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Wedding Guide: Grand Forks bakers say couples considering new options for cakes

There have been plenty of trends this year that break the traditional cake mold.

wedding cake by iStock.jpg
A bride and groom cut their wedding cake. (Stock photo purchased from iStock, for use in the Grand Forks Herald. Credit: MDVisuals)

In a normal year, wedding cake bakers like Cheri Randel, owner of Grand Forks’ O For Heaven’s Cakes N’ More, would happily take guests through all the latest trends in wedding desserts. And she still does — “naked” cakes are in, so lightly frosted that the cake itself is visible underneath.

This year, though — and probably for a part of 2021 — wedding cakes have gone in a new direction as COVID pandemic restrictions reshape weddings themselves. They’re often far smaller cakes, or even a sheet cake. As Randel points out, in a year full of economic tumult, that’s often the least expensive option.

“We used to get a lot of big orders — you have weddings that are planning for 300, 400 people — and now it's like, ‘OK, we're only having like 20 people,’” Randel said. “They're getting to be a lot smaller. Just because people are tired of waiting for this to go away. They just want to get married."

LeAnn Rall, the bakery director for Hugo’s, said couples have even opted for cupcakes instead — a safer, more easily shareable spin on the traditional cake.

That’s if they’re still having a wedding at all, of course. Rall said that in a typical year, Hugo’s bakery probably does between 50 and 60 cakes. In 2020, she said, it’s cleared somewhere closer to 30 or 35. It’s also dramatically changed their sales process, with takeout cake samples instead of face-to-face meetings as couples consider options for their wedding.

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“People are still kind of deciding for next year, 2021, what do we plan? Where are we going to be at?” Rall said. While normally January and February starts the wedding show circuit, Rall said she’s seen far fewer showcases planned in upcoming months.

"It's been a struggle, I think, for everybody to get used to,” Rall said. “Just wanting to help everybody out that was getting married, and having to figure out how to do it smaller.”

There have been plenty of other trends this year, too, that break the traditional cake mold. In August, CNN told the story of a New York couple who arranged to have a southern grocer direct them, step by step, how to bake their own Publix wedding cake in Minnesota — a cross-country cake retrieval being out of the question during COVID.

ABC Australia noted in September that fake cakes, filled with a polystyrene center (and usually reserved for wedding expos) are on the rise as a kind of display cake — one that can be set out for guests to see, but isn’t served to a big group (another tough challenge during a pandemic).

There are, of course, plenty of other cake trends out there that have nothing to do with the COVID pandemic. Rall points out that some couples have opted for more “low-key colors” recently, but that overall, her bakeries are still putting out a wide variety of colors and styles.

Randel said it’s likely that cakes keep a no-frills elegance for the near future.

“I think it's going to continue as simple as possible,” she said, “with no sign of COVID slowing down right now.”

Related Topics: FAMILY
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