American author and humorist James Thurber once said, “The most dangerous food is wedding cake.” Having the perfect cake at a bride and groom’s special day can make or break this event; a beautiful cake with a poor flavor can leave guests with a bad taste in their mouth—literally—while a cake with a poorly-chosen whipped cream frosting at a Sun Valley summer wedding can melt before the newlyweds even cut it.
With so many weddings taking place each year in the Sun Valley area, particularly in the summer, wedding cake makers stay quite busy. We spoke to three of them: Sarah Lipton of Hank & Sylvie’s, Perla Anguiano of the Konditorei/Sun Valley Resort and Cristina Cook of Cristina’s restaurant. Each has their own take on the wedding cake process, from how they present tastings to tackling the bride and groom’s vision.
The first step is to book as soon as you can; with a limited number of bakers and numerous weddings every weekend of the summer in Sun Valley, openings tend to fill quickly. Lipton, owner and baker of Hank & Sylvie’s and business partner to Taylor Rossi of Taylor’d Events, often has multiple cakes for single weekend—even the same day—during the summer.
“There are multiple weddings every weekend, but limited resources in our valley,” Lipton said. “The wedding industry is growing and the weddings are getting bigger and more frequent and there’s not more of us to go around.”
Once a cake is on the books, it’s time for a tasting, which is done months before the wedding. Anguiano, head pastry chef at the Konditorei, makes all wedding and event cakes for Sun Valley Resort. She offers three six-inch cakes with three different fillings for her tastings. Anguiano begins forming a mental image of the cake at the tasting, asking questions like how many tiers the couple wants, how many people the cake should feed, what the theme of the wedding is, if it’s outside and how much they’d like to spend. This is the time for people to bring in any inspirational photos and to discuss what specifics and designs they’d like.
“Some people are very simple and want a rustic white cake with flowers—that’s the easy person,” Anguiano said. “Then you have some who bring pictures and want one part from this picture and one part from this. I’ve been very lucky that everyone’s been happy with their cakes when they come out of here.”
For Cook, the owner and chef of famed Ketchum restaurant Cristina’s, the process varies a bit. The busy restaurateur only takes on a certain number of cakes (last summer only 11) for people who are either regular customers or are looking for something a little out of the box.
During the tasting—for which Cook designs individual cakes with different frostings and colors—listening to the couple is of the utmost importance. Most who have gone to Cook trusted her vision entirely, and simply let her design the cake with only the stipulation that it “be beautiful.”
“When I meet the bride and groom, I try to understand what they’re looking for or what they might like or not like,” Cook said. “Then I go from there. I don’t have a plan, no drawings. I listen.”
When the time comes to make the actual cake, the process typically starts two days before the wedding; a Saturday wedding’s cake, for instance, will get started on Thursday. The cake itself will be baked two days before the wedding. It’s built and frosted one day before. Decoration and any finishing touches are added on the day of. For cakes with many tiers, or ones that need to be delivered over Galena, the cake will be assembled on site.
So what does the final product look like? For the past few years, all three bakers have seen a trend of simple white buttercream cakes with fresh wildflowers. In the past, weddings have wanted cupcakes or dessert tables or build-your-own dessert bars in addition to cake, but brides and grooms seem to be shying away from that.
“I think people are leaning more towards the idea of having less choices to make,” Lipton said. “Also, people are bringing more color into their weddings in general, which is nice because although a white cake is beautiful, it’s a really fun opportunity to have something that makes a really big statement that isn’t all over your wedding.”
Anguiano noticed a trend toward more gaudy cakes with elements like rhinestones and feathers. Today, tastes have swung toward more traditional cakes. Her personal favorites are fall cakes with orange, mustard yellow and burgundy colors. Some of her more interesting cakes have been “half cakes” with one side decorated differently than the other, such as a bride and groom cake she did on which half was white with a veil and the other half was done in camo for the groom.
For Cook, most of her cakes are a bit out of the norm since so many couples leave the design ultimately in the hands of the chef. One cake she designed with only the stipulation that it be Italian and big was a four-tiered, mille-feuille cake covered in orange French macaroons.
“I never really told them what was coming,” Cook said. “I didn’t even know how I was going to put it together. But I talked to them, I listened to them and they loved it.”
The amount of work that goes into something eaten within minutes is astounding, but the memories of that cake and its contribution to the feel of the wedding as a whole are truly priceless.