Know Your Wedding Cake Terminology

Don't know your ganaches from your gum paste? Here's a vocab list for dissecting your wedding dessert.

Photograph by Hornick/Rivlin

Jenny’s Wedding Cakes Photograph by Hornick/Rivlin for ‘Best of Boston’

After meeting with your baker, a bunch of tasty terms might be suddenly swirling around your head. Ganache? Fondant? And what the hell are dragees?

No worries. Faster than you can say “sugar shock,” here’s a breakdown of basic wedding cake terminology:


This is a baker’s dream frosting. It’s rich, creamy, easily colored, and flavored in a pinch. They can also use it for fancy decorations like shells, flowers, and lattices. The main ingredient is—wait for it—butter. This translates to a high melt factor, it’s not the best choice when planning an outdoor summer wedding.


These pretty little things are hard sugar balls painted with edible gold or silver paint.


All those flawless cakes that put your own baking/decorating skills to shame are probably covered in fondant. This is a chewy, sweet sugar dough of gelatin and corn syrup that’s rolled and wrapped around each tier of a cake for an ultra-smooth finish. It requires zero fridge time, so it’s a go-to for outdoor weddings.


A match made in heaven (chocolate and heavy cream), this icing is a dark treat for your white wedding. It can be poured over your cake for a glass-like finish, or you can put it between cake layers for a sweet surprise.

Gum Paste

When your baker makes ribbons or flowers, chances are he or she is using this sugary dough. It hardens when it dries, so you can move the decorations around on the cake to where you see fit.


Leave it to the Italians to make a sweet candy that can be molded into flowers and fruits for decoration. This paste of almonds, sugar, and egg whites adds pops of bright colors.

Pulled Sugar

This malleable concoction created from boiling sugar, water, and corn syrup creates designs that are anything but basic. Cover your cake in roses and bows made from pulled sugar, and they’ll look like the real thing—silky smooth, shiny, and satiny.

Royal Icing

Fit for a queen, this mix of confectioner’s sugar and milk or egg whites hardens into a shiny glaze for use in latticework and dots.

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