IT'S NOT ENOUGH for today's wedding cakes simply to look the part — they must also taste as beautiful as they look. “The overall trend is that there's a large expectation now that the filling inside the wedding cake is well-made,” says Mike McCarey, owner of Mike's Amazing Cakes in Redmond, Wash. “It used to be that it wasn't important. It would be one single layer of filling and two whopping layers of cake, and it didn't matter what was in there as long as it looked good.”
Elizabeth Faulkner, owner of San Francisco-based bakery Citizen Cake, agrees that taste tops the list of requirements for her brides. “I just couldn't handle the thought that people would pay so much for a wedding cake, and all I would hear was the cake at someone's wedding was pretty, but it didn't taste good,” she says. “It's important for [the cake] to be satisfying — really tasty.”
Personalization continues to be a top trend for wedding cakes, with couples incorporating their backgrounds and interests into the cake design.
“The couples we see often want us to create a unique cake that complements the colors, theme and style of the wedding,” says Charles deVries, owner of Chez Nous Confections in Asheville, N.C., who specializes in European-style sponge cakes layered with mousses, buttercream and fruit fillings. “Sometimes the bride wants an element of her wedding dress incorporated into the cake; one cake reflected the china pattern the couple had chosen.”
He has had a number of requests for cakes decorated with writing — words that have special meaning to the couple. He has also made a croquembouche — the traditional French wedding cake — as a groom's cake for a client who wanted to celebrate his French heritage. Another design featured an abstract, blown-sugar bride and groom placed on top of a cake with whimsical, uneven tiers of rolled fondant, which showcased the couple's sense of humor.
Wedding dresses may still be white, but many wedding cakes are getting a shot of color.
Faulkner says that her clients often want a color on the cake inspired by an element of the wedding, such as the bridesmaid dresses. “It may be in the pulled sugar, it may be in the flower selection,” she says. “We'll take some petals that they're using somewhere else and put some on the cake.”
Meanwhile, “In our shop we're seeing a big movement towards using more color,” McCarey says, noting that subtle shades such as sage, peach, taupe and periwinkle are popular choices.
The days of the vanilla wedding cake covered in all-white frosting are gone, with both cake designers and couples willing to experiment with styles and flavors.
McCarey says his clients “are getting more exotic with things like passion fruit, coconut, pineapple or mango.” He is also being asked for “a lot of liqueurs being combined with things, such as chocolate being combined with Grand Marnier or Bailey's Irish Cream.”
Faulkner says that at her shop, “We have definitely seen a lot more people [asking for] chocolate, not necessarily just on the inside, but also on the outside of wedding cakes.” She adds that she is getting many requests for one of her bakery's signature cakes — the “After Midnight,” a combination of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse made with high-end chocolate, then covered in chocolate ganache — as a wedding cake. “Having a chocolate wedding cake makes quite a statement,” she says. Faulkner also likes to decorate with handmade chocolate straws, topping cakes with the straws as well as with fruit and flowers, “just to give it a little more drama.”
For those who can't decide on just one flavor, there is a solution that will make everyone happy. DeVries recommends that the “different flavors be incorporated into each tier so that everyone is served the same flavors of cake,” avoiding potential disappointment. And while some bakeries are now issuing gift certificates for a fresh cake on the first wedding anniversary, deVries says that in his area, the tradition of freezing the top tier of the cake is still popular. He provides a complimentary top tier in a ready-to-freeze storage container, “which makes transporting [and] freezing the cake easier on everyone.”
RESOURCES: Chez Nous Confections, 828/658-9919; Citizen Cake, 415/861-2228; Mike's Amazing Cakes, 425/869-2992