This year's fashionable wedding cake is a tall and svelte showstopper, dressed in ruffles that deepen in hue from its top to its bottom.
Its many layers — round or square or octagonal or a combination of shapes — diminish in size from toe to head.
If it has a topper at all, it's so integral to the cake that it becomes one with it.
The cake mirrors its bride and groom. Flashy and flamboyant types have oversized brightly colored flowers; the shy and demure may have pale pink or cafe au lait Victorian decorations. White wedding cakes are as passe as phones with cords.
And, most importantly, it doesn't look like any other cake you've ever seen.
Laurie Cinelli, the owner, baker and decorator at A Piece of Cake in Tampa, is seeing the same trends in her shop that are turning up around the country.
"There's a lot going on with ombre," the trendy dark-to-light fading of icing color, she said, and brides are asking for large, tall cakes.
She recently made a six-tier cake for 300 people using 6-, 8-, 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-inch pans. At $5 a slice, her average cost, that cake put a $1,500 dent in the wedding budget.
"Brides no longer want little tiny cakes," she said.
Unless, she said, the small cake is part of a dessert station or a dessert bar that also includes the real (big) wedding cake. The dessert bar — sans wedding cake — is also a trend and might be guided by a theme like the couple's favorite candy or a color. Or it maybe overflowing with elegant small items such as cake pops, fruit tarts or macarons.
Jill Whelan has owned Cakes by Carolynn in St. Petersburg with her mother, Bonnie Schaefer, since 1997. While the business has changed — it has grown bigger and busier — Whelan said requests from brides haven't changed all that much except now they're getting more ideas from the Internet, especially the image-sharing site Pinterest, instead of magazines or TV shows.
While a simple and elegant cake with fresh flowers is always popular, Whelan said, "Cakes now have a lot more bling to them. Jewels, sparkle ribbons, brooches . . ."
Whelan, whose cakes average $4.25 a slice, said to keep the price down, brides can order a small display cake and then have additional sheet cakes to serve to guests. And, she said, brides can steer away from fondant, a sugar paste which is rolled, colored and used to decorate cakes. It makes a beautiful cake but it doesn't taste particularly good, she said. Fondant is what's used mostly on the cake competition shows on TV.
"We want our cakes to look good and taste good," she said which is why she doesn't even make fondant at her shop.
Vintage romantic cakes with soft colors, lots of flowers and lacy flourishes are also a trend. In fact, that's exactly the kind of cake Daniel Delgado, owner of Sweet! By the Cake Factory in St. Petersburg, was making when we contacted him.
Delgado is a pastry chef who moved from Venezuela to Orlando 12 years ago to open his first Cake Factory location. Six years later, he opened his second shop in Sarasota and 14 months ago he opened one in St. Petersburg.
A cake is not made in a day, especially the one he was working on. He can bake enough cake for 200 people in a day, but that's only the start. It's the decorations that take time, especially the labor-intensive sugar lace.
He charges $4 to $13 per serving depending on adornments such as edible lace and fondant frosting.
Delgado said cake competition shows on the Food Network have affected the way brides shop for cakes. These days, he said, they not only shop for cakes, they shop for cake shops.
"They see what's on the shows and it's not traditional; it's modern and new," he said. "And that's what they want."
Patti Ewald can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8746.