Photo: Chelsea Diane Photography
Let's be honest: Cake tasting is probably the best part of planning a wedding. And if you've got a sweet tooth, there's a chance it's the only thing you'll eat on your wedding day, too. While we all know that wedding cake tastes delicious with a cool glass of champagne, with bakers getting more and more creative with their flavor combinations, we knew there had to be other beverages that would be just as delicious alongside a decadent slice. We turned to two industry experts, Jennifer Cella Williams of Beverly's Bakery in Fulleton, California for the cakes and Diego Suarez of Bill Hansen Catering in Miami for the drinks, to create four pairings that will totally tantilize your tastebuds. We hope you're hungry — and thirsty!
Pistachio Cake with Orange Honey Cream Cheese and Raspberry Puree and Spring in Manhattan
Williams' pistachio cake is made totally from scratch — she uses real, ground pistachios in the batter and skips the food coloring. "I love pairing that savory flavor with the freshness of fruit, so we layer raspberry puree with cream cheese infused with orange essential oil and honey."
Suarez picked up on the orange flavor with a floral twist on a classic Manhattan, turning to brandy for notes of vanilla to mellow out the flavors. "It's a slightly stronger cocktail, which will balance out the cake's sweetness," he explains. Here's the recipe:
Spring in Manhattan
2 oz. Brandy
1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz. Orange Flower Water
Chocolate Chili Cake with Dark Chocolate Fudge and Candied Pecan Buttercream and Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro
Cake and beer? You bet! And it works especially well when that cake is dense, fudgy chocolate. "We've created a unique chocolate chili cake that has just the right amount of rich, dark cocoa blended with a mix of chile de arbol, chipotle and chili powder," says Williams. They up the chocolate quotient with fudge frosting, then balance out the heat with candied pecan buttercream. "That buttercream is such a great complement that we use it to ice the whole thing."
Even if you're not a big beer drinker, you'll love this nearly-black milk stout, with notes of brown sugar, roasted coffee, dark chocolate, nuts, and caramel — sounds a lot like the cake's flavors, right? "The beer has inherent sweetness, and because it is a nitro beer, the mouthfeel is incredibly smooth and silky, and there's almost no bitterness at all," explains Suarez. He loves pairing the beer's coffee notes with this cake because of coffee's ability to intensify chocolate flavors. And choosing a nitro brew has another benefit: "Because there's a heat factor in the cake, a beer with too much carbonation would create an uncomfortable mouthfeel. The very light carbonation in nitro beers will smooth out the heat instead of making it too prominent." Looking for a non-alcoholic pairing? A perfectly-pulled espresso shot with a touch of milk would be a great option.
Banana Cake with Toasted Coconut Bavarian Cream and Chocolate Ganache and Wells Banana Bread Beer
"Our banana cake is comfort food in pastry form," says Williams, who folds organic banana puree into the batter for a dense crumb and slightly firmer texture. She offsets it with a super-creamy filling, combining toasted coconut and vanilla Bavarian cream — and a layer of dark chocolate ganache, of course! "It tastes like something your grandma might have made," she says.
Suarez may have found the perfect beer to pair with banana cake: Banana Bread Beer! "The nose is filled with banana, but also has bready, cakey, malty scents," he explains. But it's the tasting notes that might surprise you: "Banana is the star, but it's not overwhelming or sweet. You get some nice bitterness, as well as notes of almonds and walnuts," Suarez describes. The banana flavors in the beer will sharpen the banana flavor from the cake, as well as cut through the richness of the ganache. Those walnut notes will be SO good with the coconut cream, too! "It almost works a little too well, in that you might go back for a second slice and another pint!" says Suarez.
Vanilla Bean Cake with Lemon Cream and Vanilla Tequila Spritzer
Even traditional cake flavors can get a boost from a great cocktail pairing. "We always recommend our vanilla bean cake with fresh lemon cream for couples looking for a more traditional flavor," says Williams. "We use vanilla bean paste for a true vanilla flavor. You can see (and feel!) the bean in the crumb." She gives the filling a hint of tartness with a homemade lemon curd, mixed into their Bavarian cream with a few drops of lemon essential oil.
Suarez paired that vanilla and lemon flavor with a rich vanilla-based cocktail. "You'll love the balance between the spiciness of the tequila and the lemon curd and Bavarian cream," he says. "We topped it with sparkling wine to refresh your palate before the next rich, light bite." Here's the recipe:
Vanilla Tequila Spritzer
2 oz. Tequila
1 oz. Homemade Vanilla Bean Syrup
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. Sparkling Wine
1 dash Angostura bitters