Mom always said it's what's inside that counts. And while that may hold true when it comes to choosing a groom, it's no longer the case with wedding cakes. "These days, both the interior and the exterior have to be spectacular," says Wendy Kromer, contributing editor at Martha Stewart Weddings and owner of Wendy Kromer Confections in Sandusky, Ohio. Use the cake designs on the following slides, plus our guide to the elements of a cake, as inspiration for your own showpiece. Just like your groom, it should be a perfect match.
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Meringue Wedding Cake
This riff on lemon pie is actually a white cake with buttercream frosting and alternating layers of lemon curd and buttercream filling inside (see a slice of it on the previous slide). It's finished with delicate meringue flowers. "Buttercream and meringue taste lovely together," says Kromer, who made all the confections in this gallery. "And their natural colors -- shades of white and pale yellow -- look beautiful, too."
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The traditional option, and with good reason: It tastes great with any filling or frosting. For a fresh turn, Kromer suggests pairing it with passion fruit or vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream.
Just a little bit richer than white butter, it's the second most popular choice of brides at Wendy Kromer Confections. When it comes to fillings and frosting, "the sky's the limit," she says.
Unexpected and nutty, this meringue is a nice complement to basic cake layers like white butter. "It's delicious with chocolate, praline, or even white-chocolate buttercream frosting and filling," says Kromer.
Lemon Poppy Seed
This refreshing cake "tastes best with citrus and vanilla flavors," she says. "Go with lemon curd and lemon buttercream or white-chocolate buttercream frosting."
Spicy, sweet, and sometimes nutty, it's often coupled with cream cheese icing. Kromer likes to serve it with caramel-cream cheese or white-chocolate filling, or vanilla buttercream.
It relies on cocoa for its chocolaty taste and a splash of red food dye for its dramatic color. "Try it with cream cheese frosting, or chocolate-hazelnut, chocolate, or caramel buttercream," she suggests.
Not only does it look cool, but it goes with just about everything. "It's great with fruit fillings, especially raspberry preserves," says Kromer. "The flavors come together really nicely."
After white butter and moist yellow, this cake is third most popular. White or chocolate frosting is a typical pairing, but "apricot, pistachio, coffee, or rich caramel flavors are nice, too," she says.
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Buttercream Wedding Cake
Variety within tiers isn't the only way to create a distinctive dessert; you can also put the top layer on a pedestal -- literally. "Here, we used a silver tray and candy dish," says Kromer. "This is a nice idea for couples who'd like to incorporate heirloom serving pieces." The gleam of the silver reflects the rich peaks of vanilla-buttercream icing, which is topped with edible gardenias made of gum paste. One caveat: If the item you're using is heavy like this one, it's important to build support into the layer below it.
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Finishing Touches for Wedding Cakes
1. Gum-Paste Flowers
2. Coconut Shavings
3. Metallic Luster Dust
4. Piped Basket Weaves
5. Chocolate Shavings
6. Piped Edgings
7. Pearl Dragees
8. Piped Meringue
9. Piped Fleur de Lis
10. Sugared Violas
11. Gum-Paste Fruit
12. Marzipan Fruit
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Chocolate Ganache Wedding Cake
In the past, chocolate styles were relegated to groom's-cake status, "but that's been changing over the last 10 to 15 years," says Kromer. This version is a cocoa lover's dream. With its thick ganache coating and garnish of dried coconut (think of it as a grown-up version of a Mounds bar), it's a novel choice for couples in the mood for something out of the ordinary.
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Piped Wedding Cake
Swags made from piped royal icing give this fondant-covered creation a 1950s feel, while tiers of varying heights (a big trend right now) make it current. One thing to keep in mind: Elaborate, detailed work like this requires a heavy-duty foundation like marzipan or fondant. "Not only does the cake need to hold up through the reception, but it also has to last through the decorating process, which can take hours," says Kromer.