Cakes & Dessert: The Icing on the Cake

Classic white cakes are the ultimate canvas for showing off popular decorating tips and techniques.

Photographs by Danielle Leavell | Event styling by Sheena Kalso of The Invisible Hostess | Shot on location at the Woodmark Hotel


Formal Fondant

Elegance and playfulness at the same dessert table? Jenny Keller of JENNY COOKIES (425-346-5424, pulls it off with sculpted fondant flowers that cascade down a white chocolate and caramel cake—and a side of blingy, sugar-crystal-covered cake lollipops.

SWEET TALK Engage your baker in a fondant recipe discussion. It’s true that some fondants aren’t delicious, but many can be quite good—and it’s the only way to go if you want an ultra-smooth look.

GOOD TO KNOW Some cake designers may recommend forgoing fondant flowers in favor of real or gumpaste variations. Made from sugar, cornstarch, and gelatin, gumpaste creations can actually make a lasting keepsake if stored properly. Plates and forks (for rent), the Invisible Hostess. Antique crystal platter and silver charger (for rent), Vintage Ambiance. Tablecloth (for rent), Choice Linens. Kate Spade serving implements and Chilewich runner, Macy’s. Ceramic pedestal, Rosanna Inc. See Resource Guide for vendor information

McKenzie Powell of the event design company of the same name used lush, light pink peonies, raspberry-toned hanging amaranthus, sweet snowball berries, and a variation of hydrangea called “antique” to create a soft, muted palette that carries an unmistakable richness. Brass and silver vases from her collection as well as Scout Vintage’s complete the look. 


0112-cakes-royal-icingRegal Royal Icing

In the early 1900s in England, Joseph Lambeth perfected a style of cake decoration that would one day bear his name. Will and Kate asked their baker to employ Great Britain’s favorite technique, so the Lambeth method might be more popular now than ever. It took Dan Mikosz of DECADENCE CUSTOM CAKES (206-909-3789, more than 15 hours to pipe royal icing–—made with egg whites, lemon juice, and powdered sugar—into floral embroidery, delicate strings, and scalloped ruffles. A Swiss-made white-chocolate fondant serves as a base.

SWEET TALK Discuss cake and filling options with your baker; they’re likely to be somewhat limited by the fact that Lambeth cakes sit out for hours on end during the over-piping process. Historically, these cakes were highly preserved, brandy-soaked fruitcakes; Mikosz’s is a dense, hearty, almond butter cake.

GOOD TO KNOW Because of the skill level and time commitment involved, you’ll want to budget a little extra cash if you’re in love with the Lambeth look.

Vintage cake topper, silver platter, stemware, and pedestal (for rent), Vintage Ambiance. Tablecloth (for rent), Choice Linens. Forks, Rosanna Inc 


0112-cakes-lush-buttercreamLush Buttercream

JENNY COOKIES (425-346-5424, baker Jenny Keller offers a plush, romantic design rendered in buttercream. Rosy cupcakes and sugar cookies round out the dessert buffet; overall, it’s a fuss-free look that invites guests to enjoy the sweet things in life.

SWEET TALK This cake covering is made by creaming butter and powdered sugar together, but some bakers might replace costly butter with other fats. Be sure to chat about recipes with the vendors you’re considering; margarine-based “buttercream” just doesn’t impart the same flavor.

GOOD TO KNOW Buttercream is a common, affordable, and tasty option for icing, filling, and decorative touches. But, because of that butter base, you’ll want to avoid this option altogether if there’s no safe refrigeration options available and your celebration is of the end-of-summer, outdoor variety.

Cake platter (for rent), the Invisible Hostess. Tablecloth (for rent), Choice Linens. Pedestal and serving tray, Macy’s


0112-cake-filling-layersStripe It Rich

Because cakes have to be beautiful on the inside, too. 1) As a balance to the rich buttercream frosting, JENNY COOKIES’ light coconut cake has a nutty coconut filling. 2) Light, frothy fillings like chocolate mousse don’t hold up well inside Lambeth cakes because of the labor involved, so DECADENCE’s cake is filled with plum preserves and thick almond buttercream. 3) This lemon-poppyseed slice from BAKED is complemented by a layer of homemade blueberry jam and vanilla bean cream. 4) Inspired by a memorable crêpe, CAKE ENVY’s fillings are hazelnut and strawberry buttercream; the cake is vanilla buttermilk.

Plates (for rent), the Invisible Hostess. Forks (for rent), Vintage Ambiance. Tablecloth (for rent), Creative Coverings. Chilewich table accents, Macy’s


Textural Italian Meringue

For this European take on buttercream, white sugar and water are heated to what bakers call the soft ball stage. That mixture is added to whipped egg whites, and butter is then creamed into the resulting meringue. Kristina Serfass and Natalie Vorpahl at BAKED (206-307-4847, piped the frosting into a very popular pattern that resembles softly folded ribbons.

SWEET TALK This type of buttercream is not as sweet as regular buttercream. Some folks love it; others don’t. Bakers worth their sugar will offer a full tasting menu of specialties; be sure to request Italian meringue if you’re considering it.

GOOD TO KNOW Cakes of this nature shouldn’t be served straight from the refrigerator. The texture is much better when the butter has reached room temperature and the frothy nature of the meringue is back in action.

Plates (for rent), the Invisible Hostess. Pedestal and forks (for rent), Vintage Ambiance. Tablecloth (for rent), Creative Coverings. Chilewich table accents, Macy’s


0112-cakes-modern-fondantThoroughly Modern Fondant

Intricate yet clean, stylized but simple, CAKE ENVY’s (206-453-3337, white-chocolate fondant-enrobed dessert is a sweet and stylish example of the embossing technique, in which texturally decorative motifs are pressed into the moldable confection. For this distinctive design, owner and baker Helen Noh used an eyelet-cutting tool over fondant made from scratch with milky, creamy white chocolate.

SWEET TALK Perhaps your baker can riff on heirloom lace, the trim on your gown, or the pattern of a key décor element. Keep in mind, however, that embossed fondant desserts will cost more than those that are plainly iced; because the sugar dough dries quickly and can crack, it’s tricky to work with.

GOOD TO KNOW Fondant doesn’t melt, so it’s a great choice for outdoor soirées in late summer.

Silver platter (for rent), Vintage Ambiance. Pedestal, Rosanna Inc. Glassware, World Market. Kate Spade serving pieces, Macy’s.