Cakes & Dessert: Over the Rainbow
Four sweets specialists demonstrate that cake tables with bold hues can be both memorable and refined.
The ombré effect is white-hot right now, showing up not just in weddings but in haircuts, on runways, and in home and lifestyle décor. Helen Noh of CAKE ENVY (206-453-3337, cake-envy.com) started with shades of red, brown, and orange and worked from the top tier down, carefully adding color to hand-ruffled fondant layers until she arrived at the deep, wine-like hue that grounds this gorgeous design. The plum and peach tones can be paired with fruit-flavored fillings inside; Noh also suggests red velvet.
Good to Know It’s possible to go ombré inside and out. Talk to your sweets vendor about a cake with three or more layers so the gradient effect will really come through.
For couples who love the idea of a modern, upbeat dessert bar, Kara Burfeind of THE SWEETSIDE (206-778-4787, ilovethesweetside.com) crafted white chocolate–covered cake pops, meringue cookies, cheesecake flutes, and lollimallows—marshmallows dipped in white chocolate and covered in sugar—to go alongside three tiers of pineapple-filled coconut cake. Burfeind cut heart shapes out of rolled gumpaste, a fondant-like sugar confection favored for being both pliable and durable, to achieve this bold look.
Good to Know The two main ingredients in light, airy, sweet meringues are egg whites and sugar; Burfeind’s contain no dairy or gluten, so they’re great for guests who have certain dietary restrictions.
Rich buttercream is a favorite of many couples—and their guests. But if you’re thinking of dramatic color, Heather Betts and Lisa Waxman Johnson of NEW YORK CUPCAKES (425-283-5445, newyorkcupcakes.com) caution that the soft, creamed icing doesn’t always cooperate well with dark food coloring. So for designs like this triple-tier polka-dot navy one, fondant takes the cake. A silky layer of light-colored buttercream lies beneath; the sweets masters say it’s not uncommon for folks to simply peel off the dark, decorative layer and enjoy all that remains. And enjoy it they will. The baker’s vanilla cake, used for all of these confections, is a moist, flavorful crowd-pleaser.
Good to Know Specialty colors can add to the overall cost of a wedding cake, as there is a lot more kneading involved in achieving a correct—and consistent—shade.
Inspired by a dark beer–and–Champagne cocktail called the Black Velvet, TALLANT HOUSE (425-737-1533, tallanthouse.com) founder and pastry chef Judy Tallant layered chocolate stout cake with caramel mousse and a spicy cherry compote under a thin blanket of salted chocolate buttercream and a dark, dramatic robe of sanding sugar–covered fondant. With its drama, shimmer, and gumpaste peony—and the classic French fillings and conceptual flavor profile—this is a stunning and delicious centerpiece cake that guests will remember for years to come.
Good to Know To ensure that guests’ mouths don’t get stained an unsightly black, Tallant starts with a flavorful, textural, commercially made colored fondant instead of a white one, and airbrushes it after it’s applied to the cake. This process uses minimal food coloring and also preserves the malleability and quality of the fondant.