A wedding cake no longer has to be a big fondant-filled spectacular – there's a trend towards pared-back "naked" cakes, as well as the unconventional: think dessert stations and cheese towers. There are even gluten-free and vegan options that can have a blockbuster effect at the reception. Here are Sydney dessert-creators that can make something as memorable as your walk down the aisle.
Adriano Zumbo predicts that he has made 15,000 croquembouche orders in the past decade – including a 250-ball tower (the biggest ever completed). The showstopping dessert – which involves filling choux pastry with creme patisserie, dipping the choux ball into caramel and building up the conical extravaganza, one meticulous ball at a time – can take up to five hours. Isomalt butterflies are also added on top. So is it hard to deliver these intricate pastry towers to weddings? Not really, Zumbo says. "As long as you keep it flat and very still; also you need to keep these babies cool!" he says. "So winter is the perfect time to order a croquembouche for your wedding." Priced from $105 for a 35-piece croquembouche.
Various locations, adrianozumbo.com
The choc-fudge Karl cake by Andy Bowdy Pastry. Photo: Supplied
Andy Bowdy Pastry
"We're disappointed that everyone enjoyed the cake so much, there's none left." That's a common "complaint" that Andrew Bowden receives from wedding clients. It has led to brides ordering an extra cake that doesn't require sharing with guests. For ceremonies, he offers the Jasper (a malted chocolate cake, with Milo mousse and crushed Maltesers first created for his brother's birthday) and the Karl (a take on the Snickers bar that Bowden initially baked for his mate Karl's wedding). While people request strawberry mousse, passionfruit bavarois and other flavours, the chef recommends the sturdy chocolate cakes for long endurance events like weddings. Pricing from $390 for a 50-portion cake.
Andy Bowdy Pastry is based in Rosebery, andybowdypastry.com
Black Star Pastry
Cupid has definitely inspired Christopher Thé – Black Star Pastry's owner has created signature cakes in honour of walks down the aisle. The popular strawberry and watermelon cake (possibly one of the most Instagrammed desserts around) was originally for a friend's reception, while the raspberry lychee cake "also started life as a wedding cake for one of our Newtown locals", he says. Thé was once asked to make a sausage-dog-shaped cake, but Black Star Pastry's most ordered creations are more typically romantic – like the Persian orange cake with figs while the strawberry watermelon cake with rose-scented cream "is our most popular wedding cake", he says. Pricing from $46 for 10-portion cake.
Various locations, blackstarpastry.com.au
Dell Khalil has produced traditional white-on-white wedding cakes as well as out-of-the-ordinary requests (featuring "drunk couples", pets incorporated as figurines, superheroes peering from the tiers and an edible wheel splashing chocolate "mud" onto a cake). While "dirtying" a cake with chocolate mud made her feel nervous ("usually we take care to make sure the cake is pristine, so when I took the spatula and loaded it with chocolate and splashed it at the white wedding cake, I was shaking," she says), she's also adept at elegant touches, such as delicate ruffles, sugar flowers and edible sequins. She can work on an epic scale, too – having once created a 10-level cake that weighed 30 kilograms. A single-tier cake starts from $200.
Shop 1, 2-4 Stamford Avenue, Ermington, 02 9858 5888, cakesalon.com.au
A Faye Cahill Cake Design showstopper at Curzon Hall. Photo: Lucy Leonardi
Faye Cahill Cake Design
At this busy studio, popular requests include cakes replicating the lace from the bride's gown (complete with sugar blooms and pearlised finishes), custom wedding toppers (one order had a beefcake groom "weightlifting" the bride above his head) and unfrosted or semi-frosted styles that work well for less formal weddings and beachy locations. "I have been doing cakes for 23 years, so I've seen a lot in that time!" Faye Cahill says. She once made a cake shaped like a dead horse – apparently inspired by a beer the couple enjoyed, and has even created a 10-level extravaganza that soared up to two metres. A two-tier cake starts from $440.
104 Addison Road, Marrickville, 02 9568 3165, fayecahill.com.au
After a gluten-free option that's still spectacular and fun? Try a tower architecturally built out of MakMak's macarons (in flavours from smoked vanilla & pecan praline to peach pie) or a cake-size version of a macaron (where layers of macaron sheets are sandwiched with ganache, caramel or buttercream and enrobed in glaze, creating options such as Nutella & salted caramel and strawberry rose & almond praline). The cakes are then adorned with edible flowers and (of course) bonus macarons – and can be styled to suit the wedding's theme. Pricing from $120 for a 10-portion cake; $345 for a 70-piece tower (including stand hire, assembly and delivery).
601 King Street, Newtown, 02 8095 0045, shop.makmak.com.au
Outsmart hard-to-please guests with a dessert bar at the wedding. Photo: MY Media Sydney
Merivale dessert buffets
If cake feels unadventurous, try a dessert buffet. Merivale hosts weddings across its various city venues and you can ask for a well-styled dessert bar option that might compete with the bride and groom for camera action. Unique elements – such as personalised cakes and customised lollies – can be incorporated. "Almost any theme can be integrated in the display and the dessert items can either be a substitute for a traditional plated dessert, act as supper while guests are dancing the night away or simply be an edible bonbonniere for guests to package up and take home," event manager Annabel Baker says. POA, given the unique nature of each booking.
Various locations, merivale.com.au
My Little Panda Kitchen
Annabelle McMillan's cakes might be vegan, but her pared-back, "anti-fondant" style appeals to clients beyond that dietary demographic. She stylishly draws in native flowers and "veganised" elements such as toffee shards, dairy-free buttercreams and dehydrated fruits – such as stunning orange slices that look like stained-glass windows. Think salted caramel cake with raspberry coulis filling, caramel drip and vegan honeycomb rather than drab joyless affairs. "I love that what I do isn't about 'health veganism', it's about ... what we're used to cakes tasting like, but without the associated animal products and cruelty," she says. Her cakes start from $40 for mini size.
My Little Panda Kitchen is based in Marrickville, mylittlepandakitchen.com
Petal Met Sugar
"We had a request for a hanging chandelier cake," Angela Wong says. "It caused us many sleepless nights as we had to create the whole hanging mechanism!" Besides conquering that dilemma with business partner, Elsa Li, the pair has also produced a blockbuster cake that fed 450 guests. Wong is a florist and Li is a patissier, so it's no surprise that this store is full of bloom-filled spectaculars. The flavours are stunning, too – think chocolate with earl grey ganache, carrot and walnut with dulce de leche buttercream and hazelnut sponge layered with vanilla buttercream, milk chocolate ganache and praline feuillitine. Prices start from $120 to $800.
Ground Floor, 68 Sir John Young Crescent, Woolloomooloo, 9360 6226, petalmetsugar.com.au
Salt Meats Cheese
Don't have a sweet tooth? Order a tower of cheeses to stack as a "cake" for the big day. The concept is so versatile that, "we had a bride who purchased some wheels and had them shipped overseas for her wedding", says events manager Amanda Merlo. "We have had requests for cheeses with sentimental value – perhaps from the country where a couple first met or even where they were born." Each customised cheese tower can be styled with fruit or bouquet-matching flowers - just watch out for brie or options that may spoil in the heat. Wheels are individually wrapped, ready for the caterer to assemble. "Cut cheese can then be arranged on a share table or even organised on platters for each table." Pricing starts from $350 for a tower that will feed 30-40 people.
Various locations, saltmeatscheese.com.au
Bill Penrose has been a pastry chef for 29 years and he has seen many trends cycle through. Currently, there's great demand for his rustic "naked" and "semi-naked" cakes with fresh-cut flowers, garden herbs, gold leaf and chocolate drizzle dripping over tiers. His range is impressive – he once produced a three-tiered traditional cake that featured the zombie apocalypse on the back, complete with bloodied limbs, as well as an Audi R8 sports car you could eat. He now has an order for a 150-doughnut tower to be suspended on a swing from the ceiling of a boat. Prices start from $555 for a two-tiered cake.
Sweet Connoisseur is based in Wahroonga, 02 9487 1119, sweetconnoisseur.com.au