If you’re in the market for a wedding cake, the Chefs for Equality fundraiser recently held by the Human Rights Campaign was the place to be, as pastry chefs from across the D.C. region created multi-tiered colorful confections to celebrate marriage equality.
While several of the cakes on display were rainbow-hued extravaganzas, many of the chefs also offered elegant and unique wedding cakes that any happy couple would want to share with their guests. The focus of the event was on Virginia, since HRC is targeting that state to pass marriage equality legislation, imbuing the cakes with real local flavor, from Virginia peanuts and strawberries to decorations such as bright red cardinals, Virginia’s state bird, or dogwood blossoms, the state flower, all crafted from sugar.
Padua Player, executive pastry chef of SugaChef who has also competed on Food Network’s “Sweet Genius,” veered away from a literal Virginia-themed dessert when crafting a chic six-tiered cake for Susan Gage Caterers covered in gold fondant with a hand-applied abstract pattern.
“This was my third year making a cake for this event and I wanted to do something different, a little more avant garde, couture and high-end,” Player says. “You’re definitely not going to see that cake at your friend’s wedding.”
Just about to open her new bakery RareSweets at CityCenterDC near Gallery Place, pastry chef Meredith Tomason was similarly inspired to take a different approach with her menswear-inspired four-tiered cake with a pinstripe fondant and dozens of handmade buttons scattered artfully across the cake.
“We decided to come up with a fictitious couple to use as inspiration and to help us add personality to the cake,” Tomason says. “Our happy fictitious twosome were a couple of gentlemen from Virginia who were very much into food, cigars and men’s fashion. The subtle shimmer of the buttons added a bit of drama and celebration to the cake, while the color scheme kept things masculine and elegant.”
Both Player and Tomason say that choosing a wedding cake is an opportunity for a couple to reflect their personalities, both as individuals and as a duo, with Tomason noting, “Your cake is one of the last impressions you get to make on your guests and it is one of the things you will remember most about your big day.”
Player suggests that couples begin by thinking about their guests — by addressing any food allergies — and then allow each layer to have a distinct flavor that tells a story about the couple, being sure that the flavors complement each other, such as citrus and berry, or chocolate and almond. Some flavors to avoid? Player says lemon and chocolate together “is a big no-no” and Tomason finds that mint, though delicious with chocolate, can be tough to pair with other flavors.
Most of all, both chefs see a wedding cake as something that should be memorable and timeless, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.
“I’m gay myself,” says Player, “and gay people don’t want a rainbow cake — just a beautiful cake. A cake decorated with a rainbow flag may be fun for a party, but not for a wedding.”
Tomason agrees, saying ,“We want to create the cake of your dreams, but also a cake that represents you in the best way possible.”
You may want to consider a cake that honors the culture of each family, such as pairing tropical and European flavors, or decorations that reflect a favorite vacation spot or shared hobbies. Player has even made a wedding cake once that was an exact replica of the wedding cake of the parents of one member of the couple.
“That was a nice way to honor the parents,” Player says. “It was a very old-school cake, but created a nice moment for the family.”
Cautioning that some couples can be more concerned about pleasing their guests than themselves, Tomason reminds her clients that ultimately this cake is about them.
“I think it can be difficult for couples to agree on one perfect flavor for their wedding cake. Look beyond what’s plain, simple and safe. Live it up, pick something fun, flavorful and exciting — then you will see more of your guests eating their cake and fueling up before they hit the dance floor.”
Kristen Hartke is managing editor of Edible DC and writes about cocktails at goodbooze.wordpress.com.