What colors and shapes are hot right now?
We’re doing lots of octagonal and square-shaped cakes with rounded edges, and some that are made up of alternating round and square tiers. The color combination of the moment is definitely café au lait and pale pink.
Exotic flavors are in. Which do you suggest?
I love Nutella and tiramisu. Some wonderful flavor pairings, also, are white-chocolate mousse with hazelnut dacquoise (cream-filled meringues), almond with caramel and, for summer, coconut with Key lime or blood orange is always delicious. Lately, my favorite has been chocolate and yellow cakes filled with caramel and vanilla crème.
From where do you get your inspiration?
From the bride and groom. I always encourage them to point out things they love, whether it’s an old country inn where they once vacationed, or the arches in their reception room, or even the pattern on an heirloom tablecloth. Anything big or small that you love can become your starting point.
Do you re-create these specific images?
Sometimes. I do a lot of cakes with embroidered patterns, often duplicating the lace on a bride’s gown or wedding veil. But some designs aren’t so literal. For example, instead of decorating a cake for a beach wedding with shells made of sugar, I might give the buttercream a pearlescent color, like the interior of a shell, and the edges of the tiers a wavy look, to resemble water.
What’s one mistake couples often make?
Wanting too much decoration. I love an ornate cake, but you need to make sure that you don’t have all of these elaborate elements—drapes, bows, embroidery, sparkles, flowers—fighting each other. You don’t want your cake to have that "I’m wearing all of my jewelry at the same time" feel.
When should a bride order her cake?
As soon as she’s got a groom! Well, practically. It helps to know your wedding colors, what season you’re marrying in, where the wedding is and what time of day it will be.
What role does the cake play at the wedding? Where does it fit in with the meal?
The cake is a major ornament at the reception, so it should be on display from the start, to be admired. I strongly suggest the bride and groom don’t wait until the end of the party for the cake-cutting. They should cut their cake when everyone is seated for the main course; you’ve got a captive audience right there. You can toast your friends and family at the same time. The cake should immediately follow the main course and be served as dessert—otherwise it seems more like an afterthought.
How should it be presented?
It’s attractive the way it is, so don’t add cookies, sorbet, ice cream or fruit—you’ll only detract from it. Just garnish each slice with a raspberry coulis or a touch of fudge or crème. Some people like coffee or espresso with their cake, but since it’s sweet—and the wedding is a celebration, after all—I like it served with a glass of champagne.