Wedding Cake

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Want a traditional sweet or a custom slice to serve at your reception? This handy glossary covers the most common terms of the baker's language.


Buttercream: Icing made of butter, confectioner’s sugar and milk, popular in off-white or ivory-colored. Less costly and easy to slice, it may soften in warm temperature. Bakers proudly offer signature varie- ties, so sample to find a favorite.

Fondant: Icing made of sugar, corn syrup and gelatin. Rolled uniformly thick and draped over cake. Not always as tasty as other icings, but it forms smooth base for decoration, design and beading.

Ganache: Made of chocolate and heavy cream, used as icing or filling.

Royal Icing: Sugar and egg white mixture piped by bag. Decoration dries hard and brittle.

Whipped Cream: Freshly whipped cream is delicious, but must be refrigerated.


Flowers: Real or artificial or formed with gum paste, marzipan or spun sugar.

Gum Paste: Mixture – mostly sugar and egg white – forms flowers, fruits and other hard embellishments that become showy mementos.

Marzipan: Almonds, sugar and egg white paste are mixed and rolled (like fondant) onto cake as icing or used for sculpting edible adornment.

Piping: Decoration created by hand with pastry bag and assorted metal tips. Favorite designs include basket weave (interwoven vertical and horizontal lines), latticework (crisscross), cornelli (lace-like), dotted swiss (tiny, random dots), leaves, scrolls and shells.

Cake by shape

Tiered Cake: Layers of varied size and thickness in single shape or combined shapes. Traditionally round, sometimes square. Simple or elaborate.

Groom’s Cake: Smaller, lighthearted confection, often in decadent flavor, reflects groom’s interests. Bride often surprises him with his sports, hobby or alma mater theme.

Cupcakes: Iced individual cake portions, usually displayed like tiered wedding cake. Served ready to eat, or wrapped or boxed as favors. Bigger top “layer” may hold topper and be sliced or safely saved, like a cake’s top tier, to celebrate a couple’s first anniversary.