Cake Walk

Of course you want your guests to enjoy your wedding cake—to rave about its decadence, to go back for seconds and maybe even try to sneak a piece home for later. But if you also want them to have that awe-inspiring, how can that possibly be made out of sugar moment when you and your new hubby pose with that shiny knife, you’re in luck.

OF COURSE YOU WANT YOUR GUESTS TO ENJOY YOUR wedding cake—to rave about its decadence, to go back for seconds and maybe even try to sneak a piece home for later. But if you also want them to have that awe-inspiring, how can that possibly be made out of sugar moment when you and your new hubby pose with that shiny knife, you’re in luck.

Today’s wedding cakes are no longer marked by round tier upon round tier, with white on white decor. It’s now easy as, well, cake to find one that adds pow value to the reception, a cake that’s sexy, tasty and a star—not to outshine the bride, of course, but to stand out on your wedding day and in your wedding album for years to come.

dream it, bake it

LISA RAFFAEL, OWNER OF DELICIOUS Desserts in Falmouth, was recently in an unusual cakes competition run by the Food Network. The cake she won third place for?

“I did a five-tier cake, with alternating layers of round and upside-down flowerpot shapes,” says Raffael. “I pearlized each tier a different color and splattered the whole cake with real gold leaf. I wrote vows and love songs all over it, and coming out of the cake was a variety of fondant spirals and balls painted all different colors.”

While unusual shapes are always fun, what Raffael loves most are her memory cakes. To begin these, she interviews her couples about themselves and their relationship, then creates a fondant cake with the memories from the bride and groom handwritten all over it. “One couple focused on special places,” says Raffael, so the cake included Four Seas Ice Cream, Fourth of July at Baxter’s, Joe’s Twin Villas and Fireworks from Cotuit Bay. Others focus on special dates. It takes a lot of work, but it’s always worth it in the end. “I’m getting known for these,” says Raffael, who has done memory cakes in hot pink on white, key lime on white, and gold leaf on pink—though the color options are virtually endless.

the shape of things

TEXTURE IS ANOTHER ASPECT THAT IS really being played up in fabulous cakes. Inspiration can come from bits of a bride’s wedding dress, such as a pearl trim. “It’s very common to use an element from the dress or invitation, or something that has a pattern,” says Jeanne Topham, owner of I Dream of Jeanne Cakes in Andover—and pick it up in the cake’s decorative design. She has used elements from origami and even an Indian sari print to create a cake’s decor.

If the traditional, perfectly formed round tiers don’t exactly get you enthused, never fear. “A lot of people these days are going for a cake that’s more whimsical in shape and design,” says John Haroian, owner of JohnnyCakes in North Andover. “For example, some like the look of a Mad Hatter cake, where it looks like some of the tiers are not level or are uneven—sort of a harlequin design.”

Ellen Bartlett, owner of Cakes to Remember in Brookline, did a cake out of rounds and squares that had both stripes and polka dots in shades of gold, orange and beige. Making a cake unusual, says Topham, comes most frequently from playing with the shape. One couple even brought her a picture of Shaquille O’Neal’s multilayered “pillow cake” from his own wedding and wanted her to duplicate its stack-of-pillows design, done with white on white. “More modern and contemporary motifs are being asked for,” says Topham. “Something that looks fresh and clean, more Bauhaus,” she says, referring to a square cake with very clean lines.

Mixing shapes has current appeal, and Topham recently did a four-tier cake that alternated round and hexagonal layers and was delicately hand-painted with cameos.

icing on the cake

GRETCHEN ELLISON, OWNER OF ENCHANTED Wedding Cakes in Shrewsbury, still sees a desire for the simplicity of a traditional cake—but there’s a ribbon trend appearing in her creations. “For example, if the flowers for the wedding are vivid, they might use a band of ribbon at the base of each tier with a vivid color,” says Ellison. “I have another bride giving me a ribbon that says ‘love, love, love,’ which will be incorporated into the cake’s design.”

It is becoming less trendy to decorate with real flowers. But the intricacy and artistry that’s going into some of the edible flowers are remarkable. Kristen Repa, owner of Dessert Works in Norwood, is known for her handmade chocolate calla lilies and dogwood blossoms sweeping over the tiers, while Bartlett uses handmade blue hydrangea or a lush, soft swath of buttercream roses cascading over a square or more angular cake to create a bold and modern look.

Or, if you really want to personalize your wedding cake, turn to things and places you love for inspiration. One of Bartlett’s real challenges was an architectural cake, designed to satisfy the groom’s passion for Frank Lloyd Wright. “I ended up doing a cake that was inspired by the famous Wright house Fallingwater, done in white fondant, incorporating the linear feel and the interesting shapes,” says Bartlett. She even used an embossing tool to get the feel of the water.

One recent bride loved her cat so much, she wanted her wedding cake to have the feel of paw prints all over it, says Haroian. So he made a stamp in that shape and used it all over the cake’s frosting.

Topham also has depicted scenes to customize a wedding cake. “One couple was honeymooning in Greece and wanted a round cake with windows and flower boxes like in a Greek village.” Another client of hers had a cake with Mount Washington on the top, because that’s where they got engaged. And one of her more unusual wedding cakes was designed to look like a stack of books that included 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Great Gatsby and an obscure Edgar Allen Poe tome called The Imp of the Perverse.

The ethnic backgrounds of you or your fiance also can serve as great impetus for a fabulous cake. Haroian recently had a bride in New Hampshire marrying a man of Indian descent. Indian custom requires that red be part of the decor. “Without wanting the cake to look like a fire hydrant, I chose to do stained-glass, red poinsettias all over the cake,” he says.

So in the end, whatever cake you see in your mind’s eye, say our bakers—be sure to dream big. They’ll find a way to make it happen.