By Robyn Passante
Crab cake photo by Mark Staff
Other photos courtesy Sheri's Edible Designs
If a wedding cake is Sunday morning - refined, subdued, classy - then a groom's cake is Saturday night. It's informal and amusing, a piece of personality on a plate. And
just like Saturday nights, the stakes continue to get higher for groom's cakes, local bakers say.
"It used to be simply a round cake covered with dark ganache and chocolate pearls, and maybe a ‘G’ for Georgia or something. Ten years ago that was pretty much it," said Signe Gardo, owner of Signe’s Heaven Bound Bakery and Cafe on Hilton Head Island. "Now it's anything. Some of them get very, very involved."
Gardo said she's made groom's cakes in the shape of everything from baseball hats and shirts to college logos and beer cans. Thanks to the 1989 movie "Steel Magnolias," the most popular groom's cake for a long time was a red velvet cake shaped like an armadillo, she said. These days, it's whatever the bride or groom think would best showcase the groom's personality.
"I find that my clients who choose to do groom's cakes come in with an idea," said Sheri Davis of Sheri's Edible Designs on Hilton Head. "Typically it's the groom's hobby or occupation, something that really defines the groom."
Davis has created groom's cakes in all shapes and sizes; she's done a brain for a brain surgeon medical student, a "Green Eggs and Ham" book, and even an A/C unit for a groom who was in the heating and air business. It might seem like a headache to sculpt a cake into the shape of a brain, but local bakers say they welcome the challenge of a supercreative groom's cake.
"I absolutely love groom's cakes," Davis said. "It really lets my creativity shine."
In October the TLC Network spent three days filming Davis as she made a special groom's cake for an episode of "Fabulous Cakes," which was set to air Feb. 1.
"It was the largest and tallest and heaviest cake I've ever done," she said.
Lou Bentancor of Ronnie's Bakery and Cakes By Lou in Bluffton knows a bit about large and tall groom's cakes. She created a groom's cake that looked just like an upright golf bag, complete with clubs sticking out of it and golf balls - all of it edible.
"It was almost as tall as a regular golf bag," said Bentancor, who has been creating cakes for 10 years. "The bride told me they set it up on some fake grass, and people walked by it and didn't know it was a cake."
Even when the cake shape is not supercreative and indulgent, the flavors inside are.
"Most of the groom's cakes people ask me to do are really beautiful, extravagant chocolate creations," said Lori Craven of Lori Craven Catering. "They're not funky shapes but it's more about the flavors of the cake. Most are very elegant with a level of sophistication."
Craven takes the traditional chocolate groom's cake and upgrades it considerably, using only imported chocolate with things like ground almonds, fruit soaked in chambord, Grand Marnier or other liqueurs.
"It's like a huge truffle," she said. "They're very adult cakes with very adult flavors."
The groom's cake has endured as a Southern tradition but has become more popular among both Southern and Northern couples. Ten years ago about 20 percent of couples ordered them, Gardo said, but these days it's closer to 60 percent. And lots of times the groom doesn't know anything about it. "Most of the time they're from the brides, who want to do a surprise for the groom," Bentancor said. They can be served at the reception, but traditionally groom's cakes are presented and served during the rehearsal dinner, which bakers say they prefer.
"That way they can have their brain or bloody heart cake and it won't overshadow the bride's cake," Davis said. "I once did a groom's cake that was a soccer ball cake with cockroaches made of sugar crawling all over it, and it went on the table right next to the gorgeous, five-tiered wedding cake."
Yeah, it's probably best to put a little space between Saturday night and Sunday morning.