Designer Desserts: Personalize Your Special Day with These Wedding Cake Alternatives
Before Bethany Durkee and her husband, Ryan, got married in May 2013 at Bradford Country Club in Haverhill, they planned a traditional wedding — except for dessert. For the cake-cutting ceremony, they chose a surprise —pies.
“Cake is tasty and all, but at weddings it can be very forgettable,” says the Pelham, N.H., bride, who purchased 27 pies from The Pie Guy in Salem, N.H., to serve to her guests. “We wanted something that we knew people would be interested in trying, rather than just something left on the table during the dancing. Plus, everybody loves pie.”
The Durkees. who included chocolate cream, strawberry rhubarb and apple crumb pies on their dessert menu, weren’t the first couple to put a personal spin on their wedding’s sweet ending. Area brides are serving up everything from cannoli to milk and cookies to help make their ceremonies their own — and sometimes to cut expenses, as well.
Jeanne Topham, owner of I Dream of Jeanne Cakes in Lawrence, points to the cupcake craze of a few years ago as a driving force in the desire to find alternative wedding desserts. “It’s almost as if it gave brides permission to say, ‘I’m going to have what I want,’ ” Topham says. “The more they started to customize their menus, the more they started applying that to their desserts.”
Lina Hunter, of Cakes by Design in North Andover, thinks part of the trend can be attributed to more couples footing the bill for their weddings. “Maybe 50 percent of the couples I see are paying for everything themselves, so they may be more comfortable breaking with tradition and doing exactly what they want to do, rather than what their parents might want them to do,” she says.
Hunter is seeing brides request everything from cake pops to dessert tables with petits fours, brownies and sugar cookies. “They may be choosing to go with smaller desserts because they realize not everyone eats cake, or because they can do it as a buffet, rather than plated,” Hunter says, noting that this approach can cut costs.
Durkee agrees. She ordered 27 pies for 150 guests and wound up with about six pies left over. “Even with 27 pies, I think we still came out much cheaper than getting a traditional tiered wedding cake,” she says. “[The Pie Guy] makes the pies fresh, so there had been a chance that by May the strawberry rhubarb wouldn’t be in season yet, but everything worked out and we got exactly what we wanted for our wedding day.”
With so many options, choosing what to serve can be difficult, Topham says. “If people can’t decide on a favorite flavor, I’ll ask what they order when they go out to dinner,” she says. From there, she’ll work with them to determine the best option for serving that flavor to guests — cake, cupcake or something entirely different.
“You can do almost anything,” she says. “It really depends on the setting.” Topham encourages couples to talk with their baker or caterer to get ideas and tap their expertise.
She’s also seeing a trend toward late night snacks: small, sweet items delivered to guests after the cake, about 45 minutes to an hour before the reception is over. Topham has provided everything from fancy s’mores — marshmallows dipped in chocolate or sugar — to chocolate chip cookies and shooters of milk. “It’s not necessarily enough for a dessert, but it’s enough for a fun snack,” she says.
Cake vs. Cannoli
Cannoli may be an old-school dessert, but they’re a fresh addition to the wedding table, according to Nina Fisichelli Gaffney, owner of Fisichelli Pastry Shop in Lawrence and Andover. She has set up as many as 100 for a wedding, displaying them on a three-tiered cake stand and decorating them with icing.
“We do any kind of flavor — ricotta, chocolate, vanilla, or chocolate cheese,” she says. “Even pumpkin cheesecake.”
The cost to set up and display 100 cannoli starts at about $350, she says, noting that for some people, it’s the only dessert choice. “It’s a dessert they love, and it may also be a family tradition,” she says.
It’s that sense of individuality that makes unusual desserts so appealing, Topham says. Whether it’s a family recipe for fruitcake or a butterscotch shooter, the choice of sweets can help set the day apart. “Desserts are one medium they can use to represent their own style, that can help make their celebration a unique reflection of them,” says Topham.
Cakes by Design
North Andover, Mass.
Fisichelli’s Pastry Shop
Lawrence and Andover, Mass.
(978) 682-7774; (978) 475-7775
I Dream of Jeanne Cakes