Break the Wedding-Cake Mold
Unique confections that eschew the traditional by Lora Zarubin / photographs by Jen Munkvold
Why is it in this day and age, when weddings are more and more an expression of a couple’s individuality, wedding cakes remain stubbornly predictable towers of white wrapped in insipid icing and topped with toys representing the guests of honor?
I want my cake to thread in all the things I love—great style and great taste. I want my guests to remember its flavor and that it represented one of the most important occasions of my life. Like the bride’s dress, the cake should be an extension of the couple’s sensibilities. Here’s my reasoning: Some choose the amazing couture quality and beauty of Vera Wang, while others might want the inventiveness of Rei Kawabuko of Comme des Garçons. In food terms, some want an amazing traditional cake decorated in luscious butter-cream frosting, while others prefer a unique green-tea creation. In any event, claim it as your own.
Sure, there are logistical considerations to serving dessert to a large number of people, but like the dress you wear, your cake should reflect you. Nothing is more symbolic than the culinary centerpiece of your wedding. Whether you use your favorite bakery or have the caterer whip up something from a recipe, make sure your cake reflects your individuality. Don’t listen to naysayers—dare to be untraditional. Best of all, Los Angeles boasts some of the greatest pastry chefs and bakers around to make your dream a reality.
Big Sugar Bakeshop
The brainchild of neighbors Lisa Ritter and Mary Odson, Big Sugar is the kind of bakery where you can drop in and discuss the pastries you knew and loved from your past but can’t find anywhere. Chances are pretty good that by just describing the ingredients, Ritter will be able to re-create it. So it is with the Hummingbird, which has its roots in the South and is filled with bananas, coconut, pineapple and pecans. In a way, this cake hearkens back to the time when wedding cakes were all spice—or even, heaven forbid, fruit. The confection’s moist interior and lovely cream-cheese frosting make a pastry that’s delectable enough to please even the most traditional taste.
12182 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-508-5855, bigsugarbakeshop.com.
If you are a serious chocoholic, these are the cakes for you. Phyllis McLellan and her husband, Mike, run this bakery and turn out traditional chocolate cakes by the dozen. Because of the luscious layers of chocolate, swirls of white icing and fresh cream filling, they’re nicknamed the Ding Dong and the Hostess Cupcake. When Patticakes transforms these sweet things for weddings—and they do get many orders—they encase the sides with sheets of dark or white chocolate, wrap each layer with a ribbon to make it look more like a wedding gift and, on request, top each layer with chocolate shavings. My fantasy would be not to decorate it but to make it look more like the Hostess Cupcake itself, white squiggles and all.
1900 N. Allen Ave., Altadena, 626-794-1128, patticakesdesserts.com.
I love the taste of green tea in pastries and have always had a fantasy about finding the perfect green-tea cake. In Paris, I was transported by Sadaharu Aoki’s green-tea éclairs, which are both beautiful and delicious. For me, green tea is the next big taste, which immediately brings to mind Jin Patisserie. Good choice, because Annabel Ho, the pastry chef who does the special cake orders, tells me she makes one with fresh tea leaves and rose petals. She covers the cake in traditional marzipan, festooned with pastel-colored white chocolate and sugar-jeweled ribbons inspired by the designer Marni. When it’s sliced, everyone is surprised by the amazing green color. Someone please get married and order this cake!
1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 310-399-8801, jinpatisserie.com.
CROQUE EN BOUCHE
Emil’s Swiss Pastry
At wedding soirees, the French serve croque en bouche—a pyramid of small choux pastry filled with different flavors of cream, held together with caramelized sugar and decorated with spun sugar and white Jordan almonds. Instead of cutting the cake, tradition has the bride and groom hitting the croque en bouche with a hammer for good luck (which also helps in breaking up the tower to serve to guests). And no one knows better how to produce these confections than Isabelle Champigneulle and Christian Kaufmann, owners of Emil’s Swiss Pastry. They suggest serving more than one, each with a different filling—chocolate, vanilla or mocca. J’adore.
11551 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, 310-473-6999; 10285 Glenoaks Blvd., Ste. 4, Pacoima, 818-897-0552, emilsswisspastry.com.
BLUM’S COFFEE CRUNCH
Several years back, I went to the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends. As native San Franciscans, we have the fondest memories of the magical pastry shop Blum’s. Besides feeling like I was on the set of My Fair Lady whenever I went there, my favorite dessert was the Blum’s Coffee Crunch. This is the cake my friend chose for her nuptials—and it was the star of the show. Sadly, Blum’s is no more. But when I was talking about this cake with my friend Valerie Gordon, cofounder of Valerie Confections, I discovered she was obsessed with it as well. Then I asked about whipping one up for this story, and she agreed to make it not just for LA but as part of her repertoire. And that means anyone can now have this cake.
3360 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, valerieconfections.com.
Fulfilled Japanese Pastries
For something completely out of the ordinary, how about an interactive wedding cake? Well, not exactly a cake. Fulfilled owner Susumu Tsuchihashi and his staff bring their griddles to you to make the layers of traditional Japanese sweet imagawa-yaki—a waffle-like pastry with various fillings—and construct a cake on the spot. Some of the most popular varieties include the Sweet Geisha (adzuki bean with optional mochi), the Harajuku Monkey (banana and Nutella) and the Karaoke Kitty (strawberry, cream cheese and Ghirardelli white chocolate). As a very hip finish, they top the cake with a traditional Japanese topper. Cool, original...and very memorable.
9405 S. Santa Monica Blvd., 310-860-0776, Beverly Hills, fulfilledpastries.com.