Trendy tastes – From the traditional to the avant garde
In New Orleans, trendy wedding cakes made to look like bridal dress fabric or silk jewelry boxes, and made to taste just as complex, haven’t quite overtaken the traditional white-frosted, almond-flavored ones decorated with roses or fleur-de-lis. But area bakers say cakes that make personal and sometimes totally unconventional statements are becoming more popular.
Customers of Rhonda Moecklin, co-owner of Swiss Confectionery in New Orleans, favor the “very simple, yet elegant look,” she says. They’re asking for cakes adorned with monograms, for example, or fashioned to look like a stack of Tiffany gift boxes, complete with fondant tinted to match the famous jeweler’s signature blue, a white gum paste bow on top and frosting ribbon streams over the edges.
Toni Jones, owner of Fancy Cakes in Kenner, has also filled orders for customized creations that depart from the traditional white-on-white design. One of Jones’ recent customers chose latte, silver and cream as the color scheme for her cake; another went with tangerine, celadon and silver.
Shane Gorringe, owner of Zoë’s Bakery in Covington, often gets requests for cakes with chocolate, pink and even more brightly colored icing. But Moecklin says she generally sticks with white, off-white and the occasional pastel.
“We kind of steer people away from the colors,” Moecklin says. “There are a few reasons for that. One, it looks more like a birthday cake when you put a lot of color in the side decorations. The other thing is that, if it’s a dark color, it will bleed into the rest of icing, so it doesn’t hold its true color.” For those who want bolder colors, Moecklin recommends decorating the cake with real ribbon or fresh flowers.
Zoë’s specializes in cakes with very distinctive flavorings, and Gorringe says his customers are more adventurous than ever when it comes to selecting the perfect taste for their wedding cakes. The typical order calls for each layer to have a different flavor.
“The most common ones we used to do were the almond amaretto and the strawberry Grand Marnier,” Gorringe says. “Now we’re getting more into different things like mocha with Bailey’s and hazelnut Frangelico with ganache. So people are not sticking to traditional.’’
Yet Moecklin says Swiss Confectionery and its customers are doing just that.
“We typically stick to our traditional white almond flavor with a pineapple filling,” Moecklin says. “That’s pretty much what we’re known for … We do offer a lemon filling and a butter cream filling. We also offer a strawberry or raspberry filling, but that’s during the cooler months. The humidity down here doesn’t work well with the strawberry or raspberry … In our experience, they don’t hold up well.”
Jones says she often has to advise customers against ingredients that won’t stand up to the elements.
“For instance, cheesecake has to be refrigerated. The average wedding reception is four hours long … So you’re talking about stuff that could get people sick,” Jones says, adding that she usually will suggest a compromise such as a flour cake with a cheesecake filling.
Even when wedding couples choose traditional designs and flavors for the bride’s cake, they’re sometimes willing to get quite fanciful with the groom’s cake. Jones has created groom’s cakes in the shape of an alligator and the map of Africa. One of her most unusual flavor concoctions was a cake filled with butterscotch, chocolate chips, pralines and peanut butter, all covered with a caramel and semi-sweet chocolate ganache.
At Fancy Cakes, the ordering process typically begins with an appointment for a one-hour meeting, at which customers are presented with a slice of cake done in a classic flavor. If they have a taste for something else, Jones asks about their favorite flavors and customizes the recipe to suit them.
At Zoë’s, the first call from wedding customers is often to get a rough estimate of the price of the cakes. “They are usually priced per person, and then according to the design and how much work needs to be done,” Gorringe says, adding that the delivery location also affects the final price.
The initial onsite meeting might be followed by another, with time allowing customers to mull over some ideas and get inspirations for new ones before they place their order. After the consultation, tasting, magazine browsing and dreaming are done, Gorringe says the hardest part can be narrowing all those possibilities down to just one.