Photo By: Courtesy of Madlove Photography
Photo Courtesy Of Madlove PhotographyUnique desserts like croque en bouche, above and popsicles are starting to take the cake at wedding receptions.
The role once filled by the wedding cake has become a free-for-all in the U.S., as brides move away from the shackles of piped buttercream and into the world of Krispy Kreme towers, wedding pies and the omnipresent cupcake.
Straying from the iconic slice of wedding cake has practical benefits – there is a charm to individually portioned sweets like cream puffs or macaroons, which present on a plate unmarred by slicing and scooping. And as weddings seem to wander further and further from formality, finger-food desserts continue that trend, adding an element of casualness or whimsy to an otherwise rather grand occasion.
Following are three possibilities brides are trying, in the Bay Area and beyond.
The bespoke popsicle
Just like a specialty cocktail or personally meaningful first-dance song, local couples can customize their popsicles by special ordering from Mountain View-based Little Bee Pops.
When she’s not wheeling her popsicle stand around local parks and events, founder Lilia Schwartz is dreaming up individualized recipes. For one reception, the wedding couple combined cherry, mint and lime to honor the cherry mojitos they love (but they kept the pops alcohol-free). For another, Schwartz and a couple dreamed up a blackberry cream pop made with almond milk.
“We love doing weddings,” Schwartz said. “We go with a cart, either just before the ceremony or before the reception, and circulate giving out pops.”
She said wedding couples tend to view the popsicles as an addition to the main dessert course rather than a substitution – a way to keep guests entertained during transitions, or while the couple is whisked away for photos.
The towering croque en bouche
The French have long embraced croque en bouche, a tower of cream puffs shellacked with caramelized sugar, as an awe-inspiring nuptial sweet. But the confection – also known as croquembouche – can be harder to acquire in the U.S.
One bakery in San Francisco, Gerhard Michler Fine European Desserts, is known for crafting the elaborate dessert, which stacks pâte à choux pastry, filled with a vanilla, chocolate and/or coffee pastry cream, and encircles it in spun sugar.
Planning an event far from San Francisco? One couple I know used their background in the catering world to seek out more ad hoc sources of croque en bouche knowledge. Their advice: Look for freelance bakers with the requisite training and willingness to innovate, rather than giving up if local shops don’t make the sweet.
“We looked into a couple of culinary school programs that seemed like they could pull it off,” said Wylie Ballinger, who married last year.
But then a stroke of luck: His caterer turned out to work with a pastry chef formerly of the Four Seasons hotel in Seattle, who’d picked up the requisite skills.
The conical croque en bouche tower requires some engineering planning in advance.
“It does not have a super-long shelf life and had to be assembled on site,” Ballinger explained. “They used a traffic cone lined with Silpats (silicon baking mats) as a form and then did decorative sugar work around the outside, which also had to be done on site.”
In addition to allowing guests to pluck off the pastry rounds one by one, the croque en bouche translates well to post-wedding snacking.
“There are/were a ton of leftovers in Wylie’s parents’ freezer,” his wife, Susanne Everill, noted. “They were still pretty tasty a week later.”
The cookie free-for-all
Croque en bouches can also be assembled out of macaroons, the meringuelike French cookie made of almond flour and egg white. But a tower of immaculately tiled little cookies might not suit the day. For an outdoor summer wedding, one bride I know laid out sumptuous piles of fruit, whipped cream and almond snaps, keeping dessert light and multifaceted for diners with varying dietary preferences.
Lynn Magnoli of Icing on the Cake bakery in Los Gatos notes that “dessert buffets” allow for a range of cupcakes, pies and cookies, and that mini classic cookies are popular wedding selections.
“People like the idea of variety and having fun flavors to choose from – it adds a casual feel to a wedding,” she said. “If you add cake stands and put it on a big table, dessert is anything you want it to be at a wedding.”
Magnoli said that my personal favorite at Icing on the Cake, Maple Moon cookies the size of the palm of one’s hand, might be rather too substantial a sweet to foist on most wedding guests as an individualized dessert. But the bakery’s brownies and bars can be cut into any variety of shapes and sizes.
And for the wistful bride who still wants a traditional photo-op, Magnoli pointed out that a 6-inch cake allows her to have her cake – and the cookies, too.
• Little Bee Pops
• Gerhard Michler Fine European Desserts
• Icing on the Cake