wedding cake ideas

For a Unique Wedding Cake Option, Try a Croquembouche
A French Croquembouche can be a delicious alternative to a traditional wedding cake.

A Croquembouche can be a unique wedding cake option.

With the number of French contributions to our culture, you probably won’t be surprised to find a croquembouche at a Canadian wedding. However, you might not be familiar with the history, details and preparation behind these fascinating pastry desserts. Whether you’ve adopted a French theme for your festivities or just want a different type of wedding cake for your reception, this delightful tower of goodness might be just right for your crowd.

Origins in 19th Century France 

While much of Canada was still under British rule, a young Parisian baker began crafting a pastry creation that would become his enduring legacy. In January 2017, the U.S. media network National Public Radio website published a piece on legendary French chef Marie-Antoine Carême, the famed inventor of the croquembouche. Born to an impoverished family around 1783 or 1784, he was presumably orphaned by social turmoil resulting from the French revolution. Carême began working in a Paris kitchen at the age of eight, and by the time he was 15 years old, he’d landed a position as an apprentice to top-rated pastry chef Sylvain Bailly.

As Carême honed his craft during his late teen years, Bailly regularly displayed Carême’s stunningly elaborate pastries in his bakery shop window. By the late 1700s, this young sensation had fashioned a tower of small, round cream puffs called “choux” festooned with spun sugar. A recipe for this dessert, which he called a croquembouche, was published in his 1815 cookbook “Le Pâtissier royal parisien.” Meanwhile, Carême continued to rise to culinary stardom, designing lavish, beautiful sweets for the likes of Napoleon, Russia’s Czar Alexander I and prince regent George IV of England.

The Croquembouche in the Modern World

While there are many modern variations on this delicious pastry, they still follow the same basic format: a tall mountain of cream puffs covered in spun sugar and other wonderful edibles. You’ll probably have no difficulty finding bakers in any province to supply one for your special day, and it’s an appropriate wedding cake for many types of wedding themes. Wedding Bells Magazine showcased a French vintage matrimonial affair in a 2012 piece on its website, adding that the couple chose a croquembouche to add a delicate grandeur to their festivities.

If you think that such a spectacular wedding cake should get its own entrance and fanfare, you’re absolutely right. In fact, contributor Kim Petyt on The Good Life France blog revealed that a croquembouche is usually not presented until dessert time. With the lights dimmed and celebratory music playing, guests typically begin chanting “Le gateau! Le gateau!” as the star of the hour is brought out to the dining hall while decorated in small, sizzling fireworks. Once the display is over, the staff serves each guest three or four of the sweet, creamy choux to enjoy.

Flavorful Possibilities Abound

In both exterior decorative touches and inner fillings, the croquembouche presents a wide variety of lovely flavors. Traditionally, each choux contains vanilla-bourbon crème in the center. Nevertheless, bakeries offer several popular filling choices which can include favorites such as caramel and chocolate, or less common tastes like rose, pistachio or orange blossom. Besides spun sugar or pastel-tinted icing, a croquembouche wedding cake can be decked out in sugared almonds, chocolate, candied ribbons or even edible flowers.

A Delicious Wedding Cake Idea for Your Nuptial Affair 

The croquembouche is a distinctive and delightful wedding cake that offers a complex combination of aesthetics, French culture and flavor. Its name appropriately translates to “crunch in the mouth,” and your guests will enjoy the taste and texture of this now-classic sweet treat. Add to that the customary celebratory fanfare with which it’s presented during your festivities, and your croquembouche will certainly be a memorable part of your wedding day.

Alternatives to the Traditional Wedding Cake

Wedding Cake

A classic wedding cake will never go out of fashion, but it is certainly not a requirement for getting married. A wedding is often a unique expression of a couples’ personalities. Why should the cake be any different? Patricia Truchom, a Quebec bride-to-be, recently celebrated her bachelorette party with a custom-made poutine wedding cake.

Poutine

Poutine is a traditional Canadian snack food consisting of French fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy. The dish originated in Quebec and is now served throughout Canada. It can also be found in the United States in the upper Midwest, New England and the Pacific Northwest.

Truchom originally ordered a poutine for 12 for her bachelorette party from the Quebec snack bar Patate Mallette. The cooks decided to go all out for the request and created a three-tiered poutine cake. The end creation weighed 12 kilograms (26 lbs.), the majority of which was French fries. Even a small portion of poutine is very fattening; Truchom’s poutine cake was estimated to have contained approximately 35,000 calories.

Other Wedding Cake Alternatives

While poutine is probably one of the more unusual choices, there are many alternatives to the conventional wedding cake.

  • Pancakes and Waffles

Pancake or waffle wedding cakes can be a delicious, fun choice. If you are planning a brunch reception, they are particularly appropriate. Berries, whipped cream, powered sugar and syrup are wonderful garnishes.

  • Croquembouche

A croquembouche is a tower of puff pastries topped with caramel threads. This French dessert is an elegant choice for any wedding. Strawberries can also be inserted among the pastries for a touch of color.

  • Cupcakes

Cupcakes can add a more personalized touch and are easy to serve. They are stunning when arranged in a tower. Incorporating flowers that match the bouquets of the bridal party are one way to decorate a cupcake stand.

  • Cake Pops

Cake pops are another popular and creative alternative to the standard wedding cake. Frosting them in the colors of the wedding party is one way to tie the dessert into the overall theme of the nuptials.

  • Donuts

Many guests probably have not attended a wedding where they get to pick from a stack of assorted gourmet donuts. If you like them with chocolate icing, sprinkles or filled with cream, this alternative can be a fun choice, particularly for more casual weddings.

  • Cannolis

What says love better than a cannoli? This delicious Italian dessert is made of tube-shaped, fried pastry shells stuffed with sweet filling.

  • Cheese

A variety of artisan cheese wheels stacked on top of each other and adorned with fruit can make a lovely wedding cake. For couples who are not huge fans of sweets, this is an alternative well worth considering.

  • Sushi

A cake made out of pieces of sushi is a sight to be seen. For lovers of seafood and Japanese cuisine, it can be the perfect substitute for a traditional wedding cake.

  • Cookies

Serving cookies instead of cake is another option. Consider having them decorated with tuxedos, the date of the wedding or the happy couple’s initials.

  • Pie Table

Pies are another great option for a wedding dessert and can be stacked in tiers in lieu of a cake. This dessert is more rustic and fits right in if your nuptials are in a more rural location.

  • S’mores

Desserts that guests can assemble themselves can be very fun; chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow s’mores fit the bill. If your affair is more causal, you may even consider letting people roast their marshmallows over a campfire.

  • Dessert Bar

Some couples opt for a dessert bar of miniature sweet treats. Popular choices include petit fours, brownies, éclairs, macaroons, cookies, nonpareils and whoopie pies.

Some type of dessert is typically served at most weddings. Poutine may not be your first choice, but there are many other wonderful alternatives.