Grooms Take the Cake!

Growing up in the Midwest, I knew nothing of a Groom’s cake until I watched Steel Magnolias for the first time. In that movie, the groom had a red velvet cake decorated to look like a giant Armadillo. It made no sense to me at the time, I just figured he was odd , like the rest of the  characters in the movie. In reality, it was probably one of the finer points of the movie that was missed on me  because at the time I knew nothing of grooms cakes, Southern Weddings or Armadillos.

The Grooms cake traditionally was a southern custom, the Armadillo is an animal indigenous to the southern part of the United States and  the red velvet cake has always been popular in the south . Add all of this together and you have a ‘bleeding’ Armadillo cake to represent the true southern spirit of the movie.  That only took me 20 years to figure out.
Since that movie came to the  big screen in 1989 there has been a resurgence of Grooms cakes spreading all the way to Buckingham Palace this past spring when Prince William used his groom’s cake to honor the memory of his mother, the late Princess Diana. This long overlooked tradition has made a full comeback! Once seen as an unnecessary expense, it is now a colorful expression of personality and in some cases (such as Prince William) a way to remember a loved one.

The Groom’s Cake is made for the guests to enjoy at either the rehearsal dinner or served alongside the  traditional wedding cake at the reception. With today’s technology and the talents of a great baker, you may have a cake so picturesque and  so artistic that no one will believe it is  a cake, much less want to be the first to cut into it. Since there are no cake cutting customs associated with the groom’s cake you may want to leave it out for the guests to marvel at for as long as possible and then box the cake slices and serve them as edible take-home favors, adding another opportunity to be creative with the packaging. Legend has it that if single women sleep with a slice of it under their pillow they will dream of their future husband.

Although the bride may also have a hand in design and creation of this cake – it is up to each individual couple to decide who handles this cake and how involved each party will be . If the bride is giving the groom this cake as a gift, she may single handedly select and design the cake for him. Realistically it is best not to get too cutesy – if you are going full-out groom’s cake it should be a reflection of his own personal masculine taste. There are no restrictions on style, shape or flavor. Rich dark chocolate, red velvet and cheesecakes are the more popular choices. The groom usually selects something that represents his family, or life or hobbies.  This is the one time when the groom can have complete control of something wedding-related. I say let him have at it but, just in case – you might want to have a private conversation with the groom and your pastry chef or baker  outlining what you both define as unacceptable. My advice is to  stay away from anything questionable. No one wants to eat a cake that looks like a dead fish no matter how much your future husband enjoys fishing, ditto for all animals portrayed as dead on a cake.

Whether he is an avid gamer, Trekkie, Wine connoisseur or Cubs (or Sox) fan,  be sure that your groom has his own cake for everyone to enjoy and keep this lovely tradition alive for future generations!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Cake Toppers – The Latest & Greatest Trends

I got all worked up yesterday looking at pictures of awful wedding cakes. In addition to the awful cakes, I ran across some very disturbing cake toppers. By the end of the day I realized the little plastic bride and groom were not the only options available anymore and thought it would  be fun to delve into this a little further because really, once I get on a subject,  it’s hard for me to re-focus until it has run it’s course.  What I found really lifted my spirits. In addition to all other forms of wedding decor, the wedding cake topper has become one of the most interesting ways a  couple can express their creativity at their wedding.

Cake toppers are traditionally a miniature model of a bride and groom sitting on top of a wedding cake. This trend began around the 1920’s and has been a staple ever since. Cake toppers could arguably be called one of the main attractions at weddings since,  after a bride´s dress, the wedding cake often takes center stage. How do you choose the right one for you?

Two weeks ago we were awed by William & Kate’s massive 500+ lb cake at the Royal Wedding. Although I can’t seem to find one piece of information about the actual cake topper, it appears to be a simple wreath of sorts, made of smaller flowers, the same kind as in the bridal bouquet. After doing a little more research it seems it is not a truly unique as I thought. It appears that members of the royal family always have a flower themed cake topper. Of course, Princess Diana had a much larger one, almost an entire floral arrangement  but, that was the 80’s when bigger was better. …and it was a state affair, after all.

In Modern American Wedding culture it is perfectly acceptable for the bride and groom to accent the top of their cake in any form they feel suits their personality as a couple. But, so we really need cake toppers depciting arguments, resistance or intimate moments? Although it’s not my cup of tea,  more power to you for wanting everyone to have a  good laugh at your expense (they will).

The latest trend in cake toppers is monogramed spikes. They are called spikes because they have large prongs that dig deep into the cake so they don’t fall over due to the weight, like big birthday candles sometimes do. Not to worry, you can get very creative with these as well. If monograms aren’t your choice, there are also some beautifully shaped hearts, snowflakes or crowns. Not sure I understand the crown thing but  its your day, right?

There are also some very modern takes on the traditional bride and groom cake topper. For example,  the bride and groom Mii. If you aren’t familiar with video games, a Mii is an avatar of the Wii game systems that you style to have your appearance. Very clever and whimsical.  Another great cake topper for a fun-loving couple would be one constructed of Legos. In reality there are hundreds of styles to choose from. Bride and Groom sports fans, skeleton bride and groom, Star Wars, Zombies, Surfers, bobble-head, you name it. Decide if the top of your cake is the place you want to be this creative and go with it.

Of course you can never go wrong with the traditional bride and groom whether it’s Lladro, ceramic or even plastic. They are avaible in a variety of hair, gown and facial choices.

My only advice would be to get something you can save and cherish and will serve as a happy  reminder of the day. I would also add that you should consult with your baker to make sure it is something they are comfortable working with and will be easily integrated into the design.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Do it Yourself Weddings – don’t try this at home

I’ll admit it. I am an obsessive do-it-yourself-er. I am an amateur at some things and an expert at others. I can do just about anything given enough time and internet access or a library of books on the particular subject. I am also heavily opinionated about when to do it yourself and when to call in the professionals. There are just some things that are not a good idea. Weddings, in particular are one of those times.

The months, weeks and days leading up to your wedding are busy. Most women have to work and plan this event in their free time. There is barely time to sleep so taking on an extra task is unthinkable to most brides-to-be.

However, there are some couples faced with wanting or needing to cut costs so fervently that they decide to tackle the Do-It-Yourself wedding. Maybe they are just gluttons for punishment or they really do think they are capable. I’m not sure – but I can tell you this has more of the potential for disaster than asking Rosanne to sing the National Anthem.

DIY nightmare #1 -Bridesmaid Dresses. Sewing is easy, you get a pattern, cut it out, thread the needle and begin, right? NO. Sewing properly is an art form not to be taken lightly. Sewing delicate fabrics requires patience, skill and concentration. Unless you are a professional seamstress with your own studio filled with eager employees, do not attempt to make your own bridesmaid gowns. You will not only be disappointed when the gowns come out looking like a bad Home Ec project, you will also hate the pictures because they will magnify every poorly sewn detail. You also risk having bridesmaids who will never speak to you again.

#2 -Flowers. This has the potential to be a major catastrophe. Imagine staying up all night, the night before your wedding day clipping flower stems and ribbon-tying bouquets. That’s a best-case scenario and it goes downhill quickly from there. Ask yourself if you have a cooling system large enough to house the completed centerpieces and bouquets. You can’t put them in your refrigerator ta home because there are natural gases in food that will destroy the flowers. not to mentions flower arranging is very difficult and time consuming if done properly. Ask yourself if you will truly have time to enjoy your wedding week if every second of the last three days is spent focusing on flower pick up, purchasing and arranging only to wind up with an arrangement of half dead flowers. I doubt it.

#3 – Photo/Video. So you have decided to just put single use cameras on the table and let everyone take photos at the reception? Really? Maybe you handed a cam-corder to Uncle Bob and asked him to tape the whole thing. Maybe it would be a better idea to have everyone hold up their cell phones and snap random pictures out of focus with bad lighting. Or you could just have a courtroom sketch artist  depict the whole affair. Hire a photographer, even if it is just for an official portrait…. hire a photographer.

#4- Cake. Speaking from experience, decorating a cake is not easy. Martha Stewart seems to show up, squirt icing on the cake and it looks fantastic. The truth is that she had years of rigid training, attention to detail and only now after decades of hand-piping by herself in the confines of her own kitchen, she has a staff to handle this for her. Her staff has been trained and re-trained and practiced on more cakes than you can eat in a lifetime. In all fairness, they do make it look easy on TV. Don’t attempt to make your own cake. It took 5 weeks to complete the cake for William & Kate’s Royal Reception. 5 weeks of sugar flowers, 5 weeks of hand rolling  petals made of frosting to mirror an actual rose. Not to mention the added worry of transporting without dropping it. You would be better off buying a cheap cake at the grocery store than attempting to make one yourself. I’m not wrong about this.

In the end, it is the actual ceremony that matters the most but, why waste time and money trying to do it yourself only to have a fiasco weeks, hours or even minutes before the ceremony?

There are a few things you can do yourself. You can print or make  labels for bottles of wine as gifts, you can carefully arrange and/or wrap the favors that will be sent home, you can also cut and tie the netting or paper rice holders, if you are having rice thrown at your wedding. Other than that, I would advise against any attempt at handling these tasks yourself.

I won’t bore you with endless DIY disaster stories. I will share only one. A close friend of mine decided she would do her own hair and makeup, as well as the entire bridal party. They even went so far as to get together and do a practice run so she knew what everyone wanted. That’s a  lot to remember if you ask me. Anyway, fast forward to her wedding day when due to a traffic snafu she was literally putting on makeup right before she walked down the aisle. The bonus is that she was not familiar with photography-style  makeup so she and every bridesmaid looked comopletely washed out and borderline macabre. Big Mistake.

Hire professionals to have professional results. Visit to find a qualified, reputable, professional baker, florist, bridal salon or photographer in your area.

– Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

The Royal Fruitcake with Royal Icing

Details have been revealed about the Royal Wedding Cake! Or should I say cakes? Cake #1 – (the main cake) is being designed by  Fiona Cairns and it is described as a traditional, multi-layered fruitcake decorated with royal icing in the Joseph Lambeth method using cream and white. Cake #2 was requested by Prince William and is described as a chocolate biscuit cake by McVities, who has been baking for the royal family since 1893.   Two cakes is really not  excessive  considering  William’s mother and Father had 27 cakes at their reception in 1981.

That is a lot of information. To most of us here on the West side of the pond, it doesn’t really make sense. Fruitcake? Chocolate biscuit cake? What is going on? Where’s the fondant? What about buttercream? Forget everything you know about American wedding cakes for now and open your mind to some new, international  possibilities.

Fruitcake – I have to admit I was taken aback when I heard the words Royal wedding and fruitcake in the same sentence.  I remember the fruitcakes my mom used to get as gifts at Christmas and make us  eat a piece to be polite to whomever gave it to us.  No thanks.  Now I did a little research and it seems that the bastardized version of fruitcakes is like that of anything else… inferior. The fruitcake that William and Kate will be sharing with their guests is something we would consider ‘bread’ or, more appropriately,  a muffin.  Imagine a dried cranberry, apricot, almond, raisin muffin! Possibly infused with some kind of alcohol, brandy perhaps? Now, thats more like it! Add frosting? Yes, please!

Royal Icing is a pure white icing that dries to a smooth, hard, matte finish. It colors beautifully and is really the best frosting option when you need intricate piping or ornate scrollwork done. When you see those beautifully decorated, intricate cookies on the covers of magazines, they are decorated with royal icing. The application is similar to spreading room temperature butter over the entire cake.

Joseph Lambeth method- Who is Jospeh Lambeth?  No surprise here, the Lambeth method is very popular in Great Britain and has been around since Joseph introduce his first book in 1934. What makes this method unique is the use of over-piping to create lacy, floral and ornate patterns and is is easy to recognize. Imagine a  cake with piping and scroll-work. Now imagine you added a layer of piping on top of the piping and scrollwork. On top of that piping  and scroll-work you added thinner piping and even more details. The end result is a very 3-dimensional cake that has so much depth you wonder how deep the icing really is and if there is any cake at all. Between the fruitcake and the icing and considering it is multi-layered (probably 6 or 7 layers) I would imagine this cake is going to weigh well over 500 pounds, in weight … not currency.

Chocolate biscuit cake is a no-bake cake that is described as one of his childhood favorites. He shared this cake with his mother and grandmother for afternoon teas throughout his childhood. This is more of a “grooms cake” which, until now has strictly been an American custom, that will be served alongside the main cake. Back to the no-bake part since this is right up  my alley. I won’t go into the recipe details even thought it is so simple I could make a few of these without blinking. Just imagine breaking up a bunch of shortbread cookies and basically gluing them together with melted chocolate in a buttered cake mold. After it is removed from the mold, drizzle it with white, semi or milk chocolate ( or all three) and serve with tea. My only question is : Will they be serving seconds? YUM!

The price tag for both cakes has been reported as $80,000 GBP and is being covered by Prince Charles, personally. If your currency converter is broken, that is roughly $132,000 US for the two cakes. With a guest list for the casual afternoon reception totalling  1,900 guests that is about $70 per slice.

My best guess is that even the cakes will set new trends. American Brides and fruitcake? Anything could happen!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago