Wedding Cake Lessons from Cake Maker Kate Barr
Our second expert session is with the very talented Kate Barr. Kate is a baker and cake maker based in New York who makes the most mouth watering and picture perfect cakes for weddings and all sorts of occasions.
We chatted with her about trends and flavours in the wedding cake arena to help point you in the right direction for your wedding.
Kate, what would you say is a big trend in cakes in general right now? I know a little while ago it was all about "naked" cakes and I have seen a lot of "smash" cakes around.
Cake trends come and go pretty quickly! The naked cake trend still seems to be pretty prevalent right now, and personally I like this trend because it yields a beautiful result without the effort it can take with full coverage cakes.
There are a lot of really popular styles that seem to be hanging around; The unicorn cake trend just won't go away but I think it's hit its peak popularity. Matcha cakes are a huge trend, and are well aligned with Matcha latte/tea popularity in general. Brushstroke cakes have also been a huge thing this year, these are cakes decorated with different coloured tempered chocolate made to look like painterly brushstrokes. If you follow a lot of Russian pastry chefs you'll see what I mean!
There is also a trend that has been happening for quite some time now, I don't know what to call it but it's sort of a 'more is more' vibe- Think Katherine Sabbath and Andy Bowdy- where you have a semi simple tall layer cake and there's just a whole heap of stuff on top- edible flowers, nuts, ganache drizzles, macarons, torched meringue, persian fairy floss etc etc. Incredible detail and lots of prep work.
Smash cakes are fun but I just can't get on board- they just seem so wasteful!
Is there something specifically big in terms of wedding cake trends at the moment now too?
Fresh florals are HUGE right now and so beautiful! They can be tricky in terms of the shelf life of an un-watererd fresh flower but if done properly they are gorgeous on all wedding cakes and are versatile enough to be traditional (roses, peonies, Hydrangeas) or a little more daring- like the use of native Australian flora (Banksia, Wattle, Eucalyptus to name a few) is one I particularly love.
Another big one is Geode cakes. They look like a plain tall cake structure with a big chunk taken out of the side to reveal a mass of edible sugar crystals.
How much freedom does a bride have with her wedding cake? In your opinion, should she opt for classic or can she be playful?
You should find a wedding cake designer who is willing to realise her vision, within reason of course! If you want to push boundaries then do it, or if you want a standard white fondant covered four tiered cake with a little marzipan figure of you and your partner on top then you should have that too. Wedding cakes can be very expensive and so the most important thing is that the client is happy and getting what they wanted.
What are some suggestions you have for "non traditional" wedding cakes?
Pavlovas, Croquembouche, donuts, cupcakes, raw cakes, lots of mini cakes of different flavours. I once saw a wedding cake made from cookie dough on my insta feed, but I feel really strongly against this, purely because its gross.
Are they some tasty and stylish options for dairy free or gluten free for example?
Of course! Gluten free flour is an almost undetectable flavour and texture these days, it has been perfected down to a fine art, so ask your cake designer if they have gluten free options. Keep in mind however, that many won't because gluten is an incredibly important component in baking and will assure you have the best structure in your cake possible.
Another option would be to go raw and there are a lot of raw chefs who specialise in raw cakes. Again keep in mind that many factors can affect the structure of a raw cake- the main one being temperature, so avoid this option for a mid-summer outdoor wedding!
What are some "flavours" that you would like to see more of in the wedding cake arena? I love the idea of your pretzel and peanut butter cake for instance.
I once made a carrot cake for a friends wedding in New York, it had some other traditional flavours in the other tiers but I really thought, who the heck doesn't like carrot cake? Nobody! And it was a huge hit. Also if you love chocolate cake, then have the best chocolate cake you have ever dreamed of. You'll probably never spend so much money on a cake again in your life- think about it that way!
How important is the time of year or season for flavour and direction?
It's pretty important if you are leaning to a more natural look and taste for your cake. What I mean is, if you want a cake that uses seasonal fruits and produce then you may hit a road block when it comes to finding these ingredients if they are out of season. If you don't mind a more candy flavour in your cake you can use all sorts of artificial ingredients to mimic the natural ones- it just won't have the same effect. Natural is always better.
What would you suggest for a winter wedding?
For produce- Rhubarb, Persimmon, Spiced Pumpkin, Spiced Pears. These are all winter flavours you cannot go wrong with in a cake. I also love a really tall (6 - 8 tiered) winter pavlova for a wedding. Something maybe hazelnut based with beautiful seasonal fruit. Just prepare for it to be a total mess when you cut it.
Thoughts for a summer wedding?
Berries! I love berries in a cake. Raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries all make beautiful cake flavours, especially when they are mixed into the cake batter with sour cream or creme fraiche. They also look really amazing as cake decoration with fresh florals and edible flowers.
How long before a wedding should one place and order for their wedding cake?
This depends on the specific cake designer you have chosen to go with! If the business is smaller they may need you to book far in advance, or as long as they need to design, test bake, plan, prep, build, construct and so on. It really is case by case but just remember that whoever you go with will probably produce a better result if you give them ample time to prepare.