June 16, 2014 -- intro: The wedding cake is getting a make-under this season.
Responding to requests for more seasonal and visually appetizing cakes, bakeries across the country have taken to producing custom creations that they've christened 'naked' cakes. Like traditional wedding showpieces, these confections sandwich creamy buttercream frosting between tiers of tender layer cake. But the similarities end there. Because of their exposed-crumb finish, these cakes prove that it's what's on the outside that counts.
The brain behind the bold new look is Christina Tosi. As the owner of Momofuku Milk Bar, Tosi is famous for her whimsical approach to seriously delicious baked goods. Her signature wedding cakes are no exception. Featuring such flavors as salted pretzel and 'birthday cake,' these works of art are a welcome departure from the industry standard. Tosi says a desire to cast recipes and flavors as the "visual stars" of her creations pushed her to reinvent more traditional models. "Why am I hiding all of the colorful, textural, exciting parts of being in the kitchen behind of decor?" she remembers asking herself. "Why not challenge the norm?"
It seems brides are just as eager to buck convention. Superfine Bakery owner Andrea Boudewijn reports that the trend has becoming increasingly popular at her Los Angeles studio: "It's not the same old white wedding cake with buttercream and flowers. It's very fashionable and stylish and delicious, frankly." Unlike their fondant-covered cousins, 'naked' cakes cannot be prepared ahead of time. They are especially susceptible to air and tend to dry out quickly. To keep them moist, Boudewijn bakes and assembles each cake on the morning of the wedding. "It's high risk, but it's important."
Head pastry chef at Alice's Tea Cup in New York John Rusk agrees that taste plays into the growing demand for exposed-edge cakes. "[Couples] want something that looks appetizing. And since there's not as much time needed to decorate them, we can assemble them much closer than the time that they're going to be eating and enjoyed.”
But despite their relative simplicity, Brooklyn-based baker Alana Jones-Mann promises that bare cakes can feel just as special as more intricate models: "The filling, the top, the overall décor of the cake will really set the tone. There’s still a way to keep them unique." A selection of just-ripened berries, fruity preserves, or fresh flowers are her favorite adornments. Jones-Mann encourages brides considering the stripped-down style to look toward the calendar for inspiration. "I always recommend not putting sugar flowers or fondant on the top of the cake, because I want to choose elements that will add to the natural beauty of the cake," she says. "Let the season influence the flavor."
quicklist: 1 title: text: Imagined by Alana Jones-Mann, this large chocolate cake (center) is filled with vanilla buttercream (center) and adorned with fresh seasonal fruit. It is flanked by two smaller French vanilla cakes layered with vanilla buttercream and topped with a mixed-berry preserve and fresh berries.media: 24159748
quicklist: 2title:text: This playful carrot cake from Ellen Baumwoll of Bijoux Doux Specialty Cakes is topped with fresh fruit and flowers. media: 24159703
quicklist: 3title:text: This whipped cream cake by Edith Meyer Wedding Cakes is filled with chocolate ganache and seasonal berries and topped with fresh flowers. media: 24155622
quicklist: 4title:text: This three-tier salted pretzel cake by Momofuku Milk Bar is filled with stout ganache and burnt honey frosting and sprinkled with salted pretzel crumbs. Owner Christina Tosi is determined to stay on the cutting edge. These days, she's running slightly ahead of schedule: "I'm dreaming of gingerbread houses [and] cranberries and cream cheese frosting." media: 24159556
quicklist: 5title:text: Momofuku Milk Bar mixed three unique flavors to create this large three-tier cake. The bottom tier is made of rainbow birthday cake crumble and vanilla frosting. The middle tier is made of cheesecake, apple compote, and pie crumbs. The top tier is a mini salted pretzel cake. media: 24159444
quicklist: 6title:text: Momofuku Milk Bar created this four-tier dulce de leche cake. The sweet treat is filled with dulce de leche frosting, dulce de leche, and milk crumbs. media: 24159373
quicklist: 7title: text: A simple vanilla buttercream cake from Nine Cakes offers a minimalist take on the popular trend.media: 24159174
quicklist: 8title: text: Nine Cakes baked up an apple spice cake layered with lashings of caramel cream cheese buttercream.media: 24159034
quicklist: 9title:text: Superfine Bakery in Los Angeles, California cooked up this dreamy lemon cake filled with raspberry puree buttercream. media: 24158991
quicklist: 10title:text: Superfine Bakery calls this black-and-white confection its ‘Tuxedo’ flavor. To make it, Andrea Boudewijn alternates layers of ‘Black Onyx’ chocolate and vanilla cakes and fills the top and bottom layers of each tier with house-made fleur de sel caramel buttercream. A pure caramel center is a decadent surprise. The cake is adorned with fresh fruit and fleur de sel caramel sauce. media: 24160818
quicklist: 11title:text: This champagne cake from Superfine Bakery is encircled with olive branches and filled with strawberry puree buttercream. media: 24158893