Cutting-Edge Cakes

When it comes to your wedding reception, the food choices are endless. You could have salmon, pasta, chicken, tofu, or steak – and these are just the main courses. No matter what you choose for the meal, the one thing you’ll surely have on the menu is wedding cake. Beyond feeding people, the cake will be a focal point at the reception, so you want to make sure you pick the right person to create it.

Sharon Briseno, of Camerons Bakery in Auburn, and Lona Isenberg, of Lona Cakes in Ithaca, offered their take on the current wedding cake trends in the Finger Lakes. They also gave tips on things to keep in mind when choosing this iconic confection.

Flowers and flavors
Both women agreed that wedding cakes with fountains, pillars and piping have gone the way of mullets and powder blue tuxedos. Instead, today’s brides are choosing shorter stacked cakes covered in smooth fondant. Decorations such as a simple ribbon and fresh flowers are popular with customers of Camerons Bakery, while Lona says realistic-looking sugar flowers are well-liked in Ithaca.

As for flavors, the simplicity of a traditional white cake can be a money-saver as well as a safe choice for feeding a crowd. Chocolate mousse is the second most popular, says Sharon, while Lona adds that red velvet cake is also becoming an attractive option.

Time of year is important when it comes to the wedding cake, both in terms of decorations and flavors. For winter weddings, brides opt for all white with sparkles and snowflakes, says Lona. Summer wedding cakes incorporate fruit flavors and are often decorated with beach-themed toppers, according to Sharon. In fall, spice cakes are popular and are usually decorated with autumn leaves.

A man’s cake
“Groom’s cakes are a nice way to add a second flavor to the menu,” notes Sharon. “The groom’s cake is a smaller-scale cake made to represent the groom in some way. It could be his job, a favorite hobby, team, pet or most anything else he is interested in.”

Because of shows like Ace of Cakes and Food Network Challenge, couples are intrigued by cakes that don’t look like cakes, says Lona. The groom’s cake is an opportunity for couples to move away from a traditional-shaped cake and toward something more fun and colorful. If couples don’t want to serve two cakes at the wedding, Lona suggests serving the groom’s cake at the rehearsal dinner or slicing it and giving pieces as favors as guests leave the reception.

Slick tricks
Cupcakes are a money-saving option. Because there is no cutting involved, the couple can forgo hiring a cake cutter (a fee that some reception sites automatically include when there is a traditional cake). The baker provides a stand that holds the cupcakes in the shape of a tower.

Another way to scale back on costs is to have a small “show” cake that people can see, with extra undecorated sheet cakes in the kitchen. “The cakes are cut in back and brought out in slices, so no one ever knows which cake they’re eating,” explains Lona. She does advise couples to have their baker provide the sheet cake and not get one from the grocery store. This ensures that the quality is consistent among all the pieces of cake that are served.

If your heart is set on a huge cake, but the number of guests doesn’t warrant it, bakers can use dummy cakes to increase the size of the presentation. The dummies are frosted and decorated just like the real cakes.

Bagging your baker
When you go to choose your cake, Lona says it’s helpful to bring pictures of what you like. “It’s like getting a haircut. If you just describe it, you’re less likely to get exactly what you want, but if you bring a picture, the chances that you’ll leave happy are much higher.”

When choosing your baker, Sharon warns couples to rely on professionals who are used to transporting and setting up elaborate cakes. She has seen amateur bakers try to repair cakes that were damaged or destroyed due to shoddy assembly or incorrect transporting methods. If the cake is ruined en route to the wedding, there won’t be time to come up with an alternative solution, so take Sharon’s advice: “Choose a professional for the most important day in your lives.”


by Kari Anderson-Pink