Single-serving desserts heavy on variety is a trend that area bakers are noticing at weddings this year.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, couples had been moving away from the traditional wedding cake and opting for alternatives like mini-cakes, doughnut walls, cupcake towers and sundae bars.

“It’s not just a traditional wedding cake anymore,” said Darren Ward, operations and catering manager at Shaffer’s Catering, at 913 S. Main St., Woodstock.

However, though this trend had been growing in recent years, he said the pandemic jump-started an immediate need for single-serving, individually wrapped desserts to lessen the number of hands touching people’s food.

“It’s really affected our industry tremendously,” Ward said of the pandemic.

The first noticeable impact, he said, was the cancellation and postponement of most weddings this year.

“The weddings that we had in the spring have moved to the fall, and we’re starting to do those now,” he said.

Many were canceled until next year or later, he said, and others have been “spaced out, kind of few and far between.”

“We noticed a lot of people kind of gave up on 2020,” he said. “I’m working on a lot of 2021 events now. They haven’t given up on their wedding, they’ve just given up on 2020.”

As weddings have been rescheduled, he said, catering requirements have included cutting back on self-serve buffets and offering pre-packaged items.

Service options include appetizer stations, order stations, buffets where servers prepare guests’ plates and traditional place settings. All are ways of helping minimize the need to pass food, he said, “which makes it a little safer.”

“Things have to be handled differently and served differently,” said Ward.

“One of the other things that we’ve seen [is] a lot of clients have chosen to go with disposable plates and cups and cutlery,” he said.

In the case of wedding desserts that couples opt for, pretty much anything goes, said Maureen Menefee, owner of Down Home Comfort Bakery at 120 E. Main St., Front Royal.

“We do very simple cakes, so we don’t offer wedding cakes,” she said. “But I do have people who like to order pies.”

Planning for two upcoming weddings this October, she said the first couple has ordered small, 4-inch pies and the other full-size pies.

Foods she has supplied for weddings have also included dessert bars, bite-size pies and bite-size whoopie pies.

A lot of people are getting away from the big cakes with fondant, she said.

“Some don’t like cake at all, which is good for me,” she said.

“I think it’s a new millennial-age group,” she said of those deviating from traditional wedding cakes.

“I’ve been married 35 years. Back then it was traditional tiered stacked cakes,” she said.

Another trend at the time was to decorate cakes with fresh flowers, which she said has not been the case lately.

“We’ve been open six years going on seven now, [and] each year they tend to be going away from that,” she said.

“They’re going more toward something different, and I think they want to be different,” Menefee said.

“It gives people choices,” she said. “If someone doesn’t want cake, then they’re not stuck eating cake.”

Cookies have been a big hit for Ward because they can be served individually and customized with the bride and groom’s names and wedding date.

It takes away from the traditional cake cutting but works as a dessert and a wedding favor, he said.

“That’s a little bit of a change that I’ve seen this season,” he said.

“We’re trying to continue to add as much variety,” said Ward. “We’re still trying to make everyone’s dreams come true.”

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com