| Considering the room the cake will be displayed in is important to creating the cake's design, says Elizabeth England. |
Three words sum up what every bride wants this year: simple but elegant. “However, simple but elegant means different things to different people,” says Mark Seaman, owner of Marked for Desserts in Chicago.
Elizabeth England, owner of The Chef’s Kitchen Cakery, Madeira, Ohio, attributes this desire for simple and elegant to brides that are a bit older and more sophisticated. Michele Brown agrees. “People tend to be more refined. They don’t want a lot of frosting. They want elegant and clean,” she says. Her bakery, Michele Brown Baking, is in Glen Cove, N.Y. Modern Baking spoke to several bakers from across the country, and while each decorator has his or her own specialties, several common decorating themes emerged across the nation.
Couples seem to want cakes that express their personalities, whether it is through color, shape or design elements. “I see couples personalizing their cake a lot more,” England says. “They’re walking in with a picture, and saying ‘I want this, but not exactly.’ They’re finally willing to have fun with their cakes.”
Amy Kossman of Piece of Cake Desserts in Mesa, Ariz. agrees. “I’m seeing more color and more fun designs. They are straying away from all-white wedding cakes,” she says.
Some of the year’s hottest colors are blush pink, chocolate brown, burnt orange and shades of ivory. A lot of color choices are influenced by the wedding dresses. “Every year is a different color. Last year it was sage green. The year before that was ecru,” says Condra Easley, co-owner of Patisserie Angelica, located in the San Francisco Bay area town of Sebastopol, Calif.
Black is even creeping back into cake designs. “It sound kind of ‘eh,’ but it looks very tasteful when it’s done correctly,” says Buddy Valastro, owner of Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, N.J.
Kossman also is seeing requests for black and white cakes, and even red. “I’ve had a few people want tiers done completely in red,” she adds.
Brides are less concerned about using the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses in the cake, and are instead relying on the decorators’ knowledge on what will look good in the room where the reception is being held. The room should be taken into consideration, so you can provide a cake that will look its best in that room, say both Valastro and England.
In the Chicago area, Seaman reports that colors tend to be one extreme or the other. “I’m seeing couples that want subtle, monochromatic cakes with texture, or people want vibrant color.” For monochromatic cakes, couples tend to choose ivory over white, he says. Seaman pearlizes the fondant, which gives it a satiny appearance and helps bring out the texture he has incorporated into the fondant.
The texture or design on the cakes can be inspired by something personal to the couple, such as the bride’s dress. They often want to copy the beadwork or lace on the dress. “Lace is popular again in dresses, and therefore, popular for cakes too,” Seaman adds.
| This cake from Piece of Cake Desserts demonstrates two of the hottest trends: square tiers and a mix of designs. |
Valastro also is seeing more brides requesting the dresses’ lacework be replicated on the cake. Due to his location near New York City, a fashion mecca, he is able to work closely with the dress designers to coordinate the dress and the cake. England’s customers also are requesting their cakes reflect some personal aspect of the day. She has had customers come in with embroidery work, such as a grandmother’s handkerchief, and want that to be the design of the cake. Some brides use even more obscure objects for their inspiration, Seaman says. He has brides requesting he coordinate the cake design with their wedding invitations.
Fun with shapes
Brides also are straying away from the traditional round tiers. “I’m seeing people interested in different shapes,” Seaman says. Round still remains tops for most of the decorators. However, other shapes are quickly becoming just as popular. Even brides who decide to go with a more traditional design, Kossman says, often have fun with the shape of the cake.
“Round is always number one, but squares are doing well,” Valastro says. “Every 10th cake I do is squares. I even like them offset a bit.”
For Marked for Desserts, Seaman reports that squares continue to grow in popularity with more than half of the cakes ordered incorporating square tiers. He is even seeing requests for octagons and triangles.
“Squares are becoming just as popular as rounds, and not far behind them are hexagons,” Kossman adds.
| Chef’s Kitchen Cakery sells about eight 500-serving topsy-turvy cakes a year. |
The popularity of topsy-turvy or off-kilter cakes varies by location. England’s Cincinnati-based bakery is still doing quite a few of the off-kilter cakes. “I do about eight a year, but they are really big cakes with more than 500 servings,” she says. Kossman in Mesa, Ariz. still gets a few requests for the cakes, but most people chuckle at them and don’t order them, she says.
Seaman, located in Chicago, says his customers often comment on the topsy-turvy cakes. However, they do not want that style of cake for their wedding. “Two years ago, they were hugely popular,” he adds.
“They had their time,” says Brown, located near New York City. “They’re mainstream now. I do more for birthdays.”
For Northern California-based Easley, the issue is more cut and dry. “Off-kilter cakes are gone,” she says. “I’m thinking about taking them out of my wedding books.”
Buttercream or fondant
Along with color and shape, couples must also choose the icing. The decorations for the cakes often dictate what the covering must be, and the choice is typically between buttercream and fondant. In the past, brides liked the appearance of rolled fondant, but they were concerned about the flavor. However, bakers report that at least 50 percent, and often more, of their couples are requesting fondant cakes.
“Our brides like the way it is completely smooth and looks more elegant,” Kossman says.
“The big word I hear is simple. They say ‘I want something clean-lined.’ That says fondant to me,” Carlo’s Bakery’s Valastro says. Almost 90 percent of his bakery’s orders for wedding cakes are fondant, but he still encounters brides who are leery about the flavor. For them, Valastro demonstrates how thinly he rolls the fondant during the consultation. He purchased a sheeter strictly for rolling fondant to ensure it is always as thin as he requires. Brown, of Michele Brown Baking, also tries to have fondant at the sampling sessions.
Seaman’s Marked For Desserts fondant orders have grown from one-third to more than one-half in the last few years. He attributes this to the fact that customers are getting used to fondant. “I have brides that come in and say ‘I saw that in Martha,’” he says. “Whether we like her [Martha Stewart] or not, she introduces people to things.”
“Fondant is not going away,” Easley says. “It is one of the most versatile mediums for us to work with, so for cake artists, it’s going to stay.”
Incorporating several design elements
Another new trend in wedding cake designs is decorating each tier with different designs. “I’m hardly seeing any cakes that are decorated in one pattern,” Seaman says. “People are trying not to be traditional, and people buy what they see.”
England rarely gets requests for cakes in all one pattern. Each tier features a different design, or brides select two patterns and alternate them on the tiers, she says.
And, decorators and brides have to keep in mind that it is a cake. “My personal style is not to do incredibly intricate details,” England adds. “The cakes do get eaten.”
“We do real cakes for real people,” Easley says. “When people say, ‘No one eats the cake at weddings,’ I tell them that if it’s good cake, people will eat it.”
Price by the slice
Pricing wedding cakes can be tricky. Bakers and decorators have to be price sensitive to what their markets are willing to pay, yet still cover their labor and material costs. Modern Baking interviewed several bakers and decorators, and found that cake prices run the full gamut from $2 a slice to more than $22 per serving. All bakers took into consideration the amount of design elements the cake required and the different cake flavors and fillings. Many decorators had different base prices for buttercream and rolled fondant. Here’s the breakdown of serving prices from West Coast to East Coast.
Patisserie Angelica, Sebastopol, Calif.:
$7 to $10–average price
Piece of Cake Desserts, Mesa, Ariz.:
$3.25–buttercream base price
$3.75–rolled fondant base price
Marked For Desserts, Chicago:
$6–buttercream base price
$7–rolled fondant base price
The Chef’s Kitchen Cakery, Madeira, Ohio:
Carlo’s Bakery, Hoboken, N.J.:
$6 to $20–buttercream average price
$12 to $15–rolled fondant average price
Michele Brown Baking, Glen Cove, N.Y.: