind of what I am known for,” Schoenadel said. “I like to do my cakes custom. If someone comes to me with four or five cakes they like, we can combine them all together and get just what they want.”
Schoenadel, who owns and operates Keshia’s Kakes in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., will be among more than 90 vendors at Herald-Mail Media’s 2017 Bridal Expo from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, at Valley Mall in Halfway. Fashion shows at noon and 4 p.m., as well as entertainment including a bagpiper and a singer, will be in front of Bon-Ton, and vendor booths will be spread throughout the mall.
Schoenadel has participated in the expo for a number of years and gets a lot of business from it, she said.
“It’s pretty much the only show I attend. I get offers from other areas — Winchester (Va.), Martinsburg (W.Va.). By far, Hagerstown’s is the best price for the expo and I get the most return clients after the show,” she said. “Usually by February, everyone who talked to me at the show has met with me, and it helps me book up for the entire year.”
After customers work with her on wedding cakes, Schoenadel said, they remain in her client database and often return for their one-year anniversary or the first birthday of a child. Photographers sometimes establish similar relationships.
“It becomes a connection that you have for years and years,” she said.
A recipe for success
Schoenadel, 30, who lives in Hedgesville, W.Va., attended culinary school at Allegany College of Maryland in Cumberland and at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg.
Baking cakes came naturally to her, she said.
“The very first wedding cake I did was for my older sister. That was in 2005. It was a very traditional buttercream, four tiers tall with black and red roses. It was rather simple, but it was the trend going on in that year,” she said. “Everyone loved it. It had a great flavor.”
Many people asked Schoenadel why she was not making cakes full time. She has since alternated between making the endeavor full and part time, while also becoming a physical-therapy assistant.
She creates “couture cakes,” she said, with several points setting her work apart from that of others.
“A lot of times, if you go to a bakery, they will tell you, ‘You can only do this if you do fondant.’ I’m not like that. I don’t have set rules. If you don’t like fondant, then we’ll do buttercream. No one has to come and pick out of a book. You don’t have to come in and pick something that’s been done in the past,” she said. “I do what feels right while I’m talking to the bride and groom. We do something collaboratively that I know they are going to enjoy.”
The cake recipes also can be customized.
“I have 20-plus flavors. Every time someone asks for something different, I add it to my list in case someone else wants it,” she said. “If someone wants a classic cake grandma used to make, give me the recipe and I’ll make it.”
She also accommodates dietary needs, creating gluten-free, vegan and sugar-free cakes.
“I’ve tried to keep that part of my mission, to be flexible and up with the latest trends,” Schoenadel said
Tips for couples choosing cakes
A cake can be as important as other elements of the wedding day.
• Know your “feel.” Schoenadel said couples should give some thought to what they want the “feel” of their wedding to be.
“If they already know their dresses, their tablescapes, colors, flowers, if they already have the overall feel of what the wedding will be – romantic, rustic, traditional, vintage – those are things people are going for a lot these days,” she said. “It gives me more of an idea where they want to go then, so I know more in terms of design.”
• Know your budget. When couples know their budget, vendors can work with them toward their goals.
“I pride myself on what I do. I’m really more than competitive when it comes to pricing. Some places charge $5 to $6 per slice. I’m still in the $3 range,” Schoenadel said. “Going into the expo, people need to know their budget.”
• Be organized. Organized couples already have done some legwork, so they can more easily choose vendors.
“I think it’s a good idea to bring a notebook. I love when I see brides doing that. When they have thought ahead, it helps them to pick vendors that kind of suit what they are going for.”
Vendors keep records of couples who have visited their booths, including name and contact information for future communication. Schoenadel said some couples come with stickers with names and contact information printed on them, which saves writing and rewriting. Stickers also come in handy for signing up for raffles and prize giveaways.
Keshia’s Kakes gives away a prize of $100 off a wedding cake, while other vendors give away prizes like luggage, gift certificates, wine glasses and floral arrangements.
• Be educated, but not too serious. Chaos and confusion are reduced when couples do some basic research ahead of time.
“When couples educate themselves, they have a better idea what they want and what they are paying for,” Schoenadel said. “But enjoy it, of course. Don’t take it too seriously.”
It’s part of a vendor’s job to educate couples. For instance, Schoenadel teaches the difference between varieties of buttercream, fondant and other icing options.
“Not everyone knows recent trends that people tend to use now. People are used to birthday cake. Not everyone has had wedding cake, or if they did, they haven’t known what they were eating,” she said.
She also educates them on how to cut a cake and lets them eat some cake.
“That’s the fun part everyone loves,” she said.