The vows have been exchanged; the dinner has been served; the first dance has ended.
Cue Michael Bolton or Simply Red (or whatever other outmoded wedding background tune you can think of), as the four-tiered-pastel-colored wedding cake is rolled into the center of the room…by a server clad in a bowtie and tails, of course.
This might be the backdrop for a Hollywood wedding scene long past—my mind immediately goes to Father of the Bride—but it most certainly is far from today’s wedding norm!
The wedding cake is on its way to extinction, replaced by more stylish alternatives that combine great presentation and over-the-top flavors.
Are we celebrating the death of the wedding cake? Maybe not, but there is no question that this classic has been pushed out of the spotlight by a new generation of dessert trends taking center stage.
A lesson in wedding cake history
Before we say ‘adieu’ to the classic wedding cake, a bit of history, in the form of a eulogy.
“We all remember the wedding cake fondly…” it might begin. “…dating back to when Romans would break bread over a bride’s head to bring them good fortune.”
Later, in medieval England, cakes were stacked one upon another as high as possible for the bride and groom to kiss over symbolizing their commitment to rise above any challenge, together.
The French had their ‘Croquembouche’ (‘crack in your mouth’ is the literal translation) made up of hundreds of caramel coated profiteroles stuck together and stacked in the shape of a pyramid, reaching, like the couple’s love, to the stars.
Throughout the ages the wedding cake has been ever-evolving, catering to the tastes and preferences of the times; so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that we see a shift away from what is considered tradition.
Today’s couples have different priorities, and their perception of nostalgia and value has changed. Couples no longer freeze the top tier of their cakes, or cherish their wedding dresses, and nowadays memories are made in the moment.
Modern couples would rather offer their guests desserts that express their personalities, or put out a lavish array of desserts for their guests to enjoy rather than spending a fortune on a less memorable dessert just for the sake of having a ceremonial cake cutting.
New trends in sweets stations
While sweets stations may not be new to most of us, ‘themed’ dessert stations are popping up at more weddings as the latest alternative to the wedding cake dessert.
Candy stations and chocolate fountains are OUT. Gourmet PB&J (peanut butter & jam) sandwich stations, cheesecake lollipop stations, and exotic donut stations are IN.
In Canada, the maple bacon donut station (a classic honey dip donut topped with maple syrup coating and sprinkled with chopped bacon) is all the rage, either on its own or in a ‘maple inspired’ dessert station featuring donuts, candy apples, pies and more.
Whether the bride and groom love donuts, éclairs, macarons, or simply cupcakes, take their favorite sweet indulgence and turn it into their dream wedding dessert station, a personal touch that will add to the memory of the night.
Of course, the over-the-top look of an opulent dessert station can’t be beat, but this can quickly dissipate if not watched by the attentive eyes of your team (and the client budget to continuously replenish), transforming what might start as a work of art into something far less attractive once the hoards have descended upon it.
Enter the passed desserts.
Having the advantage of being able to circulate around the guests instead of guests having to approach the station, passed items are always ultra-popular, and the appearance and flow of these desserts can be managed.
If trays are coming back full because guests seem more interested in dancing, just hold off a bit before sending more out. Are guests enjoying a beautiful summer night on the veranda? Then direct the desserts their way. The options with passed items are endless and can ensure maximum value for a client’s budget.
From simple, sweet canapés to more elaborate items, desserts can manifest in many ways. My preference is to mix easy to handle one-bite canapés with more interestingly presented items, but remember that if every canapé comes with a vessel, skewer, or spoon, guests will spend more time juggling accessories than enjoying the desserts. [spoon display]
And if having cake is still a must, why not find a fun way to ‘reinvent the cake’ as we did with our Mason jar birthday cakes.
My favorite sweet
Everyone has a favorite sweet snack. Mine happens to be Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I can’t resist them. If my wife brings home a pack, they are sure to be gone before the next morning. I just can’t help myself.
It was my love of this somewhat pedestrian sweet that inspired me to create the peanut butter chocolate tart dessert featured on our most recent winter wedding menu.
While the upgraded version is more suited to a formal affair (it features chocolate ganache, peanut butter whipped cream, and crunchy chocolate pop rocks), anyone who has tasted it immediately comments on how it is reminiscent of the peanut butter cup. Mission accomplished!
Weddings are all about making the bride and groom feel special and the more personal the evening, the happier they will be. So find out what sweet (or sweets) your bride and groom crave and build it (or them) into their menu. I guarantee, if done right, it will be one of the most memorable moments of the night, and your brilliance will not go unnoticed.
To us North Americans, our idea of basic is donuts, cupcakes, or the like, but for formal affairs we need to stretch our thinking beyond our borders.
I make a point of traveling as often as I can with the main purpose of gathering new ideas for our menus. One of the things I notice is how often the most popular dishes in any country I visit are usually the simplest. This goes for desserts as well.
Dazzle your clients with desserts that might sound elaborate but are still based in the foundation of flavors you know they love. Some of my favorites include profiteroles and millefeuilles, both of which begin with the base of puff pastry.
Profiteroles are puff pastry balls stuffed with vanilla ice cream or flavored whipped cream and then soaked in warm melted chocolate.
Millefeuilles (translated, means ‘one thousand sheets’ and is also known as Napoleons) are puff pastry sheets layered and filled with pastry cream filling or alternatively whatever concoction you can dream up. For summer 2016 our chef created a pistachio honey millefeuille with candied rose petals.
Will the cutting of the cake disappear completely? Probably not, but couples today might have a more ceremonial (aka, smaller) cake to cut into and redirect the rest of their wedding cake budget … toward something a little more interesting.
Sebastien Centner | Photo: Bruce Gibson
Sebastien Centner is the Director of Eatertainment Hospitality & Eatertainment Special Events & Catering. Eatertainment has created and continues to operate some of Toronto’s most celebrated (and celebrity-frequented) restaurants including The Bloor Street Diner and The One Eighty. You can find him on twitter @sebcentner.