“We work with all of our brides to create their dream flavor—even if it doesn’t exist yet,” says Cory Pohlman, co-owner of Los Angeles-based cake designers Bohnhoff and Kent. “But a classic, light, bright flavor combination--such as vanilla bean cake with lemon curd and raspberry mascarpone whipped cream--remains the most popular for wedding cakes. It has those crisp, summery flavors and textures that most brides imagine for their big day.”
Conversely, Pohlman has seen a steady rise the desire for rich chocolate wedding cakes. “I think more brides are realizing that they can have any flavor they want for their cake, including elements with chocolate, from the traditional chocolate cake to chocolate mochas and marbles. It’s a bolder choice.”
It’s also a choice widely favored by grooms for their special-day cakes. “Men are becoming foodies, and although chocolate continues to be king with groom’s cakes, having a gourmet twist is always appreciated,” says Bohnhoff and Kent partner Olivia Harris. “So we like to throw a little cashew brittle and salted caramel into the mix.” And speaking of nuts, wedding cakes flavored with nuts are also gaining popularity, especially pistachio, honey almond, and Pohlman’s personal favorite, cinnamon pecan.
Kay Dillon, owner of San Francisco-based Beaux Gateaux, has embraced the chocolate trend with her dark chocolate chiffon cake filled with caramel mousse and caramel with Celtic sea salt, as well as a milk chocolate cake with Kahlua and hazelnut creams. On the nuttier side, she cites her toasted almond cake filled with vanilla bean pastry cream and apricot jam, and her pistachio cake filled with white chocolate cream cheese and whipped bittersweet chocolate ganache as major bridal contenders. Filling, in the form of multiple layers of whipped ganache, she predicts, is on the rise. “I see thin layers of whipped ganache—70 percent chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate either as is or infused with chai, green tea, Earl Grey, espresso, caramel, raspberry or champagne, etc.—coming into play.”
Traditional bridal couples, she says, still favor either lemon chiffon or lemon Italian cream cake filled with Meyer lemon mousse and raspberry jam, or vanilla chiffon or vanilla bean Italian cream cake filled with a fluffy fruit mousse, such as raspberry, strawberry, mango or passion fruit.
The Cake Reflects the Couple
“Many brides and grooms are looking for a flavor that reflects who they are,” says Nashville, Tenn.-based cake designer Jay Qualls, who has clients including Nashville cake baker The Frosted Affair. His clients run the gamut from those wanting “a simple strawberries and cream to a Guinness-infused chocolate cake, or a chai-flavored cake with blueberry filling and blueberry buttercream, or even a zucchini cake with honey buttercream. There really are no rules anymore.”
Indeed, vegetable-derived wedding cakes—specifically carrot, sweet potato and zucchini—are popular choices for brides of Los Angeles-based freelance cake designer and former owner of Rosebud Cakes Elin Katz. “I’m also getting a lot of requests for key lime cakes, and pear with chocolate,” she says.
In photo, a cake that resembles the wedding couple; cake by Elin Katz.
The Icing on the Cake
As for the icing on the cake, taste is just as important as appearance. “Currently we use chocolate as our main decorating medium. I love to create custom molds for my clients, and can make just about anything in clay as a master mold for chocolate,” Harris says. “Couples are embracing the trend that being delicious is beautiful in and of itself.” Katz agrees. “Rustic, no-frills cakes that taste great are in, as are small, individual cakes,” she notes. Buttercream, she adds, whether rustically spread or intricately piped, is a wedding cake mainstay that shows no sign of waning.
A wedding cake workhorse, buttercream provides the perfect base for fancy embellishment, such as metallic petal dusts, disco dust and edible glitter. For luxe, vintage-themed weddings, Qualls combines gold, bronze and silver metallic dusts with a ruffled flower or a herringbone motif. Katz adds rhinestone ropes for added glitz. For more modern looks, Dillon opts for edible metallic paint adorned with big decorations that make a statement, such as flowers or geometrics made with her go to product, Isomalt—a beet-based, low-calorie sugar substitute.
As an alternative to sugar flowers, Qualls favors wafer paper to craft his blooms. “Even though this is not technically sugar, it is edible and completely food-safe, and it makes the most beautiful light and delicate flowers,” he says. “It is a great alternative and is very versatile, as it can be folded, torn, printed on, and painted with the beautiful metallic luster dusts or edible glitter. It’s ideal for the bride who may not want the traditional fresh or sugar flower.”
Photo of 'chalkboard' cake from The Frosted Affair/Jay Qualls; photo by Marc Billingsley Photography.
The Shape of Cakes to Come
The silhouette of the wedding cake continues to evolve. In Nashville, Qualls sees mostly round, with layers varying dramatically in height—from a thin 2 inches up to 6 and 8 inches. “These dimensions allow the sugar artist to create unique sculpted pieces," he says, "such as brooches, sugar-gilded birds, acorns, lace, and the ever-popular damask.”
Though traditional, tiered isn’t necessarily the norm for Bohnhoff & Kent’s LA clients. “Although our industry tends towards stacked tiered design, it is refreshing to deconstruct these norms and concoct our own definitions of what a wedding cake can be,” says Harris. “In order to design for the contemporary couple, it’s important to look at the world for inspiration. Understanding the elements and principals of design as well as embracing cultural trends allows us to play with cake in new ways.”
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