Wedding-day dessert options abound.

This story first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Columbus Weddings, published December 2018.

When you picture a wedding cake, a certain kind of confection likely springs to mind. Maybe your mental picture has been informed by pop-culture images—say, the gigantic, tiered, white cake that dwarfs Elizabeth Taylor and her first beau, Conrad Hilton, in a famous photograph taken at their wedding.

Yet, for many contemporary brides and grooms, there are many other ways to do cake. Couples today might ask themselves: What kind of cake? How much cake? What size? What flavor? And what about no cake at all?

Such considerations reflect the challenges of getting wedding desserts right.

“When the bride and groom are at the ceremony, they’re the center of attraction,” says Jan Kish, owner of Jan Kish-La Petite Fleur in Worthington. “When you hit the reception, the cake is sort of the center of attraction, so you want to have something that’s impressive.”

To familiarize customers with the options, many bakeries—including Our CupCakery in Dublin—offer tasting consultation appointments. “There are a lot of different [options]—between cakes and cupcakes and all of that good stuff,” says Our CupCakery’s Laura Kick Molter.

Some couples arrive with a specific cake concept in mind, but there are exceptions. “There are definitely other customers who are like, ‘I don’t really know what I want. We’re not sure if we want to do cupcakes; we’re not sure if we want to do a cake,’” Kick Molter says.

Until about two years ago, Our CupCakery’s wedding orders were divided evenly between cakes and cupcakes. More recently, however, an additional option has emerged: weddings built around dessert bars (see “Non-Cake Options,” at right).

“We do about a third dessert bars, about a third pure cakes and then about a third cupcake towers or some version,” Kick Molter says. “A lot of the weddings incorporate more than one aspect.”

Even if you are a cake traditionalist, however, plenty of possibilities abound. Kish says that the reception’s venue can guide the external characteristics of a cake. Depending on the setting, a couple could choose a simple design or an ornate pattern.

“If you’re in The Athletic Club [of Columbus], you’re going to have something that’s more elegant, as opposed to something you might find on a farm or in a barn,” Kish says. On the other hand, if a couple has chosen such a rustic setting, a cake that’s decorated to emulate a birch tree might be in order.

If the reception takes place in an urban environment, meanwhile, a more contemporary-looking cake could be the best bet. “You’re going to look for something that’s maybe more sleek—not as much fuss to it,” Kish says. “Maybe more angular, geometric.”

What about decorating trends? Silver accents were king until about three years ago, Kick Molter says, when Our CupCakery began seeing a shift toward gold accents. Flowers made of fondant remain popular; fresh flowers have a following, but can be divisive. “Some people love that idea,” Kick Molter says. “Some people, that kind of gives them the heebie-jeebies.” Fresh fruit placed on the exterior of cakes, though, is ascendant, she says.

When it comes to shapes, Kish receives orders for cakes baked using her patented English Boxwood Garden design, but in many ways round cakes are still de rigueur, followed by square and occasionally hexagon. About the same ratios are found at Our CupCakery. A majority of its cakes are round, Kick Molter says, while “maybe 5 to 10 percent are square, and usually every year we have maybe two cakes that have hexagon tiers.”

Our CupCakery bakes some two-tier or four-tier cakes, but most couples opt for three levels of cake goodness. If you want all of your attendees to feel free to indulge, while keeping an eye on the bottom line, “kitchen cakes” can be ordered to supplement the tiered cake, Kick Molter says. “Guests don’t know if they’re getting the tiered wedding cake or the cake from the back,” she explains. “People are looking to get the best bang for their buck and still have a nice event—but not go crazy.”

Then again, many cakes don’t fit into any category (or mold).

Kish points to cakes in which tier height appears to differ. One tier might be 2 inches, while the next could appear to be taller; in fact, the added height is achieved with the help of Styrofoam. “You’re doing it for the artistic look of it,” Kish says. “You’re not going to serve someone a slice of cake that’s 6 inches tall and a slice to someone else that’s 2 inches tall.”

Regardless of the number or dimensions of tiers, couples increasingly feel at home with requesting multiple flavors; single-flavor cakes are not the norm, Kish says. “We have about 20 different interiors to choose from, so then it gets down to personal preference,” she says.

Indeed, Kish sees ever more personalization in cake design overall. One couple chose carved cakes shaped to resemble a panda and a wombat. “Her nickname was ‘Panda,’” Kish says. “He loved wombats. That was their wedding cake.” Another bride, a former CrossFit contestant in the Arnold Sports Festival, tailored her cake to her avocation. “On the back of their cake, underneath a little fold of the fondant, was a kettlebell with their initials on it,” Kish says.

Of course, there are simpler ways for a couple to stamp their personalities on a cake. At Our CupCakery, verbiage like “Mr. and Mrs.” or “Best Day Ever”—written in script lettering—are popular toppers. Quirkier objects can also serve as toppers. “Last year, we had just two toy dinosaurs that they put a bowtie and a veil on,” Kick Molter says. “I just think the custom, fun, silly toppers are such a great way to just bring a little personality to it.”

What if you just can’t commit to a single cake, however? Maybe a cupcake tower is your best bet. Our CupCakery recently assembled one boasting more than 300 mini cupcakes (plus a small cake for the couple to cut) that served around 150 guests—thus distributing the flavors fairly to those in attendance. “With a tiered cake, the tiers on the top are small and the tier on the bottom is large,” Molter says. “If you want to have a variety of flavors, sometimes it’s hard to offer a kind of equitable amount of those flavors, whereas the cupcake, it’s pretty easy.”

Be forewarned: Such a cupcake display (or an elaborate dessert bar) may prove as costly as an old-fashioned tiered cake after factoring in the fees to rent stands and the work involved in setting up the display.

Like the weather, perhaps, if you don’t care for present trends in wedding cakes, just wait a while—things are sure to change. While fondant has long been in vogue, Kish says that buttercream is reemerging as a favored choice among younger brides—that is, those young enough to not remember when buttercream was considered the bee’s knees. “Buttercream is there because this is new to brides who are younger,” she says.

And although Kick Molter says that there has been a trend away from inedible cake elements (like real flowers), Our CupCakery just booked an order for a cake bejeweled in rhinestones. “You think you know what’s coming, and then you’re like, ‘Oh, OK. Fine—yup, we’ll go back to that again.’”