Did you know the #HostessWithTheMostest #cupcake is one of our most #popular #cupcakes? BOGO for #NationalChocolateCupcakeDay – what? http://ow.ly/i/nJGxE
A Brief History: 1989 to 2016
The eighties and nineties meant lots of fresh flowers, bridges, fountains, and plastic wedding party figurines on plastic stair steps. The cakes were large with most of the design inspiration coming out of the Wilton catalog. Buttercream was the only icing choice. Piping with swags and cornelli lace were required skills for our cake decorator. Like mullets, parachute pants, and Wham!, these trends have happily gone their way. God speed.
Things shifted in the early 2000s when Martha Stewart became a significant influence in wedding cake design. Pillars and the fountains disappeared. (thanks, Martha!) Cakes were “straight-stacked” with basket-weave buttercream, or heaven forbid, no icing at all! Clearly, Martha was ahead of her time on “naked cakes“, but vestiges of the 80s, Precious Moments figurines, still topped most wedding cakes. Two steps forward, one step back. Satellite cakes on acrylic stands, set at different levels were a favorite. On rare occasions, with rarer budgets, we saw design-heavy inspiration from Sylvia Weinstock, Colette Peters, or Margaret Braun brought by brides via that crazy new tool, known as the Internet. It was fun to make those cakes. Little did we know the mad skillz we got copying them were preparing us for the cake craze of the 2000s.
Starting around 2005, square tiers became more popular than the traditional round tiers. Often offset from each other; square tiers meant fresh flowers with votive candles went on the corners. Cake toppers changed from a collectible figurine to fresh flowers. (see ‘ya, Lladro!) Monogram toppers were just starting to make an appearance. Simplicity in piping took over from the old-fashioned-looking Wilton method. Much of our wedding cake catalog at that time was endless variations on dot patterns or simple scrolls. As the decade went on, scroll designs became more intricate, with fiddlehead fern, or sweet pea tendrils overtaking the simple “s” scrolls. Colors from the wedding were incorporated in the design, as well. Ribbon at the base of the tiers, piping accents, or even the icing itself, was a bold color statement.
Meanwhile, on TV, Food Network started producing several shows about bakeries and cake decorating. Duff became famous with “Ace of Cakes“, followed shortly by Buddy on “Cake Boss.” There were the many Food Network cake and cupcake challenges. BTW, we did get asked to be on those shows, but the time commitment (and general anxiety) prevented us from participating. That, and frankly, we didn’t want to drag our well-functioning family business through the Hollywood drama machine.🙂
We rode the wave of the cake craze, happily and exhaustedly. Our decorators became more skilled. Our sales team became more creative. Our customer service amplified. Those positive trends are well-ingrained now. Thank you, Food Network, for sending us to school.
Cupcakes burst on the scene in the mid-2000s. Blame it on “Lazy Sunday“, or “Sex in the City“, but the trend that started with NYC’s Magnolia Bakery – believe it or not — is still alive and well, at least here in the Midwest. The “cupcake bubble” burst around 2012, causing cupcake shops to close down all over the country. It still surprises us that the trend in wedding cake cupcakes is going strong. We seem to be doing as many of them now, as in 2005. It’s like hairstyles and fashion in “Napoleon Dynamite“. Weird.
About six years ago, we noticed a substantial decrease in the size of wedding cake servings. People were having smaller weddings and with it, smaller cakes. Probably as a result of the recession that began in 2008, the average wedding reception dropped from 240 to 150 guests. Requests for two-tiered cakes with dessert bars were becoming more common. Pies, doughnuts, Rice Krispie treats – all kinds of nostalgia desserts – were requested. Luckily, we have all those things, so while small treats are a departure from tradition; we’re nimble. Bring it on, hipsters.
Technology-wise, we replaced our printed catalog with iPads and an app that tied to our Flickr account. Instead of looking through our wedding cake catalog, brides brought in photos of cakes they liked on their smartphones. Technology was taking over, and we were just geeky enough to keep up with it. Like with TV shows from ten years ago, our skills were once again being tested, this time, by the imagination of the world.
So where are we now? What’s next? To answer that question simply: everything.
Small two-tiered cakes are still around, but they are more sophisticated than a couple of years ago. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, folks, but barn weddings, mason jars, and burlap are oh, so yesterday. Instead of the country chic of 2010, sleek metallics, like gold, and the newer rose gold, are appearing everywhere. Tiers are painted, splattered, and dripping in metal. Large statement flowers are the only topper – if there is one at all. Rustic iced tiers, buttercream rosettes, and ruffles are still around for the more cost-conscious couple, but modern, Pollock-meets-O’Keeffe-meets-Klimt designs are what seem to be wowing our brides this season.
Bigger cakes are making a comeback, too. Bronwen Weber, a rather famous cake artist we are proud to know, tells us how huge – HUGE – wedding cakes are trending in her home state of Texas. Of course, everything is big in Texas, but the Southeast, West Coast, and New York, baker friends of mine are reporting the same. Bronwen recently did Food Network spot on big cakes. Have a look for yourself.
Themed wedding cakes are another thing we are seeing. Geeks are letting their freak flag fly – and thank goodness! Name the obsession; it now shows up in the wedding cake. Comic Book Heroes, Game of Thrones inspiration, Lego bricks, Dr. Who Tardis cake toppers – the list goes on. We have yet to see a Dungeons and Dragons wedding cake, but that would mean you go out on a date first. LOL. Geek humor…
Besides the outside of the wedding cake, couples today are very conscious about the ingredients in the cake. Clean-label, natural ingredients are preferred. Trans-fats are a no-no. Thankfully for us, our Italian meringue buttercream fits the bill, offering a lightly sweet alternative to the more prevalent “bucket icing” found in many other bakeries. In using natural ingredients like butter, sugar, egg whites, water, and vanilla (yep, that’s it, our complete buttercream recipe) you are left with a clean palate, not that icky film that you get with “bucket icing”. It’s also easier for your body to process. Butter is better for you. It was on the cover of Time magazine, for goodness sake. Yay, butter!
Flavor pairings are getting bolder. Thank goodness for that, too! Over the years, we’ve gone from every wedding cake being white cake with strawberry mousse filling, to every flavor of the rainbow. Do you like carrot cake? Then get it! Is chocolate cake with orange mousse filling your thing? Don’t hesitate! Diversity in our culture, like diversity in our food, is what’s trending. If you like vanilla-vanilla, more power to you – just don’t assume that everyone else likes it that way. Bottom line: get what you want. Not what your mom wants. Not what your sister wants. It’s your wedding day, and your wedding cake is a statement about who both of you are. Don’t play it safe. Be bold! Be unique! Be Creative!
At my bakery, Creative Cakes, we are constantly asking ourselves, “What trends are we seeing in wedding cakes?”. This question has been especially challenging to answer in the past couple of years. Weddings have changed completely. No longer are we being asked about providing a traditional four-tiered wedding cake – we’re being asked about doughnuts, pies, smaller tiered cakes, and macarons in every flavor. Brides are bringing us all kinds of requests. It’s becoming more challenging to sell and market to to-be-weds, because Pinterest has made the world their oyster. So, as a wedding cake baker – what are you doing about it? Are you adapting, or resisting the change? Here is a link to my most recent Roadshow talk about selling and marketing dessert bars to today’s millennial bride.
The RBA Roadshow is coming to both Milwaukee and New York this fall. The Roadshow events began in 2012 here in Chicago and have been hugely successful ever since, bringing its program to cities like Seattle, Cincinnati, Austin, and Sacramento. Designed to bring bakers, cake decorators, vendors, students, and educators together, this event-packed day is a great way to get the education bakery owners and their staff need – at an affordable price. Dates for upcoming RBA Roadshows are:
- October 25, 2015: Milwaukee, WI
- November 1 and 2, 2015: Hyde Park, NY
- January 31: Cincinnati, OH
Since Milwaukee is so close to Chicago, it’s a great opportunity to take a road trip at a very pretty time of the year. Only 90 minutes away, an overnight stay would not be required of most bakers and staff traveling in for the event. Here’s a look at the Milwaukee Roadshow event schedule:
- Bakery Bus Tours (7:30am – 11:30am)
- Hands-On Classes (8:00am – 11:30am)
- Networking Box Lunch (11:30am – 1:00pm)
- Vendor Showcase (11:30am – 4:00pm)
- Educational Sessions (1:00pm – 5:00pm)
Tours will include the following bakeries:
- Aggie’s Bakery & Cake Shop, 7328 W Greenfield Ave, West Allis, WI 53214 http://www.aggiescakes.com/
- Grebe’s Milwaukee Bakery, 5132 W Lincoln Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53219 http://grebesbakery.com/
- Lesaffre Yeast Corporation, 7475 West Main Street, Milwaukee, WI 53214 http://www.lsaf.com/
For the Education Sessions, the following classes will be offered:
Hands On Classes- 8 a.m.- 11 a.m. ($100 each)
- Create fun fondant cakes to wow your clients while keeping labor costs in check
Tamara Mugerauer, Tamara’s the Cake Guru
Tamara will teach fondant techniques such as draping, quilting, bows, ruffles, simple flowers, textures, brooches and more as time permits. Walk away from this class with ideas and training to fill your books and showcases with your own signature fondant special occasion and wedding cakes.
- The Principals of Bread Making with Dan Nerby, Milwaukee Area Technical College
Dan Nerby will give a hands-on demonstration of mixing, fermenting, shaping, and the baking of artisan breads. Attention to preferments, such as poolish, biga, pâte fermentée, and natural sourdough starters will be covered. A Q & A session will follow the demonstration.
Business Sessions (included in ticket price)
- Northern Hospitality, Customer Service in Wisconsin with Andrew “Drew” Nussbaum, Wisconsin Dept. of Tourism
Great customer service has many benefits. Not only will you gain trust with your current customers, those customers also become a wonderful marketing tool as they spread the word about your business to other potential visitors. Whether in person, or on social media, the word travels fast. Whether it’s positive or negative feedback about a product or service, people are freely sharing their experiences. In the long run, treating people fairly and with respect will bring business to your company today and in the future.
- Working with Millennials with Renee Rouwhorst, Ryke’s Bakery, Catering and Café
The Millennials are here! With different expectations for work and new ways of communicating (usually electronically), Millennials are changing the workplace. How do we change to keep our businesses staffed with this new generation that is now the biggest sector of the workforce? Renee will lead a discussion on what’s working and new ways to approach our newest group of employees.
- Dessert Bar Package Selling and Marketing, Beth Fahey, Creative Cakes
Things in the wedding world have changed. Most bakers will verify that today’s bride is looking for a variety of colorful, pretty, and Pinterest-y desserts for their wedding reception. How does your bakery become the one-stop-shop for ALL of the desserts for their Dessert Bar? Beth Fahey, of Creative Cakes in Tinley Park, IL, explains the concept of “package selling,” which includes how to price, photograph, and market Dessert Bar packages to a new generation.
Cake Decorating Sessions (included in ticket price)
- Decorating Demo- Tamara Mugerauer
- Demo- Contemporary Chocolate Garnishes- Tom LaPierre, MATC
Chef Tom will demonstrate how to make quick and easy contemporary chocolate garnishes using chocolate transfer sheets, cocoa butter, PVC pipe, and parchment paper. These additions can be used as an elegant touch to upsell your pastry creations.
- New Directions in Wedding & Cake Sales Discussion with Renee Rouwhorst, Ryke’s Bakery and Café
Do it yourself brides, cupcakes and dessert tables! The wedding cake world has changed because our customer has changed. How do we market to new brides? How do we change our wedding business to keep a piece of the action when we are competing with other segments of the wedding industry? Be part of a lively discussion moderated by Renee as we look to new solutions.
Baking Sessions (included in ticket price)
- Trans-Fat Free Solutions with Mitch Riavez, CMB, Stratus Foods
By 2018, all partially hydrogenated shortenings will be removed from the market because of the latest FDA ruling. Mitch Riavez will share the solutions that shortening companies are working on for the bakery market. Learn about your options for baking, frying and making icings as we move into a trans-fat free world.
- Baking with Egg Replacers-Technician from Corbion (formerly Caravan)
- Fundamentals of Macarons with Annelise Linton, Ardent
Annelise Linton will be breaking down the fundamentals of producing quality macarons and ways to tailor them to a variety of environments. Special attention will be paid to timing, temperature and consistency and any questions will be happily answered following the demo.
Hope to see you there!
Here’s the latest installment from @bakemag and @dawnfoods Reasons on why we charge for wedding cake consultations. http://ow.ly/Osrzu
Crossing this one off the career bucket list! I was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal! Woot!
How would a sharp rise in the minimum wage affect your business?
I stumbled on what I think might be a fantastic solution for custom cake quotes. On another forum we belong to, my baker friend, Patti Stobaugh, mentioned that her husband David loves Wufoo for creating custom forms. He uses these forms for checklists, training, and a host of other applications. These forms are warehoused online – and once submitted, you can search by name, or phone number. It started me thinking about our custom cake quoting nightmare and how Wufoo might be a solution to that.
Custom quotes at our place are crazy to manage. Quotes get lost in email threads, or we’ll have one consultant quote one price, and then someone else quote another. Sometimes a customer will come in and give us a price that is lower than it should be – citing that it was a verbal quote given over the phone (and they can’t remember the name of the person that quoted them. weird.) So, here is what we have come up with. Once a quote has been submitted by a member of our staff, it stays in the Wufoo cloud until we delete it. We can also email the customers and print directly from Wufoo. There’s also a “comment” feature so that we can make internal notes about the quote. No more quotes lost in emails – and anyone with a computer can access them. We are going to be testing this for the next week or so. Let me know what you think!
Thanks to all of you that attended my talk at the RBA Roadshow: Austin! In order to stay “green”, I’ve included materials from the talk here on my blog. Please feel free to leave comments, or give me some feedback on what you heard. Thanks!
On Sunday, October 12th, the Retail Bakers of America (RBA) will host the fourth in the new RBA Roadshow series. Designed to bring bakers, cake decorators, vendors, students and educators together, this one-day event will be held at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, in Austin, TX.
From 2:30p.m. – 3:30 p.m. – I’ll be doing a talk on “Pinterest and Profitability: Getting Control of the Cake Ordering Process”. This new talk that will focus on the challenge of remaining profitable when your customers’ inspiration is coming from Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. It can be very difficult to explain to customers the logic behind WHY certain cakes and treats are simply not cost-effective for you to produce. [Three words: Cheetah. Print. Interior.] It goes against our Creative Cakes‘ core value of “stellar service” to blurt out à la Jon Lovitz, “Sure! That’ll be a MILLION dollars” – although, don’t we wish we could..? How disappointing for both parties to price out the DIY wonders on Pinterest. It’s a tough spot for bakeries to be in. Here at Creative Cakes, we’ve picked up a few things over the years that have helped to streamline the order process, giving the customer a range of choices in design and cost. So, the next time a customer hands their phone to you and says, “How much is that?” you’ll have a process, reference materials, and a price for what they want – and then one for what they can afford. You’ll get to keep your shirt, too.
Tickets for the RBA Roadshow: Austin can be purchased on Eventbrite.