TODAY, NO BRIDE will say “I do” to a cookie-cutter wedding cake.
“It's like parents naming their children something unique; everyone wants a unique, customized cake,” notes Judy Frasco-Edmonds, owner of Desserts of Distinction, Waldwick, N.J. For example, a couple who met in a forestry program in Oregon commissioned Frasco-Edmonds to create a wedding cake decorated with chocolate “bark,” bits of greenery and acorns they had flown in from Oregon.
But the penchant for getting personal is usually more subtle. Gail Watson of Gail Watson Cake, New York, points to details in the cake's decoration — monogramming or patterns that echo a motif of the bridal gown. “The cake becomes an additional decorative element in the style and theme of the wedding,” she explains.
Linda Goldsheft of The Cake Studio in Fountain Valley, Calif., takes the decorative art of mehndi — the Indian practice of painting designs in henna on a bride's hands and feet — and applies it to her wedding cakes, adorning them with delicate tracings.
In general, most cake professionals note a trend toward elegance and simplicity, paring away the excesses of the '80s and '90s.
“We do a pretty delicious standard cake, nothing too esoteric,” Watson says. “People are getting away from the crazy flavor combinations that taste like a mish-mosh.” Also, her cakes “are not so overly worked and precious,” she says. “I like to eat cake as much as look at a pretty cake. A sugar sculpture is not something you want to eat.”
“There are no pillars between my tiers,” Goldsheft notes. In place of billows of “major frosting,” she has made rolled fondant her signature. “It looks like alabaster and takes color beautifully,” she explains.
TOO MANY TIERS
Although some brides fall in love with the idea of having different tiers in different flavors, cake pros will try to talk them out of it. “Whatever you select, you will run out of the flavor a guest wants, and you will make someone cranky,” Watson warns. When the bride insists on such a cake, “I get a phone call Monday morning from the banquet manager telling me, ‘Don't do it again.’”
The groom's cake — a fixture for families from the American South — seems to be the sole place where flights of fancy still hold fast. For a couple who met at the Central Park Zoo in New York, Goldsheft created a groom's cake featuring a seal basking on a rock. The cake for another groom portrayed his beloved dog lying atop the groom's two favorite books. “It's a whimsy thing,” Goldsheft explains. “Since the movie ‘Steel Magnolias’ [1989, featuring a groom's cake shaped like an armadillo], the groom's cake took on a life of its own.”
Professionals agree that the media has a big stake in the cake. “Whatever the trend is in the magazines and TV shows, that's what they want,” Frasco-Edmonds says. “When Martha Stewart showed a cake with bows, everyone wanted bows.”
Desserts of Distinction, 201/689-7790; Gail Watson Cake, 212/967-9167; The Cake Studio, 714/964-7338