These days, wedding cake designers are constructing everything from traditional white tiers to flour-based knockoffs of the bride’s Jimmy Choos. Whatever the configuration, smart brides- and grooms-to-be will start shopping for a cake designer at least four to six months before the wedding; some of the best bakers can even be booked a year in advance. The cost of the cake generally depends on the labor-intensiveness of the design. Prices range from a few dollars to $25 a slice, though recently even the high end went over the top: To celebrate a luxury bridal show, designer Nahid La Patisserie Artistique and Mimi So Jewelers of Beverly Hills teamed to produce a $20 million diamond-clad dessert—surely the most expensive wedding cake ever.
For an almost-as-extravagant showstopper at a less heart-stopping price, make an appointment with Shinmin Li of I Dream of Cake. Li’s famously uncanny couture-inspired confections, crafted with hand-painting and sculpting techniques, are almost too beautiful to eat. For an update on the classic cake, talk to Jill Branch and Ann Sakai of Branching Out. The duo create not only custom designs but custom flavors. For an edible artwork with modern flair, look up David and Galen Chesarek of My Friend the Chocolate Cake; the classically trained couple’s Art Deco–motif creations taste as good as they look. For a custom cake designed by a five-star pastry chef try Gerhard Michler, the craftsman has produced desserts for three presidents.
I Dream of Cake (SF). 415.989.2253, idreamofcake.com
Branching Out (Corte Madera). 415.924.0198, branchingoutcakes.com
My Friend the Chocolate Cake (SF). 415.551.6400, mftcc-sf.com
Gerhard Michler (SF). 415.861.5158, gerhardmichler.com
A Smashing Good Time
The vows have been said, rings exchanged and the first nuptial kiss taken. Traditionally, it’s now time for the happy bride and groom to cut the cake and feed each other the first bite. In the past, this was the moment when the groom would enter into the messy world of smashing the cake into the bride’s face. However, that trend seems to now be passé (thankfully); Courtney Snyder of Paula LeDuc Fine Catering can’t remember the last time she’s seen a cake-smashing at a client’s wedding. Although if cake-smashing is going to be incorporated into a wedding, take Snyder’s advice: “I would recommend discussing it with your fiancé first so that it is not a surprise. Every bride envisions what she’ll look like on her wedding day and very few imagine leaving their reception with sticky hair and a face full of frosting!”
The average slice of wedding cake is 320 calories, according to Charles Stuart Platkin, author of Breaking the Pattern and founder of iWellness Solutions. Besides the fat, the dessert is often full of eggs, wheat flour and sugar, which won’t sit well with guests who may have an intolerance or allergy to one or more of those ingredients. For a wheat-free, gluten-free, casein-free (milk-free) version that tastes just as good as the traditional, consider a dessert from a bakery that specializes in alternative ingredients.
In 2003, Cameo LeBrun started the San Francisco–based Crave Bakery after learning she had celiac disease, which is triggered by the intake of gluten and makes it difficult to absorb nutrients. LeBrun had looked for gluten-free substitutes for her favorite treats but found few options. So she came up with her own decadent chocolate cakes, pumpkin tarts and brownie favors that- are both healthy and allergy-safe.
Hannah Tai of Hannah’s Edible Art is another baker of alternative-ingredient treats. A Culinary Institute of America graduate and former head pastry chef at several Bay Area restaurants, she concocts such unique cake flavorings as green tea, mango buttercream and chai-infused filling, offers all-vegan versions, and uses fair-trade chocolate to boot. For an organic focus, turn to the Cake Ladies. When chefs Celeste and Sina aren’t working for a well-known catering company, they’re putting the finishing touches on their own environmentally sound and healthy desserts. To them, a dessert that looks good, tastes good and can be considered healthy is a sweet combination indeed.