Planning a wedding is hard. There are so many unforeseeable details when the soon-to-be-groom takes a knee and pops the question. What type of napkins will accompany the silverware, of which a pattern needs to be settled on? Where will Auntie Em sit ever since her falling-out with Dorothy over her footwear? On that matter, how many guests are on the guest list? This is just the tip of the iceberg. Aside from the biggies: dress, date, flowers, theme, chicken or beef or both, one of the most important decisions of a couple’s wedding planning is the cake. It is one of the last memories wedding guests will take with them, so a successful wedding reception is hinged on the cake: if it tastes like cardboard, it will be remembered; if it is delicious, it too will be remembered.
With proper planning, honing in on a palate and taking shows like Ace of Cakes with a grain of salt, choosing a cake can be a fun and rewarding experience. The cake gives the couple an opportunity to show off some personality, break from tradition or embrace it whole heartedly, while giving guests a lasting impression, not too mention a reason to hit the gym in the a.m.
Helping brides make that all too important decision of what to wrap the reception with is Nancy Slatsky, executive pastry chef at Azuréa, One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa’s in-house culinary destination. As one of Jacksonville and northeast Florida’s premiere wedding destinations, Slatsky is in charge of bringing wedding wishes to light for the destination nuptials and locals looking to glam it up. “The cake should be a centerpiece, a focal point of the reception,” says Slatsky, whose baking experience has taken her across the country, working for some of the finest restaurants and resorts in the U.S. “People show up at a wedding and they want to see the bride, the dress and the cake, so beautiful cake is a must.”
Here, Slatsky speaks with weddingsillustrated.net about the latest trends in wedding cakes, what do look for when constructing a cake and how to get nontraditional.
What’s cooking: With television shows like Ace of Cakes and magazines showcasing pastry chef’s amazing talents, the art of the wedding cake is going mainstream. “People are more familiar with what a cake can be,” says Slatsky. “So it is really about thinking outside of the box as far as design goes. Decorating with rolled fondant icing has become really big, which acts as a canvas for the cake. Lots of bright colors and funky designs are being used, with pressed patterns in the fondant, hand painted designs and even luster dust to give the cake a pearlescent sheen."
“But there are also those who just want a simple yet elegant wedding cake. Brides have pulled away from all the tiers and stands of the past, and are going for delicate accents, like piping and beadwork. Its funny, people go from one extreme to the other.”
Fillings and flavors: “In the past, wedding cakes had a tendency of not being the greatest tasting things. But that really has changed, especially when they are made fresh. The amount of flavors people are using really has grown and the fillings are much more interesting than they used to be. We use all kinds from mousses and ganaches to cannoli fillings and marmalades; there are definitely some interesting flavors."
Regional flavor and destination Florida: Florida is a popular destination for weddings, be it out-of-towners and those lucky enough to call these sandy shores home. Needless to say, the sub-tropic theme is a common one for destination weddings, but Slatsky does mark a few points to note before bringing the cake into the fold:
- Know your palate: “Florida has some pretty unique flavors, so get creative. Key lime is a really popular flavor, and tropical fillings are big. Tropical fruits like pineapples and mangos are often used in marmalades for fillings, while coconut is a popular addition too.”
- Theme is everything: “The beach theme is big here. Brides like to incorporate different color candied corals, chocolate and white chocolate seashells and even barefoot bride and groom toppers sitting in Adirondack chairs. The sea is also a common theme; so we’ll include bubbles, wave patterns and lots of blues. Cakes are so much more fun then they used to be, we can really reflect the personality of the bride in them.”
Get nontraditional: For some, the idea of the traditional wedding with all the pomp and circumstance is a frightening idea, so the cake should reflect the wants and personality of the couple. Nontraditional cakes, cupcakes and tastings are becoming more common.
- The techni-flavor cake: “Couples want the cake to be more like a dessert, something more than just a slice of white cake with icing on it. We’ll do cakes with up to four different tiers of flavors and fillings in one cake. It gives the guests a chance to choose their favorite, an option.”
- Sweet Bites: “Some couples go for a more nontraditional route and request a small cake for the cutting ceremony, but have a wedding cake shooter buffet for the guests. We’ll present up to six different types of wedding cakes with various fillings in little shot glasses. It is like a wedding cake buffet, and, when it is all set up, can be really visually striking with all these little glasses filled with different colored cakes.”
- It’s all about the dude: “Don’t forget the groom’s cake! It’s a nice way to honor and personify the groom, and give him a little piece of the action. Often times they break from the theme of the wedding, which is ok. It leaves room to do something you wouldn’t necessarily want in a wedding cake, like German chocolate cake. And it is always nice touch to make their favorite cake from childhood.”
- Cup sized: “Cupcakes are a fun way to personalize the cake tradition, and since the décor can be so varied, a couple can really put their personality into them. And they’re a special individual cake fro the guests. Cupcake pops are also a popular treat. They are pretty fun for the guests, letting them choose the style and flavor of their liking.”
Tie in the theme and décor: Bringing the theme of the wedding full-circle with the cake has become a popular trend, where color schemes and flowers often meld seamlessly with the pastry. “Over the last ten years a lot of products and techniques have been developed, giving chefs a lot flexibility and room for creativity with wedding cakes. It also gives the bride room to incorporate her personality and the theme of the wedding into the cake. “
“Cakes can take on any color to match the theme, adorned with all types of edible and nonedible accents or take on a design to fit the bride’s personality, like those topsy-turvy, Alice in Wonderland type cakes. Fresh and icing flowers are being used more and more on cakes. With the tools and techniques now, these icing flowers can be very realistic. Though some brides feel there is no comparison to fresh flowers. It’s a nice touch when the flowers from their bouquet, both fresh and icing, are incorporated on the cake.”
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