It can be round, square, tiered, simple and elegant or covered in flowers. But no matter how a couple envisions their wedding cake, it's important for the baker to turn the couple's design into a celebrated part of the wedding.
The cake often reflects the style of the couple - and it must be unique, just like them.
When Beverly Brown, of Laporte, first began decorating cakes in two years ago, she had no idea where her ideas would take her.
In December, she ended up designing, baking and decorating her daughter's wedding cake, which ignited a spark inside her.
Brown now teaches cake-decorating classes each week at Michaels near the Lycoming Mall and showcases her designs on her Facebook page, Simply Elegant Cakes by Beverly.
Through trial and error, Brown has created a way to make not-so-tasty fondant icing become an incredibly smooth product with a candy vanilla flavor.
"I'm working on a four-tier wedding exhibition cake with pillars," Brown said of her latest design. "It's a good example of an elegant cake that is fairly simple."
For her daughter's wedding, Brown ended up making three practice cakes and investing in a cake stacker system for transporting the cake.
"My daughter was given an estimate of $6,000 for that cake by a designer," Brown said. "With each cake, I try to do something different."
She's now experimenting with lace work and Australian drop string work, a technique that was featured in the royal wedding cake of Prince William and Kate Middleton. She said the "in" colors that she's noticing are gray and yellow, but her favorite still is ivory.
"And owls are real big on cakes right now," Brown said. "And the hot accent color is turquoise."
She said she also has seen a lot of glam ribbons with rhinestones become more popular as the royal icing flowers fade out of the spotlight. Candy clay roses or sugar paste flowers still are popular.
She said a few years ago, real flowers on wedding cakes was a popular trend but because of the risks of using real flowers - pollen getting on the cakes, weather disrupting the blooming cycles and holes in the cake for water tubes - more bakers are recommending the use of sugar flowers.
She said that even if a cake is spectacular, it has to arrive at its destination intact, which can be a challenge.
She said her daughter's wedding cake weighed more than 125 pounds and was white chocolate velvet with raspberry filling topped with white chocolate buttercream covered with vanilla fondant.
Simple cakes can range from $2.50 per 2-by-2-inch slice, while more complex cakes can average up to $14.50 a slice.
"When serving 150 people, you can see how it adds up," she said, adding that making a cake can take a week of baking and construction, along with additional hours in decorating, transporting and dismantling. "I have a lot of hours into this, it's a labor of love," she said. "I prefer simple cakes that are beautiful - less is more - which is why my cake business is called Simply Elegant."
Sara and Lisa Bartholomew - the mother-and-daughter duo who run Mona Lisa Cakes, 201 Basin St. - recently expanded their 1-year-old business that was located in South Williamsport.
They initially got into the business to bake wedding cakes, but have now expanded to make cookies, cupcakes and whatever baked goods a customer requests.
Sara has noticed more brides requesting wedding cake toppers surrounded by cupcakes.
But round cakes decorated in fondant and gum paste flowers still are the most traditional and popular ones.
She also has been getting a lot of requests for pastel colors and unique combinations, such as red and orange.
Mona Lisa cakes average about $2.95 a slice per person, but the bakery also includes a free anniversary cake with each order.
Lisa said she and her daughter enjoy weddings that have unusual themes such as a "Hallowedding" Halloween-themed wedding cake and a bright-red Lego cake.
Lisa and Sara said they usually consult with a bride several times to get a concept of what she wants before sending the bride off with a sampling of cupcakes to taste to decide flavor combinations.
The Bartholomews bake their wedding cakes the day of the event and transport them in sections, if necessary, so that the cake will arrive at its destination intact.
They also use the highest-quality flavors and ingredients in order to ensure a great tasting cake.
Lisa said that many brides come in with a basic idea of what they want, having watched several cake-themed television shows or perusing bridal magazines for ideas.
"They want something different," Lisa said. "They're looking to stand out."
Ordering a wedding cake time frame
The cake should be ordered as soon as the wedding season, colors, location and time of day are known, recommended Lisa Bartholomew of Mona Lisa Cakes. As a general rule, cakes or cupcakes should be ordered at least three to six months before the wedding; earlier if your baker is in demand. Elizabeth Whitnack of Cupcakes by E suggests brides book the date as soon as possible with the baker to guarantee the date is available.
In general, three to four tiers will yield about 200 slices and feed 150. For cupcakes, anticipate one cupcake per person and have a top layer cake for cutting by the bridal couple.
Bakers charge by the slice, based on the number of guests; prices range from $2.50 per slice per person, up to $14.50 per slice, according to Beverly Brown of Simply Elegant Cakes by Beverly. Cupcakes can range from $20 to $27 a dozen based on if the cupcake is a traditional, dipped or filled.
Flavors and fillings
Brides should schedule a tasting with the bakery once they have the first consultation.
Although the design is up to the couple, Brown suggests not going overboard and keeping it simple. More intricate designs are costlier and also leave more room for error. "Less is more," Brown said.