Careful, soon-to-be brides – your search for the perfect cake could take you down a rabbit hole to Wonderland – or at least to Pinterest. Yes, there are many cakes based on Lewis Carroll’s timeless story, but this season, your imagination is the limit for your wedding cake.
Literature, pop culture and art provide a plethora of cake design ideas. (Eventually, you are sure to come upon the Cake Wrecks website…but that’s best done when you need some comic relief from the exhausting process of wedding planning.)
Past and Present Cakes
Wedding cakes have captured the imaginations of couples and confectioners alike since the late 1700s. The first cake makers used actual blueprints, scaled to size, to create cakes based on Gothic cathedrals, Roman ruins and other marvels of architecture. The taller and more perfectly sculptured, the better, with the wedding cake of Queen Victoria’s daughter standing nearly 7 feet tall. Such cakes were status symbols and required ingenious rigging to stay upright. Only the wealthy could afford the refined white sugar and nougat that were the basis of most Victorian-era cakes. If you could demonstrate that you could commission a fantastic piece of art just to have it destroyed for dessert, it was sure to impress the dandies and debutantes of high society.
Today, wedding cakes are generally not miniature replicas of ornate buildings adorned with statues, not pure white and not held up with iced broomsticks as the cakes of our ancestors were. (Although if that is what a couple wants, it is certainly possible to get it.) They’re now less massive and more unique – just like every couple. To reflect that uniqueness, while keeping up with today’s bridal trends, a variety of cake designs have captured the hearts of many of 2018’s brides and grooms.
Naked and Natural Cakes
According to websites like The Knot, Junebug Weddings and MyDomaine, the current hot wedding cake trend is the naked cake. Don’t worry; your grandmother won’t faint – “naked” just refers to the fact that the cake is frosting free, with fruit between the layers creating colorful stripes. According to Charity Wagner of Bella Birches Cakery & Catering in Flushing, a naked cake should be considered in terms of what seasonal fruit, flowers and transportation are available. Then there’s the nearly naked cake, also very popular. This cake has light frosting, with some of the cake showing through, bringing to mind the shabby chic of rustic furniture. These cakes follow the general fashion trend of natural, relaxed and simple that informs many of today’s wedding styles.
In keeping with the nature theme are cakes that evoke the wilderness, with tree-related designs. If you’re having a fall wedding, you could have your cake decorated with red, yellow and orange leaves instead of the requisite pink roses on a white background. (Though roses will never go out of style and always be beautiful.) For a winter wedding, a cake with black frosting and metallic accents can provide a sophisticated contrast to the snowy landscape outside the window.
But really, anything goes. Do you want Stonehenge or a Scottish castle? How about a Viking longboat? That can be arranged.
For glorious geekery, think cakes with themes from Lord of the Rings or depicting the game Dungeons and Dragons or all things Harry Potter (“There must be a secret message from Dumbledore hidden in the icing!”)
For the more traditional cakes, ruffles and lace designs can be created with fondant, a stiff type of frosting used by cake artists. “Many people love the look of fondant but not necessarily the taste.” Wagner says. “Think of it as edible wrapping paper. You could easily peel it off and discover there is still buttercream under, or you may enjoy the texture differences and choose to eat it all. It’s a matter of preference but is used mostly to achieve the flawless look that you find in magazines and on Pinterest. If you are wanting a colorful cake, sometimes fondant is necessary to avoid streaking or drips in the coloring.”
At most shops, you can commission any type of art for your cake, from Jackson Pollock-like liquid frosting abstractions, to geometric designs, to reproductions of your favorite paintings or illustrations from books you loved as a child, to symbols of your faith. Of course, what it tastes like is just as important as what it looks like.
“All of our cakes have four layers of cake and three layers of filling,” Wagner says. “We allow brides and grooms to get creative and create their own unique combination of flavors and fillings all in one slice! People are asking for unique and fun flavor combinations such as Superman, Nerds or chocolate marbled with banana.”
“You can commission any type of art for your cake, from Jackson Pollock-like liquid frosting abstractions, to geometric designs, to reproductions of your favorite paintings or illustrations from books you loved as a child, to symbols of your faith.”
Cute as a Cupcake
Last, another contemporary trend is to have one relatively large main cake, with smaller ones (even cupcake sized) placed artistically around it or nearby, perhaps on different levels. Astronomy lovers could have a solar system of cakes, complete with a rock candy asteroid belt, for example.
“Cupcakes are still loved by many, and I think they are a great alternative to wedding cakes,” says Lisa Cochran of Simply Elegant Sweets, a Flint-based company specializing in elegant gourmet cupcakes and small bridal cakes. “They are easier to serve and you can have a few different flavors. I suggest not getting too many flavors. This makes guests want to try more if you have them displayed as a self-serve buffet. I think it’s great to have them served if you are having waitstaff, because you don’t have to worry about running out of cupcakes. Serving gourmet cupcakes can also be a money saver compared to a large stacked wedding cake.”
Your wedding should reflect both of your personalities. Traditionally, bride and groom figurines have adorned the tops of cakes, but there are other options – some even comical, if you want your guests to remember your wedding as some of the most fun they’ve ever had. Or eat the Titanic, with Jack and Rose figures on top. Don’t forget the option of having a separate groom’s cake if you like. Whatever the case, the cake can be one of the best ways to express yourselves on the day you begin your lives together.