Cakes have always been a standard dessert at most weddings, but in recent years, couples have gotten a lot more creative with the tasty sweets they offer to their guests. That's because when it comes to wedding cake etiquette, there's no rulebook that says you have to serve an extravagant five-tiered design. And for couples who want to participate in the classic cake-cutting tradition—but don't actually want a wedding cake—a cutting cake is the perfect alternative.
To break it all down, a cutting cake is a very small cake created for the sole purpose of allowing newlyweds to participate in the cake-cutting tradition, without spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on something they don't actually want to serve for dessert. A cutting cake also isn't meant to be served to guests, and, in fact, is traditionally whisked away to the kitchen as soon as the bride and groom have finished the cutting tradition.
For those interested in learning more, we tapped Moriah Michelle, founder and owner of Wildflower Cakes, to help explain the history and origin of a cutting cake. Ahead, here's everything you need to know, plus details on how to figure out whether this dessert is the right option for you.
Meet the Expert
Moriah Michelle is the founder and owner of Wildflower Cakes, a cake boutique in Denver. She studied at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and specializes in wedding cake design.
The History of Cutting Cakes
Wedding cupcakes were the first deviation from the norm, which then triggered other fantastic dessert alternatives like dessert buffets, candy displays, and make-your-own-sundae bars. Since then, couples have continuously found ways to reinvent and create their own reception traditions, with a cutting cake becoming one of the most popular ideas.
Today, this tradition continues to be a hit with modern brides who don't want to miss out on all the fun, but would rather skip the formalities of a cake cut and a traditional cake dessert. What's more, it's become an extremely popular choice for couples who only want to snap photos—and sometimes experience a cake smash—without feeling guilty about splurging on their catering budget.
As far as design goes, cutting cakes are pretty understated—topped with French buttercream or adorned with flowers—but that's your call. "Since cutting cakes tend to be smaller, they often aren’t as elaborate as a traditional wedding cake, but don’t let this stop you from having your dream wedding cake," Michelle says. "Show your baker your inspiration, and we scale down that design and find ways to make a smaller cake feel just as special."
How to Incorporate a Cutting Cake Into Your Wedding
According to Michelle, it's important to first discuss your venue, dream design, guest count, and budget when figuring out whether a cutting cake is right for you. But if you and your partner have weighed all your options and are set on incorporating this style of dessert, finding a baker who can make your dreams come true is the next best step.
After that, be sure to tell your immediate family and wedding party the game plan to avoid any potential cake conflicts. Letting them know that a cutting cake will be used sets expectations ahead of time, because as crazy as it may sound, occasionally, a wedding guest will chase the cake into the kitchen demanding to have a piece. Count on your mothers, for instance, to explain that—while the cutting cake won't be served—there are plenty of other delectable dessert selections to satisfy their palates. You can also rely on caterers to politely decline a guest's request if someone is asking for a slice of cake.
Finally, ensure that your caterers wrap up the cake and put it in the fridge so that you and your partner can enjoy it late at night or the next day. And if you plan on saving it for an important milestone, consult your baker to determine the best preservation method.
Cutting Cake Alternatives
Love the idea of a cutting cake but don't like cake as a dessert? Don't worry, you can easily give the trend your own twist. "I love the idea of tiered cheese rounds for couples that don’t have a sweet tooth. They can be just as beautiful, and traditionally cheese plates are served at the end of the meal and not as a first course," Michelle says. You can also look into pies and doughnuts if you're searching for a sweeter option.
Nevertheless, you do not have to cut a cake (or any type of dessert) if this tradition isn't important to you. You can feed each other bites from the dessert bar or share a cupcake for the cameras. Or you can skip the moment altogether and just keep dancing when they announce dessert has been served for those who would like a sweet treat.