every occasion is a
Cake Occasion

After nine years of making cakes, I have decided to wrap up this phase of my life. I am no longer taking new orders.

Thank you for your support over the last nine years. I have been able to participate in some of the most important events of your lives, and it has been remarkable. Making cakes has been a blessing for me and my family as well. Among other things, it allowed me to pay for my master's degree, which has brought me closer to other (non-cake-related) goals and dreams.

Much love to you all.

Contact us today for your consultation!

Contact us today for your consultation!

Get the Look: Choosing Shape, Icing, Color, and Decor for Your Wedding Cake

When deciding what you want your wedding cake to look like, it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the options. Round or square? Fondant or icing? Fresh or artificial flowers? Or maybe no flowers at all?

I've compiled a list of the basic categories of options, broken down some of the choices afforded in those categories, and added lots of sample photos (all cakes are mine unless otherwise noted). Learn how the various elements of shape, icing, color, and decorations can be combined to achieve the effect you want.

Traditionally, wedding cakes have been round or square. There have been periods where the oval, petal, or hexagon was in vogue, and recently we have seen the topsy-turvy (or "mad hatter") design and the introduction of the pillow shape. Here are some examples:

(c)2015 Wilton Industries, Inc. 
 Used with permission. www.wilton.com
(c)2015 Wilton Industries, Inc. 
Used with permission. www.wilton.com
Mad Eliza's Cakes and Confections. 
When choosing the shape of your cake, keep in mind that most decorators will charge more for non-traditional shapes. They are just more difficult to work with. Have you ever tried to ice a petal shape smooth? It isn't easy, friend. And all those angles on the hexagon? That's practically rocket science!

Some brides like to go with a combination of shapes. In the example below, both the shape and the height of the layers are varied. The effect offers a level of visual interest that maintains traditional elements while still looking modern and fresh.

(c)2015 Wilton Industries, Inc. 
Used with permission. www.wilton.com
Once you have decided on the shape of your cake, you'll need to decide how to have it decorated. The foundation for any design is the covering for your cake, which means you'll be choosing what kind of icing to use.

The primary options are buttercream icing and fondant. Some decorators (like myself) will also offer cream cheese icing. Let's break down the differences between cream cheese and buttercream, and why you might want to choose one over the other.

I love buttercream. I use it on almost every cake. Even cakes covered with fondant have a layer of buttercream underneath. It is a versatile icing that can be textured any number of ways. For example:

Does that seem like too many examples? The truth is, they are all buttercream, and they are all textured differently. And this is only a sampling of the possibilities. I didn't even include an example with smooth icing! Notice other photos throughout this article to see even more icing textures.

Depending on the recipe your decorator uses, cream cheese icing can be textured in all the same ways as buttercream. Standard cream cheese icing tends to be quite soft and not hold its shape well. But a good decorator will have a good recipe that adds some stabilizers to the icing so that you can have the flavor of cream cheese and the versatility of buttercream.

One of the most important considerations when choosing between buttercream and cream cheese icing, however, is the environment in which the wedding will be held. Even a decorator's cream cheese icing tends to not be as stable, which means if the air is humid, or if it is hot, the icing will droop - literally slide off the cake.

The above cake was for an outdoor wedding on an afternoon in early May. We didn't expect it to be terribly hot, so the bride chose cream cheese icing because she liked the flavor. Unfortunately, the temperature that day hit 82 degrees, and even more unfortunately, the cake table was set up in the sun, making it an inhospitable environment for icing of any kind, but especially for cream cheese. You can see on the bottom layer that there is a faint line running around the middle of the cake. The icing was melting, and the filling in the middle was starting to put pressure on the edges, causing it to crack.

By contrast, the cake below was also for an outdoor wedding, but early on a hot June evening. This particular day, the temperature hit 95 degrees. I was so concerned about the icing on this cake, but because we knew it would likely be warm, we went with butter-less buttercream. It's made with all shortening and no butter. I also added stabilizers to the icing. The cake table was set up in the shade, and the cake held up beautifully all night.

The primary drawback to using all shortening in your buttercream is the taste. Yes, you can add butter flavoring; but seriously, there is no substitute for the real deal. (I love butter.) However, if you are having an outdoor wedding in the heat, you should definitely consider foregoing the butter in favor of an option that will hold up.

Maybe you favor the more formal look of fondant. Actually, fondant can be formal or playful or just plain crazy. You can do so many things with fondant that just can't be done with buttercream. Decorators can use fondant to add graphic patterns, drapes, and ruffles to your cake. They can paint it by hand or with an airbrush. They can stencil lace and other designs onto it. The possibilities really are endless with fondant.

One trend we have seen a lot of in recent years is the "naked" cake. There is also a "semi-naked" version. The idea is that you don't need to cover your cake with icing - that the cake itself is beautiful and can stand alone.

This can be a nice option for someone who wants to reflect the latest trend, or who doesn't like a lot of icing. There are two important considerations for someone thinking of this choice. First, you will probably want the cake cut into more layers so you have more ribbons of filling visible. Typically, cake decorators will bake two or three short layers of cake, which are stacked with filling between to make each tier of the final cake. On a naked or semi-naked cake, those lines of filling will be visible, so you'll want to make sure that it is consistent with the look you're going for.

Second, cake exposed to air tends to dry out pretty quickly. A good decorator will know this, and will take steps to minimize exposure to the air. I typically bring all the layers wrapped in plastic to the reception site and do the assembly work there (of course, that requires that I have enough space and time to work there). Choosing a semi-naked cake will help protect the layers as well, but for those who truly want the frosting-free look, drying is a concern that should be considered.

Most wedding cakes are white with the color added in the form of flowers or other decorations. For those who may want to add a little more drama, color is a great way to do it.

Be aware, however, that color can pose a particular challenge to your decorator, and that it may actually affect the taste of your cake. Colors that are particularly dark - especially black, navy blue and true red - require an enormous amount of food coloring to achieve. It is hard to reach those colors without having the icing or fondant be affected. Some black flavoring has a faint licorice flavor. Red is often bitter. Be aware of that when choosing how much color to use. Maybe you could use it as an accent instead of as the main color, and achieve the same affect.

I'm going to make a special mention about purple here. I love purple in all its shades, and we are seeing it everywhere for a wedding color.

But exposure to heat or sunlight can have an interesting effect on purple. It actually changes the hue and gives it a blue tint. This shouldn't be an issue if you have an indoor event, but if your wedding is outdoors, ensure that the cake will be in the shade, and ideally in a cool spot.

One final note about color - as stated above, most wedding cakes are white. Be aware, however, that unless you specify to your decorator that you want bright white, it may actually be a very slightly off-white color. That's because butter, cream cheese, and other ingredients are not pure white, and they add a very slight tint to the final product. Honestly, the overwhelming majority of your guests would never know unless they held up a white piece of paper next to the cake. But to some people, that pure white is very important. Your decorator can use shortening instead of butter (like she would for an outdoor wedding in the heat), but you will make the same compromises on taste. 

Recently, I have seen a new food coloring designed to actually remove color, and it is advertised to help decorators reach a true bright white. I have not tried it yet, as I have only had one bride who requested that her cake be pure white. 

Now we get to the fun stuff - the decor on the cake. The most popular choice is, of course, flowers. But even within this category, there are options. Do you want fresh, artificial or sugar flowers? Here are two examples of cakes with sunflowers. The flowers on the left are fresh, and the flowers on the right are artificial.

This is really a matter of preference, and perhaps cost. Fresh flowers are more natural (haha, really?). They bend and shape with more flexibility, while artificial flowers tend to push against surrounding items in an attempt to maintain their shape. Either choice is fine. I tell brides to use whatever they are using for the rest of their wedding decor. It is important, however, if you are using fresh flowers, to make sure they are either food-safe or protected from touching the cake. A good florist will know the answers to those questions, and a good decorator will know how to prevent non-safe flowers from touching the cake.

Another option for flowers is sugar or gumpaste flowers

Sugar flowers are beautiful, and they can look very realistic. But they are also quite expensive - anywhere from $3 to $25 for each flower, or more! Sugar flowers take an enormous amount of time and effort, which is why they carry a high price tag. I tell my brides that I am happy to make sugar flowers for them, but unless they really are going for that look, fresh or artificial flowers are a much more economical choice.

Another trend we have seen recently is the use of succulents instead of or in combination with flowers. I love this look, particularly when the succulents are varied in their texture, color, size and shape. Again, these can be fresh or artificial.

Maybe you don't want flowers at all. Don't worry! There are plenty of other options. Some brides use fruit. On the semi-naked cake pictured earlier, the bride chose to use a variety of berries. Here is another version, with chocolate ganache and chocolate-covered strawberries.

If you are providing the fruit and the decorator is putting it on at the venue, the fruit will need to be clean and dry. Damp fruit will make your colors bleed or leave a soggy mess of icing.

Many brides are moving away from flowers and fruits and are choosing very modern designs. Decorators have an enormous amount of resources to use - ribbons, appliques, monograms, stencils... you name it, a decorator can probably use it. Metallics are also very popular right now, both as an accent and as a main color.

No matter what style of cake you are looking for, it will surely be a combination of the elements discussed in this article. Understanding the basic options, and then combining them and adding your own flair, is how you will create the wedding cake you have always imagined.