Bakers Journal

Icing on the cake

February 18, 2009
By Brian Hartz

We might still be mired in winter, but with the spring and summer
months approaching, the season for celebrating graduations and weddings
is nigh, and that means customized cakes will be at the top of
everyone’s shopping lists.

Quick tips, new trends and hot ideas for the finishing touches

 Peacock cake


We might still be mired in winter, but with the spring and summer months approaching, the season for celebrating graduations and weddings is nigh, and that means customized cakes will be at the top of everyone’s shopping lists.
However, celebratory events are increasingly turning to alternatives such as cupcakes and cookies, and that means we’re seeing traditional cake decorating skills, techniques and materials being applied to these smaller confections.
We asked some experts to comment on these emerging trends, as well as new ideas in traditional wedding cake decorating, in an attempt to help you capitalize on what your customers will be looking for this year and beyond.


Kyla Eaglesham, owner of Madeleines, Cherry Pie and Ice Cream in Toronto (, 416-537-3131):
“The brownie will be the cupcake of 2009. But a return to classic and simple styles seems to be the trend. Last year we made cupcakes for U.S. election night parties, stagette parties and holiday gift boxes. We did a large order for a 50th birthday party of assorted liqueur-flavoured cupcakes with gold leaf. We’ve been making a lot of mini cupcakes – 1½ inches in diameter – in bright colours, and chocolate icing is always a big favourite.”

“In cookie decorating, we find that people are loving the ‘do it yourself’ method. Few people have the time to make gingerbread, let it chill, bake it and cool it before decorating it. They appreciate that we bake it fresh for them using quality ingredients and a delicious recipe and they can decorate it either at home by buying a kit, or here at the shop at one of our kitchen open houses. We offer our customers a place to decorate, the tools and icing/sequins/sprinkles/candy, etc., and charge a flat fee for six seasonal theme cookies. It is quite popular, especially at Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter.”

Mini cupcakes for a wedding by Kyla Eaglesham of Madeleines, Cherry Pie and Ice Cream in Toronto.


Bonnie Gordon, owner of Bonnie Gordon School of Confectionary Arts in Toronto (, 416-440-0333):
“Wedding cakes have been transformed from overly sweet stacked white cakes separated by plastic pillars to one-of-a-kind couture creations, and the cupcake, once considered a special childhood treat, is now seen as the perfect single serving indulgence dressed up and showcased in specialty shops across the country.”

“Businesses specializing in wedding and celebration cakes have to keep up with new design trends to stay current as clients are looking at cake images on industry websites, watching the creative process unfold on TV  shows and looking through industry-related wedding and celebrity magazines for the perfect cake.”

“To keep current, decorators have to upgrade their skills and become familiar with the many new decorating tools and techniques now being used by trend-setting cake designers. Just as colours and styles change yearly in the fashion industry so do techniques and styles in wedding cake design. Older styles are being reinvented with a modern twist.”

“The look of cascading floral bouquets or flower dividers between tiers has been replaced with stunning handcrafted single blossoms strategically placed  to showcase their beauty. Heavily piped decorations are rarely seen and clients are low looking for more graphic designs influenced by textiles, paper and ceramics. Sugar artists are recreating these patterns by hand-painting them directly onto cake surfaces or recreating them out of sugarpaste and icing. Many are now using edible photocopy paper to perfectly recreate these patterns onto cake surfaces.”

“The Canadian market has embraced cupcakes, and this phenomenon continues to grow along with the public desire for small affordable treats that eat like a cake and can be served at any special occasion from children’s birthday parties to high-end weddings. Specialty shops now sell or rent beautifully crafted cupcake stands along with their products. These unique stands are a distant relative to the inexpensive plastic or industrial models once the only alternative on the market and have been created to  to showcase cupcakes while maximizing surface display area.”

“The popularity of cupcakes makes sense as clients can choose from a multitude of flavours and toppings, they are affordable and can be custom designed to suit any occasion. Decorations can easily be matched to any occasion by adding colour and styles can range from simple elegant swirls, most popular in cupcake shops, to bouquets of handcrafted flowers or custom designed decorations. For those seeking unique and personalized cupcakes; anything is possible in the hands of a talented sugar artist.”

Austin D’souza, national technical consultant, Dawn Foods Canada (, 416-233-5851):
“The market is trending toward small portion size, lighter creams and greater nutrient value to the cake through fresh fruits, fruit toppings, trans fat-free ingredients, natural sugars and low sodium. However, cakes and cupcakes continue to be an indulgence.”

“Cupcakes as an alternative to wedding cakes has been around for a while, but in recent years we have seen it grow in popularity. Cupcakes provide handling convenience and can also be customized to specific requirements. From a cost point of view cupcakes are effective, too. This helps reduce wastage. Given these advantages that cupcakes have and the current economic situation, cupcakes might see a growing acceptance.”

“Small portion-sized individual dessert style cakes with a variety of exotic fruits and flavourings are also expected to be well received [in 2009]. There is also a trend towards using lighter creams and mousse fillings as compared to the traditional ones.”

“In the cookie segment there is a growing acceptance of whole grain, trans fat-free, natural ingredients and fortified products as cookies cater more to the younger population. Cookies packaged in single serve sizes are preferred.”
“In decorations, sprinkles are popular and directed towards the occasion.
Rainbow sprinkles are children’s favourite. In styles we are seeing a trend towards managed portion size like the cupcakes, and in flavourings there is an increased appetite for exotic fruits and fruit toppings, chocolate, caramel and treasure-filled cupcakes (i.e., cupcakes baked with a filling). Cookies are trending towards gourmet style with chunky inclusions of chocolate, nuts, seeds and dry fruits. The chocolate chip cookie continues to be the all-time favourite.” / BJ

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