Sweet Alternatives to Wedding Cake

The wedding is over. The toasts have been made. The dinner has been served. So now it’s time to cut – the cupcake? Yes. As of late, couples getting married have been shying away from the traditional, ornate wedding cake and gravitating more and more toward smaller, more individual desserts. These bite-sized treats, while less remarkable in size, are no less in flavor, appearance or technique.

“Nothing’s in or out anymore,” declares Donna Bowling, wedding coordinator at Plehn’s Bakery. “The dessert can be whatever is personal to the bride and groom,” which means a couple’s options are nearly limitless. Out of Plehn’s, Bowling has taken wedding orders comprised solely of cobblers, of pies and tarts and even of doughnuts.

Bobbie Chitwood, a cake decorator at Plehn’s, is happy to create a masterpiece catered toward the taste of the bride and groom but often hears that couples who didn’t have a cake sometimes regret it. “That’s why with some of the displays we’ve done, we still have the traditional cake on the top,” Chitwood offers. “You still can be different with the doughnuts, the cookies the cupcakes – but then you still have that traditional little cake on top.”

Marguerite Schadt, co-owner of Heitzman Traditional Bakery and Deli has heard similar feedback from customers. “People, tradition-wise, still like to have a two-tiered cake for them to actually cut,” Schadt remarks. “And they’ll use that for themselves and the bridal party and for picture taking.” However, that doesn’t stop couples from mixing it up. From Heitzman, Schadt enjoys creating varied dessert options for weddings, offering customers chess bars, baklava and, her personal favorite, cannoli made with ricotta cheese and chocolate chips or pistachios.

“We’re a bakery, so it’s endless what we can do,” Schadt asserts. “It doesn’t have to stop at cake. It doesn’t have to stop at cookies! Make it fun.” Such fun can be had by mixing and matching three or four mini-desserts to create a conversation-starting dessert bar where guests can enjoy a variety of sweets. “I always try to tell them, ‘This is your all’s day. You all should pick out what you all want,’” she explains.

Jessica Haskell, owner of Sweet Surrender Dessert Cafe, similarly celebrates the individuality of the bride and groom with her desserts. “I love that this movement is more individual and let’s people show off how unique they are,” Haskell exudes. From Sweet Surrender, those looking for non-cake wedding desserts can find such indulgences as bourbon balls, individual tiramisus and chocolate chip cookie “shooters” complete with a short glass of milk.

“You can really tailor make desserts for people,” Haskell argues. “Like if they want to work in different colors, like with French macarons, we can do that.” Haskell is also glad to get creative with the bride and groom because it allows her and her company, which is usually known for its cake, to exhibit its other strengths. “I like this trend because it gives us a chance to show off what we do that isn’t cake!” she exclaims.

Melissa Shuff, owner of Louisvillicious, which takes orders from its commissary kitchen but does not have a storefront bakery, similarly relishes the opportunity to be creative when taking a wedding order. “I think it’s fun because you can come to me with what flavors you like and I can combine something or make something new,” she describes. “I don’t have a set menu for desserts. Cakes are pretty set, but with mini-desserts, I like to experiment and try new things.” Shuff’s Louisvillicious offers mini salted caramel apple pies, s’mores cake pops and creamsicle shooters in addition to their dazzling wedding cakes.

“If somebody really likes dessert or if they’re more of a foodie, they’ll go more the dessert bar route in addition to a cake,” Shuff explains of client preferences. Whereas older couples tend to prefer a cake, younger bride-and-grooms, as Shuff has found, are usually more open to a dessert bar. Nonetheless, tradition – or the bride’s mother – often wins out. “Sometimes people will get the dessert bar and then also a smaller two-tiered cake so they still have the cake cutting tradition,” Shuff maintains.

Regardless of whether you want something as wacky as a bounty of doughnuts as a substitution for a wedding cake or as safe as a cupcake display topped with a two-tiered cake, these four bakeries have something to offer couples willing to think a little outside the box. Maybe instead of posing for the photographer with a wedding cake, you want to take a selfie with a mini pie. Well, even then, you have options. VT