Couples go beyond the traditional cake with dessert bars and custom confections
For the sweetest ending to a special day, most couples prefer elaborately decorated wedding cakes, but cupcakes and dessert tables also are finding favor.
Jula Tragni of Cakes by Jula in League City has been baking cakes for 35 years and loves her job, she said.
“It is an honor for me to play even a small role in a couple’s special day,” Tragni said. “I also love seeing the bride’s face when she sees the cake for the first time.”
“Naked” cakes — with minimal frosting showing the cake beneath — remain popular for 2021, along with cakes with textured frosting. There’s also demand for blingy cakes with gold or silver accents and diamante encrusted toppers.
“We’ve also made a few cakes that follow the half-and-half trend,” Tragni said. “The front half of the cake looks like a traditional wedding cake and then the back half is a groom’s cake, which reflects his interests. We have a rotating cake stand so it turns and people can see both sides.”
While three-tiered cakes remain popular, there’s a growing trend for smaller weddings, so more couples are choosing to have one tier of cake and then cupcakes for guests.
“A table of desserts with individual choices also work well,” Tragni said. “We usually have a tier of cake and then lemon bars, brownies and cake pops. For cake pops, we find pink champagne, French vanilla and Italian cream are very popular.”
Justinne Whichard of Rustika Café and Bakery agrees dessert bars are an increasingly popular option.
“We’ve made dessert bars with popular items like mini cakes, brownies and lemon squares, but we’ve also made custom desserts like bananas Foster cakes and martini-flavored tiramisu.”
Rustika is a family-owned business with four locations, including in League City and Friendswood, and has been making sweet treats for 25 years. All the wedding cakes are made fresh and never frozen and there are more than 90 flavors to choose from. Traditional almond remains the most popular, Whichard said.
“We make all our curds and fillings from scratch with the best ingredients,” she said. “White chocolate and raspberry is a favorite combination and people like chocolate, too. Strawberry is a favorite all year and then raspberry and lemon is more popular for summer weddings.”
Whichard and her mother, who makes all the wedding cakes, have “seen it all” in terms of decoration with the most unusual wedding cake being a 5-foot sculpture of the bride with a realistic recreation of her wedding dress.
“In terms of trends, we are seeing a lot of natural looks and hand-stenciled frosting. Origami cakes are another beautiful trend. Wafer paper is used to make incredible folds and shapes that just look amazing.”
Ashley O’Connell-Brown of Pretty Yum Things in Galveston specializes in French macrons with designs that look hand-painted. O’Connell-Brown has provided beautiful individual macrons for bridal showers, engagement parties and weddings.
“White and gold is classic and pretty,” she said. “I’ve also matched macrons to a couple’s wedding colors. I’ve made beautiful copper, orange and gold macrons for one wedding and navy blue and cream macrons for another.”
She hand-paints many designs and has an edible printer for the more intricate requests. The sky is the limit in terms of artwork, making possible everything from a couple’s monogram or guests’ names to elaborate illustrations.
All fillings are made from scratch with strawberries and cream, chocolate, red velvet, salted caramel, and cookies and cream being the most popular, O-Connell-Brown said.
“I’ve also made interesting bespoke flavors for weddings like matcha green tea for one and Mexican hot chocolate for another wedding,” she said.
Brittany O’Connor of Bake Me A Dream in Texas City has been baking for 16 years and loves working with couples to make their custom creations a reality, she said.
“Texas brides often want a more rustic or natural look,” O’Connor said. “Naked cakes are still popular, along with cakes with textured icing. Real flowers are still popular, and here on the Gulf Coast, couples also want beachy looks.”
Seashells in different colors made from molded chocolate are very popular, along with sea-themed toppers, she said.
“One couple had two big starfish on the top with little starfish to represent their children, which was cute,” O’Connor said. “I did another cake with beach chairs on top and a chocolate sculpture of the couple’s dog, which was also adorable.”
O’Connor also has seen an increased demand for single-tier cakes with cupcakes, she said. Like other bakers, all her cakes and fillings are made from scratch with local ingredients. Traditional almond is her most popular flavor, paired with a tart raspberry filling, she said.
“There’s just something about the combination, it’s so good.”
Many wedding cake specialists offer free tastings for couples to find their perfect flavor combinations and some offer free mini cakes for a couple’s first wedding anniversary. All have made changes to their businesses to ensure they’re following COVID-19 protocols.