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Wedding cake ideas can be made to work
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – In the minds of many brides and grooms, the perfect wedding cake is one that acknowledges tradition yet reflects individuality, and most cake decorators can make the couple’s dreams come true.
Cake decorators use skill, experience and creativity to turn the wishes of the bride and groom into a showpiece that draws the admiration of the wedding guests. The cake must look good, but it also has to taste good to succeed.
“People eat with their eyes first,” said assistant Extension professor Jason Behrends of the Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion Department at Mississippi State University. “If it looks good, the mind perceives it will taste better than something that does not.”
Behrends coordinates the department’s educational effort to teach students how to combine culinary arts, food science and food technology to make the appearance and taste of food a pleasurable experience. Successful wedding cake designers base their business on the principle of food that is prepared to look as good as it tastes.
“By practicing this principle, cake decorators can take a plain-but-flavorful sheet cake, and dress it up to make it more appealing,” Behrends said. “And, they know the bride’s cake should be elegant and possess the ‘wow factor,’ while the groom’s cake can be more adventurous.”
The bride’s cake traditionally has been several tiers of plain, white pound cake covered with white, buttercream frosting and garnished with flowers, scrolls, scallops or ribbons. The clean, elegant, classic lines those traditional cakes exude are hard to surpass.
Some brides dare to be different, however, and ask the cake designer to incorporate more color, flavor and fillings.
“Spot color on the bride’s cake can create an elegant effect,” said Starkville cake decorator Carol Taylor, owner of The Cake Box by Sweet Temptations. “Color used as an accent can create a beautiful effect, but it must be used sparingly.”
Fondant, a sugary icing that resembles dough, gives decorators an additional option because it creates a super-smooth cake surface. It can be rolled, modeled, hand-painted and airbrushed.
“If a bride came to us and wanted a cake covered in maroon fondant, we would do our best to create such a cake,” said Lorrie Bryan, cake decorator for the MSU Fountain Bakery. “It does take skill and time to mix colors to create the right shade of Mississippi State maroon.”
Fondant must be rolled into very thin layers and applied correctly to prevent wrinkles and air bubbles. Smoothing the fondant does take considerable time, but the effect is worth the effort, Taylor said.
Other decorative food materials, such as modeling chocolate, gum paste or even cereal, make more options possible.
“Some brides are choosing nontraditional materials for cakes,” said Sylvia Byrd, MSU associate professor of food science, nutrition and health promotion. “I recently attended a wedding where the reception featured a cake made out of crisped rice cereal. The bride apparently decided to move away from the traditional type of cake for her wedding.”
Inedible bride-and-groom figurines that once topped most wedding cakes have all but disappeared. Fondant and other edible materials give the decorator an opportunity to create flower bouquets, monograms and symbols for the cake’s top tier. These cake toppers usually are edible.
There are other choices available to couples who want both color and the traditional white bride’s cake. Cookies, cupcakes and candy can be decorated with fondant or icing and prominently displayed to highlight the wedding cake.
“Cookies are a popular item for weddings, and we have received many requests for them from brides,” Bryan said. “My customers have requested cookies with the Bully pawprint or MSU logo, and these can add a touch of color without taking the spotlight away from the wedding cake.”
Taylor said she has many requests for sugar cookies prepared according to the couple’s personal tastes.
“I do a lot of iced and decorated cookies to be given away as wedding favors,” Taylor said. “Sometimes the cookies are round with the couple’s monogram, while others are shaped like a wedding cake or wedding dress. We bag the cookies and tie them with a ribbon to match.”
Cupcakes are even being used to fashion wedding cakes. The cupcakes are arranged on stacked tiers made from plastic, glass or other covered platforms. Couples can choose a variety of flavored batters, icing and garnishes for the cupcakes and satisfy many guest preferences.
“A wedding is your day,” Behrends said. “If you have an idea, tell the decorator. Most professionals want to work with you and make your dreams come true. You won’t know what is possible if you don’t ask.”
Contact: Dr. Jason Behrends, (662) 325-0485