Wedding cakes are designed to be put on display, but these edible masterpieces take exhibition to a whole new level. Inspired by famous paintings both old and new, each of the following confections is a study in good taste.
The Inspiration: "The Basket of Apples," by Paul Cezanne, circa 1893
Designed by contributing editor Wendy Kromer, a cake maker in Sandusky, Ohio, this lemon cake was frosted in meringue to echo the original work's draped fabric, and finished with marzipan peaches and pears filled with nuts, dates, and figs.
The Inspiration: "Homage to the Square" series, by German American artist Josef Albers, 1950 to 1976
These individual, jewelry-box-size confections by Williams Freeman strike a graphic look similar to the squares in Albers's paintings. Inside, try a white vanilla cake with apricot-jam filling to complement the sunny, fondant-wrapped exterior.
The Inspiration: "Spot" series, by English artist Damien Hirst, 1990s
This offbeat number -- perfect for a contemporary wedding where fun is the focus -- mirrors the artist's vivid grids of circles set against white canvas. Assistant food editor Elizabeth Colling punched out multicolored fondant dots using a round pastry tip and attached them to a white-fondant cake using a gum-paste solution.
The Inspiration: The shimmering backgrounds in Austrian artist Gustav Klimt's figure paintings, early 1900s
Like the artist himself, Kromer's opulent caramel cake is all drama. The textured gold finish was made by pressing rectangles of edible gold leaf onto fondant. Decorative cord anchors each layer; the cake's cut-off corners allude to the artist's love of unconventional geometry.
The Inspiration: The hyper-realistic botanical still-life paintings of Dutch artist Rachel Ruysch, circa 1685 to 1750
More than one guest will do a double take at the sight of this cake, which looks like a lush floral centerpiece. Custom-made sugar flowers, created by Amy DeGiulio of Sugar Flower Cake Shop in New York City, were planted in a bed of chocolate-fondant-covered cake, which was set in a large gold urn. Fill the cake's layers with rosewater buttercream to call out its blooming adornments.
The Inspiration: "Cakes," by American artist Wayne Thiebaud, 1963
Williams Freeman's sugary spread is virtually identical to the original. Let guests serve themselves a helping of whatever strikes their fancy: a slice of lemon-curd cake, a sliver of buttercream-layered sponge cake, a bite of Boston cream pie -- or all of the above.
The Inspiration: "Sunflowers" series, by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, 1888 to 1889
The floral motif on this cake will brighten any reception -- from the eclectic to the more traditional in style. Kromer used a golden color palette (both inside and out) and oven-dried piped meringue petals to channel van Gogh's cheerful blossoms. To mimic his textured brush strokes, she painted on the buttercream frosting with a brush.
The Inspiration: The poured canvases of American painter Jackson Pollock, 1947 to 1952
A chic urban wedding calls for a conversation piece like this cake. To re-create the artist's famous dripped, flung, and poured style, Colling drizzled melted white, milk, and dark chocolate onto tempered milk chocolate panels with a spoon. Then she fitted the panels onto a rich chocolate cake covered in fondant.