Tag Archives: wedding cake

the naked truth… about naked cakes

Trendy. It’s a word that we hate and love with equal fervor, especially when it comes to weddings. We want our celebrations to be unique and express our individuality, yet, we are bursting to emulate the latest fab thing we swooned over on Pinterest. How do you stay current, and still express your style and personality?

One of the latest trends in wedding cakes is the “naked cake”. What is it, and why has it disrobed? A naked cake in form, resembles a traditional wedding cake. It is a tiered confection, and is often adorned with fresh or edible flowers, and fruit, and a minimum of buttercream and fuss. No fondant, no frills, no piping or draping. Just yummy cake and dreamy buttercream. Usually naked cakes evoke notions of rustic retreats and barnyard banquets, however it is possible to have a naked cake that is sweet, simple and sophisticated, gorgeous and glam, or rock star ready.

There are a couple of things to consider before you strip your wedding cake bare.

– This is a cake that needs to be made and decorated very close to the day and time of your wedding. Since it’s missing the protection of a thick layer of buttercream on the outside, it is more prone to drying out.

– Choose a cake that is moist. Any cake that has fruit in it holds up well. Great flavors for a naked cake would be carrot, banana, apple or even chocolate.

– Fresh fruit fillings or custards are not as stable as buttercream. They may leak or settle, spoiling the appearance of your cake, so choose your fillings wisely. A flavored buttercream is your best best. Also, remember that different flavors will impact the color of the buttercream, so opt for flavors that reflect the color scheme of your big day. When in doubt, use a vanilla, almond or lemon buttercream, as those will be neutral in color.

– Any flowers or fruits that are used on your cake should be pesticide-free, and non-toxic, so that you and your guests are not getting a dose of chemicals with their slice. Not all flowers are safe for consumption. Consult with your baker and florists about your options.

– Keep in mind the overall decor of your event, and choose similar accents for your cake so that it all makes sense together.

Here are a few of the naked cakes that we’ve done this year. Each reflects the personality of the couple, and the ambiance of their wedding celebration.

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photo credit inije photo

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photo credit julie anne wedding photography

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The epic battle…. Buttercream vs. Fondant

I like cake. I suppose I should, since I bake it. All. The. Time. I like pie and brownies even better… but I digress. I kind of like icing, but I could live without it. I could eat cake all day with no icing, just plain; warm out the oven….mmm… I’m going to my happy place in my mind 🙂

Funny enough though, most of you out there want cake and icing together. That’s fine I get it. Makes my job easier. It would be harder to decorate a cake without icing. Yup. Infinitely harder. What’s hard for you is that you’ve got choices to make – buttercream or fondant to make your cake dreams reality, but it seems that not everyone knows exactly what each of those are and what they can do, no matter how many reality cake shows are out there. Welcome to Icing 101!

What is buttercream?
Buttercream is a whipped icing that is made with hot sugar syrup, egg whites or whole eggs, and butter. That’s it. This is not to be confused with that “buttercreme” stuff they sell in those refrigerated cases, that are made of shortening and confectioners’ sugar. If you’ve never had the real stuff you have been missing out!

It’s got a silky texture and can be flavored with everything from vanilla to lemon, and can be used both as a filling, especially when blended with fruits or liqueurs, and as decoration. It can be piped into flowers, textures, and designs. It tends to be the most popular icing choice for wedding and special occasion cakes.

What is fondant?
Fondant is a pliable sugar dough. It is made of confectioners’ sugar and a sugar syrup. It too can be flavored. It is used only for decoration and not filling. Fondant can be sculpted into flowers, bows, or ribbons, and forms to what shape cake you place it around. Fondant is gaining in popularity because it gives a very clean or realistic finish depending on the cake.

Buttercream vs. Fondant
– Buttercream is very sensitive to temperature. It doesn’t like warm environments, so buttercream is not a good idea for an outdoor summer wedding reception.
– Fondant holds up better to changes in temperature and because it goes on top of a layer of buttercream, helps to keep your cake moist.
– People love the way buttercream tastes. It’s super yummy. Because fondant is a dough, it’s chewy, and folks aren’t used to chewing their icing, so a lot of people don’t like it.
– People love the way fondant looks. When executed well, it is immaculate, with a porcelain finish. You get very true colors with fondant, and it works exceptionally well for 3D and sculpted cakes.

You can get the best of both worlds with a combination of both buttercream and fondant.

No matter what you choose, be sure your cake lady (or man), is skilled at executing in that medium. Buttercream can be made ultra smooth, or fondant could be lumpy and bumpy depending on how experienced your baker is!

Here are some of my most favorite buttercream and fondant decorated cakes!

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Buttercream with silk ribbons and flowers

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Fondant with fondant draping

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Buttercream with fondant label, cap, and cigar

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Buttercream with fondant banner

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Buttercream with fondant letters and top

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what’s the big faking deal?

every year event and wedding design reveals new trends. most of those have to do with color, shape, texture, or graphic images. one trend that’s been around for the past few seasons is frugality. now being a girl who has champagne taste and a coca-cola pocketbook, i understand that not everyone has oodles of disposable income to throw at their wedding or celebration. it’s important in these difficult financial times that we make every cent count twice. so i applaud thrifty-ness and bargain-hunting.

brides are all about diy, from their invitations to their bouquets, to favors, forget fake it till you make it, just make it! all of those handmade items bring a certain whimsy and personality to a wedding, and i’m all for it! since brides are being discriminating with their  dollars, event planners are being creative with cost-cutting, thus, the fake cake.

most cake designers have created fake cakes before; tiers of styrofoam covered in fondant or plaster and decorated to look like a fab wedding confection. they’ve been made for bridal shows and exhibits, or for displays in their shops or studios. i’ve made quite a few myself. some of the work pictured on my website consists of display cakes that i’ve decorated for various occasions. up until recently most of us have never been commissioned to make one for a real live event. brides and planners are soliciting display cakes for show & pics, and then sheet cake for the kitchen with the hopes of saving some scratch. here’s the thing… that actually won’t save you money. in some cases it may actually cost you more! allow me to debunk a couple of myths for you.

  • wedding cake costs more than other cake; bakers automatically charge more when they hear the word wedding. – not true, unless you are comparing the cost of a wedding cake to your local bakery or grocery’s grab & go birthday cake. personally, i charge the same for any special event cake – birthday, wedding, anniversary, baby shower, etc.. the price is determined by the level of detail and the amount of work that will go into a specialty design.
  • a fake cake plus sheet cake will cost less. – bakers determine the price based on ingredients, how long it will take to decorate plus the amount of time it will take to bake the cake(s). when making fake cake plus sheet cake, the cake still needs to be baked, plus the cake designer has to decorate twice – first the sheet cake (which needs to look like it came from the pretty display cake), then the display cake. there are also additional materials for the display cake. that styrofoam can get pretty expensive! for a three tier cake, it can cost anywhere from $15-40 just for the dummies (not insulting them, that’s just what they’re called)
  • no one will know the difference, i can just get cake from costco (nothing against costco, i LOVE costco – where do you think i get all that butter from?!) to keep the  number of servings down. – ummm… nope. most cake decorators have an all-or-nothing clause in their contracts. you must get all cake from them. this is designed to protect them and their reputation. guests don’t know that the groom’s cake came from one place and the wedding cake came from another. they just know they had cake. and if one is really awful…only one gets all the credit/blame. they won’t differentiate. also, sheet cake looks different. it’s usually two layers of cake and one of icing/filling, whereas wedding cake is usually three layers of cake and two of filling or icing. you wouldn’t want your guests to think there’s been a bait and switch!

so how can you save on your wedding cake? when is fake cake appropriate?

  1. be realistic about your budget and share that information with your cake designer. s/he will present you with ideas that are within your price range if you are up front about it.
  2. simpler is usually less expensive. choose a design that will not require hours of detail work. nix the sugar flowers and go with silk or fresh, non-toxic blooms.
  3. choose a smaller cake for display (big surface+fancy details=more details & more time. little surface+fancy details= less details & less time) and other types of desserts like pie or cookies will reduce the amount of servings you’ll need.
  4. choose a smaller display cake and kitchen cake provided by the same baker.
  5. supplement the size of your cake by the addition of one or two fake tiers. this may not save you on decorating, but it will save you on the number of serving.

i hope this helps you navigate the world of cake!

which one is real?


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Cake vs. Cake

I’ve gotten a lot of requests lately for really fantastic cakes _ wedding cakes and groom’s cakes and it got me thinking about old movies, but one in particular. Kramer vs. Kramer, where a husband and wife face off in court as opposing sides on the same case. It made me think about competition because in weddings where I’ve done both, the groom’s cake has been more intricate than the wedding cake. To me it takes away from the wedding cake being a centerpiece. What do you think?

Should the wedding cake take the spotlight, or should it share prominence with the groom’s cake?

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unmasking unveiled!

now that the last box of cake display stuff has been put away (sort of) and i am emerging from my thanksgiving turkey-induced tryptophan haze, i can tell you all about my experience at the unveiled wedding event in atlanta on november 14, 2010 (www.unveiledweddingevent.com)!

first of all, i must say that i had a great time! the wedding guys put on a FABULOUS event. they take their time to create a vision for the whole event – this year? zen! i suppose i shouldn’t put an exclamation point behind zen… let me try again.

zen…ohm (picture me sitting in lotus position. on second thought don’t picture that. i’m not as flexible as i used to be)

matthew & bruce, the wedding guys (www.theweddingguys.com) provided not a crumb! with a tremendous opportunity, by inviting me to provide the display cake for their reception rotunda. i got a look book with all of the textures, trends, and inspiration that had spurred them forward. i took from that book two main ideas – bamboo and water. my cake concept = zen garden fountain. i’ll share the cake process in another post. i want to share the behind the scenes of getting ready for a bridal show.

there’s a few things you must understand:

  1. there’s always more than you think. no matter how many lists you make, you will forget something. hopefully not the cake (i didn’t, but anything is possible ;)). no matter how far in advance you prepare, you will always be dashing and ripping and running at the last minute. no matter how much you do, there will be more to get done, and don’t forget murphy’s law – whatever can go wrong will! case in point, me breaking my cell phone the friday before the show. grrrrrr.
  2. there is always chaos before the calm. sometimes there’s chaos before the chaos, but one should be optimistic that the chaos is somewhat organized.
  3. you never get the opportunity to record the before, during, and after. hence, my personal paparazzi, jeremiah wallace of j Wallace Photography. thanks jerry for being a photojournalistic phenom!

how things went down

in the weeks leading up to the show, i started making lists (what to bring), drawing diagrams (which cake/table goes where), and stressing out my plastic at home goods, tj maxx, and amazon.com. in the end, i had a living room full of stuff. it took 2 vehicles and 3 helpers to get all of the stuff to the ga world congress center. lucky for us, the wedding guys are really smart; so smart that load in and set up are the day before the show! yay!

unpacking the stuff

it took us about 2 hours to get to a point where we could stop for the night ( i still needed to finish the display cake!). that included chatting with some of the other vendors, and enthusiastically debating the precise placement of the tables.

that’s me, my mom, and heidi murphy (nat’l sales director, unveiled) talking about my shopping prowess. that bird figurine was $6 at kohl’s!

that would be one of the wedding guys, matthew trettel, and i discussing the laundry list of things left to be done. see me ticking things off on my fingers?  i ran out of fingers and had to use them each several times!

the end result of all of all of the plotting, planning, prepping, and positioning? a great display and wonderful fun, lots of new friends, fantastic opportunities, and lots of scheduled tastings with brides! special thanks to the wedding guys and the unveiled atlanta team! see you next year!

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the successful fail

much has been said about failure. we’ve got lots of cliches designed to make us feel better when we screw up royally. you know – “if at first you don’t succeed…”, “nothing beats a failure but a try!”, “let’s learn from our mistakes…”. yeah, yeah, yeah. what those cliches don’t say is how much it really sucks when things don’t work out the way you envisioned them.

this past weekend karin, from this wife bakes, and i collaborated on the mother of all groom’s cakes. it was, in a word, stupendous, marvelous, fantastic. ok that was three words, but it was definitely all of those things. a 2 ft tall 3-d sculpted bulldog for an omega psi phi, complete with gold construction  boots, spiked collar and chain leash. see!

the before

the beautiful bulldog

and this was before all of the little details had been added, like his back two feet, laces for the boots. he was a gorgeous 70+ lbs of of yummy chocolate and vanilla cake, strawberry cheesecake buttercream and rice krispie treats. he also lost his head.

we traveled to the lovely ventana’s for the setup and on the way his head started to sag. no worries. we’ll just make a couple of adjustments and we’ll be good to go! the first fix still looked fab due to our quick thinking. however, we soon realized that the cake was going to be a massive fail. first clue? when his head continued its downward descent. second clue? when his chest exploded all over the table. that is no exaggeration… the only thing keeping that cake upright was my hand on his head and my stomach against the edge of the table. at that point all i could think was that i had managed to ruin a very important part of someone’s very important day. i did not cry…yet. we managed to salvage the head, chain, dog bone, and two of the boots, clear off the table and display what was left. the remaining cake was carted off to the kitchen to be served later with dessert. you saw the before. here’s the after.

the after

the aftermath

all i wanted to do was curl up into the fetal position and die of embarrassment. then to add insult to injury, i cried all over the groom when he and his lovely bride told us how beautiful the body-less dog was. not my best moment, as i stood blubbering all over him and his fancy tuxedo. how much worse can it get!

god has a way of teaching you and showing you things in what you perceive to be your darkest, saddest, worst, most horribly humiliating moments. a couple of funny things that happened that night, aside from the dessert debacle:

  1. prior to the dog dying, i almost knocked him off the table, which although it would have been a more spectacular ending, would probably have had me searching for the nearest sharp implement to use to take my life.
  2. me blubbering all over the bride and groom. hey, at least i wasn’t hysterical.
  3. me and karin standing in the middle of the reception hall with  huge chunks of cake innards in our hands waiting for rescue and divine intervention.
  4. me proclaiming that the dog’s ass (pardon my french) was still in perfect condition, and we should just turn it around! not my best idea… it’s not like no one would notice the gaping hole in his midsection.
  5. going to retrieve the box of cake remnants karin had hidden in the stairwell so the bride and groom wouldn’t see it, and finding a wedding guest eating the cake out of the box on the floor and proclaiming,  and i quote, “this is some damn good cake”. who does that! apparently he did, and it was yummy!

i learned a couple of lessons on saturday night. the first is that whenever things are going too smoothly, disaster is lurking around the corner. the second, we all need to have a humbling experience, or two, or three to keep us, well, humble. the third, nothing and no one/dog,  is exempt from the laws of nature, in this case, gravity. third, people are good. period. the bride and groom were so gracious, and kind, and understanding! i mean, i cried all over the groom who comforted me!

you may not know that i run this business in addition to a full-time job. it’s been difficult, trying to achieve balance, keeping myself and my relationships healthy, all the while  reaching for my goal of world cake domination. the biggest lesson i learned from this experience is that i cannot continue to burn the candle at both ends and in the middle, and not expect for things to fall apart and catch fire. in failing, i’ve gained so much – new perspective, renewed energy and determination. so i’m coining a new phrase – “the successful fail”. while i don’t wish misfortune on anyone, i hope that your failures will be as succesful as mine!

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woo hoo!

so i don’t usually use phrases like woo hoo! but i think that what i’m about to say warrants such exclamation. i am borrowing the phrase from my friend karin over at this wife bakes because it is so apropos. wait for it….

one of my cakes will be appearing in the april edition of get married! magazine. world cake domination here i come (rubbing my hands together in glee!, minus the maniacal laughing)! so in approximately 3 weeks you’ll be able to get your hands on a copy at barnes & noble, target, cvs, walgreens, kmart, books a million, kroger, & borders. you thought i was joking about the world domination… nope!

i suppose you want to know what the cake looks like… i’ll never tell (singing in that creep voice like the girl from that movie)! i wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise… i will say this; think french country meets morocco meets new orleans – turquoise, red, silver and fleur-de-lis. that’s the only preview you’ll get!

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