A round, three-tiered white cake topped with white buttercream frosting is so yesterday. This year's big wedding trend is the trendy wedding cake.
Modern brides are tossing out tradition along with their bouquets and matching their cake to their character. They're designing desserts in every color, shape, texture and size.
"It's about personalizing the wedding," said creative event planner Yifat Oren of Yifat Oren and Associates. "Brides are reading wedding magazines and watching celebrity weddings on TV."
"It inspires them to be creative with their own wedding and wedding cake," said L.A.-based Oren, who has worked with couples to create cakes out of their favorite desserts, such as apple tort and key lime pie, and to match their cake to their wedding atmosphere.
Where flowers were at one time the only splash of color on an all-white wedding cake, entire cakes are now covered in bright hues of frosting and fondant. Apple red, sky blue, sun yellow -- wedding cakes are all about color this season. Couples coordinate the color of their cake with their bridesmaid colors, bouquet colors, college colors, favorite colors, even their theme.
"We just did a bright fuchsia cake for a Hawaiian-themed wedding," said Rachel Louw, owner, baker and decorator at Unusual Cakes in Huntington Beach. "People are often afraid to experiment with color, but they're so happy when they do."
Brides and grooms have also moved away from the circular cake. Ovals, squares, hearts and hexagons are in vogue. These cakes are then stacked traditionally, set askew or manipulated to look like wrapped wedding presents, city skylines, even sand castles.
"A wedding happens once in a lifetime, and couples want to make the day their own," Louw said. "By designing their own cake, the couple stamps their personality onto their wedding dessert."
Couples are also forgoing one large wedding cake for smaller delicacies. The table cake, which serves 10-12 guests, is a hot reception trend.
Couples can place identical cakes at every table, but more often, each table's cake is a variation on a theme or color. Table cakes can double as centerpieces during dinner (avoiding high florist costs) and allow couples who couldn't decide between several cakes and frosting flavors to order them all.
Another popular alternative is the individual dessert. Couples are serving each guest their own petit fours, tiny two-tiered wedding cakes or miniature sculpted cakes. Single-serving cakes in the shape of potted flowers have sprung up at recent Southland weddings.
"It's another distinctive touch that reflects the couple's taste and style," Louw said.
Though serving individual cakes can be a more expensive option, it circumvents the high cake-cutting fee many hotels and halls charge.
Amanda and Dan Keston of Westwood replaced their wedding cake with a cupcake tree. Four flavors of cupcakes were stacked on pillared platters and topped with a tier of fondant flowers.
"When it came to ordering a cake, Dan said traditional, because he knows the fondant flowers are my favorite, and I said cupcakes, because I know those are Dan's favorite," Keston said. "So we did both, and our cake was really personal and really us."
The Kestons also served platters of their other favorite -- chocolate-dipped fruit -- at every table.
"We wanted to create an experience that was unique and filled with things we enjoy," said Keston, who was married at her in-laws' Santa Barbara house on May 22.
Designer cakes can be expensive. For couples on a budget, customized cake toppers, pillars and platters are a cost-effective way to personalize a conventional wedding cake. Why top the cake with an off-the-shelf plastic bride and groom? Cake accessories can add color, elegant whimsy and a touch of personal style to an otherwise standard cake.
"Custom cakes can cost $2,000 or $3,000. You can fake it by buying a $500 or $600 cake and adding designer cake accessories." said Tammy Massman-Johnson of L.A.'s Very Different Cakes and Cake Excessories.
"Toppers can take an ordinary cake and make it special," said Massman-Johnson, who creates Swarovski crystal letters, hearts, stars, butterflies and lovebird-cage toppers in any combination of 28 colors. She and her husband, Luke, also fashion cake platters with beaded fringe, beaded glass pillars and crystal flower sticks that can be added anywhere on the cake.
Cake accessories travel well to destination weddings, can be shipped out of state and, after the wedding, can be saved as keepsake art and displayed in the couple's home.
Whether couples play with color, shape or detailed touches, they will be happiest with their wedding dessert if it reflects their personal flair and finesse.
"Cupcakes, chocolate-dipped strawberries and the giant bowls of York patties and $100,000 bars we had at the valet, those are all things we love," Keston said. "They helped turn our wedding into our special event."