Sweet Talk

How are couples choosing to add a sweet note to their wedding receptions? Experts share the latest trends in cakes and wedding desserts.

By Sara Perez Webber

Personal Cakes and Layers

A signature wedding order at Charlotte Patisserie in Brooklyn, personal cakes allow each guest to have his or her own miniature cake. Most popular are airy sponge cakes, sweetened with a light mousse. In fact, Michael Lechowicz—the French Culinary Institute-trained executive chef of Charlotte Patisserie—carved out a niche in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood by offering lighter, simpler cakes that contrasted with neighboring bakeries’ heavier, ornate cakes with rich ingredients. Large, personal-sized macarons are another Charlotte specialty.

Trip Wheeler, president of SB VALUE, notes that the deconstructed cake display will be big in 2019. “Instead of attendees being greeted by a towering cake, they’ll enjoy a display filled to the brim with cake layers, all with their own individual flavors and looks,” says Wheeler.

Personal cakes from Charlotte Patisserie.

Geode Cakes

At Monzù Bakery and Custom Cakes, an award-winning bakery in Green Bay, Wis., the geode cake trend is still rock-solid for weddings. These cakes have a section hollowed out and filled with crystals, like geodes found in nature. “To make the geode cakes, we fill and stack our cakes to the desired height, then carve out where we want our geode crystals to go,” says Jennifer Bukouricz, owner. “After the cakes have a final coat of fondant or buttercream on the outside, we use clear piping gel and rock candy to create the geodes.” To create the ombre appearance, Bukouricz colors the rock candy with food coloring mixed with clear alcohol.

“The great thing about the geode cake is it can be done in any color to match your wedding,” says Bukouricz, adding that bright blue seems to be the most requested hue, and some couples order cupcakes to match. “This is a trend for anyone that loves glitz.”

A geode cake by Monzù Bakery and Custom Cakes.

Greenery

In addition to flowers on and inside the desserts, couples are choosing simple greenery to adorn their cakes. “Greenery seems to have become more popular in the last few years, especially since Pantone claimed it as color of the year for 2017,” says Heather Jurisch, owner of the wedding cake design studio ENTICING ICING in New Hope, Minn. “I think the earthy, natural feel of greenery appeals to modern brides.”

Jurisch recently created a wedding cake that was inspired by “greenery with a ‘jungle luxe’ twist.” The four-tier cake featured three lightly marbled top tiers, and a hexagonal base tier that Jurisch describes as the visual anchor. “Hexagons are so fun to work with because you have panels and angles to play off,” she says. “The sharp lines add a modern flair to any cake, and the shape is unusual enough that it immediately draws the viewer in. Hexagon tiers are definitely trending now.” An edible print with Monstera leaves decorated the base layer, while fresh greenery added a finishing touch.

Fresh greenery adorns this cake from Enticing Icing. Photo by Sophisticated Grace Photography

Simple Cakes

Less is more when it comes to wedding cakes for many couples. Most clients ordering from Charlotte Patisserie in Brooklyn, for example, choose simple cakes. “People are not looking for the heavy, decadent cakes anymore,” says Lechowicz. “It is much more trendy to have a beautiful, simple cake. Many of these orders are ‘naked cakes’ or basic, light cakes that are topped with simple decorations, such as macarons.”

A macaron-topped cake from Charlotte Patisserie.

Edible Flowers

Lori Stern, a chef and caterer based in Montecito, Calif., has a specialty that’s blossomed into a popular wedding dessert choice—baked goods made with edible pressed flowers. While couples have been ordering her pressed flower cakes for years, last year she started offering pressed flower shortbread cookies. “Clients love the cookies and often say they are too pretty to eat!” says Stern, adding that many couples order both a cake and the cookies. “The floral theme is whimsical and popular for weddings.”

Stern grows some of the flowers in her organic garden, but demand has outpaced supply, so she purchases other edible florals and herbs from local farmers. Her favorites to work with are bachelor buttons, dianthus, violas and pomegranate petals.

Lori Stern’s pressed flower cakes are popular with her wedding clients.

Floral Accents

Many times florals adorn these simpler cakes. For weddings held at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, Calif., “we’re seeing a huge shift from ornately decorated cakes with masterful piping and embellishments to ‘naked’ white cakes with laser-cut toppers and real floral décor instead,” says Heather Jones, catering director. “This not only allows the couple to save a bit of money on cake design, but makes for an easy transition in décor by upcycling some of the florals to accessorize the cake.”

Naked cakes decorated with florals are also a preferred option in tropical locales, according to Megan Velez, vice president of product at Destination Wedding Travel Group. “Destination wedding cakes in the tropics do not fare well when fondant and/or buttercream are involved,” she notes.

ENTICING ICING’s Jurisch has created floral adornments out of wafer paper. A poppy cake she designed featured hand-painted poppies on the third tier as well as 3D wafer-paper poppies near the top. “The black and red from the poppies is pulled throughout the entire design with alternating colored lines of Swiss dots,” she says. “The overall effect is a bold color scheme with a very sweet and romantic floral design.”

Naked cakes topped with flowers are especially popular for destination weddings in warm locales. Photo by Katya Nova Photography

Dessert Displays

Couples are still dazzling their guests with an array of desserts to satisfy many tastes. “Dessert displays have been big; we are doing more mini desserts than big wedding cakes,” says Rachel Bruzek, design and culinary manager for D’Amico Catering in Minneapolis. “Wedding cakes are still part of the display, but do not play a huge role in the offerings served on the table.” In addition to a variety of flavors and types of desserts, couples are requesting gluten-free options. “We have seen more macarons this year over years past,” says Bruzek. “We are using a variety of colors, shapes and shooters in our dessert displays. Tiered stands, flat platters and a variety of wares are used to add height, texture and style to each buffet.”

For Monzù Bakery and Custom Cakes, wedding dessert displays are very popular, ranging in style from formal—with French macarons and petit fours—to childhood favorites, such as pie pops and brownies. “We have also done all mini-cookie buffets with chocolate chip and peanut butter,” says Bukouricz. “Brides and grooms love this idea because their personalities can really shine, and they can also have a small formal wedding cake to satisfy the traditional guests.”

Katherine Healy Brown, owner and lead planner for Chicago-based Clover Events, has noticed her clients taking this trend in an even more personalized direction—by having family members bake the treats on the dessert table. “We love the idea of getting family involved in this special way,” says Brown. “What could be better than ending your wedding on a sweet note, tasting cookies, cakes and candies that remind you of these important people in your lives?” Brown advises clients going this route to make sure each treat is labeled with the baker’s name and a description.

A Clover Events dessert display. Photo by Metts Photo

Butlered Desserts

While dessert tables are popular, so are desserts designed to keep guests on their feet. “Our butlered sweets have been a big hit as of late,” says Alison Awerbuch, chef and partner at Abigail Kirsch Catering Relationships in New York. Everything from donuts to cookie-dough pops—as well as savory snacks like warm pretzels—are butlered to guests after dinner while dancing is in full swing. “Rather than having to stop in the middle of an amazing set of songs, guests really love this because it allows them to stay on the dance floor and keep the party going while enjoying a delicious treat,” adds Awerbuch.

Butlered donuts by Abigail Kirsch. Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography

For More Information

Abigail Kirsch Catering Relationships • abigailkirsch.com

Charlotte Patisserie • charlottepatisserie.com

Clover Events • acloverevent.com

D’Amico Catering • damicocatering.com

Destination Weddings Travel Group • destinationweddings.com

Enticing Icing • enticing-icing.com

Lori Stern • loriastern.com

Monzù Bakery and Custom Cakes • monzubakery.com

SB Value • wegrowvalue.com

Wente Vineyards. • wentevineyards.com