Time was when putting together a celebration cake was a logistical issue in white icing and dried fruit. Track forward a few decades and while logistics are still very much in evidence, the ingredients have changed beyond recognition. Nowadays, heavy alternatives to cake have been developed, which are capable of supporting the grandest of structures, while some bakers are styling creations of pure chocolate. And with techniques ever improving, some of the latest celebratory renditions could double-up as design icons.
"It can be very much a design process," explains John Slattery of Slattery’s Patisserie. "Customers come to us with some ideas in mind and we show them our catalogue of cakes. They pick out maybe five or six cakes that they like and we’ll design something based on that to match the theme of their wedding. So they’ll have something that is totally bespoke."
Design is such that cakes are fast becoming a real centrepiece for a wedding the table ornamentation with the ’wow’ factor, which lifts the rest of food and decorations. "People are really going for bling lots of diamante and Swarovski crystal and glittering decorations," says Slattery. "People are also looking to use Swarovski crystal brooches to pin the ribbons, or create side-panels on the cake. This means that you can shine a nice spotlight on your cake and the light will bounce off it, making it look really incredible."
The trend for truly decadent-looking cakes seems at odds to last year’s economic climate of doom and gloom, but the effect on the wedded public, it seems, has been the drive to celebrate in style more than ever before. So while classic and restrained took the main theme of wedding confectionery a few years ago, nowadays people are looking for true glittering grandeur in their cele-bration cakes.
Mich Turner, of celebrity wedding cake favourite Little Venice Cake Company, predicts a true fashionista year, taking off from the monochrome trend of 2009. "I think this trend will continue, but taking more inspiration from the couture fashion houses, such as Chanel, Givenchy and Galliano," she says. "Look out for designs including gilded chocolate with hand-piped black pearls following the corsetières and black and white polka dot frills with a flamenco feel. Designs will be romantic and feminine, but with measured style and structure. Sequins, pearls and frills will be huge."
Luckily for bakers, this doesn’t necessarily have to mean learning an entire new skills set, or taking a subscription to Vogue magazine. While an eye for design is crucial in successfully building a celebration cake business, there are many tools of the trade to help along the way.
Jenny Stewart, editor at wedding cake specialist Squires Kitchen Magazine Publishing, has also spotted a trend for opulently dressed cakes, and, according to her, there are many resources to help meet the trend. "We’ve seen quite a few edible jewels and sparkles, and also some very opulent things, such as edible diamonds," she says. "It seems as though people are looking for very lavish decorations, but there are some simple ways of making these. We produce some roll-out jewel moulds, for example, which bakers can use with our ready-to-roll icings. They can just fill the mould, pop them out, and then brush them with sparkly lustre dust for a really spectacular finish."
So the good news for bakers is that while wedding cakes undoubtedly require a top-of-the-range skill set, there are some easy accessories that can be used by those less accomplished in sugarcraft. Similarly, the rush of new, exciting sparkly accessories means that spectacular-looking cakes can be produced simply by using a deep and dramatic-coloured base and dressing it up in the fashionable lavish bows and pre-made jewels that are currently popular.
"We found there’s a big trend for dramatic colours shades like gold and teal and burgundy," says Diane Lunt of Renshawnapier. "And this means that decoration can actually be very simple. As long as you have a sufficient skill-set to cover a cake, you can be quite creative with the accessories fresh flowers, for example, can look incredible on a plain deep-coloured cake.
Chocolate in favour
But while bling is in and big colours are popular, the runaway trend for 2010 also looks set to continue the theme for the bridesmaid’s favourite chocolate. Now that a fruit cake interior is passé and technology has allowed bakers to supply rich flavours, such as carrot cake or chocolate cake to support a towering structure, the predilection for celebrating with chocolate inside and out is still big.
Slattery estimates that 60% of his cakes are chocolate-themed in one way or another and the popularity shows no signs of abating from previous years. And for bakers without the knowhow to create decorative ornaments in the medium of chocolate, there’s even better news. "You can now get a Belgian chocolate paste, made from real chocolate, but with all the usability of normal sugarpastes," says Lunt. "This means that bakers can accurately describe their products as being made with real chocolate, but they won’t need the facilities or skill-set to temper chocolate or work with the raw product."
For bakers hoping to capitalise on the current chocoholic nature of cake-buyers, products like this spell pound-signs in the creation of saleable masterpieces within a comfortable profit margin.
Yet chocolate paste isn’t the only way to team convenience with high returns. Bakels has also launched a new Genoese Mix Complete, which simply requires the addition of water to produce Genoese sheets and traybake lines. "The beauty of Genoese Mix Complete is that it is so easy to use," says Pauline Ferrol, national sales manager, wholesale, for British Bakels. "Bakers can use the time saved on producing the Genoese slab to use their finishing skills to produce an exciting range of celebration cakes that will command a premium price."
Graham Dunton, chef patissier of Unifine Food & Bake, adds: "With the current fashion for chocolate cakes, many customers are buying our chocolate scrolls."
So while the demand for wedding cakes seems to be becoming ever more lavish, ornate and ornamented, improvements in products mean the baker’s job looks set to get easier as well asmore profitable.
Cake trends - five hot styles for 2010
1. Chocolate. It was big in 2008, bigger last year, and looks set to get more popular still, as ever more couples are looking for chocolate cakes, either underneath the icing, wrought into the decoration or both. Our tip? Take advantage of the real chocolate pastes coming on to the market for an easy alternative.
2. Bling bling baby. It seems the recession has had the reverse effect on the celebration cake market, with sparkly edible jewels, lavish bows and sugar diamonds all appearing. This year, no decoration is too opulent for marrying couples.
3. Deep purple and red, and green and almost any other grown-up colour you can think of. Maybe it’s the new arrival of softer and easy-to-use fondant icings, or the increasingly popular habit of colour-matching across an event but, this year, eye-catching colour is where it’s at.
4. So long fruit cake. With bakers now able to supply innovative alternatives to the traditional heavy fruit cake, nowadays several styles of cake can match the weight needed to support a towering structure. This year, carrot cake, chocolate cake and decadent alternatives to fruit cake are all proving popular.
5. Edible ink. With technology ever advancing, cutting-edge bakers have got their hands on the latest trend printers that can festoon roll-out icing with edible ink designs. The result can be icing that matches the patterns or fabric of bridesmaid dresses, or meets a variety of creative options.