By Emily Yu
Wedding cakes are a centerpiece for the reception — they balance a bridal couple’s style, palette, theme and creativity. And couples are now mixing tradition with contemporary elements to create unique designs. Here are some helpful tips when choosing your wedding cake.
Find your comfort zone: It’s important to be comfortable with your wedding cake vendor, whether it’s a full service bakery or dedicated wedding cake specialist. You should be offered a consultation where you are able to taste various flavor combinations, browse through a portfolio of their work and begin to create your cake.
Celebrate with style: Gone are the days in which wedding cakes had to be round and covered with a thick white icing with tons of piping. Brides and grooms are now incorporating color, shapes, sugar flowers, height and even cupcakes. Consider having a square cake with each tier slightly off-set and decorate it with very delicate piping to highlight the squares like custom gift boxes. Think about using taller round cakes with vibrant-colored sugar flowers for extra height and attention. Defy gravity with a “topsy turvy” cake that looks ready to topple over. Try adding brushed embroidery to a traditional round cake to awe your guests. Or change things up a little and make each tier a different shape, color or design. Have some fun with cupcakes and create a cupcake tower with a small cake on top for tradition. Create your own statement!
Look good and taste good: The wedding cake is usually one of the first items guests see when they enter the reception. They admire it all evening and, finally after much anticipation, get to have a slice. Make those bites memorable — the cake should taste divine! Ask when your cake will be baked to ensure freshness. Use seasonal flavors such as mango with fresh berries (summer), pumpkin or apple spice (fall), peppermint or gingerbread (winter) or carrot or lemon (spring).
You can even mix up some classics to create your own combination. Try a vanilla sponge cake layered with chocolate ganache and raspberry mousse topped off with vanilla whipped cream, or a devil’s food cake with chocolate buttercream filling and iced with vanilla buttercream. Or surprise your guests with red velvet cake filled with Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries! Different tiers can be different flavors to make for variety. And for your guests with special dietary needs, there are bakers who can make sugar-free, gluten-free and even vegan (egg and dairy-free) cakes!
The “icing on the cake:” Fondant is dough-like icing made with sugar, glucose and glycerin. Because of the ingredients, fondant is usually a very sweet icing. It is beautiful for covering cakes because of its ultra smooth and glossy finish. Fondant is also great for designs involving draping, hand painting, brushed embroidery, stenciling or embossing. If you are not using those elements, most skilled cake decorators are able to achieve a smooth, almost fondant-like look using a soft icing such as whipped cream or buttercream.
Groom’s cakes: Most people think of the bleeding armadillo cake from the movie Steel Magnolias when they hear “groom’s cake.” While you may want to tease your new husband, you can also surprise him with a special cake made with just him in mind. If he is a huge football fan, have the baker recreate his favorite team’s helmet. For the avid fisherman, how about creating a bass boat? You can also recreate his night out with the boys with a complete poker table. This cake can be served alongside the wedding cake, or at the more intimate rehearsal dinner.
The final touches: What will you do with the top tier of the cake? Think about using some fresh or sugar flowers to enhance the colors and design of your wedding cake. Monograms are also very popular, as are the traditional bride and groom. And the details don’t stop there. Once the cake is delivered to your reception site, how will it be displayed? Cover your table with a beautiful linen and complementary overlay. Elevate your cake and place some votive candles around for ambiance. Or how about flooding the table with rose petals? Your wedding cake vendor will help you find the best way to highlight your cake.
Remember to choose a reputable cake professional who you are comfortable with, one who can accommodate your needs and will not be affected by weather, staffing or “Plan B” on your special day. Keep all this in mind as you prepare to eat (cake), drink, and be married!
Emily Wu and her sister Victoria are the owners of Cakes by Happy Eatery, a full service bakery. To see their cake designs and learn more about the bakery, visit cakesbyhappyeatery.com.