Friday, September 4, 2009

Love at First Bite: Today’s Hot Wedding Cake Styles

By Andrea Melcher

Let them eat cake!

Marie Antoinette is the source of this famous quote, and precisely what kind of cake to eat has been on the minds of brides for centuries. After all, the cutting of the wedding cake is a ritual that guests (and their taste buds) look forward to with great anticipation.

The tradition of the wedding cake is said to have begun with the Romans, when loaves of bread were broken over the bride’s head. Other wedding cake lore tells of guests “stacking cakes” in front of the bride and groom, who attempt to kiss over them. Yet another legend speaks of bridesmaids taking home pieces of cake, placing them under their pillows and dreaming of their future spouses. All in all, through the centuries, the wedding cake has carved its niche as a symbol of life and love – the kind the bride and groom share for each other and for their guests.

Many traditions trace the history of today’s wedding cake style to St. Bride’s Church in England, whose tiered spires resemble the basic design of the important wedding confection.


But, while in the not-so-distant past, most cakes were crafted of white cake, white buttercream frosting, and adorned with a likeness of the bride and groom, today’s cakes abound with rich flavor combinations and can be found in a rainbow of colors and shapes.

Renee Bodine selected a French vanilla flavored white cake with raspberry filling from a local cake shop for her May wedding to Matthew MacDougall. Yvette Mery Haase, proprietor of the shop, says that, today, “there are no boundaries. Many years ago, it was all about flowers. Today, anything goes!”

When she consults with a bride like Bodine, Haase determines the personality of the couple, as well as the style of the wedding and the venue where the cake will be displayed.

“The cake is an extension of the wedding,” she explains. “It is, without a doubt, the largest centerpiece of the room. So, the entire room’s décor will flow from it.”

Hence, a bride should consider shopping for her wedding cake after she has selected her gown, her bridesmaids’ dresses and the venue. Time of day and the formality of the ceremony and reception should be taken into consideration as well.


Positioning the cakein the room is important, says Michelle Brittain of Seventh Heaven Cakes. She recommends the cake table be protected on at least one side, to avoid having people walk around or lean on the table. She notes it is unwise to place the cake table near the dance floor (for obvious reasons) and that couples should consider the backdrop of the cake, as the background will be visible in photographs. In addition, the cake table should be kept clear of other items for ease of cutting and serving.

Since Bodine’s reception was held at Milano Ristorante Italiano, her cake featured colors ranging from powder pink to deep pink to match the restaurant’s décor. The German chocolate groom’s cake was adorned with fudge and clusters of grapes dipped in chocolate.

Bride Rebecca Garverick’s cake was decorated with scrolls and pearls that matched her dress for her reception at the Hotel Contessa. Working with Brittain, Garverick and her groom selected a cake with square tiers, smooth frosting and a “clean, classic line.”

The surprise was on the inside.

“We selected a pistachio cake,” Garverick reveals. “Everyone was absolutely charmed with it.”

Brittain adds that the taste of the cake is just as important as how it looks.

“This is the most expensive dessert you will purchase in your life,” she says. “You want to make sure it tastes wonderful!”

Flavors can run the gamut, says Diana Cormier of Buono Dolce Desserts of San Antonio.

“Some of our most popular flavors for brides’ cakes are strawberry, pineapple, Bavarian cream and amaretto,” Cormier says.

Brittain offers a variety of flavors as well, ranging from white sponge and carrot cake to red velvet and cheesecake. Tasting the cake beforehand is an vital (and very enjoyable) step. Brittain encourages couples to be wary of vendors who don’t offer samples.

“You will find out that taste and texture vary greatly between vendors so this is an important step!” she says. “Just because it sounds fancy doesn't mean that it's good. If you've never heard of genoise or dacquoise before, you've probably never tasted it before either. Save the experiments for much smaller parties.”

As far as the icing goes, Brittain states care should be taken when selecting it as well. As cream cheese and whipped cream need refrigeration, she recommends they be used for fillings instead of the topping of the cake. She reveals her “icing of choice” is what she calls a “southern buttercream.”

“Buttercream tastes better, holds any color, and holds up well under all piping techniques,” she explains, adding that she also uses the popular fondant topping, which gives a smooth, sleek look.

“I also offer rolled fondant,” Brittain says. “Fondant is a sugar dough that is rolled flat and smoothed over the top of a lightly iced or glazed tier. It is not popular in the southern U.S. because of the taste. It's not horrible, just different.”

She adds that it’s difficult to cut through and most varieties cannot be refrigerated because it gets gummy. And, since fondant is somewhat heavy, the cake underneath should be strong enough to hold up to the weight – something firm like Italian Cream or pound cake.

With the flexibility of cake and icing choices, today’s cakes are symmetrical, asymmetrical and boast a variety of colors, shapes and designs on each layer. Once the design, cake type and flavor, filling and icing have been selected, couples often find unusual ways to express themselves on the top layer as well.


Traditionally, the top layer is saved for the first anniversary, and is often a different flavor than the rest of the cake. (Brittain calls it a “Keepcake.”)

According to Bridget Haggerty, author of The Traditional Irish Wedding, the top tier of a wedding cake was customarily an Irish whiskey cake which was saved for the christening of the couple’s first baby. Resting on this top layer can be everything from a bride and groom figurine to ribbons, candles, flowers, fruit or a decorative monogram of the couples’ last name initial.

Haase prefers to use “fresh” items as decorations.

“I prefer everything to be fresh or real,” she says. “I use fruit, vegetables and greenery to help adorn the cakes.”

Brittain’s web site contains a list of fresh flowers and herbs, along with their particular meanings. Couples can choose items that may be of personal significance to them.

Wedding cakes can take a variety of forms as well.

Bakeries such as The Cake Shop offer a variety of options – including a cake that resembles a Victorian lamp (complete with fringe) as well as heart-shaped cakes, “Madhatter-type” cakes, wedding cake-shaped cookies and even a wedding cake made out of cupcakes. And, for couples seeking out-of-the ordinary, non-traditional options, other wedding cake traditions abound.

For example: considering a Caribbean-themed wedding? Why not include a wedding cake made of dried fruits and nuts?

One a bakery based in (where else?) Jamaica, N.Y., says a black rum fruit cake “is a mainstay for all festive occasions held by Caribbean, West Indians and British people.”

Europe boasts a number of traditions. In Germany, couples often serve a cake laced with rum, while in Scandinavian countries boast the “kransekage” (ring cake) – a stacked concoction crafted of almonds, sugar and egg whites.

And, in the southern U.S., many families observe the “cake pull” ceremony in which tiny silver charms attached to ribbons are placed within the icing of the cake. The bride’s attendants gather before the cake cutting to pull the ribbons and reveal the charms. The charms are symbolic – representing friendship, love, romance and even the next to get married. Not only is it a fun tradition, it is also a pleasant way of giving the attendants a special gift.

No matter the size, shape, color or flavor of the cake, today’s wedding cakes are as individual as the couples they represent. So, what is the best way to select a wedding cake?

Based in Denver, but married in San Antonio, Garverick let her fingers help her.

“I viewed websites and compared talk boards to get personal references,” Garverick says. “Brittain’s web site was excellent – it detailed very clearly what she could do and was very up front about everything. There were no hidden charges or surprises and she worked very well with the hotel and the florist.”

Garverick adds that “everyone raved about the cake,” the ultimate goal for every couple.

What better feeling than to have their wedding guests affirm their choice by saying, “Let us eat cake!”

1 comment:

  1. omGGGGGGGG that first cake is boooooteeeeful!!!!!!