Cupcakes, cookies and doughnuts: Change traditions, find alternatives to wedding cakes


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Cupcakes, cookies and doughnuts are alternatives to having a wedding cake at a wedding.

Leah Gage

When a guest attends a wedding, there are elements that are expected to be seen. A beautiful bride in white, flowers decorating the church and an extravagant wedding cake highlighting the reception space. However, in today’s changing times, one of these elements is becoming a thing of the past.

Tradition is slowly being faded out of wedding ceremonies and is taking wedding cakes with it. For some brides, the fear of going too far out of the box when it comes to desserts can cause brides to venture only slightly from the norm, while other brides take leaps and bounds.

“I’m seeing if people stick with cake, they get a big cake to cut and then sheet cakes in a variety of flavors so there isn’t just one standardized cake,” said Jody Rottinghaus, events coordinator at Hy-Vee.

Tawnya Zerr, owner of Cupcake Emporium in downtown Ames, opened her business in 2010 with no intentions of catering weddings, but was quickly requested to cater a wedding and has seen increased interest in wedding services ever since.

While some may think that cupcakes and cake are the same thing, Zerr would beg to differ.

“Cupcakes are definitely easier than cake,” Zerr said. “There’s no slicing and everyone gets, essentially, a personal decorated cake.”

While cupcakes may seem to be traditional, the flavors that are most popular are stretching the idea of traditional.

“I always tell them if they’re going to have older adults or kids to have one safe flavor like chocolate or vanilla,” Zerr said. “But the popular flavors we see are peanut butter cup, red velvet and white chocolate raspberry. This past year puppy chow made an appearance at almost every wedding.”

Having variety is becoming popular as brides want to please every person attending their special day. Lori Evans, owner of Bliss Events and Staffing, is seeing this trend as well.

“One couple loved cheesecake, so they had one large cheesecake to cut, and then served a variety of mini cheesecakes all with different toppings —turtle, blueberry, strawberry, cherry,” Evans said. “They wanted everyone to find something that they liked.”

At some weddings, variety is expanding past any type of cake at all.

“I just did one wedding where they had a doughnut bar,” Rottinghaus said. “They had mini doughnuts, all sorts of frosting and toppings and they could make their own doughnuts.”

Rottinghaus is not the only events coordinator seeing an increase in dessert buffets.

“One wedding I did had no cake. They really liked chocolate chip cookies, so that’s what they fed each other along with champagne flutes filled with milk,” Evans said. “Then they had a cookie buffet set up with different kinds of cookies, not just chocolate chip, for the guests.”

“I always start off asking them, ‘Do you like cake?’, because they should really have what they like to eat at their wedding,” Evans added. “I heard of a couple who really liked Krispy Kreme doughnuts and a had a pyramid of Krispy Kreme doughnuts for their cake.”

When bride and grooms choose a dessert other than cake, this could mean choosing not to do the traditional cutting of the cake. Some couples find omitting the tradition permissible, but others do not and choose alternative routes. Rottinghaus, Evans and Zerr all made the comment that often times when couples choose a nontraditional dessert, but do not want to give up the cake cutting, they bring in a faux cake.

Some caterers will do a big, extravagantly decorated Styrofoam cake, but include a single slice of real cake in the back, blended in with buttercream frosting. When it comes time to cut the cake, the couple cut out the single piece of cake and the guests never know.

While some couples think a wedding cake is required at the wedding, Evans points out that it’s okay to think outside of the box.

“Cake is definitely a traditional thing, but it’s not going to make or break a marriage,” Evans said. “Not having a wedding cake does not mean the marriage isn’t going to last.”