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Piece of Cake 

Undulating ruffles. Dripping Edwardian lace. Ivory-colored sugar paste hydrangeas. Few things inspire more “oohs” and “aahs” than a wedding cake (except for the bride) and few are as disaster-prone. Cake-zilla, anyone?

Worst of all, a cake, pristine and flowery from afar, but up close resembling a woman with too much artifice, only to taste of Crisco and chemicals before turning to dust in your mouth.

Cupcakes with fresh berries? Sugar flowers atop a fondant-covered cake? Say the hell with it all and get Fudgy the Whale from Carvel? What are a bride and groom to do?

Oliver Kita, based in Rhinebeck, is a true Renaissance culinarian; he is a master chocolatier and pastry chef. Kita caters and makes wedding cakes. I consider proposing to him. Some people will do anything for a piece of cake.

Says Kita, “Hire someone you can fire. The most common mistake a couple can make is to allow someone they love to bake their wedding cake. Hire a professional that you can be completely honest with. No tears, no hurt feelings. You can’t fire your favorite aunt when it all goes badly because she didn’t anticipate her oven not working properly and it impacts the rest of the event as she pulls a marathon and is too exhausted to have fun at the wedding.”

Take one look at any of cakes here and you’ll schedule a wedding, whether or not you have an intended, or whether or not you even want to be married.

When Mim Galligan retired from a 30-year career as an art teacher, she took the CIA’s six-month pastry course and became a pastry chef. She’s also a painter, and has, among other things, re-created a Cézanne painting atop a hexagonal groom’s cake.

Galligan, who bakes in Garrison, does more chocolate wedding cakes than anything else, and most of her work is traditional tiered cakes. “I used to do more minicakes, but now people are asking for cupcakes,” says Galligan. “I think Martha Stewart started that.”

Kita says that cupcakes are a trend for him, too. Both chefs do an intake interview worthy of a Freudian analyst—Galligan sends clients a list of cake, frosting, and filling flavors.

“I guide them, we have a cake tasting to decide on the flavor of the cake, we go from there. I tell them to bring in anything they want—lace, decorations, anything to tie in to the cake.”

Vera Dordick, is the pastry chef/owner of Queen of Tarts in Guilderland. Dordick worked in PR and communications before deciding a lifestyle change was in order, and became a pastry chef. Queen of Tarts has been open for three years. Of wedding cake trends, Dordick says, “Couples are bringing their personality and style into their wedding cake more. It’s less about white-on-white, and very few of the brides do little people as cake toppers any more. They’re doing sugar bows, monograms, new last name in crystals.”

Nate Heverin, owner of Sweet Nate’s Cakes, says, “People are more focused and educated about what they eat.” Heverin recently baked apple pies for a November wedding. “This was a wonderful example of how I could use regional produce—the apples were as fresh as could be from a local orchard. The bride wanted a pie in the center of each table, instead of a floral centerpiece. The tables were decorated around the pies. ”

A trend Oliver Kita has noticed with his clientele are nonwedding cake desserts, such as a coconut cream and mango tart, or three “mini” desserts—for example, a small Sacher torte, a mini-Napoleon with a fruit curd and berries, something flavored with green tea, popular a year or so back. “Crisp, creamy crunchy,” Kita says. “It’s all about the textures. This is for the more sophisticated bride, who’s well-traveled and would never wear a veil, and leaves the next day for Mozambique.”

Dordick brings up the “B” word—budget. “Decide what your budget is, and be realistic. If you can spend $5 a slice [an inexpensive price quote], then five tiers and a cascade of sugar flowers is going to be difficult. If you’re having a wedding under 100 people, you might consider a large single-layer round or square cake. Some people are doing petits fours or tartlets. We did six different kinds of tartlets for a wedding.”

Dordick’s tartlet flavors include Earl Grey chocolate, lemon meringue, peanut butter mousse and pine nut rosemary.

But the happy couple’s dilemma doesn’t end once they’ve settled on a cake. Then there’s the topper that needs to be picked out.

Karen Anne Volpicella, in Slate Hill, runs Top Your Cake and makes vintage-inspired toppers. Volpicella’s toppers are made out of 90 percent vintage materials. They aren’t edible, and are meant to be kept and passed town. She incorporates vintage fabric and paper flowers, the bridesmaids’ colors, and so on. Sometimes, she’ll make a dummy cake from boxes, for a couple to store their topper and other wedding memorabilia in.
“Once a cake is eaten, the couple has no memories to keep. My daughter Kristin was my inspiration for this business. She bought me a real old topper for an anniversary present. I make a memory that I want the couple to keep.”

Amy DeGiulio runs Sugar Flower Shop in Red Hook. DeGiulio specializes in sugar flowers. She’ll do the cake and the flowers, or just the flowers.

Of trends, DeGiulio says a leading one is “going organic in appearance as well as ingredients. Brides not only want their cake made of high-quality ingredients, but want it to look realistic. They’re choosing seasonal colors found in nature, not colors only found in a Crayola box. They’re decorating their cakes with natural elements—twigs, leaves and flowers.” DeGiulio means sugar paste twigs, leaves, and flowers, of course, not mementos from a hike in the Shawangunks.

Wedding cakes are as capricious as brides, and nowhere near as resilient. Mim Galligan, who transports her cakes fully assembled, summed it up this way: “You don’t realize how rough a road is until you drive on it with a tiered wedding cake.”

Resources:

Oliver Kita Fine Confections
Oliver Kita, Rhinebeck
(845) 876-2665
www.oliverkita.com

Queen of Tarts
Vera Dordick, Guilderland
(518) 452-7056
www.queenoftartsny.com

Sugar Flower Shop
Amy DeGiulio, Red Hook
(845) 417-6483
www.sugarflowershop.com

Sweet Nate’s Cakes
Nathan Heverin, New Paltz
(718) 932-9339

Mim Galligan
Garrison
(845) 265-2328
www.mimgalligan.com

Top Your Cake
Karen Anne Volpicella, Slate Hill
(845) 355-2677
www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com

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