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Sweet Tips for Extraordinary Desserts

For the couple with a sweet tooth and eclectic taste, we bring you five tips to make your wedding-day dessert original and delicious.

photos provided by Steel Penny Cakes


As a baker, Kerén DeCarlo, owner of Chateau Café & Cakery in the North Side, says that the first thing she notices at a wedding is the cake. That’s why she aims to make something special for her couples. 

“As much [couples try to mimic trends online], it’s nice to see a lot of brides not going in that direction and [instead] just doing what they want to do,” DeCarlo says. 

Elysia Smith, owner of Steel Penny Cakes in Mount Pleasant, creates custom wedding cakes for her customers. She says in some bakeries, couples choose their cakes out of a book and personalize small details such as colors, but at Steel Penny Cakes, she designs a couple’s cake to fit their wedding day. 

“I try to steer people away from a generic cake that everyone is ordering,” Smith says. 

Here are five tips to ensure your dessert choice stands out on your wedding day. 


1. Tie your cake into the theme of your wedding.

Smith says couples sometimes want their cake to reflect the theme of their day. 

She makes cakes in the shape of tree stumps for the many barn venues near her business in Mount Pleasant. Smith often is asked to create her signature ruffle cake, a design that complements a vintage or elegant themed event.

“The No. 1 theme I see is rustic,” she says. 

She is in the process of designing a beach-themed wedding cake for a couple tying the knot in August. The blue ombré cake will be decorated with elevated sugar flowers and starfish. 

“Being able to pull in elements that are directly related to a couple’s wedding [is what sets a cake apart],” Smith says. 

Grandview Bakery & Sweet Shop prepared a six-tiered gold-sprayed cake with a filigree impression and large gumpaste flower for a Valentine’s Day wedding at the Omni William Penn Hotel. 

The cake originally included four tiers, but Lead Cake Decorator and Cake Department Manager Maureen Joyce says the bakers added two Styrofoam tiers to increase the height in keeping with the grand venue and the couple’s tastes. 

“[A personalized cake] gets to show the couple’s personalities a lot ... We can draw inspiration from them and their day,” Joyce says. 


photo provided by grandview bakery & sweet shop


2. Give your baker some creative freedom.

Smith asks couples for inspiration as she creates a cake catered to their event. She can replicate the lace of a bride’s dress or create sugar flowers that match a couple’s bouquet flowers. 

She says she prefers drawing on items that are specific to a couple’s wedding and making a new design, rather than recreating a cake a bride or groom saw online. 

“Pinterest is great, but I like to tell my brides not to shop for [their] cake on Pinterest ... Have an open mind ... It’s best to be open to possibilities and let the vendor do what they do best,” she says. 

DeCarlo says offering inspiration but allowing the baker to provide his or her input results in a cake that is original and meaningful to a couple.

“Bring your phone with lots of pictures and ideas, and be open to suggestions,” DeCarlo advises. 


Photos by lynn goldstein photography


3. Go cake-less. 

At Chateau Café & Cakery, DeCarlo says couples often choose cupcakes over a traditional cake.

“They’re what I get asked to do more than anything,” she says. 

Brea Furman and Joel Glazer opted for pies instead of a cake for their March 14, 2015, nuptials at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Furman tutors high school students in math and Glazer is a civil engineer, so they chose to have a Pi Day wedding featuring a math theme. 

In place of escort cards, their wedding featured a sign resembling a classroom chalkboard. Mathematical symbols representing concepts such as Infinity or Integral to guests’ assigned tables. 


To continue the “Pi” theme, they ordered 24 pies and 190 pie pops in four different flavors from Bella Christie & Lil’ Z’s Sweet Boutique in Aspinwall.

“The most important thing for us was finding the bakery that was so accommodating ... Find a bakery that is willing to do what you want them to do and step out of the box with you,” Furman advises. 

She admits she and her groom went a little overboard with desserts. At the end of the night, they had 12 pies left over, although all of the pie pops were eaten. 

“[Our guests] loved the pies. Obviously the pie pops were a hit because no one had ever seen them before. Those were the real novelty,” she says. 


photo courtesy of chateau cafe & cakery


4. Get creative with flavor. 

To prevent your wedding dessert from being too vanilla, opt for an unusual flavor to surprise your guests. 

DeCarlo creates flavors such as Pancake Maple Bacon for cupcakes or for cakes. Chateau Café & Cakery features a range of cupcake flavors that correspond with Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Couples can order the North S’Hmore, a graham-cracker cupcake with marshmallow frosting and chocolate ganache or the popular Dahn Tahn, a red velvet cupcake topped with a white chocolate cream cheese icing. 

At Grandview Bakery & Sweet Shop, couples are able to give their guests options. 

“We ask the bride and groom to pick three flavors of filling and three flavors of cake so the guests can actually mix and match,” Joyce says. 

Two popular combinations are white cake with raspberry-jam filling and cream-cheese icing and carrot cake topped with caramel buttercream. 


Photo by AraUJo photography


5. Turn it upside-down. 

Bella Christie & Lil’ Z’s Sweet Boutique created a five-tier cake that hung upside down from a chandelier for an August wedding. 

Amanda Byrne, director of special events at Bella Christie & Lil Z's, says the team of bakers that created the cake saw the chandelier trend on the West Coast and wanted to bring it to the East Coast.

“The wedding was over the top and extravagant ... It fit [the couple’s] vision perfectly,” Byrne says. 

The shop had to build a structure within the cake to enable it to hang upside-down, as well as a stand to keep the cake inverted during transport. 

Byrne’s advice for couples who want to include an extraordinary cake design? Just go for it. 

“You’re only doing this once ... [The cake] is your last chance to wow the guests before they leave for the night,” she says. 



Rustic Acres Farm will host JPC Event Group’s Spring Open House from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 3. The event will feature food, entertainment and decor inspiration for brides-and-grooms-to-be. Get tickets here.
[141 Black Road, Volant; 724/654-6851]

Devoted to You Events presents Unveiled, a styled wedding reception allowing couples to casually network with vendors and see their work in action. The next event is from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 24. Register here.
[Clear Story Studio, 1931 Sidney St., South Side]



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