January 14, 2001


by Sheryl Julian

When Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones married in November, the bride – according to her wedding planner – wanted the day to be “dramatic but intimate.” Intimate? With 350 guests and a price tag in the millions? Hardly. Dramatic? Yes. The wedding cake was 10 tiers high – towering 6 feet tall – and covered in flowers that resembled the bridal party’s bouquets.

Today, says Suzi Parks, who makes bridal gowns and wedding cakes for her Boston company Wedding Angels, a cake isn’t simply a cake. It has to go with something – the theme of the wedding, the architecture of the location, even the trim on the bridal gown. “I often take details from the dress and put them onto the cake,” says Parks. “People don’t go, ‘Oh look! It’s just like her dress.’ But a few people notice the small details.”

It’s all in the details, says Ursula Argyropoulos of Ursula Art of the Cake in Boston. Several times recently, couples have asked Argyropoulos to reproduce their pets on the cake. Using gum paste, which was popular in Europe two centuries ago and can be shaped like Play-Doh, Argyropoulos can fashion a dog, for instance. She works from photographs and from what the couple tell her about their pet. A shy dog, then, might be hiding somewhere on the cake; a troublemaker might be nibbling something he shouldn’t. Argyropoulos often works with very bright colors to match the flowers in a centerpiece or to go with another theme.

Parks works with fondant, the shiny satinlike icing found on classic French petits fours. “I deal with it like I do fabric,” she says. “I drape it a lot.”
Her cakes can look like a tablecloth whose skirt hugs the floor, with intricate trim on the bottom, but somehow that trim – and the look of the cake – is connected to the wedding. She’ll match cakes to a gilded old mansion, add vines and ivy for outdoor weddings, make something grand for a reception in a cathedral-ceilinged ballroom.

Lately, copying a trend that began in Manhattan (where else?), brides have asked Argyropoulos to make individual wedding cakes for the guests. “They’re very, very labor-intensive,” says the baker. The bottom layer is about 2˝ inches in diameter, the top tier about 1˝ inches. “It’s like a petit four in a slightly larger serving,” Argyropoulos says. The cost? “It’s for brides with money to burn. Each one is $25.”