A Sweet Beginning
Modern weddings are relying less on tradition and more on the personal tastes of the couple involved. Venues, vows and wedding attire are all taking on new looks as couples carefully craft the perfect scenario for their nuptials.
The wedding cake, a traditional part of the festivities since man first conceived of weddings, is changing, too. And, particularly in the Berkshires, a wedding destination for many couples from urban areas, cakes are becoming less pretentious.
“I think it is specific to this area,” said Audrey Leary, owner of Blackberry Baking Company in Canaan. “In the city, venues are a lot more formal and you will find traditional cakes. Here, because people are coming to Berkshires to get married in a rural setting, it is a little more laid back.”
The move away from towering white cakes encased in fondant is appealing to a young woman who has set her stamp on the cuisine of the Northwest Corner since opening her bakery a few years ago. “I started working in the city and I learned how to do all the (formal) things. I love doing wedding cakes—they are such fun—and now people are getting more creative and thinking outside the box. It’s really changed drastically in the last few years. Now there is more emphasis on a really great-tasting cake.”
She said that modern cakes requested by her customers “are not crazy huge” although most still have tiers.
“There is a trend toward having other desserts available,” she revealed. “There seems to be a move to browse. People may not even order a cake big enough to have a slice for each guest. Not everyone likes cake so there are usually lots of pies and plates of cookies. It’s much more delicious that way. I recommend a cake smaller than the number of servings you need because then you don’t have so much cake left over.”
The cakes chosen for rural weddings have taken a more natural turn. “For the most part we do pretty simple cakes,” she reported. “So many couples are married outdoors and we are more of a rustic area, so I get a lot of demand for ‘naked’ cakes.”
Naked cakes often have exposed sides or a crumb coating. There may or may not be icing on the top. “Things started to change three or four years ago, and now almost everyone wants rustic cakes,” she said. “This summer I see it moving a little back. People are realizing that frosting is really delicious.”
Traditionally the wedding cake was a status symbol. White flour was a distinctly more expensive ingredient in past centuries and frosting, made from sugar, was expensive. White frosting resulted from the white sugar and the more refined the sugar was, the whiter the frosting. A multi-tiered white cake with elaborate white frosting was—and is—a sure sign of your status.
Consider the cake created for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s nuptials. That cake—by no means the largest in the royal pantheon—was made of eight tiers of rum-soaked fruit cake, was three feet tall and weighed 220 pounds. It was adorned with 900 sugar paste ribbons, bows, flowers—including roses—and leaves; tiered swags and pearls were piped on with royal icing.
By contrast, Berkshire brides are opting for many different kinds of cakes. “They’re all over the place,” said Leary. “They order carrot cake, chocolate cakes—but about half of the cakes are still white, with a fruit jam as a filling. A lot have chocolate drips and it is not a very polished look but they look more like food.”
These cakes may be decorated with fruit, fresh herbs or flowers. “A lot of people are leaning toward fresh fruit—berries and figs, etc.—while other brides want fresh flowers. There were fresh flowers on every cake I did last summer. I love it—it makes the cake pop.”
Frequently, she coordinates the flowers with the bride’s floral theme for the rest of the wedding. She doesn’t try to put “edible” flowers on cakes because, “even when they are technically edible, they are not enjoyable.”
While she runs a full-service bakery with a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, wedding cakes are becoming a larger part of her business every year. “I have 15 booked so far this season and have a lot of tastings coming up,” she reported. When working with a bridal couple she likes to prepare up to six different kinds of cupcakes that allow them to taste different kinds of cakes they could serve their guests.
How long the bridal couple should give her to respond to their needs depends on the time of year. “Off-season, I try to accommodate them. People might come in and say, ‘We need it next week,’ and in the winter I can work with them. But for wedding in June through September, I think they should be getting in touch with me now. You kind of have to get into that slot early.”
Examples of her cakes can be seen in the Cake Gallery at the link below.