Talk about a sweet double life: Tallant House pastry chef Judy Tallant spent 20 years as a technical illustrator and watercolorist before mastering French-style desserts. For this hand-painted, showstopping five-layer cake, Tallant first collected photos of peony tulips, garden roses, astilbe, and other blooms selected by Theresa Althauser of Althauser Design, and pinned them to a dummy cake to create a composition. She then re-created the look on edible wafer paper and transferred it to the tiers using egg whites, edible markers, dry food color, and edible petal dust. She layered pistachio sponge cake and raspberry compote with raspberry, pink grapefruit, and red current mousses; the comparatively light, airy slices are “less sweet and more succulent than traditional American-style cake,” says Tallant. “They’re refreshing, even after a big meal.”
Details throughout: Floral arrangements by Althauser Design. Linens from Choice Linens. Dinnerware, flatware, and stemware from AA Party Rentals. Cocktail design, favors, and cake plates and pedestals from Maris Events
Coming Up Roses
Balancing the deep, dense flavors of her popular cocoa-spiked red velvet cake inside (striped with cheesecake mousse filling, no less!), Kathleen Sutton at Lake Union Cafe Custom Bakery rolled out paper-thin layers of fondant and then hand-ruffled the edges while thinning them even further. “I was going for something really delicate—like flower petals, but not as precious,” the baker told us. Designer Theresa Althauser used the texture-rich creation like a vase, filling the shallow space on the top layer with a lavish assortment of bold botanicals that hint at the vivid cream and ruby experience inside. Got your heart set on additional luscious bites for a buffet-style spread? Sutton suggests her cheesecake tarts; topped with salted caramel cream or berry sauce, their fluted edges would complement the main attraction’s ruffles.
Cake & Eat It, Too
Large, handcrafted cakes are time-consuming, and spendy. To save money, Sutton suggests serving less expensive sheet cake slices alongside a small, fancy display cake.
The on-trend color-blocked, asymmetrical design by Ruth-Anne Ford makes this quietly bold tower a true showpiece. Inside, raspberry chiffon cake—made by soaking layers in the fresh, juicy purée of local berries—is accented with tropical passion fruit mousse, yielding a sort of near-and-far flavor experience. Ford says a cake like this serves about 130 people; for couples looking to add more decadent bites, she’d suggest a tower of her macarons in complementary shades, each with a gold metallic stripe. Maris Events designers Alissa Lawton and Meredith Geffert chose stately monogrammed favor boxes to go with the cake's formal grandeur.
Recently installed as the owner of Morfey’s Cakes, baker and head decorator Erin Blanchard works with Madagascar vanilla–flavored fondant to coax textural interest and lifelike forms like the ones on these tiers. The double-tall pale pink layer is meant to evoke the wide, ruffled petals of English roses; the wide, cream-colored ribbons below might mirror the silky details of a bride’s gown. Blanchard reminds cake cutters of this classic trick: “Use a hot knife—thoroughly wiped between each slice—to get beautifully cut servings.”
The Maris gals offer sweet, herby strawberry-tarragon gimlets to go with this gorgeous final course.