Take the cake

April 2019 View more

Yellow cake provides just enough contrast against white buttercream. “We can do a seminaked cake with chocolate or fruit flavored [frosting], but 99 percent of the time, it’s vanilla buttercream,” says Michelle Adams, CEO of the Sugar Path in Geneva.

Lettering by Leilani Sweeney

After the vows are recited and the first dance is waltzed, every wedding guest is ready for the sweet stuff. Though a wedding cake should provide the decadent finale to a joyous day, it also should reflect the vibe of the celebration at large. We enlisted the expertise of local bakers to share how they created special-occasion cakes in distinctly different styles, from an oh-so-trendy naked cake to a towering, sparkly stunner.


For a classic bridal look

Cox prefers to use edible flowers on her cakes; this one features blue delphiniums, white lisianthus, Champagne anemones, and white heather arranged in an asymmetrical design. “When I’m putting flowers on a cake, I like to have your eye move around the cake a little bit,” Cox says. She also garnished the cake with fresh plums to coordinate with the couple’s sweets table that featured an assortment of fruit-themed treats, including marzipan figs and candied citrus slices. “I loved that one plum that just seems to be casually placed on the stand,” Cox says.

Cox finished off the base of the cake by piping on a simple pearl border with Swiss meringue buttercream.

“This cake is an example of really clean and simple design,” says Toni Marie Cox, chef and proprietor of Toni Patisserie in Hinsdale and Chicago. The cake itself is vanilla génoise, a French-style sponge cake, filled with lemon mousse and raspberry preserves. Cox frosted the cake with Swiss meringue buttercream, which is made with egg whites, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract that’s whipped to a smooth, creamy texture. “We use a really high-quality butter—it’s 82 percent butterfat—so it has a really nice balance of richness and the meringue helps to lighten it up.”

Toni Patisserie
51 S. Washington St., Hinsdale


For a dazzling black-tie bash

For finishing touches, Greatrix added a matte black “Mr. & Mrs.” topper and white blooms provided by the couple’s florist.

Inspired by the bridesmaids’ gold lace gowns, Greatrix created edible lace by pressing a sugar-based paste into a mold. When dry, “it bends like lace, it feels like fabric and it’s flexible,” she says.

When you have a big guest list, you’ll need a big cake. Victoria Greatrix, owner and pastry chef at the Quintessential Cake, designed this dramatic beauty to feed 175 guests at an elegant and formal holiday season wedding. Though it appears to be five tiers, it’s actually six, with the tallest tier made from two identically sized tiers stacked one atop the other.

Taking a cue from the couple’s gold glitter invitations, Greatrix dusted the second and top tiers with sanding sugar that she dyed gold to match the lace details. “[The bride] wanted something festive because it was a Christmas wedding,” she says.

To emulate sequins, Greatrix cut tiny discs out of fondant, painted them gold and applied them one by one to the cake’s first tier. She also wrapped real fabric ribbon around the base of each tier.

The Quintessential Cake
611 W. Front St., Wheaton


For a boho barn wedding

As rustic-chic barn and backyard weddings gained popularity, “naked cakes” became a must-have for couples looking for a more casual look for dessert. “Naked cake is pretty much how it sounds: It’s cake without any or without a lot of frosting on the outside,” says Michelle Adams, CEO of the Sugar Path.

A true naked cake has frosting between the layers but none on the exterior; a seminaked cake, like this one, has just a thin coating of buttercream that allows the texture and color of the cake to peek through. The choice is not only about appearance, Adams says: “Some people pick out this cake mainly because they do not like frosting.”

Adams thinks that thoughtful garnishes can make this work for any style of celebration. “You can definitely make a naked cake look very rustic for a farm wedding, or you can also make it look great in an industrial setting … or a more elegant venue, where the flowers start at the top and go all the way to the bottom,” Adams says.

The Sugar Path
315 W. State St., Geneva


For a chic, contemporary celebration

“It’s upscale and chic with a little bit of edge,” says Julie Lopez, owner and designer at Julie Michelle Cakes, of this black and gold masterpiece. “I like to create taller tiers. … I just think it’s a more modern take on a wedding cake.” The first and second tier are six inches tall, versus the traditional four inches. “It’s fun because you add more cake layers on the inside: six layers of cake and five layers of filling,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard for the venue or catering [staff] to cut it, but they take one for the team for the price of beauty.” The top tier has four cake layers with three layers of filling. “It’s the perfect size to save for your one-year anniversary,” she says.

Jet black fondant is a head-turning alternative to traditional bridal white. “A lot of people are nervous about eating it or getting black in their mouths, but you really don’t,” Lopez says. “Oftentimes the fondant will just peel right off at the end of your slice, so you don’t even have to eat it.”

Lopez used two different metallic mediums to give the fondant its sparkle. First, she mixed gold luster dust—a decorative metallic powder—with lemon extract to make an edible paint. She applied it using a thin wire rather than a paintbrush. “I would dip it in the paint and pull it across the surface … the more wild, the better,” she says. Next, she applied edible gold foil. “It comes in three-by-three-inch squares and if you breathe, it will just blow away; it’s so beautiful and thin,” Lopez says. “I added that on and used a paintbrush to disperse it so it was more organic.”

To give the top tier some contrast, Lopez mixed a bit of white fondant into the black fondant to achieve a marbled effect. “The top little guy, there should be a little something extra to him so he doesn’t get lost,” she says.

Julie Michelle Cakes
300 W. Front St., Harvard


For a feminine fete

Candy pearls called dragées mark the corner of each diamond shape. “We use a very thin paintbrush and put a little dab of water on it and hand-attach each dragée,” Gozum says.

The bottom tier is covered with pink buttercream rosettes that are piped on by hand. “We use a one-millimeter star tip [on a pastry bag] and then we just go row by row,” she says.

“This is our most popular design,” says Alicia Gozum, owner of Cali Girl Cakes. A crown of fresh pale pink and white roses provides texture and polish. “We can also do silk flowers or we can make paste flowers,” she says.

Gozum coated the top tier in meringue buttercream before covering it with pink fondant. She then used a diamond-shaped tool to create a dimensional geometric pattern that resembles quilting. “You can’t press too hard or you’ll cut the fondant, but if you press too lightly it won’t make an impression,” she says.

Cali Girl Cakes
681 W. Boughton Rd., Bolingbrook

Photos by Adams Photography, Kristina Lorraine Photography, Stephanie Lang Photography, Roots of Life Photography and TWA Photographic Artists