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A weeklong series about weddings post-pandemic.

Small weddings, the norm during the pandemic, appear here to stay
May 17: Who to call if your dog needs a date to your wedding
May 18: Wedding DJs and singers in the Twin Cities name best/worst songs for your big day
May 19: The coolest new trend for weddings: mobile bars
May 19: What’s trending in Twin Cities wedding cakes
May 21: More Minnesota brides buy off-the-rack, vintage or rent dresses for the big day

"Wedding season will always be the best season," said Jai Xiong, owner and executive pastry chef of Amour Patisserie, a Korean- and French-inspired bakery based in St. Paul.

It's also the busiest.

This time of year, Xiong and her colleagues in the wedding cake world are awash in buttercream and fondant, sticky with glazed fruit and sugar flowers. And they wouldn't have it any other way, especially when joyful gatherings are returning in full force after two years of postponed wedding dates.

Things look a little different on the dessert table, though. Here are three trends that Twin Cities bakers are seeing with wedding cakes.

Buffets with individual servings

Xiong has been fielding requests for "more individually packaged sweets, or in a style that'll allow the guests to pick up their desserts without directly touching other sweets," thanks to pandemic-related germ consciousness.

Next to a single-tier cake for the couple, she'll fill a buffet-style dessert table with floral cupcakes (they're "in high demand") and "unique, modern desserts" such as mini mousse cakes, intricately decorated mini layer cakes enrobed in a glaze, and personalized cookies.

"It's really the best of all worlds," said Marisa Farinella, bakery operations and catering manager at Buttercream Wedding Cakes in St. Paul, which is also getting a lot of requests for mini desserts alongside a one- or two-tier cake. "Couples get cutting photos, cake that can be saved or served, and a gorgeous dessert buffet." And, Farinella added, more flavors can be brought into the mix.

Creativity and personalization

Simple white wedding cakes with flowers are so 10 years ago.

"Today we're seeing awesome themed cakes that showcase the couple's interests," said Megan Baker, co-owner of Minneapolis' Thirsty Whale Bakery. Baker has been tasked with making cakes with a hiking theme, a Harry Potter theme, even a theme inspired by a couple's pet. "The sky is the limit," she said.

The Buttercream staff was asked to design a personalized monogram on what Farinella calls "The Audrey cake." To come up with a custom piping design, they combed through years of photos of previous cakes, and ultimately modeled the monogram on details from the bride's dress and jewelry. "We truly thrive off of bringing personal details into every order and getting to know each of our clients," Farinella said.

Elaborate and modern designs

Plenty of clients still choose to go the classic white cake route, but classic doesn't mean simple or plain. Baker says they are being asked for elaborate designs that can take hours of work to detail by hand.

One of her more challenging orders was to re-create Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding cake, a 13-tier beast with five flavor combinations and more than 900 edible flowers. "We hand-piped almost a gallon of royal icing drop lines and decor," Baker said. "The piping probably took 8 hours in total."

Xiong has been getting orders for tall cakes, sometimes six tiers high. They start as a clean white cake, and then get adorned with a "pop of bold color," she said. That could be in the form of a colored tier, or a "statement bouquet" of silk flowers mixed with sugar flowers.

For a more modern take, Xiong will place the cake at the bottom of a hoop that's been laced with florals, or — an exceedingly popular request — create the illusion that one tier is floating above the others by connecting it to a cake stand that's been masked by "huge bouquets."

How's that for a little wedding-day magic?