Vow and Wow
Apr 08, 2018 10:20AM ● Published by John Lehndorff
Like most aspects of weddings, the tiered cake is really about sex, not dessert. In ancient Rome, marriages weren’t official until the groom broke a barley cake over the bride’s head to assure fertility. Thank the Victorians for the iconic all-white wedding cake that symbolizes chastity.
Some of Colorado’s millennial couples are happily ignoring nuptial traditions and skipping the wedding cake entirely in favor of pies, doughnuts, and liquid nitrogen ice cream. Others pick wedding cakes that are anything but traditional. It’s not surprising coming from 20- somethings who propose with a ring hidden inside an avocado. They toast with—drumroll, please—avocado toast.
Denver-area bakers, caterers, and consultants agree that a new generation of wedding guests expect to be wowed by the sweet grand finale.
A Hashtagable Wedding Dessert
“The Millennials really want to make a statement. They want the dessert to be hashtagable and Pinnable,” says Ileen Hoekman, owner of Colorado Springs-based Once Upon a Wedding Events.
“Not doing cake is where the real fun is now. We’ve seen doughnut walls, pies, and liquid nitrogen ice cream stations in the summer. Live food stations provide a focal point at the reception,” Hoekman says.
“One fun thing is having dessert tables featuring the favorite desserts from the grandmothers,” she said, along with mini-desserts such as pie pops and small portions of strawberry shortcake.
When there is a cake, it tends to be over the top. “There are a lot more show-stopper presentations like hanging the cake from the ceiling. Hoekman says.
She noted a recent cake covered in white fondant that was rolled away in the back to reveal a layer of comic strips painted on underneath. “You can get custom cake (or pie) toppers that are exact replicas of the bride and groom as a much more personal keepsake,” Hoekman says.
Here Comes the Pie
“We get calls from couples that want something homey, especially for outdoor weddings,” says Kini Christie, owner of My Mom’s Pies in Niwot.
Christie recalled a formal reception at a country club where the mood was subdued. “When we served the pie, the room came alive. Pie makes people really happy,” she says. The couple often cuts a larger fancy pie while guests get “palm” pies or 3-inch pies to enjoy or take home.
“We can design fancy artistic crusts. One couple wanted yin/yang symbols decorating the top crust. Another bride chose scenes from an aspen forest - a cabin, a squirrel and the couple’s initials carved on a tree,” she shares.
Before there were cakes, the early English served guests Bride’s Pye filled with lamb testicles, sweet- breads, oysters, and spices. My Mom’s Pie sticks to peach, blueberry, cherry, and other fruit fillings. Special freezing and fire aspects. People take a lot of pictures,” he says. Their showstopper is artisan truffles “floating” in midair atop super-chilled magnets.
Fire, Ice, and Steampunk
Couples approach Ian Kleinman and Stacey Kleinman, owners of the Denver’s Inventing Room Dessert Shop, looking for something safe. The steampunk-inspired shop is famous for liquid nitrogen ice cream and toppings derived from molecular gastronomy experiments.
“They want stuff to be real visual, something the guests will remember,” says Ian Kleinman. One popular choice is a wine sorbet station. “People bring bottles of wine, and we turn it into wine sorbet.”
Another favorite is crème brûlée ice cream. “It’s got freezing and fire aspects. People take a lot of pictures,” he says. Their showstopper is artisan truffles “floating” in midair atop super-chilled magnets.
Tender Feeding or Face Smooshing?
While couples choose alternative desserts, many still follow wedding cake rituals. “They share the first scoop of ice cream together or they cut the doughnut together,” explains Ileen Hoekman of Once Upon a Wedding Events.
She said that 99 percent of her couples take the tender and sweet approach to feeding each other. “It can take two or three hours for brides to do her hair and makeup. They don’t want it smeared. More adventurous couples do smoosh it in each other’s face because that’s true to who they are,” Hoekman says.
Wedding cakes and Colorado are unfortunately linked in the nation’s mind as the US Supreme Court prepares to rule in the case of a Lakewood bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.
In season, cake artist Jennifer Noelani Akina works on upwards of 20 wedding cakes a week at Denver’s Azucar Bakery. “Why would I care about who you choose to love? I’m an artist. I’m here to spread the love,” she says.
Many of the cakes she bakes are far removed from the standard white frosted model. Akina’s elaborately decorated cakes include some spectacular ones that look like cracked open geodes.
Best known for its anatomically correct bachelorette cakes, Denver’s Le Bakery Sensual also designs out-of-the-ordinary wedding sweets. “I’ve sculpted a cake mountain with the couple skiing down it. Another had the couple inside a replica of the groom’s collectible car,” says bakery owner John Spotz. One of the shop’s most eye-catching designs is a skull-topped cake inscribed with the slogan: “Till death do us part.”
Caution Comes with Infused Desserts
Irie Wedding and Events can provide brides with bouquets of roses and sativa buds and wedding guests with a bud bar with cannabis options chosen by the bride and groom.
While the cake can be infused with THC distillate, Kelly doesn’t recommend it. “I tell couples: ‘Not all of your 150 guests may wish to partake. Infused cupcakes make it easier to measure the dose,’” says Madlyne Kelly, co-owner of Irie with Bec Koop.
Couples who consult with Irie aren’t traditionalists. “They are more avant-garde. Instead of cake we’ve seen mini ice cream sandwiches, s’mores, a hot cocoa bar, and pies and cobblers,” she shares.
“They drop the cake cutting and garter tossing. The desserts come out later after people have had a chance to visit the bud bar and dance. It’s almost like a midnight munchie,” Kelly said.
I Do Love Doughnuts
Voodoo Doughnut, the Denver location of the legendary Portland bakery, supplies extra-large doughnut wedding “cakes” as well as holey pastries for nuptial doughnut walls, said Kara Knickerbocker, office manager for the 24/7 shop on Colfax Avenue.
More adventurous couples actually get married at Voodoo which hosts ceremonies in the store for up to 40 people. “We have several people on staff who are legal officiants. You just need to bring the license,” Knickerbocker says.
The folks in line for treats of their own become part of the ceremony as witnesses. “We stop the sales line for a few minutes to do the vows,” she says.
Participants have dressed in everything from wedding gowns to Star Wars costumes and matching doughnut-themed clothing. Voodoo’s namesake person-shaped doughnuts with a pretzel stake through the heart are repurposed as bride and groom doughnuts. “We decorate them to match eye and hair color and details on the dress,” Knickerbocker says.
Best of all, the newly wedded bride and groom are toasted with fresh doughnuts.