Cake. It’s the single most important food on your wedding day. Personally, I don’t like to leave a wedding without a piece. Needless to say, I enjoy eating cake just as much as photographing it! I recently linked up with friend and Philly Food Blogger Jacklin Altman of Food by the Gram to get her professional take on the top wedding cake bakers in Philadelphia. Together, we traveled through the city on an epic wedding cake crawl on a rainy day in January to explore wedding cake trends in both flavor and design for the upcoming year.
We kicked off the crawl with the iconic Chestnut Hill bakery, Bredenbeck’s. If you have ever been here, you might have seen the sprawling lines out the door on a Saturday morning as people are lined up for freshly baked cookies, cakes and other amazing creations in their narrow storefront. We were surprised to learn that the bakery operations run vertically, with four stories of cake creating going on over the top of their little storefront. It kind of had that Willy Wonka vibe with the flurry of activity, except for that fact that is run by the coolest grandmother ever, Karen Rohde. With over 34 years in the wedding cake industry, she has seen her fair share of trends and knows what Philly likes to eat.
“Philadelphia loves their pound cake.”
– Karen Rohde, Owner of Bredenbecks
Karen’s opinion on what makes the best wedding cake is definitely includes durability, that’s why her cake base of choice has been pound cake to help wedding cakes stand better. Of course, there is always the risk of cake drops and accidents, no matter how well your cake stands up. Bredenbeck’s actually employs a Sugar Artist to be on call for all wedding day events. In a cake emergency situation, they can provide help and a stand-in if necessary.
Most brides still love to celebrate their one year anniversary with their wedding cake, and throw the top tier into the freezer for 365 days. Bredenbeck’s actually gifts the couple a small cake for their first anniversary so they can celebrate with a fresh cake, instead of eating something freezer burnt.
“I can’t imagine eating a year old cake”
So what pound cakes are the most popular at Bredenbeck’s? Right now, pink champagne pound cake is the biggest year round trend. During the fall, pumpkin pound cake makes it’s debut and has become increasingly popular.
Our next stop was Nutmeg Cake Design, where owner Meg Skill is responsible for some of the most iconic wedding cakes in the Philadelphia wedding scene. While she doesn’t have a storefront, the Manayunk artist holds her wedding cake tastings at nearby Vault & Vine. This provides an intimate experience for brides and grooms as they can sip on coffee, relax and enjoy cakes in the adorable café.
Meg was also kind enough to provide some helpful “Dos and Don’ts” for wedding cake tasters. During a tasting, it’s recommended that a maximum of only two guests attend. After that, there are just too many opinions in the room and it complicates the process. You also should come in open minded on flavor and design. While some people come in with a full blown Pinterest board in tow, trusting your baker to make a unique cake for you goes a long way in the creative process.
For many couples, the tasting experience is also extremely educational. The cost factors that go into a wedding cake go well beyond the actual cake creation. Meg works behind the scenes and collaborates with wedding planners, florists, venues and with stand rental companies to make sure your wedding cake experience is absolutely perfect.
“Almost every cake leaves with some gold leaf”
– Meg Skill of Nutmeg
In 2019, Meg is predicting that we continue to see tons of gold leaf on cakes, as well as the continuation of naked cakes, simple butter cream, and marbling. The marbled fondant aesthetic provides the perfect mix of feminine and masculine and will continue to be requested by many couples this year.
Nutmeg’s hottest flavors right now all have a European flair to them. We were completely in love with their Olive Oil cake, which had incredible notes of orange and honey. Another highlight was their pistachio with honey buttercream cake which was heavenly. Meg also turned a classic Neapolitan into a multi flavored eating experience, boasting layers of vanilla, chocolate and raspberry cake in one single bite!
If her cakes weren’t impressive enough, Meg skillfully crafts the most beautiful custom cookies and macaroons. These creations are perfect for bridal showers, engagement parties and of course customer wedding favors. Meg truly makes her brides into lifelong customers. After the wedding experience, her clients come back for baby showers, birthdays and any kind of occasion that deserves an iconic cake!
Next, we headed around the corner to another Manayunk bakery, Crust Vegan Bakery. Business partners Meagan and Shannon met 5 years ago, living in the DC market and working in the vegan bakery scene. They saw the opportunity to bring amazing vegan creations to the Philadelphia market and the rest is history. As one of the largest vegan bakeries and wholesalers in the area, you may have seen their cookies, scones and cupcakes in Co-ops and restaurants around the city. What you may not have seen, are their insane cake design skills that make these cakes into works of art.
Like many of our other bakery friends, they are seeing a demand for metallics in 2019, especially rose gold. With the color of the year “Living Coral” we will also see this hue in many cakes to come. Flavor wise, their clients are looking for a more intense eating experience than just plain vanilla (vegan) cake. One of their hottest flavors right now is Pistachio Cardamom, with a strawberry preserve buttercream. Meagan was kind enough to cut us a piece of this beautiful cake featured below and honestly this was one of the best flavor combinations I have ever had. It’s an instant classic.
We were also extremely impressed with the all-natural aspect of Crust’s creations. They have some stringent guidelines on what ingredients go into their cakes, aside from the vegan aspect. They utilize Fair Trade Cocoa, Local Vanilla Extract from Phoenixville and sustainable palm oil. Crust also makes all of their fondant from scratch to keep it all natural and free of preservatives and stabilizers. This super clean ingredient list results in a premium cake that will wow your guests (all without the use of dairy and animal products 😊) .
If this has you salivating and wondering where you can get some of Crust’s amazing baked goods pronto, they will be opening up a retail storefront later in 2019! Be sure to stock up on some cinnamon rolls, pop tarts and other vegan treats when you are in the area!
Next on our journey, we headed to East Falls to meet up with Lesly from The Sugary. She recently moved into an amazing location for baking and tasting sessions, a renovated historic church, which was a working space for many local artists. Since Lesly was just wrapping up a tasting when we arrived, we got to see the post-tasting excitement firsthand from the couple. They were raving about a custom Green tea icing that she prepared for them, made with matcha powder and white chocolate.
Lesly also had created an amazing spread of desserts for us to see. We were immediately drawn to her cookie cake creations, an original recipe she made from a bride’s request to combine both chocolate chip cookies and icing. Not only do these delights look incredible to shoot, but Lesly somehow gave chocolate chip cookies the consistency of cake! These would be a “must have” for any bridal shower or dessert spread.
The Sugary is also seeing the trend of metallic cakes continue in 2019, but instead of the ubiquitous gold, silver tones are making a comeback. Many of their cakes are seen are made to be displayed with generous fresh florals. Lesly’s matte black chocolate ganache cake serves as a dramatic chic backdrop for some bold spring florals.
Next, we headed to Fishtown to visit the legendary Whipped Baked Shop. Owner Zoe and her husband Brennan started this bakery during the great recession back in 2010 and have had ten amazing years in the wedding cake industry. Before Instagram was a thing, their creations blew up on the old-school photo sharing site Flickr and were seen frequently on Daily Candy.
One of their display cakes that is frequently requested is a modern all-white design, intricately crafted with delicate (and edible!) rice paper. This year, they have also seen a surge in requests for copper cakes, in addition to gold. If you are looking for something out of the norm, Whipped has tons of experience in creating sculpted food cakes, for your Groom’s Cake fantasy or engagement party.
Zoe serves an impressive cupcake 6-pack to couples who are interested in booking her for their wedding. She offers a combination of best selling flavors and the ability to pick your own. One of their most popular flavors right now is Pink Champagne, where almost an entire bottle goes into the large batch recipe to keep it light and fluffy. We also tasted the banana cake with Nutella, Red Velvet, and Salted Caramel and had a difficult time deciding which one we loved the most! Another tea inspired flavor that is emerging in popularity at Whipped is Earl Grey Caramel.
Whipped is fortunate to have a retail store front that enables cake lovers to walk in and pickup nationally renowned cupcakes whenever a craving hits. They were recently awarded the #5 best cupcake in America, which is a Devils Food cupcake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate ganache.
Our last stop of the crawl was Cake Life Bake Shop, on the other side of Fishtown. If you aren’t familiar already, this bakery blew up on social media after they were called upon to create a birthday cake for Beyonce. How did Queen Bey discover this bakery? The owner isn’t completely sure but thinks that they might have stumbled upon it while staying in boutique hotel , right around the corner in Fishtown.
If a Beyonce birthday cake wasn’t impressive enough for their resume, baker Trish also stars on Food Network shows and will be appearing on an upcoming episode of Cake Wars, airing March 18th.
Cake Life’s wedding cake tasting palette provided some unique offerings that we had not experienced before in a tasting. They included indulgent Mascarpone and fruit-forward curd fillings of Lemon and Raspberry so that we could play around with different flavor combinations. We loved the rose pistachio cake and the chocolate celebration cake.
Jacklin and I couldn’t stop taking photos of all their amazing cakes throughout their bakery, as almost everything here was Instagrammable. One of the wedding cakes that put them on the map was this rock candy cake. The baker must cut out a section of each tier and painstakingly hand apply each candy crystal to the cake.
Cakelife definitely made an adorable date night location, with a full coffee bar available and plenty of cozy tables. If we hadn’t eaten cake for 8 hours straight, we probably would have stayed all evening. We will be back!
Visiting six bakeries in one day, is not for the faint of heart. It was like an intense road trip mixed with sugar overload! But we loved working with all of these amazing bakeries and hearing the unique story behind the brand. Jacklin and I were also pleasantly surprised by the amazing reaction from social media during and after this crawl. So many people asked us if we would be doing this again, because they wanted to take part!