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A Southern tradition lets the groom have his cake

By Josette Keelor -- Daily Staff Writer

Imagine a giant, many-tiered wedding cake, decorated with white roses and figurines of a little dancing bride and groom on top.

Now imagine next to that cake a smaller one shaped like a box of cigars -- or a round chocolate cake with strawberries all around designed to look like little tuxedos.

Many wedding receptions today include a unique cake for the groom alongside the traditional wedding cake, whether to please the groom or to just add some color and variety to a wedding.

Joyce McDaniel, owner of Sweet Tooth Bakery in Winchester, has been making grooms' cakes for 24 years, as long as she has been in business. Though she says the cakes are very popular in the South, with the majority of wedding receptions including a cake made for a man, the North does not seem to share in the tradition.

"Not very many people get them in this area," she says, estimating that one in 50 brides will order a cake for the groom. Still, the underlying trend is not going anywhere, and McDaniel says that she has baked some interesting cakes over the years.

Grooms' cakes of the past used to be strictly chocolate cakes, she says, and before that they were fruitcakes, though she guesses that style fizzled out because of a general disinterest in fruitcake.

"Now it's whatever," she says, "whatever the groom likes."

Most grooms' cake orders come from brides who are trying to surprise their fiances.

"Sometimes the bride and the groom's mother collaborate on a special cake," says Kitty Miller, of Strasburg, a certified Wilton Method cake decorating instructor. "I think it's just a fun thing. I like to do groom cakes that have a little sign or meaning behind them."

She recently made a cake for a groom she has known for many years.

He had told her that he did not want a wedding cake -- he wanted just a pyramid of cheeseburgers. That comment inspired her to make him a cake shaped like a giant cheeseburger, with a chocolate cake center brushed with chocolate ganache glaze, yellow cake for the bun, roasted sunflower seeds for the sesame seeds and fondant for the cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and sauce.

The event coordinator at the reception site displayed the cake with real fries.

One bride, who knew that her husband liked James Bond, asked McDaniel to make a cake shaped like the secret agent's numbers, 007. Another cake, reminiscent of the movie "Steel Magnolias," was shaped like an armadillo.

"You don't want it to detract from the wedding cake," says McDaniel, who explains that most grooms' cakes are small and are usually a different flavor than the wedding cake. Some are made of chocolate cake or yellow cake; the armadillo cake was red velvet underneath the icing.

"Most people put it on a second table, which I recommend."

Brides and grooms can use other means besides a grooms' cake to make their wedding cakes unique.

"More and more brides are doing what they call cutting cakes," says Miller.

The brides want to be able to serve a variety of cakes to please all tastes, so they will order a wedding cake that has a dummy layer on the bottom, decorated to look like cake. This will provide a cake for the wedding pictures, but then after the bride and groom slice the cake from the real layer, servers will bring out prepared slices of different cakes such as carrot cake, chocolate cake and cheesecake.

Sometimes the brides will still order a cake for the groom in addition to the other cakes, Miller says, and sometimes they won't.

More and more people are thinking economically, Miller says, explaining that the cost of a wedding cake increases with its layers. A dummy layer will significantly reduce the cost of a cake and allow the bride to spend the money on other options.

While wedding cakes can run the happy couple -- or the bride's parents -- several hundred dollars, a grooms' cake costs between $30 and $150, says McDaniel. At Sweet Tooth Bakery, the usual price is about $50.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com


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