Identifying the right ceremonial confection is a decision that lasts forever.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
The word “wedding” tends to add a zero to prices. That goes for cakes, big time: It’s not unusual for a 100-serving confection to break $1,000. Local bakeries host private tastings for wedding cake as if it’s high-end wine. I whittled them down to four, banked my calories and made appointments.
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My fiance and I sat down in Layers’ tasting room to six slices of cake and a gallery of artistic creations: tiered cakes with iced calla lilies, butterflies and fronds, white chocolate curls and strawberries. Co-owner Hazel Nuovo got us situated, then left us to discuss.
We tried a red velvet with a cream-cheese frosting layer and buttercream, death by chocolate, princess cake with marzipan, lemon butter, and carrot cake with cream-cheese frosting. Our favorite was the genoise with Bavarian cream, raspberry and marzipan.
A 2-inch-thick swatch of icing colors hinted at Layers’ capacity to pluck a cake out of my dreams and turn it into a bridal reality. Nuovo said they can even do sugar prints of digital images.
The pricing varies. A round, two-tier cake with a simple design runs about $5.50 per slice, or – budget option – we could buy a smaller ceremonial cake, plus a sheet cake at $2.50 per slice. Local delivery is free.
LAYERS SENSATIONAL CAKES | 9 Soledad Drive, Monterey, www.layerscake.com 655-1544.
Cupcakes came to mind as budget-conscious and cute. The cute was confirmed on entering Mrs. Delish’s tiny boutique on Lighthouse.
During a private consultation, owner Mary Font said the $35-per-dozen base price only goes up if we want a fondant molding or craft-paper toothpicks, at $0.50 more per cupcake.
The fatal flaw with cupcakes, IMHO, is the off-kilter icing-to-cake ratio. (Amazingly, Mrs Delish’s menu includes a “frosting shot.”) But Font was amenable to a lower-sugar option: a whipped-cream frosting flavored with citrus or vanilla-bean zest. She provided a stack of wrappers to choose from, including leopard print, swirly stripes and solids.
One perk with cupcakes: no extra stacks of plates and forks to deal with. But what about the tradition of cutting the cake and shoving it in my groom’s face? No problem, Font said; she can do a small cutter cake or one jumbo cupcake, and pop on our cake toppers.
Font sent me home with a complimentary half-dozen: cherry bomb, Twix bar, coconut on chocolate, Boston cream pie, lemon on lemon and blackberry. It might as well have been free crack; I craved cupcakes for weeks.
MRS. DELISH’S | 800 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, www.mrsdelishs.com 612-1884
Yann Lusseau greeted us with a tray of cake samples, milk and a basket of toys for our grabby toddler. The wiry Frenchman, who co-owns the bakery with wife Anne Parker Johnson, then handed us an iPad slideshow illuminating the possibilities, including a signature ladyfinger cake with raffia that looked too gorgeous to eat.
The show kept us entertained while we nibbled six flavors: genoise with vanilla cream, genoise with lemon cream, genoise with passionfruit cream and genoise with chocolate mousse; cocoa buttermilk with chocolate-orange ganache, and cocoa buttermilk with chocolate mousse and raspberries. Everything is made from scratch.
The genoise-passionfruit had our eyes rolling back in ecstasy. It was both subtle and delectable. The prices brought us back to earth. A three-tier cake would run $7.50 per slice for chocolate or ladyfinger, $8.50 for marzipan or fondant, $10 and up for chocolate, with charges for fresh flowers and artwork. Supplemental sheet cake is $3.75 per slice.
PARKER-LUSSEAU PASTRIES & CAFE | 731 Munras Ave., Monterey, www.parker-lusseaupastries.com 643-0300
Bakery co-owner Jennifer Hatton was all about the details – from my wedding-ideas Pinterest board to a profile form including my mom’s contact info, florist and wedding colors, “so it looks like it all goes together,” she explained.
P&P can do any number of layers, flavors, fillings, icing styles and shapes, as well as half-sheets to supplement a fancier ceremony cake. Hatton’s mom, bakery co-owner Jeanne Johnston, is a florist – a specialty that allows P&P to masterfully integrate flowers into its creations. Along with reception favors, bridal luncheons and gift baskets, the bakery can also do dessert tables with an assortment of nibblies like mini-cheesecakes and macaroons.
The tasting sticks to the basics: cupcakes in vanilla, chocolate and red velvet. The signature vanilla is the most bridal-looking of the bunch, a perfectly moist cake with pale-pink buttercream and a coral-pink rosebud on top. The chocolate is denser and crumblier, with moussey icing. But it’s the red velvet that gets me. The devilish fluffiness pairs decadently with the cream cheese frosting, which is surprisingly whippy.
P&P’s cake gallery includes creations with passion-fruit flavors, white-chocolate shavings and fresh flowers that make Gauguin-worthy still-life subjects. Pricing depends on design, but Hatton says cakes generally fall around $5-$8 per slice, with variable delivery fees.
PASTRIES & PETALS | Carmel, Mission between Fourth and Fifth, Carmel, 620-1400
We’d give awards to each of our contenders if we could. Tastiest cake: Parker-Lusseau’s genoise-passionfruit. Prettiest presentation: Pastries & Petals. Most customizable: Layers.
But for me and my fiance, it was ultimately a matter of maximizing where money meets taste, and Mrs. Delish’s sat right at that intersection. One hundred-plus cupcakes in two flavors, a cutter cake, stand rental and delivery totaled just under $400.
And our mini-honeymoon in Big Sur – made possible with the money we saved – was even sweeter than a shot of frosting.