• Elise Hofer Shaw


Sweet, simple ways to make dessert shine on your big day.

By Kelly Aiglon

Equally tantalizing being photographed as well as devoured, wedding cake is a tradition that everyone looks forward to. Sure, choosing a cake may seem straightforward — couple of tiers, white icing, cute topper and — voilà! — you’re in business. However, there are more ways than one might imagine to make cakes singular, stylish and altogether memorable.

Wedding cakes should reflect a couple’s tastes, above all. But they can also be artistic pieces and trendsetting elements in their own right. So, what are today’s couples opting for? Here are some inspiring ideas and a sprinkling of guidance from Peter Rios, owner of Alliance Bakery in Wicker Park.


Don’t blush — naked wedding cakes are meant to be seen. In fact, the whole point is that the guests are able to lay eyes on what’s inside. With no buttercream or fondant, the naked cake style leaves the tiers exposed. In this example from Rios, buttercream is used simply as a separating layer, with artistically arranged fruit for fresh appeal.


Less is proving to be more. Rios cites an increase in demand for “simple, elegant” cakes that don’t overdo it when it comes to embellishments. Often, subtly textured buttercream is enough to make the eyes dance. If you do want an added touch, think about playing with size and dimension, rather than accoutrements. “Occasionally, we get requests for cake separators between layers to add height to the cake,” he says.


Home décor trends lean toward bringing the outdoors in. And the same can be said for wedding cakes. Natural elements like ferns, flowers and twigs are finding their home atop fondant these days. Purely decorative, they indicate a return to nature and simplicity — perfect for peace-seeking couples.


“Cake flavors are very important,” says Rios. “Summertime has been full of requests for fresh fruit, especially lemon [because of the seasonality]. Customers are also drawn to our unique flavors like hazelnut praline, raspberry rose, salted caramel and mango-passionfruit.” The point is: You no longer have to choose between chocolate and vanilla. Bakers are ingredient-focused and shop farmers markets just like chefs. Ask about using nuanced flavors in alluring ways.


Bride-groom. Groom-groom. Bride-bride. The star couple has traditionally topped a wedding cake. But couples are showing that they no longer need such a literal representation of their big day. Things are taking a new but equally symbolic turn. “We’re seeing requests for handmade animal anime toppers,” says Rios. “We've even made Star Wars toppers”

When all is said and done, when it comes to wedding cakes, go with what you love — and cut it with who you love.

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