The Great Flower Debate: Sugar Flowers vs. Real Flowers

Many people will argue that nothing can beat the beauty of a real flower. I tend to agree with this type of thinking. When I think back to my own wedding (almost 10 yrs ago!!), I was dead set on having real flowers on my wedding cake. When I went for my cake tasting, the pastry chef sort of brushed over the idea of even having sugar flowers. He said they were way too expensive and that I would be better off with the real thing. Being that I already had my mind up anyway, I didn’t even push the option. Was it even possible that a sugar flower could even compete in beauty to a real flower? (Believe it or not, at that time I was finishing up my masters degree in Special Education and had no idea that cake art was in my future.)

You be the judge. Here are two pictures of scabiosa flowers. One is a real flower and the other is a sugar flower. Take a close look at both.

     

The flower on the left is a real flower and the one on the right is a sugar flower. (This was actually our first scabiosa sugar flower that we ever made. We think it turned out pretty well!)

Here’s another pair of flower pictures. Both are cymbidium orchids. The one of the left is a sugar flower and the one on the right is a real flower.

 

  

Just a few more examples of our sugar flower work…. (clockwise: carnations, alstromeria, billy buttons, lisianthus, large bloom rose, gardenia and gerber daisies)

            

 

Okay… last one… Here’s some sugar lavender mixed in with some real lavender:  

While we are pretty darn proud of our sugar flower work at Cake Couture, we realize that our work is not even close to some of the great sugar artists in the world. If we showed you pictures of sugar flowers made by Robert Haynes, we are sure that you would agree! His work is impeccable and impossible to tell apart from the real thing.

At Cake Couture the majority of our wedding cakes use sugar flowers. Honestly, as much as we love making sugar flowers, we definitely don’t push them on our clients. Sugar flowers are labor intensive to make which makes them a more expensive flower option. Also, while sugar flowers are edible, they are definitely not palatable. And still after all of this, most of our couples decide to go the sugar flower route.

If you ask me (Mindy), I think couples opt to go the sugar flower route with us because of the “AWESOMENESS VALUE” of our flowers. (Yes, this is a real term in our shop.) How cool is it to say that the flowers are made of sugar? We make each and every one of our flowers by hand. Even our gumpaste is made from scratch. Your wedding cake really does become one of the things that your guests will remember most. Many of our past wedding couples still tell us what a big hit their cake was. We’ve had a bride recently comment about how she had to touch the flowers to believe that they were not real.

The other really awesome thing about sugar flowers is that they can last forever. My next door neighbor is a pastry chef and she made her entire wedding bouquet out of sugar flowers. She was married over 30yrs ago and still has her flowers today. We have brides who have put their sugar flowers in vases and stored them in a display cabinet.

Let’s also not forget about the fact that sugar flowers helps you in avoiding the risk of contaminating your cake with pesticides or infested by insects. (Honestly, we feel this risk is low. Florists are professionals and understand the risks involved and how to avoid them. Just always be sure to communicate with your florist. Some flowers are poisonous and should never be placed near food.)

So if you had to pick between sugar flowers or real flowers on your wedding cake? Which would you choose?

Visit us on facebook to see more of our sugar art!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Naked Cake Truth (rated “G”)

My sister, Liz and I love a challenge! In fact, we almost welcome them. When “foodies” Steve and Christy came to us for their wedding consultation and asked if we would be willing to take on their dream wedding cake idea, we literally exploded with excitement when they told us they wanted a naked cake. We’ve seen naked cakes done before and we are not talking about the “X-rated” versions. A naked cake is a cake without any icing on the outside- no buttercream and no fondant. The cake tiers and fillings are completely exposed. The aroma that comes from a naked cake is completely out of this world!

After the initial excitement swept over us, our rational sides started kicking in. As much as we wanted to do our first naked wedding cake, we needed to put their needs before our own wants. Naked cakes are not the best fit for everyone. They are very fragile and more susceptible to climate change than your traditional fondant covered wedding cake.  Butter will begin to soften at room temperature. All of our icings are made using 100% butter. Imagine the mess that cake could make if left in a warm environment for too long. It would be an oozy ugly mess! We’ve had to turn client requests away in the past for wanting this same type of cake. (If these folks found someone willing to do it for them, I’m sure they can recall the mess on their wedding day.) This is definitely not a design that we would ever agree to making for a summer wedding.  Steve and Christys’ wedding plans were perfect for this design. They were getting married in mid-October. They also completely nailed the theme of rustic with their choice of venue and flowers. Overall, this design was the perfect fit for them. Now that we managed getting over the first hurdle, we needed to take extra time in planning out the support system for this cake.  Their design called for a 14inch round (sweet potato)- 12inch round (chocolate)- 9inch round (pound)- 6inch round (red velvet). This cake was a big cake packed with tons of flavor! We definitely had to upgrade our support system. We used a pipe set-up that you would find in many of our carved cakes. A lot of people assume that naked cakes take less time because there is no icing on the outside. They are wrongly mistaken. Torting and filling this cake needs to be exact because every layer will be out in the open and all mistakes will be seen. There is also the issue of how to keep it moist. Cakes dry out in the open air. Many bakers will try to hide their secret here. For us there is no secret, it comes down to having a fresh cake. We never bake our cakes ahead of time and freeze them. Their cake was baked fresh using high quality ingredients. It really was that simple. It also helped to have such great clients to work with! Here is Steve and Christys’ Rustic Wedding Cake and a close up picture of the sugar flowers that we made for it (ranunculus, billy buttons, spider mums, calla lilies, and hydrangea).     

 

 

 

Is this really a cake?

The Philadelphia Zoo hosted a cake decorating contest as part of their Wild at Heart Valentine’s weekend celebration. The only stipulations were that we needed to decorate for 4 hours on site at the zoo. Anyone who decorates cakes knows that 4 hours can go by in a blink of an eye. (It would be a struggle to bake and decorate a simple birthday cake in that time frame.) Immediately, we began brainstorming ideas for a design. We felt that a monogamous animal choice would work best for a Valentine’s Day themed cake, so we started our research there. We wanted our design to be realistic and we wanted it to cause people to question whether or not the cake was really made out of cake. Parrots ended up being our top choice on our list because we felt that they would be the most complicated animal to make. The Zoo also has three hyacinth macaws, so we felt this was a great animal to focus on.

Here’s a progress picture of the cake. The body of the zoo keeper and the birds were all carved and given a basic fondant/chocolate covering. (Yes, we used all cake for this design. There are no rice cereal treats and the only styrofoam used was for the head of the zoo keeper.)

Here’s a picture of Liz working on the feathers. The parrots were given a base covering and then individual feathers of varying sizes were made and applied to the base. This took a long time… but who’s counting when your having fun!

Here’s a picture of Mindy and Liz during the competition at the Zoo!

 Ta-da!! 30 something hours later!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diamonds are over-rated….

A little over a week before Jackie’s 30th surprise birthday party, Jim (Jackie’s boyfriend and AKA- “Boyfriend of the Year”) contacted us about making a cake.  Jim was in need of something special for his leading lady.  He wanted a cake to reflect both Jackie’s alma mater (Notre Dame University) and a luau theme.  Immediately, Liz (my wonderful sister and fellow cake decorator) and I began working on sketches.  As soon as my sister heard the words luau, she immediately thought of the painting “The Wave” by Hokusai.  Here’s the famous painting:

 Here are the sketches….. We were rooting for design #2.    

 

And the winner was….. Design #2! As soon as we finished cheering, we immediately got to work.  Many of the details in this design needed a lot of drying time.  Here is the beginning of the sunset background-

 This piece needed to be completely dry before being hand-painted.  It took two days to dry.  We made two of them…. just in case.  

Guess who?

Every luau themed party needs hibiscus flowers!

 Oops… naked cake!

Almost done….

Ta da! 

To all the gentlemen out there- diamonds are over-rated!  Try something new and consider getting the love of your life a custom cake!

This one says it all…

Dawn’s co-workers wanted to surprise her with a cake to help with celebrating her 50th birthday.  The idea for a “finger” cake won unanimously!  (I would love to know what goes on in her office!)  In addition to getting the finger, she was also presented with traditional birthday cake.

Cute Cupcakes!

Cause You Only Get Married Once

Cake Inspiration

I get inspiration for my cakes in many different ways…

Wedding Cakes