Think of dessert at a wedding and you get a pretty iconic image: the wedding cake. Tall as the flower girl! Frosting thicker than your ring finger! And inside, endless bits of fruit; oozing berry syrup; maybe (we’ve all been to these weddings) some Jell-O.
The wedding cake has, in one form or another, been a celebratory staple for centuries. In its earliest form, in Roman times, it consisted of simple barley bread which the groom broke in half above his bride’s head; throughout the years it has evolved into the expensive, expansive, and complicated monstrosity we must devour.
When a food’s around that long, people are going to get tired of it sooner or later. Foregoing the wedding cake for something cheaper or smaller is nothing new, but now a whole industry is growing around the folks who can’t stand to see one more triple-decker fondant work of art. So whether you just got a ring and you’re hoping to do something unconventional or you’re just tired of wedding cakes in general, let’s look at some of the options available to today’s bride and groom:
Think brownies can’t be glamorous and celebratory? Think again. Any baker worth his (or her) confectioner’s sugar can create a wonderfully complex, tasty brownie. It’s not all Betty Crocker with vanilla ice cream; imagine thick brownies laced with caramel and macadamia nuts, dark chocolate squares dotted by molten white chips, or skillfully-sculpted brownie bowls filled with vanilla gelato and topped with shredded chocolate. Yum.
Ever been to a wedding where that majestic, head-high cake was wheeled into the kitchen “to be cut and served?” Ever noticed, then, that the served cake tasted suspiciously like what you’d pick up at your local Costco? Congratulations; you’ve tasted the bait-and-switch of rental cake. The process works like so: you go to a website and pick a cake. The site sends you an elaborate mockup, covered in real fondant and containing one real slice for the bride and groom to eat. Make a big show of consuming this slice, really sell it, and then wheel that beautiful cake into the kitchen. Then just cut and serve any old cake and mail your rental back the next day. It ain’t exactly classy, but it’s certainly cost-effective.
What’s more elegant than a pastry? A plate of pastries. And what’s more elegant than one plate? A whole bunch of ‘em, stacked in a gorgeous tier, can make a hulking, monolithic wedding cake look like some lumbering dessert monster. Your guests will go crazy for the pretty little things, but bear in mind: classy pastries fetch classy prices, and if you’ve got a ravenous clan of a family, it’s not an efficient way to spend your money.
Not a pastry fan? Tier mousses. Or puddings. Or—well, virtually anything, as long as it looks pretty on a tier. Cupcakes are a favorite.
Few people in the world can resist the allure of taking something yummy and dipping it into something yummier. There lies the appeal of fondue. Imagine how impressed the guests will be when servers wheel molten chocolate to their tables—and how good you’ll feel about eating all that “healthy” fruit the next day! Of course, as the guest list expands, the logistics grow complex; how do you keep chocolate molten for thirty tables?
In the end, your choice of dessert is only limited by two things: cost and lack of imagination. Whatever confection you want on that table—be it ginger snaps, crème brulee, or pure chocolate—can look as beautiful and memorable as your wedding requires. It just takes a little creativity!