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Let Them Eat Cupcakes

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You could call me a professional wedding attender – I’ve already been to five this year, and I’ve got five more to go. One might also say that participating in so much matrimonial merrymaking has made me a bit of an “amateur expert” on how modern weddings look, sound and taste. At least in my circle, the trend seems to be toward tweaking beloved traditions to make them uniquely your own.

For example, of the five weddings I have already attended, only one had a normal (three tiers, all white) wedding cake. Instead, my friend Melissa, who’s not a fan of cake, opted for a decadent dessert station laden with freshly baked cookies, brownies, lemon bars and pecan squares. It was demolished by delighted guests. For the photo op, she and her new husband cut into their own personal favorite dessert, a green tea cheesecake decorated with air-brushed images of the two of them at the CrossFit gym they own. Not exactly a “Town & Country” scenario, but so much more “them” than stacks of marzipan or fondant.

My friend Blythe does like cake, but elected to forgo the classic version in favor of the popular tiered stand of mini-cupcakes, in six different flavors. She also provided little cardboard boxes just in case guests were too full after dinner but wanted to take a cupcake home.

My friend Susan and her husband also like cake – very specific kinds of cake from a lot of different bakeries in Los Angeles, to be exact. So they had their pastry chef for their Palm Springs wedding produce exact replicas of five different varieties and present them in a cake buffet. My friend Merriah also did a buffet, but swapped cake for fruit pies – her favorite dessert and the perfect sweet treat for her Fourth of July backyard barbeque wedding.

Four different dessert choices at four different weddings held within months of each other, but all indicative of a newer trend that seems to be sweeping through the wedding world: serving creative desserts in addition to or even in place of the traditional wedding cake. You could select your sweets to match your wedding theme or colors, to honor your ethnic heritage or simply because it’s your favorite dessert. In a quick online survey, I found weddings that skipped the cake and instead served donut towers, cream puffs, individual Jell-O “cakes,” cannolis, baklava and chocolate fountains. According to Cheryl Arme, co-owner of Chocolate Sinsations Chocolate Fountains & Wedding Cakes in Phoenix, Ariz., although the majority of couples choose to provide the fountain in addition to a traditional wedding cake, about five percent of the time it is served in place of a traditional wedding cake.

The options really are endless. At FIG Catering in Chicago, Ill., engaged couples can select from a veritable smorgasbord of dessert options that break away from the cake cliché. One of the most popular choices is the pie buffet, featuring flavors like Old Fashioned Apple Pie, Blueberry-Curacao, Peach-Ginger, Southern Sweet Potato, Dark Chocolate Chiffon and Coconut-Rum Cream. FIG co-owner and pastry chef Molly Schemper typically advises couples to go with three types –one fruit, one chocolate and one cream – for a variety of flavors and textures. One whole pie in each flavor is placed on a decorative stand; then, after the couple has their first cut, the caterers slice up extra pies and place the pieces in front of each whole pie so guests can easily grab and go.

And then there are the couples who opt to have a small cake for cutting, but supplement it with a creative candy bar, says Schemper. A candy bar might include an assortment of truffles (Chambord-Raspberry, Coconut Rum, Mint Filled, and Candied Bacon) caramels, turtles, mini cookies and cupcakes in specialty flavors such as Lemon Curd Filled with Seven Minute Frosting, S’mores with Marshmallow Frosting and Tres Leches with Cajeta Whipped Cream.

“We’ve definitely seen increasing interest in alternatives to cake for weddings,” Schemper says. “I think there is a little less formality these days and couples are realizing that they can have whatever dessert they like – not only will they enjoy it more, it adds another personal touch to the festivities.”

You can still take the first cut, bite or dip, and you get to skip the year-old freezer-burned cake.

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