Brides Today Go For Simple But Elegant In White Wedding Cakes
Spring and fall are the busiest times of year for local wedding cake bakers. It’s not so much that love is in the air then, it’s that the stiffing humidity is not, area pastry chefs say.
“Contrary to popular belief, most weddings here are not in June. They happen in March, April and May. Summer is real slow, and things crank up again in October and November,” says Rick Clayton, who has worked as director of catering at Le Meridian Hotel for the past seven years.
Couples’ preference for the cooler, drier months bodes well for local bakeries: Buttercream icing, widely used on white wedding cakes, holds up much better in such weather, says Janina Simmons, director of sales at independent caterer Food Art.
“It all lunges on the humidity. In our climate it’s just harder to create wedding cake designs from anything made with sugar,” says independent pastry chef Carol Schmidt. Not everyone understands that, especially out-of-town couples who come to New Orleans to get married.
“One of the hardest things I have to do is explain to a bride that this or that can’t or shouldn’t be done. I don’t like to make a promise I can’t fulfill, and if it can’t be done right, I’d rather not do it at all,” says Schmidt.
Some of her more intricate cake designs include a re-creation of a couple’s china pattern and a scale model of another couple’s San Francisco home. “Some cakes have over 200 hours of work in them, and honestly. I do some things for the challenge and fun of it because you really can’t get paid enough for what you put in to it,” she says.
Most pastry chefs spend an average of 15 to 20 hours on a white wedding cakes and limit themselves to making no more than three a week. Prices average about $3.50 to $4.50 a slice and can go as high as $10 or more a slice for designs as detailed as the ones Schmidt described. Cakes can vary from 200 to 400 slices.
Although pastry chefs say that every wedding cake is different, a few trends have emerged. The decoration du jour, for instance, is fresh flowers, which became popular in the late 1980s thanks to lifestyle guru Martha Stewart.
Stewart’s coffee-table publication, “The Wedding Book,” launched what pastry chefs describe as a revolution in wedding cake designs. Previously, most wedding cakes were the traditional tiered affairs with little plastic brides and grooms on top, Schmidt says. “When Martha came out with her book, things changed forever. For the first time cakes had fresh flowers. They were very simple cakes, not gobbed elaborately with icing.”
Theone Perloff-Velez opened her business, Piece of Cake, about 12 years ago about when the Martha Stewart influence took hold. She says she’s never had a request for a wedding cake with a bride and groom on top. “That’s really passe as far as my clientele is concerned,” she says.