Natural Selection: 5 Organically Elegant Wedding Cakes
Local bakers design elegantly sylvan sweets inspired by our favorite wedding cake trends.
No. 1) GEODE CAKES!
For a big-day dessert that truly rocks, it’s geode cakes all the way. A showstopper trend that’s virtually set the Internet on fire, it involves carving an actual crevice (!) down the face of a whole wedding cake and then filling it with hand-painted sugar crystals. Common hues include emerald, sapphire, ruby, rose quartz, or amethyst, like this twinkling tower from Michelle Honeman of Honeman Cakes. “As an outdoorsy native Oregonian, I love how this trend translates nature’s amazing beauty into elegant edible art,” she says. From sugar lace and hand-painted blooms to a just plain awesome “working barbecue” groom’s cake, Honeman’s your gal for gallery-worthy treats.
What hides inside this geode confection? Lavender vanilla bean cake layered with blueberry mousse and blueberry compote, frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream, and covered in lavender-cream marshmallow fondant.
Honeman used rock candy and isomalt (an edible sugar substitute beloved by cake artists) to form the cake’s crystal topper and the geode, edged with edible silver leaf.
STYLE YOU PRETTY
Give your wedding’s signature sweet its due with a unique and gorgeous display. For our story, event planners (and newly sisters-in-law!) Nora Sheils and Elizabeth Sheils of Bridal Bliss created a distinctly Northwest-glam scene: elegant gilded elements like the sequin linen and patterned plates are juxtaposed with lush, textural floral arrangements and a moss living-wall backdrop. “Whether moss, succulents, grass, or flowers, a living wall can really bring an area to life,” Elizabeth says. “It creates depth and highlights even the most subtle details, like our hanging orbs with ferns. Living walls are also great for ceremony altars and photo booths.”
Moss wall and floral arrangements by Blüm: Design in Flowers; dessert plates and gold forks by the Party Place; New York sequin table cloth in brass by La Tavola Fine Linen; assorted cake stands/platters and candles from Bridal Bliss.
No. 2) RUFFLES!
Fun, feminine, and flexible in form, ruffles + weddings just makes sense. (Vera Wang would agree.) “Ruffles have been a symbol of elegance and sophistication for centuries,” says Ashley Wilson, pastry chef at Papa Haydn East. “On a cake, you can easily customize them with color, edging, or structure: going vertical, forming large rosettes, keeping them tight, or giving them a free-flowing feel.” Her ace-your-cake advice: Use it to tie in other important big-day design elements, like palette, texture, floral, etc. Found a picture of a cake you love? Still try to make it uniquely your own.
This confection features red velvet and chocolate buttermilk cake filled with vanilla bean cream cheese, frosted in Italian buttercream, and covered in airy fondant ruffles with ombré metallic edges. Festooned with gold-flecked chocolate macaron and crab apple accents, it’s a charming grand finale that works for farms and formal ballrooms alike.
“Oregon has delicious and decorative fruits and veggies for every season,” Elizabeth says. “We love incorporating these fresh local flavors on dessert bars or scattering them across dinner tables.”
No. 3) NAKED CAKES!
Forgoing a frosted exterior, the “naked” style exposes a cake’s natural inner beauty: luscious layers of cake and ample fillings. While many versions have a rustic vibe, this semi-naked vanilla Italian meringue buttercream and white butter-cake take by Johannah Zuniga of Dream Cakes feels elegantly modern/industrial chic. The top two tiers have a sleek, unfinished look, while the bottom tier is iced to evoke concrete! An asymmetrical sprinkling of gold leaf, slender gold twigs, and a crimson sugar-paste bloom furnish the luxe finishing touch. Zuniga’s top tip: Your cake should represent you as a couple and align with your event’s theme and feel. Also, wedding cake design is an art form and all bakers specialize in something specific (Zuniga is a buttercream expert). Do your research to ensure you get the person who can nail your dream cake.
ROCK & ROLL
Zuniga created this cool concrete effect by dyeing buttercream two shades of gray and then spreading them into each other on the cake. The subtly speckled texture came from coffee grounds.
STAND & DELIVER
“If your cake is colorful or the design is intricate, choose an understated stand that won’t compete,” Nora says. “But if the cake is on the simple side, opt for something more fun or interesting to help give the display some impact.”
No. 4) LAVISH DESSERT TABLES!
Part décor, part entertainment, part personality, and part total indulgence, the lavish dessert table is a hot, hot wedding trend that’s only getting hotter. It’s your opportunity to delight guests with all your most favorite treats: Oregon marionberry pie, pumpkin cupcakes, whoopie pies, salted caramel brownies, artisan candy, ice cream sandwiches, or something downright delicious served in a shot glass. Pastry chefs like Chanelle Walters of Lux Sucre Desserts who can do it all are your go-to for a truly splendid table. She can provide the whole tableau (including linens, signs, serving pieces, etc.), or work in tandem with your event planner. Her inspiration here was a rich and moody midwinter night’s dream, with gourmet desserts displayed beneath a glittering two-tier cake. “Even if cake isn’t your ‘thing,’ including a small one is a great way to still enjoy the cutting tradition,” Walters says, “and it gives your table a focal point.” Cut-glass serving pieces graciously provided by Something Borrowed Portland.
ON THE MENU:
• Cutting cake: dark chocolate cake layered with raspberry preserves, frosted in vanilla Italian meringue buttercream, and finished with silver sanding sugar and gold leaf.
• Champagne cake pops dipped in white chocolate
• S’mores tarts with chocolate ganache and toasted marshmallow
• Vanilla panna cotta with glazed fresh berries
• Red velvet “cakelets” with gold-painted blackberries
• Blueberry dainty pies
• Chocolate-topped profiteroles
• Classic coconut macaroons
• Triple Chocolate Bombs, topped with fresh cherries
• Pink vanilla French macarons
When styling a dessert table, always consider the guest experience. “A pretty presentation is great,” Elizabeth says, “but it’s also important to make sure the sweets are easily accessible, you have the proper serving utensils, platters are stable and not over any candles, and the area is well lit so that everyone can see all the goodness!”
No. 5) SURPRISE INSIDE!
Give the cutting ritual a fresh flourish with a cake that’s just as special on the inside as it is on the façade. Vibrant hues, unexpected patterns (polka dots, checkerboard, hearts), and secret stores of candy or sprinkles all make for a memorable surprise. Take, for instance, this sweet sensation by Jutta Bach of La Joconde Cakes. Trimmed with edible pearl and fondant details, the outside is inspired by the elaborate French wedding cake style pièce montée. But slicing into the smooth chocolate buttercream reveals thin slivers of dark chocolate cake soaked in crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) and layered with colorful stripes of cassis meringue buttercream. Bach’s couture confections often feature unique flavors, like cassis, candied violets, honey-whiskey, and lavender-pear, as well as distinctly Portland pairings, like chocolate pinot noir and salted caramel hazelnut. “A benefit of giving extra consideration to your cake’s interior,” Bach notes, “is that it will taste as wonderful as it looks!”
Bach achieved this fun ombré effect naturally, using varying amounts of cassis purée to tint meringue buttercream from pale pink to fuchsia to a deep magenta.
“We love using sequin linens on accent tables for everything from cakes to escort cards,” Nora says. “It calls attention to the table with playful but elevated style.”