Not Your Grandmother’s Wedding Cake
New tastes, shapes and colors make the typical white wedding cake a thing of the past.
Catch the Wave
“When we were first taught wedding cake design,” recounts Rosa Leung, a veteran baker with decades of experience, “everything was heavy—roses made of thick frosting, and globs of drape and piping.” Starr Heiliger, another long-time dessert pro, remembers, “The local bakery used to offer just a few standard wedding cakes. Now, a bride’s choices are virtually unlimited—there’s nothing we can’t do.”
Although bakers still field requests for the traditional white Victorian cake, the trend is definitely for something more streamlined and classic. The cakes at Bridal Sweets characterize this chic, contemporary approach. Picture the difference between a poufy prom dress from the ‘50s and a sleek number by Valentino, and you’ll understand why owner Vicki Hulbert bypasses fussy embellishments in favor of sophisticated polish. Feminine details are still “in,” but are applied with more style, discretion and innovation.
The smooth finish of modern cakes is achieved through a culinary medium called rolled fondant. Linda Goldsheft confides that fondant had been the standard for years back in England, but the current American version is “much tastier”—and currently all the rage. “Fondant is beautiful, like alabaster, with a smooth, matte surface,” says Goldsheft. And since it’s a flexible substance, it allows bakers to be more creative. Even those that frost their cakes with French buttercream still strive for the smooth look popularized by fondant.
Design themes in demand include cakes made to resemble gift boxes. Whimsical “Mad Hatter Cakes,” with their fanciful forms and vivid colors appeal to fun-loving couples, and Regal Bakery gets lots of requests for castle cakes. Making frequent appearances at weddings-by-the-sea are coastal cake accents such as chocolate seashells, marzipan starfish, and sugar-sand. Rather than the typical rounds, Bridal Sweets says square layers and even hexagons are au courant. She suggests mixing up the shapes, and Linda Goldsheft adds that applying garnishes asymmetrically makes for greater dynamics. Even those brides who want to evoke the flavor of yesteryear achieve the effect in non-traditional ways. La Starr & Company makes re-creations of gorgeous antique jewelry boxes, complete with gold hinges, white scrollwork, and color gradations that make them seem like they belong in a fashionable 19th century drawing room.
Styles that embody cultural heritage are turning up quite often. The Cake Studio has pleased many an Indian couple with their ability to translate the traditional bridal henna tattoos onto wedding cakes. Flour Power recently made an “Italian Charm Cake,” with no less than 47 charms baked into the bottom tier; each charm symbolized a wish for the lucky recipient, from “next to take a trip,” to “the next to wed.” Flour Power has also incorporated designs of an Ethiopian Wedding Knot into the icing for African-American twosomes, and Celtic Knots for those of Irish descent. A cake might also represent a multi-cultural union. For a Hawaiian bride that married a Japanese gentleman, Paul Vargas of The Bread Basket devised a special cake. “Hibiscus and other Hawaiian flowers overflowed from a base of bamboo reeds made from rolled chocolate,” he recounts. “The topper was a tiny Japanese gong brushed with gold.”