The Icing on the Cake

Chic, dairy-free wedding cakes give vegan brides a chance to have their cake and eat it too
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The Icing on the Cake

For many brides, finding the right wedding cake ranks right up there with choosing the right dress—after all, the cake spends more time in front of the crowd than the bride and groom do, slicing, eating and serving shots are sure to make it into the photo album, and a delectable dessert is the final opportunity to leave a lasting impression on guests. The pressure for perfection is enough to give even the sanest woman a bridezilla moment (or three). For vegan brides, the stakes are even higher since the egg and dairy free confection needs to match or beat a traditional wedding cake in both taste and design.

Thanks in part to consumers’ ongoing interest in all things healthy and organic and high profile celebrities making vegan choices, brides have less trouble finding an egg and dairy-free wedding cake than ever before. Organic bakeries that cater to a chic, eco-savvy clientele have developed a willingness to accommodate a host of dietary choices and restrictions—including and especially veganism.

We talked to three pastry chefs who are paving the way for vegan wedding cake perfection. Their stories and tips. Their stories and tips span decades of experience and show how anyone anywhere can make a vegan brides’ dreams a delectable reality.

Vintage Vegan
Mäni’s on Fairfax in Los Angeles is the go-to bakery for health-conscious celebrities, so it’s no surprise vegan wedding cakes became a part of the offerings shortly after their doors opened in 1989—long before the vegan wedding craze hit. 

“We use organic produce, organic flours and alternative sweeteners like maple sugar and agave nectar, so we get a lot of people who are interested in the healthier side of things, and we have a very large vegan clientele,” says Meredith Cella, Mäni’s pastry chef and manager. “In fact, nine out of 10 calls I get are about our vegan wedding cakes.”

With all of those calls from brides, Cella knows a thing or two about the wedding cake selection process. Her tip for finding the right one? Don’t be satisfied with any old baker willing to make a dairy-free cake—it’s the specific ingredients a baker uses that ensure a top-notch dessert.

“If you’re going that extra mile to get a vegan wedding cake, you should be sure your vendor is using quality ingredients,” she says. Still, Cella recommends brides trust their own palates and request a tasting. “It’s the only way for a bride to judge for herself if she feels the flavor is there,” she warns.

Cella believes today’s vegan wedding cakes are fashionably aligned with the current culinary movement toward pared-down elegance and attention to detail. “The culinary trend right now is to go with a simpler, cleaner approach, using the freshest ingredients possible,” she says. Which isn’t to imply that a bride’s vegan choice will seem overly trendy—if anything, ingredient-conscious baking is a return to a classic spirit hospitality that wedding guests of all ages will embrace.

Baby Love
When Erin McKenna left a career in fashion to open BabyCakes NYC four years ago, wedding cakes weren’t part of the plan. The urban bakeshop was to be a haven for fellow treat lovers with wheat and dairy allergies where they could pick up small treats—like BabyCakes NYC signature wheat and dairy-free cupcakes—to satisfy their sweet tooths. “A customer in the very beginning became a big fan and asked us to make her wedding cake. It ended up very elegant and chic and minimal—the orders rolled in after that,” McKenna explains.

Weddings are now about 10 percent of McKenna’s business, but most brides are more interested in her cupcakes than in large wedding cakes.

“Cupcakes are a very cost-efficient option for brides,” McKenna explains. “I’ll often also create a small, six-inch vegan cake for brides who want to still be able to do the whole cutting-of-the-cake tradition.”

Eco-friendly Elegance
Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Edith Meyer made her first wedding cake in 1999 and has been busy ever since turning local, organic ingredients into celebratory confections for Bay Area brides.“ People are caring a lot more about the environment and their impact on it and choosing local, organic ingredients makes a huge difference,” Meyer explains. “As a baker, you cannot beat the taste. And I guarantee wedding guests will remember the cake when it’s made with good, quality ingredients.”

For brides who are hesitant about serving a vegan wedding cake to a non-vegan crowd, Meyer solves the conundrum with a compromise, such as having vegan cupcakes alongside a traditional non-vegan tiered cake. “Brides can also consider having one vegan cake tier within a larger non-vegan cake,” she says.

Meyer also says health-conscious brides can ditch the sugary frosting, too. “Sometimes it’s more fun to serve cakes with fresh fruits that are in season,” she says. “An organic cherry compote on a chocolate cake can't be beat, and macerated organic strawberries spooned over a vanilla cake? Yum.”