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For the wedding of Ketchum firefighter/paramedics Tom and Lara McLean (née Babalis), the bride chose a cake with a simple, elegant exterior, hiding an eclectic and fruity interior.
Photo by Thia Konig

Cakes with character
Wedding cakes in the Wood River Valley run the gamut from simple creations adorned with fresh flowers to intricate replicas of rapids on the Middle Fork. Timi Saviers discovers how a cake can shine when it reflects a couple’s personality.

In the Wood River Valley, the style of a wedding cake regularly reflects the surrounding landscape: classic and natural. "I tend to be asked to make simpler cakes with fresh flowers," said Mary Jones, a local baker and owner of the Chocolate Moose. "I think it’s because so many people who get married here are looking for a more natural experience."

Often, couples try to create a balance of new ideas with traditional styles. For Maya and Mark Lovlien’s non-traditional Jewish wedding, their cake was a marriage of these aspects. Maya’s Israeli mother, Deborah, was determined that her daughter’s cake reflect both her personality and her heritage. "She didn’t want a traditional cake for me, she wanted it to resemble Mark and I, and our love of outdoor Idaho," explained Maya, owner of the Big Belly Deli sandwich shop in Hailey. "She also wanted all the women in my family to help create the cake."

The result was a true labor of love. Twenty women, including numerous aunts, cousins and Maya’s sister, Naomi, spent months agonizing and arguing over the creation of the perfect cake. "It was hilarious and so beautiful, and so perfect. A true centerpiece for the wedding."

Blending Maya’s Jewish heritage with the couple’s love of Idaho, the carrot cake was topped with a buck and doe, sitting on a green field of icing. The garnish was comprised of dates imported from Israel and green and orange flowers, the colors Maya chose for her September wedding to reflect the bounty of the harvest.

Mark and Maya Lovlien (née Knapp) had little say in the creation of their cake. Maya’s mother, Deborah, took over the process, enlisting 20 female relatives to whip up a creation reflecting the bride’s Israeli heritage and the couples’ love of the outdoors. Photo by Kirsten Shultz

Many couples choose cakes that reflect their hobbies, careers and interests. Patti Ahrens, owner of PattiCakes, often finds the groom’s cake (a smaller cake, decorated with his interests in mind) an appropriate place for this. She has whipped up such creative creations as golf courses, cigars and even a cake made to look like a specific rapid on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, complete with rafts and passengers.

In a similar spirit of fun are wedding cakes with an artistic flair, right in step with a growing trend toward very imaginative cakes. "Funky, off-kilter designs that resemble something from the Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland are becoming popular," said Heather Madden, owner of Piece of Cake Wedding Coordinating & Event Planning. "Cakes with bright colors and bold designs, often incorporating jewels and crystals, are also very popular right now."

On the quieter side, however, Madden agrees that locally, arranging fresh flowers on top and around the cake is a perennial favorite. Ketchum firefighter Lara Babalis chose this route. For her August wedding to fellow firefighter and paramedic Tom McLean, the colorful lady chose a simple, understated cake design. Created by Patti Ahrens, Lara requested a cake that was not too frilly and, more importantly, tasted good.

"We chose a cake with three layers," explained the former florist. "The top and bottom were vanilla, almond and marzipan flavored and the middle layers were a fruit cake with vanilla custard, all covered in a delicious vanilla butter-cream frosting. We decorated it with orchids. It was a beautiful cake, simple and not frilly. It reflected my personality because it was sweet and elegant and just a little bit fruity!"

So, how can a couple be sure to get the wedding cake of their dreams? Jones advises looking at a lot of pictures, in wedding magazines and baker’s portfolios, as well as tasting samples of the baker’s cakes. Ahrens emphasizes that good communication between the baker and the couple is essential. Be specific about theme, size, flavors, number of tiers and if the cake should be placed on a silver tray or a glass pedestal.

Madden stresses the need to experiment. "It is important to have the opportunity to taste—and see—how the different flavors, fillings, frostings and toppings work when combined." Discovering that the groom hates chocolate cake with orange cream frosting on the wedding day is not a good way to start a marriage.