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After a few quiet pandemic years, special occasion cakes are back in a big way

After a few quiet pandemic years, special occasion cakes are back in a big way

Amy Springer has been decorating specialty cakes for lots of yrs, but generating them for socially distanced occasions all through the pandemic was some thing entirely new to her.

After a few quiet pandemic years, special occasion cakes are back in a big way

A Disney-themed birthday cake at Reilly’s Bakery in Biddeford. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Personnel Photographer

At Reilly’s Bakery in Biddeford, wherever she is the lead cake decorator, she located herself fielding requests for modest cakes that would impress close friends on Zoom or Instagram, for cupcakes that could be shipped door-to-door for a “drive-by birthday party,” and from customers who ended up celebrating milestones these as the end of distance finding out or the return to a hybrid do the job week.

Springer and other individuals in the enterprise of making celebratory cakes are relieved that individuals days appear to be to be behind them. A feeling of normalcy is starting up to settle in, and enterprise is selecting up, particularly for wedding period, which typically kicks off in May possibly, extends as a result of Oct, and is looming more substantial than at any time this year.

“After a incredibly tranquil 12 months for weddings in 2020,” she states, “we observed a big uptick in 2021, but almost nothing like we’re presently observing for 2022. People aren’t keeping back again this 12 months. They are scheduling weddings for 200 visitors and much more.”

Elizabeth Rzoska, baker and operator of Prairie Baking Co., makes use of clean-slash bouquets to enhance a cake. Ben McCanna/Personnel Photographer

Huge weddings, non-standard cakes

Significant weddings might be again, but cakes are not the around-the-top rated, fondant-enshrouded, wildly elaborate creations that have been once all the rage.

According to a number of cake makers in Bigger Portland, the recent craze is towards more tasteful, imaginative, initial types – usually known as “cake art” – that replicate the identity and uniqueness of the pair. Adornments these types of as bride-and-groom toppers, h2o fountains beneath tiers, or even ornately sculpted roses are almost never asked for. And sleek, fluffy buttercream frosting is favored about firmer, clay-like fondant.

Elizabeth Rzoska, founder of Prairie Baking Co., would not want it any other way. In a business kitchen tucked away on Portland’s Washington Avenue, she has labored on her personal entire-time considering that January 2020, handcrafting stunningly beautiful buttercream cakes decorated with fresh new bouquets. She also will make cookies, scones and European-influenced sweets for a couple of espresso stores in town – a gig that is assisted her weather conditions the pandemic-induced pause on get-togethers and weddings.

“I like making cakes that glimpse like cakes,” Rzoska said, adding that given that her childhood, she has been drawn to two-dimensional art, not 3-D sculpture. Her mom is an artist and illustrator, and she grew up drawing and portray by her facet.

Rzoska’s function as a baker, pastry chef and cake decorator – generally in the Midwest, therefore the identify “Prairie Baking Co.” – has aided her hone her design and aesthetic.

As a lot as doable, she resources ingredients regionally, opts for organic and strives to continue to be in year with shade and floral options. She occasionally “paints” buttercream scenes or symbols on her cakes – ocean waves, mountains or Maine’s legendary pine trees, for instance, and her cakes are usually stuffed and frosted with Swiss-Meringue Buttercream – never fondant.

Cake decorator Amy Springer decorates a birthday cake with a concept from the Disney film Encanto at Reilly’s Bakery in Biddeford. In the Terrific Buttercream vs. Fondant Discussion, Reilly’s has stood organization (or somewhat, sleek and fluffy) for American buttercream for a lot more than 100 several years.

Icing on the cake: Fondant vs. Buttercream

The latter is a critical distinction among the marriage ceremony-cake makers, who are both followers of fondant, or additional normally these times, believers in buttercream. In the buttercream camp, pros at times choose the Italian- or Swiss-Meringue recipes for their mild, ultra-silky texture, or American buttercream for its simplicity and sweetness. (There are seven versions of buttercream. Other people are French, German, Korean and Russian.)

At Reilly’s, fourth-technology owner Elizabeth Hussey claims that American buttercream has been the icing of alternative ever considering that her terrific-grandfather, Edward J. Reilly, opened the bakery in 1910. She would not dare mess with her family’s beloved cake recipe, which she suspects originated with her wonderful-grandmother, Melina, and has helped Reilly’s achieve a big and faithful subsequent more than the a long time.

Additional cupcakes and “cake art”

A person modern transform she’s created, even so, in reaction to desire, is the pairing of a more compact marriage ceremony cake with dozens of cupcakes, which are much easier than one particular big cake to distribute among the friends. Melina’s buttercream sweetens the cupcakes as properly.

Martha Elk, proprietor of Hanami Cake Structure, also in Biddeford, states buttercream is not only her desire, but also that of her prospects, who, in typical, are bucking regular trends and buying cakes that could possibly not surface as “perfect” as they at the time have been. “Couples are picking more modern silhouettes that contain abnormal tier heights and/or shapes, and daring colours or textures more than sleek white finishes. They really don’t want just a cake, but an edible piece of art.”

Elk relishes the chance to structure additional creative cakes, the larger the “canvas” the better, as it permits her a lot more artistic independence, and she jokes that she buys cake-decorating tools more normally at artwork-supply shops than at restaurant- or cake-offer suppliers. She aspires to “play more” with diverse textures these as wafer paper, an edible paper manufactured from potato starch that allows cake decorators to type 3D effects and structural factors.

Elizabeth Rzoska, baker and proprietor of Prairie Baking Co., packing containers up a cake for shipping. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Offering smiles

Even extra fulfilling than the resourceful system alone, Elk says, is the perception of delight she feels when providing smiles in the form of a remarkably personalized, customized-designed cake.

“Nothing delivers me increased joy,” she suggests, introducing that it is been an isolating couple of years when she could not interact effortlessly with engaged couples and sense a section of “the magic of it all,” so the return to better normalcy feels especially poignant.

Other people echo Elk’s sentiments. Rzoska remembers a heartwarming second throughout a latest cake supply when her client broke into tears upon seeing her cake, seemingly confused by its elegance and how it symbolized a sweet turning position in the period of social distancing.

And Springer calls it a “dream come true” that she can “create anything that delivers folks joy and deliciously allows them express themselves.”

“We experienced to strike the pause button,” sums up Hussey, “but now we’re a element of people’s lives once more, and there’s more appreciation and pleasure close to celebrations than at any time before.”

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