By Anne Hunter illustrations by laura miller
I was married once. The ceremony was in Santa Fe at the Inn at Loretto, just a few blocks from the historic plaza. I said “I do” in a gorgeous gown, holding a beautiful bouquet beside my future husband, my family and my favorite friends in a presidential suite imbued with hues of terracotta red and Navajo gold. Instead of marching to the tune of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major, a mariachi band played “La Marcha” as I walked down the living room aisle that faced the snowcapped Sangre de Cristo mountain range. A Georgia O’Keefe–style cow skull stared down at us, suspended above the wood-burning kiva fireplace where we said our vows and tied the knot. I had carefully tended to every detail but one: the cake.
Don’t get me wrong. I had a wedding cake, but if I’d had any notion of the history and traditions behind the nuptial pastry, I might have taken my cake a little more seriously.
The wedding cake craze started in ancient Rome, when a certainly excited groom broke a cake of barley bread over the head of his virgin bride to mark the end of her chastity. This was the trend until the seventeenth century, when “bride’s pie” became the posh matrimonial delicacy—a pastry stuffed with mixed cockscombs, sweetbreads, boiled calves’ feet, oysters, and (thankfully) plenty of spices. The female guest who found the glass ring hidden inside the pie was destined to become the next bride. This soon gave way to tossing the wedding bouquet—and bride’s pie would become what we know today as the wedding cake.
The wedding cake has come a long way. Through the centuries, there are tales of throwing cakes and of piling cakes high for the newlyweds. In time, cake throwing became decidedly uncouth, piling turned to stacking, and stacking ultimately transformed into the elegant use of tiers that we see today. It wasn’t until sugar became plentiful in England that cake making became a medium for talented artisans.
The matrimonial pastry is an edible artistic expression of the bride’s own personal style, and for her guests, it’s their first taste of her new life. If I say “I do” again, one thing is certain: my wedding cake will be center stage.
The wedding cake: Buttercream wrapped in fondant, dripping with sugar blossoms, a delectable masterpiece, the symbol of your union and the ultimate canvas for your artistic expression. The wedding cake is born of tradition. It is a reflection of your personal style and the perfect way to sculpt a statement on your special day. All you need is an artist.
Here’s how a recent pastry school grad, a retired wedding cake maker, and a top pro design and define a bride’s cake style.
The French Pastry School was incredible. I woke up every morning at 4:00 a.m. for sixteen weeks, took the subway to school, and trained all day. Now I’m home and ready to get started!
Sayward Estis – The French Pastry School
This spring, as flowers were just beginning to bloom around Chicago, the kitchens of the French Pastry School filled with gardens of sugar blossoms that were the final projects of their graduates from L’Art du Gâteau, Chicago’s most celebrated professional cake decorating and baking program.
Fresh out of L’Art du Gâteau, Sayward Estis is new to the cake scene on the Emerald Coast. “I had been a pastry chef at Fish Out of Water in WaterColor for seven years, when I had the opportunity to attend L’Art du Gâteau at the French Pastry School. Before that, I was a pastry cook for Chris Hastings at Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham and for Chef Robert Carter at Peninsula Grill in Charleston. The French Pastry School was incredible. I woke up every morning at 4:00 a.m. for sixteen weeks, took the subway to school, and trained all day. Now I’m home and ready to get started!”
Styles that Sayward loves: “I love these stylist sketches by my L’Art du Gâteau classmate Laura Miller, which she created during class for our final cake. They are an inspiration for me—I was always looking over her shoulder! I loved being around like-minded creative people working toward the same goal.”
What’s hot on the pastry scene: “Cronuts! Created at Dominique Ansel in SoHo. It’s a cross between a doughnut and a croissant. For weddings, they offer adorable religieuses in the shapes of brides and grooms.”
It is very intricate and time-consuming, with twelve pie sections and one round circle. After all sections are stitched out, I assemble all the pieces to make the placemat.
Carmen Skrien – Cakes By Carmen
When Carmen Skrien moved to Alys Beach, she designed a sewing room to bring her latest imaginings to life. One of her creations, a placemat formed from the pattern of a Swiss lace manufacturer, took forty hours to sew. “It is very intricate and time-consuming, with twelve pie sections and one round circle. After all sections are stitched out, I assemble all the pieces to make the placemat.” Carmen gave the same care to her cake creations for the fourteen years that she was a leading cake maker in Spokane, Washington, before moving to Highway 30-A to build her dream home with her husband, Scott. It all started when she took a cake decorating class at J. C. Penney. A few months later, Carmen started a cake business. For six more years, she held her position as a stockbroker until her cake business became too demanding: “I finally stopped working on the financial side. I was pretty much self-taught—from a cake decorating book by Colette Peters and a basic cake decorating class—the rest, I learned on my own.”
Carmen Skrien’s words of wisdom to brides: “Maintain your financial independence at all times, even if you are happily married.”
Carmen Skrien’s favorite cake maker: “There are many cake artisans who have inspired me, but I especially like to follow Ron Ben-Israel. He does beautiful work—his sugar flowers are lovely and his cakes, impressive.”
I never shy away from anything, and if a bride asks for a cake that uses a technique I am not familiar with—I’ll learn it!
Rhonda Joodi – Confections on the Coast
When it comes to tying the knot, Rhonda Joodi takes the cake. Rhonda’s sister started a cake company in 2005 and then passed the reins to Rhonda just two years later. Rhonda found that her years as a fashion designer and seamstress translated well to cake design. It wasn’t long before she became nationally recognized for her cake-making talents and one of the most sought-after cake makers on the Emerald Coast. Among the who’s who in cake makers, Rhonda is at the top, earning accolades from the finest:
WeddingWire Bride’s Choice Awards The Knot Best of Weddings Award Winner Two Bright Lights Editors’ Choice Award Style Me Pretty’s Little Black Book Pretty Little Weddings Best of the Best Award Weddings Unveiled Best Bakery Award Southern Weddings Top Vendor Award
It’s no wonder that Rhonda is a winner—her cakes are perfect inside and out. This is the result of her belief that “cake should not just look beautiful, it should also taste great! We use top-notch ingredients like mascarpone cheese for our vanilla and strawberry cakes and white chocolate in the filling of our French vanilla cake. Our Grand Marnier cake has just the right proportions of freshly grated orange peel and Grand Marnier liqueur, with the unexpected twist of a blackberry filling.”
What makes Rhonda the best: Her attention to detail and her baker, Debbie Henry. “I never shy away from anything, and if a bride asks for a cake that uses a technique I am not familiar with—I’ll learn it!” says Rhonda.
Rhonda’s favorite pastry chef: Ana Parzych, the highly acclaimed sugar artist. “Her sugar flowers are incredibly beautiful and lifelike. I wanted to offer the same for my brides. She is so talented. I feel fortunate to have had three days of private training with Ana.”
Rhonda’s words of wisdom: “The cake is the focal point of the reception and truly stands alone as a work of art. When you hire a cake maker, you’ve commissioned an artist—let go, be open, and allow the artist to create something you could never have imagined.”
— V —