Wedding Experts: The Pastry Pro

Whipped up in a Rochester kitchen, Meredith Ciaburri-Rousseau’s delectable confections truly take the cake. 

Photograph by Pat Piasecki

Baker Meredith Ciaburri-Rousseau learned early on that the sweetest desserts come from natural ingredients. “I loved baking with my mom and my grandmother growing up, and we would enjoy the local fruits and vegetables that grow in this coastal area,” the Rochester native says. After pursuing her passion all the way to the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Ciaburri-Rousseau returned home to open Artisan Bake Shop in 2006, applying her farm-to-table approach to everything from design-forward wedding cakes in flavors such as Guinness chocolate stout and almond to cider doughnut holes and mini Key lime pies. “We want balanced flavors and fresh ingredients—then we design something beautiful around it,” she says.

What should couples keep in mind when ordering a custom wedding cake?

They need to take a look at the designer’s social media accounts—their Instagram page, their Facebook page, and their portfolio—and make sure that their style fits the style of the designer. We all have very different styles, and the most difficult thing for me is when someone comes in with a photo of a cake that’s out of my range of specialization.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

My studio is tucked away on a tranquil country road, and my style—timeless and elegant and understated—reflects that. I love to bring together traditional elements with a modern touch. My inspiration has always come from where I live, which is focused around local farms. Fresh, stunning flavors are super important to me.

What design trends are you noticing in desserts these days?

I’m seeing more metallic elements, especially rose gold. Silver is becoming more popular, too. We’re also seeing a lot of watercolor details and hand-painting. Big cakes are also trending. Over the past few years, we’ve had brides come in saying, “I want the biggest cake you’ve ever made.” That’s been fun.

What about flavors?

Raspberry tends to stand out to our couples and has stayed steady over the years. We’re also seeing a lot of customers choose fun flavors like marshmallow, and we have a rose buttercream that’s been really popular over the last year or so. I always tell my couples, “Don’t worry about what anyone else is going to think. Pick the flavors that you really love.” One time a couple chose a banana cake with a layer of strawberry filling, a layer of chocolate filling, and a layer of vanilla filling. I told them, “I think that’s great. Let’s do that, and let’s also pick a second cake to go along with it that’s more of a crowd-pleaser.” So they chose a vanilla-and-chocolate cake with vanilla filling. They still got their really awesome flavors, but then had something that was a little different as well.

How can couples make sure the cake matches the look and feel of the wedding?

The most important thing to know is that you really have to wait until you’ve decided on your overall style before you start the cake process. You should have a solidified color palette, a good idea of centerpieces, and know the type and color of linens you’ll be using, because the cake is a place where you can bring all those elements together.

Before I meet with clients, I always send them a questionnaire to ask about linens, bridesmaids’ dresses, and groomsmen’s tuxes or suits, as well as the invitations, the escort cards, and the other styling elements they’ll be using. Many of those little details influence the design of the cake. For example, one of our couples had a birch heart on their escort cards, and we ended up making cupcakes with edible fondant birch hearts on the top. If they hadn’t told us about their escort cards, we wouldn’t have been able to add that detail.

Are dessert tables still popular?

We’re doing a lot more dessert tables than we used to do. When I started out 12 years ago, it was mostly traditional wedding cakes. About three years in, we started making more cupcakes. Now we’re back to either larger, traditional wedding cakes or dessert tables. Usually a dessert table will be accompanied by a small, single-tier cake—something ceremonial to cut.

What goes into deciding which treats to include?

It’s actually a little more detailed than the cake process. With a dessert table, you have to think about the table size, how you’re going to use displays, how you’re going to tie in the color palette, how many different types of desserts you’re going to have, and how you’re going to label them. A lot of our couples want something that fits the season, yet still encompasses what their favorite desserts are. For example, we do little dessert parfaits: desserts in a shot glass. In the past we would make something like a chocolate mousse for these, but now we’ll do strawberry-rhubarb with panna cotta. Folks are really looking for something different.

265 Walnut Plain Rd., Rochester, 508-763-4905,


Meredith Ciaburri-Rousseau dreams up cake combinations to suit four celebration styles.

  • Bohemian and Modern | For a romantic, fairy-tale touch, add watercolor buttercream and draping greenery to a sweet lavender cake balanced with tart lemon-cream filling.
  • Rustic and Natural | If you’re looking for something more unrefined, opt for a cinnamon-filled pumpkin cake topped with hand-sculpted fondant leaves.
  • Elegant and Glamourous | A shimmery champagne cake filled with strawberry buttercream and decorated with lace and sugar flowers is timeless.
  • Whimsical and Unique | Jazz up a confetti cake with colorful sprinkles and a personalized cake topper—for example, figurines of the couple dressed in their favorite sports-team jerseys.

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