By Ashley Claire Simpson
The first wedding cake that Kimberly McDonald ever made was for her very own nephew — just a few months after launching Simply Desserts, her Gainesville-based full-service bakery. She was of course known for making delicious cakes that looked more like works of art than baked goods, but, she hadn’t yet stepped into the world of weddings.
And, though it has often been said that it is a risk to mix family and business, McDonald’s first venture into wedding desserts went simply swimmingly.
“That first wedding cake was within three months of starting my business,” McDonald recalled. “I was determined to execute a tier cake, and I did just that. I’m self-taught, so, I had to scour the internet and pour over books. From that point on, it’s been a learning curve, and I’ve gotten really comfortable with wedding cakes through a lot of experience.”
Simply Desserts, situated in a prime location at The Promenade at Virginia Gateway Shopping Center in Gainesville, now regularly provides custom cakes for weddings all over Northern Virginia and other locations west of DC.
“Wedding business is a very good portion of our business,” McDonald said. “We do on average eight to ten cakes per month.”
That translates to McDonald and her team providing the sweet stuff for at least two local weddings every weekend.
Simply Desserts provides just about any kind of dessert for what is in many cases the most important day of a couple’s life. McDonald doesn’t take that lightly, either. She makes sure that the whole process is seamless so that the bride and groom have one less thing they have to worry about on that special day.
“The cake tasting session is how we get started with every couple,” McDonald said. “They set up an appointment with our team, and from there, we arrange for them to taste the different flavors of cake and see the different options for design. Then, we do everything from that point until the cake is delivered to the reception. We handle the delivery, and we set all the desserts up for the ideal display. Oftentimes, the dessert display includes the wedding cake, a small cutting cake, and a variety of cupcakes and other desserts. Each bride has a different vision in her head.”
Simply Desserts is known for its personalized desserts, and, from flavor to aesthetics, wedding cakes are no exception.
“We really are about narrowing down and identifying exactly what the bride wants,” McDonald said. “When we do our tastings, I provide a sampled plate of eight different cakes, and then a sample plate of eight different fillings, and we will mix and match to find out what they want. As for designs, engaged couples can look through a few photo books of Simply Desserts designs to get ideas. Most of my clients have ideas of what they want their cake to look like. They’ve looked on Pinterest and in other places, and they don’t want a replica of someone else’s cake. So, we’ll talk it out, I’ll do a sketch, and nine times out of ten, they are happy with the concept I’ve put on paper.”
Brides tend to walk through the doors of Simply Desserts with a certain vision; however, many of them discover that McDonald’s team can – and will – concoct something even better than whatever they’d initially imagined.
“A lot of times brides come in thinking they know what they want, but then they find they really like other flavors,” McDonald said. “We offer classic flavors, but we also always want to offer something different, and that’s how we come up with signature flavors. One of our most popular signatures is a Lavender Earl Grey flavored cake with honey lemon Swiss buttercream.”
They also provide gluten free and vegan options.
Simply Desserts’ attention to detail and emphasis on customer experience has yielded fabulous results not only for the couples she works with, but also for her business. The popular online all-things-wedding platform, The Knot, has honored Simply Desserts with its “Best of Weddings” recognition for seven years in a row, from 2012 to 2018. Now Simply Desserts has a place in The Knot’s Hall of Fame.
The bakery has also caught the attention of WeddingWire, another online wedding marketplace; Simply Desserts is now a six-time winner of WeddingWire’s Couples’ Choice Awards.
Although McDonald accommodates as many short-notice requests as she possibly can, it is best to contact Simply Desserts six to eight months ahead of time – this kind of lead time is the only surefire way to make sure that this booming local business can make your wedding dessert dreams come true.
Ashley Claire Simpson (email@example.com) is a freelance writer.