conley6.gif (2529 bytes)

A sweet beginning



Mila Kofman displays some unusual wedding cakes at Mila’s European Bakery. Kofman said she has had
some very unusual requests over the years such as this cow cake.

Just as styles of wedding dresses, tuxedos, flowers and other wedding traditions have changed through the years, so too, has the look of wedding cakes and what adorns the top. While the cake itself is still the centerpiece of sweet beauty, most cake-toppers of old have gone the way of ruffled shirts on groomsmen.

Bakery experts from around town all agree that the biggest trend in wedding cakes these days involves fresh flowers and simplicity. Some of the influence on cakes has come from Martha Stewart, yet others have their own creative ideas. If there is one thing that is definitely passé, it’s the popular fountain with colored water.

At Bay Bakery in Whitefish Bay, Jenny Ingram said owner Dany Olier sometimes takes a slightly different approach for some weddings. Bay Bakery features the "Caroline" — pronounced caro leen — a number of mini-éclairs stacked in the shape of a pyramid. A hot sugar mixture is drizzled over the Caroline in a free-form to set it. Often as high as two and a half feet, the delicious and unique dessert takes on the shape resembling a Christmas tree, said Ingram. It’s especially popular for more casual receptions.

When couples go the traditional route, Ingram has seen a switch to fresh flowers, especially unusual tropical flowers. Today’s cakes are also foregoing the bride and groom cake toppers, pillars and stairs from eras past, said Ingram. Most cakes are stacked all in one, with flowers adding to the simplistic and elegant design.

Dany Olier of Bay Bakery displays a French wedding cake called a Croquembouche. The word croquemboche describes the puff being eaten and the hard caramel breaking in your mouth.

Of the many unique ideas Mila Kofman, owner of Mila’s European Bakery in Thiensville, has seen throughout her 20 plus years of making wedding cakes, one that stands out was decorated in a Texas cowboy theme — complete with boots and hats. Another couple had been saving for a car, and when they finally purchased it, it was a big event — perhaps as big an event as getting married. The couple found a miniature of their new car for the top of the cake and then asked Kofman to make a cascading road going along the side of the cake. To make it complete, a small road sign was added to the bottom of the cake where the road began, stating: "The Road to Happiness."

For a 50th Wedding Anniversary cake, Kofman said a couple chose to have their original bridal picture on the top. Added to the overall display was the couple’s very well-preserved wedding dress and tuxedo plus, shoes from their wedding five decades ago.

Like other bakeries, Mila’s European Bakery also confirms the fact that simple and elegant with fresh flowers is the trend. Kofman wants to remind everyone that regardless of how the cake is decorated, guests will likely remember the taste, and to Kofman, flavor is the most important factor in a successful wedding cake.

After 35 years in the business, Diane Czernicki, owner of Delicately Delicious in Grafton, has also seen trends come and go in wedding cakes. While some brides still request the little plastic bridges, Czernicki tries to at least steer them away from the little plastic bridesmaids (whose facial expressions and hairstyles haven’t changed in 40 years). She recommends placing fresh flowers on the bridge’s steps, instead.

Czernicki admits that specializing in wedding cakes brings her joy and personal fulfillment. "I can express myself through the cakes, they are like works of art to me," she added. She also enjoys giving her customers the opportunity to express themselves, too. "Everyone has their own character, that’s why I let them customize their own cake."

Nancy Bunkelman-Keeling of Golden Gourmet said that fresh flowers on top of wedding cakes has become a popular choice amongst couples.

One wedding cake she created was called a "jewel cake." The entire cake was designed and cut out to look like a crown and the top was decked out in "jewels," of course. She designed another cake to include a bride and groom on top and off on a side step, a miniature black lab. One couple had a baseball cake theme because they had met at a ballgame. Another cake included butter creme flowers, fresh fruit and fresh flowers.

Overall, Czernicki agrees, today’s wedding cake toppers are simple and elegant and overall, another way for a couple to express their uniqueness.

Nancy Bunkelman-Keeling, owner of Golden Gourmet Wedding Cakes in the Lake Country area, loves requests for unique cakes and cake toppers. In fact, she refers to herself and those who work for her as "artisans" who never create the same cake twice. "We enjoy testing our limits," she laughed. One of the most recent unusual cake toppers developed out of a frog-themed cake. A bride and groom frog, lovingly perched on a water lily, were placed atop a cake resembling a pond, as a waterfall spilled out below them.

Keeling also created a "Whimsical Cake" covered in bright colors and made to tilt on purpose. "We’ve found that everything in weddings are usually so elegant and formal that couples are beginning to use the wedding cake as a way to express their fun and creativity," said Bunkelman-Keeling. Another unique wedding cake and topper grew out of a bride’s mother’s idea to decorate the tables at the reception with hatboxes. So, with the help of homemade rolled fondant (which tastes like almonds) Bunkelman-Keeling was able to make each layer of cake to look like a different hatbox. The top was a miniature hatbox with a cover, complete with a rope handle. The inside of the top hatbox was filled with fresh flowers. What Bunkelman-Keeling likes most about working with rolled fondant is that it provides a wonderfully clean pallet that can even be hand-painted on. With a huge variety of cake pans offering different shapes, the imagination is the only limit of the cake today’s bridal couple can request from Golden Gourmet Wedding Cakes.

Should you ever be involved in the purchase of a wedding cake, do your homework, talk to the experts, and take note of the trends, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to start a new trend of your own!