How we ate cake

Photos of delicious cakes below

It seems like every wedding movie has the requisite scene where the bride- and groom-to-be perch on fussy little chairs and sample an array of pastel-hued slivers of cake. Words like "butter cream" and "fondant" are tossed around and eventually lead to something massive and white and tiered like a designer wedding gown. Something far closer to sculpture than scrumptious.

Photo courtesy of French Broad Chocolate Lounge

The thing about wedding cake (and most of us past our mid-20s have gone to enough weddings to have done the necessary research) is that it's never very good. Pretty to look at, but often dry and bland. Why else would so many wedding cakes meet their ends smashed into brides and grooms faces to the delight of photographers? Or toppled by an inebriated best man?

That's where a locally made cake comes in. For starters, small cake shops tend to turn out pastries that taste as good as they look. No mass-made confection here; these edibles are lovingly crafted one at a time and flavored with regional delicacies. Short Street Cakes' menu offers flavors like "Aunt Tissy's Italian Cream Cake" and "Ashevelvet" ("Red velvet the way it was meant to be. Brown"). That bakery also offers gluten-free and fruit-sweetened options while West End Bakery can create vegan wedding cakes in chocolate, white and carrot.

Speaking of carrot, World's Best Carrot Cake just happens to be located in Woodfin and can make a nuptial-ready carrot dessert or (thanks to a team effort with baker Candace Blakeslee of CB Desserts, any number of wildly imagined cakes. On her blog, Blakeslee writes, "Can't decide between two flavors?  A cake can be made with layers of each flavor or a swirl of those flavors." Like mocha, or tres leches, or golden rum.

While independent local bakers get to show off their individuality, so do the bride and groom. Put those two creative forces together and you wind up with a cake that says a lot about the couple it celebrates. That's the case at Sweet Promises, which can do a traditional rolled fondant or a fantastical seasonally themed dessert. Baker Wynette Scruggs describes an elaborate autumnal tree cake she made: "A design which was created for bride who wanted to reflect an enchanted forest theme for her fall wedding."

Similarly, Annie's Naturally Bakery, along with buttery white tiered confections, crafts some comedic treats. Head cake decorator Natalie Haynes describes one chocolate treat as "a whimsical groom's cake done for an outdoorsman" — complete with icing whitewater, a tent topper and a sign for the Appalachian Trail. And then there's the mandolin groom's cake created by Tiffany's Baking Company: The perfect details from strings to tuning pegs only enhance the chocolate decadence.

And that's really only the tip of the icing —er — iceberg when it comes to personalized designs. Sisters McMullen can whip up a wedding cake made of dozens of elegantly frosted cupcakes. City Bakery has decorated a tiered cake with birch bark and fresh daisies; both bakeries have turned out pop-art spectacles of geometric shapes, fanciful icing and layered balancing acts worthy of Cirque du Soleil. But it's all because local bakeries know their clients and work in collaboration to make the perfect dessert. And not just perfect looking, either.

Find a directory of WNC bakeries at

Photo courtesy City Bakery

Photo courtesy Sweet Promises

Photo courtesy Annie’s Bakery

Photo courtesy Sisters McMullen

Photo courtesy Tiffany Baking Co.

Photo courtesy Short Street Cakes
About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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