PRETTY ON THE INSIDE “Sophisticated gourmet menus deserve wedding cakes with thoughtful compositions,” says Maggie Austin, artistic director, Maggie Austin Cake, Alexandria, Va. “Couples are getting more adventurous, and are more likely to try new things.”

One of Austin’s more culinary-inspired flavor combinations is white velvet cake with peach-apricot preserves and milk chocolate Earl Grey buttercream. For traditionalists, she favors a dual cake approach—offering both a chocolate and non-chocolate option, such as double-chocolate cake with salted caramel and Irish cream buttercream, and pear cake with blackberry and white chocolate buttercream, respectively.

San Francisco foodies turn to Kay Dillon, owner of Beaux Gateaux, for her vanilla bean Italian cream cakes filled either with apricot jam and mascarpone mousse, or chocolate and raspberry mousses. Other favorites include toasted almond cake filled with pastry cream and apricot jam, and milk chocolate cake filled with caramel cream cheese and caramel mousse. As for the classics, Dillon predicts a rise in German chocolate, lemon and strawberry cake flavors.

Lindsey Gamble, owner, designer and pastry chef of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Elegantly Iced, is giving humble white cake a well-deserved makeover with more complex, sophisticated fillings such as pistachio cream and dulce de leche. For the warm summer months, Gamble’s lemon-framboise cake—lemon pound cake with a framboise soak, fresh raspberry preserves and lemon buttercream—“is a not-too-sweet, not-too-heavy way to finish a meal,” she says, adding, “Berry or tropical fruit flavors, such as strawberry or passion fruit buttercream, are really picking up.”

Indeed, you can’t go wrong with fruit and cake. And to Nashville, Tenn.-based celebrity cake designer Jay Qualls, a Southern lemon cake with lemon curd filling and vanilla American buttercream is about as good as it gets. “It is absolutely scrumptious,” he says, adding that his orange Dreamsicle and strawberry cheesecake flavored cakes are also big hits among brides. “It seems here in the South, brides are more classic and straightforward when it comes to the palate,” he says, noting his most requested cakes are vanilla almond with raspberry buttercream filling, chocolate cake with raspberry jam filling, and strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting. 

THE ICING ON THE CAKE How the cake is dressed is not unlike the bride herself. Icing treatments that mimic fabric—from pleats and ruffles to damask and lace—are prized among brides. “Texture, such as pleats and ruffles, give the cake more complex visual interest,” says Gamble, who is also getting more requests for hand-painted designs.

“Intricate molding and textile-inspired designs are hugely popular, in both a clean, monochromatic color palette or with bold color,” adds Austin, whose signature “fondant frills” add an ethereal, translucent design element. Sugar flowers, she says, complement this style, and can be edged in gold or accented with petite pearls for an elegant look. “As a bonus, they last forever—the ultimate wedding keepsake,” she says.

Dillon creates organic-looking textures with swirls, peaks and ribbon-like combs of buttercream. Embossing, she adds, is making a comeback.

As for flowers, less tends to be more. “The trend for minimalist styles is very strong,” says Dillon. “Lots of white space with fewer flowers, usually one to three large sugar flowers” Qualls agrees. “Today’s bride is going for a clean, sophisticated look—moving away from heavy florals, ribbons and bows,” he says. “Though they still love some sparkles on a cake.”

As far as presentation goes, different size heights among the layers, as well as cakes with tall and narrow tiers of varying heights are very much en vogue. “A mixture of tier heights makes the cakes look a bit more majestic,” adds Gamble.

See the full story in the May-June 2014 issue of Special Events, which is available to ISES members for free and to subscribers. Not a subscriber? We can fix that; just click here.