The language of wedding cakes can seem like a very strange beast indeed. Fondant, sugar flowers, ganache, petal dust … they’re all terms you’re going to come across in choosing your perfect cake. But what exactly do they mean?
Don’t stress if you don’t know, as that’s where this glossary comes in – with a crash course in common terms that will guide you through the process of ombre, over the top and more. Let the sweetness begin…
Dragees may sound like something that’s vaguely Scottish, but they’re not. Far from it in fact. They’re actually the little sugar balls used to decorate cakes. They commonly come in silver or gold but, as with anything modern weddings, bespoke creations can cover the full gamut of hues and of tastes.
Just like the name suggests, buttercream is a delicious blend of butter, sugar and eggs, which can be used as a delicious filling or as a rich type of icing. One of the drawbacks of using buttercream is that it does not withstand heat particularly well. That means you need to consider your venue before placing your order. Otherwise, you could end up with a melted wedding cake guaranteed to melt your good mood. But if you do have access to good air-conditioning, it’s rich, creamy and looks especially beautiful with a tint.
Fondant is a type of sugar dough which is fairly elastic and can be used to cover cakes to ensure a beautifully smooth finish. It can also be embossed to create texture or to add draping and moulded elements across tiers. Best of all, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, making it perfect for outdoor weddings.
Ganache is a rich chocolate filling which is not quite as dense as fudge but is slightly thicker than a mousse. It is most often used as a filling in between the layers of a wedding cake but, if you’re looking for a real taste sensation, it can also serve as the icing.
Chances are, you already know what this one means. But just in case, let’s recap. A tier equates to one level of a wedding cake. They shouldn’t be confused with layers, though, as there can be several layers joined with filling in a single tier.
Pulled sugar is an incredibly intricate decorative technique which takes lots of patience and practice. It involves pulling and twisting hot sugar into such designs as ribbons and bows. As you can imagine, the final result is incredibly fragile, so it’s definitely one you need to handle with care.
Piping is a very delicate art needing a fine touch and plenty of patience. Needless to say, the bakers and decorators who are skilled at this art can create breathtaking designs. Their work involves using a pastry bag filled with royal icing to ‘draw’ various designs, including flowers, lace, borders and more. The end result is always spectacular.
Dotted Swiss is another style of piping, which is particularly popular for wedding cakes. It replicates the appearance of dotted Swiss fabric by using lots of tiny dots of icing. These can be particularly striking in monochrome or if you have coloured tiers with white dots.
Basketweave is one of the most common decorative techniques you will see on a wedding cake. As per the name, the design features interwoven lines which, you guessed it, resemble a wicker basket. You most often see basketweave created in white on a white cake to add texture to a restrained and simple wedding cake design.
This type of icing is made from egg whites and sugar and forms a thick and sturdy frosting that is ideal for intricate piping. The only thing to watch for is that as it dries it becomes harder and more brittle, so you need to treat it gently.
Sugarpaste or gumpaste
Sugarpaste, also commonly known as gumpaste, is a type of sugar dough used to create decorations such as ribbons and flowers. It seems very similar to fondant, but the main difference is that it hardens when it dries, making it better suited to decorative elements.
With the same principles as latticework in the garden, this involves strips of icing being crisscrossed in order to create a regular pattern of open spaces.
Petal dust is a shimmering powdered pigment which can be used to add lustre, sparkle and shine to a cake. It is often used to create realistic shading in sugarpaste flowers or leaves, and is one of those little details which can really take a wedding cake to the next level.
This is an elaborate piping technique which helps to give cakes a more vintage feel. The pattern it produces has almost a lace effect and, like basketweave, it is often fashioned in white on white.
Pillars are a handy tool for people who don’t want to just rest the tiers of their wedding cake on top of each other. Not only are they a practical way to give the tiers breathing room, they also add height to the confection and, usually being made of wood or plastic, can be styled to suit the theme of the cake and wedding.