You probably wouldnâ€™t buy a plain olâ€™ white cake with white icing for any other special occasion. Why, then, would you settle for one on your wedding day?
Todayâ€™s bakers are layering luscious combinations of cake, fillings and glazes underneath those swirls of traditional white buttercream icing. In fact, Michael Feigenbaum of Lucyâ€™s Sweet Surrender, a bakery located in Cleveland just off of Shaker Square, says he doesnâ€™t even offer standard white cake. Instead, he â€œsoaksâ€ each layer in a syrup made with orange, lemon and lime juices. â€œOther flavors â€” like coffee, orange, lemon â€” can be introduced to the batter,â€ he adds. If you opt for plain white, yellow or chocolate, he suggests making the cake interesting by adding a filling that is â€œradically different.â€
David Gauchat of The Wedding Cakes of David Gauchat, on Clevelandâ€™s West Side, offers a Key lime cake filled with a mixture of whipped cream, gelatin and Key lime juice that â€œjust puckers your lips.â€ Fruit flavorings are also a popular filling. Feigenbaum says the most cost-effective are the flavor-intense jams he uses to â€œbutterâ€ cake layers before adding the requisite slathering of buttercream icing.
Some brides, however, prefer using the real thing. According to Diana Dumitru of Cakes Plus, located in the Colonial Marketplace downtown, fresh strawberries and raspberries are the most popular selections. But customers certainly arenâ€™t limited to those. One couple, for example, substituted mangoes and white chocolate mousse for the usual strawberries and custard in the cassata cake they ordered.
â€œIt was for an Indian wedding,â€ she remembers. â€œThey were serving a mango lassi, which is an Indian drink, and they wanted something with mangoes in it.â€
Chocolate-lovers will want to sample Gauchatâ€™s peanut butter-and-chocolate cake. He combines peanut butter and
buttercream or whipped cream, sometimes with melted chocolate, then sandwiches it between layers of chocolate gÃ©noise (a cake in which a whipped egg-and-sugar mixture is used instead of baking powder as the leavening agent).
Brides demanding a more sophisticated combination can order a cake made by alternating eight paper-thin layers of dark chocolate gÃ©noise and a filling of chocolate sauce, raspberry-prune purÃ©e and cognac; freezing it for a couple of days; then drenching it in a cognac-chocolate couverture. â€œAs it slides off ... you have this very shiny, beautiful cake,â€ Gauchat says. The one he whipped up for his nieceâ€™s May wedding was plated with raspberry and vanilla sauces.
Hard-core chocoholics can buck tradition and request a dark chocolate icing that, contrary to popular opinion, can be quite striking. â€œWeâ€™ll put blood-red roses all over it and itâ€™s just spectacular,â€ Gauchat says.
Dumitru remembers a cake frosted with chocolate buttercream, then glazed in a chocolate ganache, that provided a glossy foil for the white royal-icing snowflakes one couple chose as decorations.
â€œThe contrast on it was just stunning,â€ she says.
The cake options also include everyday favorites such as carrot, German chocolate and banana, the last of which Gauchat fills with a fresh banana purÃ©e mixed with a little sugar and gelatin. â€œYou can add white chocolate to that and make a lovely white chocolate-banana mousse,â€ he says. Heâ€™s also done cheesecakes â€” chocolate, amaretto, banana coconut, you name it â€” which can be stacked or tiered as the bride desires.
Nut tortes are another possibility. When it comes to fillings, â€œyou can use [the nut torte] the same way you use any other cake,â€ Gauchat says, although he does single out praline buttercream and raspberry cream. Feigenbaum suggests that brides who order a nut torte include a nutless tier in the wedding cake or order a separate cake to be kept in the kitchen of the reception hall or hotel.
David Steele, a partner with Lauren Michael Designs in Canton, says cakes have become much more interesting in the last few years. â€œBrides have actually come to me and invented their own cakes,â€ he reports. One of his favorite was an orange-maple twist cake made with orange liqueur, orange zest and raw maple syrup.
Because of Feigenbaumâ€™s location in a neighborhood once inhabited by Eastern European immigrants, one of his most-requested items is the Dobos torte, a Hungarian specialty cake consisting of seven or eight crepelike layers assembled with chocolate buttercream. â€œWe have made 30-layer wedding cakes where the whole cake is three tiers high, and each one is 10 layers,â€ he says. Although the Dobos torte is traditionally topped with a layer of caramelized sugar, Feigenbaum decorates iced versions with caramelized sugar hearts to eliminate problems with cutting.
â€œThey almost look like little mirrors in the cake, theyâ€™re so shiny,â€ he says.
Dumitru uses sponge cake brushed with liqueur syrups to create her raspberry Chambord torte, filled with white chocolate mousse and fresh raspberries, and Grand Marnier cake, filled with a Grand Marnier-laced dark chocolate mousse. Cakes made from a ladyfinger recipe are brushed with Baileyâ€™s Irish Cream, then layered with dark chocolate and white chocolate mousses to make a moist-but-light Baileyâ€™s white-and-dark-chocolate mousse cake.
Feigenbaum says a number of tastes can be satisfied by using a different cake/filling combination in each tier. One customer recently ordered a four-tier cake iced in white buttercream constructed out of a yellow cake with Key lime mousse filling; a white cake with lemon mousse filling; a chocolate cake filled with raspberry jam and mocha buttercream; and a chocolate-hazelnut torte sealed in chocolate ganache. But he cautions against combining too many flavors in any single tier.
â€œToo many flavors and it gets too crazy,â€ he says. â€œThey conflict with each other at some point.â€