Deciding on a wedding cake isn't easy nowadays. It's not like it used to be when the only choices were chocolate or vanilla, how many tiers and what kind of plastic bride and groom went on top. Now, the number of choices is dizzying and it left Lydia Tucker and her mother, Debbie Tucker, shaking their heads.
They were sampling cakes this week at Hollin Hall Pastry Shop, trying to decide on a wedding cake for Lydia's upcoming wedding in March at Fort Belvoir's Officers Club.
"There's a lot to choose from, so far I like them all," said Debbie, as she started sampling. "We're overwhelmed with ideas."
Manager Devlin Dibitetto had set out five separate flavors and was there to help guide them with their decision.
When Lydia told her that they were expecting about 200 people, Dibitetto said, "Then you need four tiers."
So, one decision was made. But they would still have to decide what kind of tiers they wanted. Square? Round? Columns in between? Will they be stacked or staggered? A notebook full of ideas was there for them to peruse and get ideas.
And what flavors would they select? As at most bakeries and pastry shops, Hollin Hall offers a wide range of flavors. Jay Palermino, marketing director, said that they recently introduced a new flavor, Pear Caramel Bavarian. They still carry black & white mousse, chocolate raspberry marquis, triple chocolate Bavarian, classico tiramisu, white chocolate raspberry mousse, lemon Bavarian mousse and a few others.
Betsy Jones said that the tiramisu was her favorite, but that the black & white was the most popular. Jones has worked at her own catering business as well for Catering by Windows; she now works for The Enchanted Florist. When somebody asks Betsy Jones to recommend a bakery to make a wedding cake, she recommends Hollin Hall Pastry Shop.
"I send them here, I've never had a bride that's been unhappy," said Jones.
THE TWO COMPANIES do a lot of joint ventures with the pastry shop designing the cake and the florist decorating it. Jones said that flowers inbetween the layers are very popular. Some of the flowers most commonly used are roses, hydrangea and orchids.
"You want a flower that can withstand staying out for a long time," she said.
The same is true of the cake, of course. Hollin Hall Pastry Shop and The Enchanted Florist do weddings for a myriad of venues, including The Odyssey, River Farm, Fort Belvoir, Belle Haven Country Club, The Campagna Center, Carlyle House, Torpedo Factory and The Morrison House. Many of those events are outdoors, so it is critical that the cakes remain indoors until it is ready to be served.
Jones said that monograms and ribbons are also very popular. These are often done in fondant, this is a sugar syrup that is crystallized to a smooth, creamy white mass and is used for both icing and cake decorations.
"It makes the best smooth finish," said Palermino.
"Another thing that's popular is writing on the cake," said Jones. This can be anything from the couple's name to sayings that they like.
"People used to think white cake, now the sky's the limit," said Jones. "Brides are looking at the latest styles, trying to figure out what they want. Jay always tells people to bring in pictures if they see something. Believe it or not, Martha Steward really changed the way people think by giving us a wider array of styles."
Lydia didn't have anything definitely in mind. She knew that she wanted a black & white layer on top, but didn't want the whole cake to be chocolate. Lydia also knew that she wanted flowers on the cake. The fun part, however, was just sampling the different flavors, trying to figure out which combinations would be the best.