All Dressed in White words Sarah Baird A h, Wedding Season. That unofficial stretch of summer- time when we strap on heels, knot our ties and head out to celebrate two people uniting for (what we hope will be) a lifetime of love and happiness. And after you’ve lived through your fair share of Wedding Seasons — heck, maybe you’ve even caught a bouquet or two — you begin to figure out which piece of the wedding day puzzle brings you the most joy as a guest. For some, ogling the intricacies of the bride’s dress ( lace and sequins and tulle, oh my! ) is the ceremony highlight. For others, it’s showing off your two-stepping rendition of the electric slide — hopefully with the help of an open bar.

tiers (three, or four if you were feeling really fancy), and layers of chocolate or vanilla cake, and they came frosted in colors ranging all the way from eggshell to ecru (read: white). Sure, some pastel bunting or a cascading waterfall of fondant flowers might have livened things up a bit, but most cakes ended up following the kind of strict formula typically reserved only for math equations. But in an era when even the esteemed etiquette guru herself, Emily Post, has lightened up on the dos and don’ts of tying the knot, it’s wedding cakes that are helping to lead the next generation charge of celebratory baked goods on a couple’s own terms.Today, wedding cakes are less about what tradition prescribes and more about reflecting the personalities of those getting married in all their outlandish, magnificent, freewheeling glory. “About five months ago, a young gentleman came in, and he had gotten a cake stand from China. It was, seriously, like eight feet tall. He wanted a cake on each one of the tiers, and he wanted our

For me, though, it’s always been the wedding cake: a towering, magnificent form of edible architecture that radiates ritual. Placed in a position of prominence that’s second only to the bride herself, it’s a member of the wedding party that’s never going to have a bridesmaid meltdown or get temporary cold feet.The wedding cake abides.

But for Rouses Bakery Director Michelle Knight —who now oversees the production of upwards of 600 wedding cakes a year — baking wasn’t always the plan. “I used to say that I married a cook so that I wouldn’t have to do it!” Knight jokes. “But I wanted a little part-time job, so I was hired in a bakery. And it makes me laugh now, because I didn’t even know how to boil an egg at the time. I mean, I had no interest.” Soon, though, the artistry of baking, frosting and decorating cakes took hold, and a passion for helping deliver cherished memories in such a decadent and delicious form became irresistible. “Either you love the process, or you don’t. I mean, there’s kind of no in-between,”Knight explains. “You either pick it up and run with

Bourgeois-Kennedy wedding, photo by Melissa Friloux Photography

Gentilly cake on all of them. It was gigantic,” laughs Knight. “We had to cut holes in the middle of them, and place the cakes on each tier, and squeeze this big glass thing in the middle of each one. It was crazy, but it turned out so beautiful. And he was so thankful, because no one else would do it for him.” And while traditional-style cakes can still be both breathtaking and delicious, there’s just something about those mold-breaking versions that seems to both inspire more couples to follow suit and encourage ever-increasing creativity. “We did Ali [Rouse]’s wedding cake, and it was so gorgeous. It had three tiers with a very sparkly gold and big circles of fondant. It was amazing.” And as anyone who has seen Steel Magnolias can tell you, outside- the-box cake options have long been de rigueur for what’s typically known as the “groom’s cake.”I’ve attended weddings where this cake

it, or you just don’t like doing it at all. And I loved it.The people who trained me had the passion for it also. I just fell in love with bakeries.” Knight has now been a part of the bakery department at Rouses for 19 years, the last two in the role of bakery director, and shows no signs of slowing down as wedding cake demand continues to tick upward. “Wedding cakes are special moments, and because of that, most people used to think that they needed to go to an independent bakery because those bakeries ‘specialized’ in [wedding] cakes. But as we continue to do them here at Rouses and get bigger and bigger with them, I think over the years we’ve developed word-of-mouth on how beautifully we make our wedding cakes.” Throughout a large portion of the 20th century in the Southern United States, wedding cakes were relatively straightlaced sweet constructions. More often than not, they had a sensible number of



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