Business and Operations
By michelle brisebois
By michelle brisebois
It’s a good time to be in the wedding business – the demographics speak for themselves.
It’s a good time to be in the wedding business – the demographics speak for themselves. Statistically, people tend to wed for the first time in their late 20s and, thanks to the Echo Boom (children born to baby boomers in the late 1980s and early ’90s), lots of Canadians are entering into their prime years for marrying.
Weddings are influenced heavily by style shifts, so staying abreast of what’s being talked about is vital if you want to have a strong wedding business. Baked goods have become an even bigger piece of the wedding celebration in recent years, so as you work with couples while they plan their impending nuptials, here are a few trends to keep in mind.
Elegance is back
The “topsy-turvy” wedding cakes are phasing out in favour of a more elegant presentation. It’s a little more Grace Kelly, a little less Lady Gaga.
“Cakes often take their cues from fashion,” says Bonnie Gordon, owner/operator of the Bonnie Gordon School of Cake Decorating and Design in Toronto.
“We’re seeing a shift to a more natural look for the wedding cake. At the Golden Globe Awards you saw dress after dress of beautiful lines with a few ruffles.”
Actresses at the awards wore little jewelry, suggesting a more understated tone and manner.
“To me, the dresses were all like walking cakes,” Gordon says.
“I haven’t had a request for a topsy-turvy wedding cake for more than a year,” concurs Kyla Eaglesham of Madeleines, Cherry Pie and Ice Cream, also in Toronto. “I still get asked to do them for birthdays but wedding cakes are definitely becoming more chic.”
Flavour strives for mass appeal
When Dr. Burke on the hit TV show Grey’s Anatomy waxed poetic about how unique and temperamental red velvet cake was (comparing it to his bride-to-be), couples in the United States made it a top pick for their wedding cake.
“We don’t get so many requests for red velvet here,” Eaglesham says. “Couples do want a cake that guests will enjoy, and that’s a tall order with so many people in attendance.
“We’ve created a cake with five layers all in different flavours. They include chocolate, lemon, cassis, vanilla and red velvet – each with a corresponding filling to match the flavour and colour of the layer.
“The five layers look beautiful when they’re cut. This allows us to keep the whimsy and novelty offered by the topsy-turvy cakes but to hide it on the inside, letting the external cake remain elegant – not competing for attention with the bride.”
Says Gordon: “Vanilla is still the most popular flavour for wedding cakes. It’s imperative that it be a really good vanilla, though. Red velvet cakes often require a lot of food colouring and people don’t want additives, so while there are some requests for red velvet, vanilla still has the strongest mass appeal.”
Cupcakes holding strong
The past several years have seen cupcake trees become very popular in place of traditional wedding cakes and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Cupcakes offer couples a way to incorporate a bit of whimsy and elegance at the same time, and with Martha Stewart featuring this trend, it’s been given the stamp of approval.
Cupcakes also allow a couple to offer their guests different flavours, addressing what appears to be a recurring theme: trying to please everyone.
“Cupcakes are still popular,” Gordon says. “Some people don’t want a wedding cake, so cupcakes are an option. I often suggest including a stand to feature a six-inch round cake for the top so the couple has something to cut for the photos.”
Eaglesham points out that how cupcakes are presented at the wedding banquet can really make or break the impact.
“While cupcakes give couples a way to offer many cake flavours, I do strongly suggest to them that they keep the colour of the icing consistent so the overall effect is clean and elegant,” she says.
Nature provides the inspiration
Environmental issues are very much influencing design in many sectors, and baked goods are no exception.
“Nature is really inspiring some of the cake designs we do,” Eaglesham says. “Cherry blossoms and silver leaf are being requested more frequently. It’s almost a Narnia-like feel.”
Gordon points out that less is more these days when it comes to the custom cakes her company designs.
“Shabby-chic and a natural look are key trends to think of now.”
Gordon cites the clothing chain Anthropologie as a great visual representation of the kind of barefoot luxury she’s seeing represented in wedding cake design trends.
“The wedding cake is no longer something the caterer adds on to dinner,” she says. “The cake represents the client and is a stand-alone focal point.”
Macarons are hot
These light meringue-based cookies can adorn the cake, giving guests two desserts in one. Some have traced its French emergence to the arrival of Catherine de’ Medici with her Italian pastry chefs in tow when she arrived to marry Henry II.
“French macarons on a cake as a decorative element are definitely an emerging trend,” Gordon says.
“Painted macarons are shown on cakes now. As people travel and are exposed to what’s going on in places like France, they start to ask for it,” Eaglesham adds.
Brightly coloured macarons by Ladurée were prominently featured in Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette.
Baked goods as favours?
Many couples are electing to give sweets as their wedding favours instead of trinkets that collect dust.
“It was traditional to save a portion of the cake in the freezer for the first anniversary but we tell them to come back for their first-year celebration and we’ll make them an anniversary cake,” says Gordon. “It’s a great idea, as it gives you a chance to remind them of your wonderful baked goods.”
“We see requests for candied almonds as bonbonnieres (little gifts),” says Eaglesham. “Almonds are seen as healthy, so they’re well received.”
Small cupcakes and truffles also make great wedding favours, she adds.
Gordon sees chocolate as a big trend in other countries right now. She also feels it’s poised to gain momentum in Canada and the United States.
“Other countries have chocolate lounges, cafes and cocktails. There’s emphasis on single-origin chocolate too,” she says.
Eaglesham agrees that ingredient origin is a key trend, citing the movement toward eating local as one to watch. “Clients do ask about ingredients. Sometimes you have to remind them of where lemons really do come from,” she says with a chuckle. “A simple butter cream icing made with locally produced butter can be a real delighter.”
The arrival of spring and summer means lots of weddings ready to feature a variety of cakes and baked goods. The stars have never been more aligned for our industry to thrive in this sector.
With a little innovation and a firm handle on the trends, your baked goods can be part of the wedding and, hopefully in the years to come, the marriage, too.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in helping companies grow their brands and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.