Wedding Cake Alternatives

It's a fact, however odd it seems, that some brides don't like cake--and don't want one at their wedding reception. Others like cake just fine, but prefer to serve something a little more distinctive for dessert. On the whole, brides pass up cake at their wedding because they:

  • Don't like it
  • Want something nontraditional and edgy and are bored by "the norm"
  • Want something that more personally represents them or their geographical area
  • Attended too many catered weddings where no one touched the cake because they'd already had a full meal plus dessert
  • Have a venue that tacks on high cake serving fees

I must admit I'm tempted to stare when someone tells me "they just don't like cake." Because, as everyone knows, wedding cake is no longer just cake. Wedding cake has morphed into something that, in the right hands, borders on a religious experience.

Today's chefs know that a good cake--one light years away from the "packing material" types of old--is full of delicious, creamy fat. And not that horrifying vegetable shortening, either. The modern wedding cake is loaded with real butter, moist base material (poppy seed cake, pound cake, carrot cake, banana, chocolate, red velvet and more) and tempting fillings (amaretto, chocolate mousse, tiramisu, raspberry, white chocolate).

The exterior, too, has gotten sleeker and lovelier in response to today's streamlined bridal fashions. All the former hallmarks of questionable taste--fountains, pillars, mugging couples on a cake topper--are gone. So how can any bride resist?

Many don't, but a few persevere in wanting something else. Fortunately, weddings these days are about personal choice and individuality--they don't have to have one. And the alternatives to cake are many.

The secret to a satisfying wedding cake alternative is simple--presentation. Whatever you're serving, stack it in tiers. Follow this simple tip and you can turn almost anything into food fit for the most special occasion.

Tiered Puddings and Mousses

Pre-chill wine or champagne glasses, and fill with:

  • Chocolate, chocolate orange, lemon mousse
  • Rice, coconut rice or wild rice pudding
  • Raspberry, hazelnut or regular tiramisu
  • White chocolate, key lime, blackberry or biscotti parfaits
  • Heavy whipped cream, topped with sweet in-season berries

If your budget's ample, you can also stack up individual-sized

  • Caramel, anise, pumpkin flan
  • Crme brulee--regular, eggnog, blueberry, espresso, coconut

Tiered Pastries

Cream puffs are king--and for good reason. Remember that cream puffs don't have to be round; you can use cookie cutters to fashion them into lots of creative shapes. You can also go beyond them and stack up:

  • Gooey cinnamon rolls
  • Funnel cakes
  • Baklava
  • Souffls served in individual custard cups
  • Cream horns, clairs, St. Joseph's pastries, sfogliatelle, cannoli, napoleons, baba rum

Straight from the Shelf

You won't be the first bride to try this. Stack those tiers high and proud or create an entire freestanding "cake" with:

  • Sno Balls, Suzy Qs, HoHos, Ding Dongs, Twinkies
  • Krispy Kreme donuts, Moon Pies

Other Options

  • Chocolate-dipped fruit
  • Chocolate truffles
  • A chocolate fountain
  • Sugar cookies or brownies with your initials in cellophane wrappers
  • Fancy pies: key lime, lemon, chocolate pecan, coconut custard, cranberry apple, macadamia nut, peanut butter and white chocolate cream.

Whatever you choose, try to retain the cake-cutting part of your ceremony. The cutting of the cake is an ancient ritual and a powerful symbol of unity between the couple and their guests. It doesn't matter if you're really digging into a lemon meringue pie--your guests will still want to ooh and ahh as you cut it together and feed each other.