Image by Beurre
Cake Month is well underway and today we speak to the creator of this completely epic Beyonce-Frida cake that I wish I knew about for my sister’s hens day- she may have just fainted at the sight of it. However today, we are diving deeper than the appearance of a cake, instead we cut right into the centre to reveal its contents – the all important flavours and textures. Zahara Valibhoy, founder and head baker at Beurre, writes passionately about the importance of wedding cake flavours.
I’d like to address something close to my heart today when it comes to desserts; flavours. There seems to be a higher value placed on the aesthetics of a cake, rather than the taste itself. Originally I thought maybe it was a trend that wasn’t going away, but the more I think about it, this may just be who we are as a society, and the fact that we eat with our eyes before our mouths. Either way, I’ve never really been a fan of this. I’m willing to bet that anyone reading this article has at least once in their lives, laid eyes on a wedding cake that looks phenomenal, only to hoe into said cake and be wildly disappointed by something that tastes way too sugary, or tasteless or most commonly, so dry that you’re not sure if it’s cake or sand that you’re ingesting. Where does this cake end up? On your plate, being sadly pushed around.
Cutting your wedding cake is a tradition that most couples still include on their big day. So my personal take on this is that if this particular ceremony is practiced at the majority of weddings, why would you only have the cake there as an ornament? Put it this way; a pair of shoes generally needs to serve a purpose beyond just making you look good. A pair of shoes can look fabulous on you, but if it eventually makes you play a game of ‘would I rather have these shoes or swiftly cut off my feet?’ chances are that pair won’t come out of your wardrobe too often. It’s the same with cake. It serves a purpose beyond just looking good for your guests and the photos that will be taken of you and your new spouse cutting into the cake.
Image by Selena McLaren Photography
This brings me to one of my arch rivals; the fake cake. If you haven’t already come across this term, it’s basically where each tier in a multi-tiered cake, usually bar the top tier, is made of polystyrene foam. So you end up with a piece of artwork that looks breathtaking, but it’s quite literally inedible. Cost-effective, sure, because it’s not cake, but still, inedible. For me, and a growing number of pastry chefs, cake needs to be one thing: dessert. An edible, delicious and yes, beautiful dessert. This New York Times article sums it up nicely, when writer Julia Moskin that, “Beautiful cakes are useless if they’re not delicious”. My thoughts exactly. Public enemy No. 2 for me is fondant, but I’ll save my feelings about that for another day.
Image by Beurre
It’s very, very possible to have a cake that doesn’t sacrifice form for functionality, by which I mean, your cake can look stunning and make you and your guests demand seconds. And remember, you’re paying for this cake, so wouldn’t you want your guests to enjoy it too, rather than abandon half-eaten pieces on their plates? Pieces that you have potentially forked out over $10 for?
Image by Beurre
One of my key principles for Beurre is that flavour is king. When I begin the process of discussing a dessert, be it for a wedding, engagement, birthday, Wednesday nights, my first question is always, “what flavours do you love and hate?” From there, I construct several options made up on various flavours and textures. I encourage clients to throw their flavour palettes at me, because it turns the dessert from ‘just a cake’ to something that is reflective of their personal tastes and personalities; just another added touch to your wedding day (or any event that you’re celebrating, really).
For example, a couple once told me that their wedding florals were native Australian flowers and that they wanted quirky flavours that incorporated Australian flavours. So I made a caramelised butter cake soaked in a ginger and lemon myrtle syrup, filled with quandong jam, vanilla buttercream and macadamia, white chocolate and ginger praline.
Earlier this year I made a dessert for an Australian-Indian couple holding a small engagement party. They wanted flavours that celebrated both their Indian backgrounds and their Australian upbringing. Music to my ears because Indian and Pakistani flavours are my jam (pun intended), given my own heritage. So, I made individual millefeuilles, which consisted of layers of chai flavoured crème diplomat (authentic, Indian chai, to be clear), mango coulis, pieces of an Indian dessert called Barfi, and topped with pieces of fresh mango.
I understand that too many choices can be overwhelming for some people, but when you step back and think about it, it really isn’t the worst dilemma in the world when someone is asked to choose to construct a dessert that makes their taste buds explode. Get to know the person making your cakes, and tell them a little about yourselves, because chances are if they are running a small business, they care very much about making you happy, and will want to do their best to make this day as magical as they can for you.
Image by Beurre
Having said all this, I’m not arguing the case for stuffing your cake full of 12 flavours. No, I firmly believe that simple is often best. Sometimes, all you want is a vanilla cake that is for the love of God, not dry, or a carrot cake that’s packed full of spice. I’m encouraging a general attitude of caring about what your dessert tastes like, and to not be scared to ask for things outside of the cake box. This is your day, after all! You’ve spent your savings on your clothing, which reflects your tastes, you’ve requested bouquets and floral installations that incorporate your favourite flowers and colours; heck, the general theme is the biggest reflection of you as a couple, and your wedding cake falls under all of this. You can absolutely have your gorgeous cake and devour it too.
Image by Shevan J Photography
Ms Zigzag says: I love Zahara’s strong opinion on cake flavours and we are thrilled to share her thoughts with you today. In the age of insta-perfect obsession, it’s important to promote that the inside, the contents of something, is what matters most- and it’s most definitely the case when it comes to cake!
About the author Zahara Valibhoy of Beurre: We are constantly seeking to provide you with delicious, beautiful and creative desserts, be it a celebration cake or a range of decadent pâtisseries, to mark all the special events in your life. At the end of the day, we don’t just encourage gluttonous behaviour; we demand it.
More about Beurre and Zahara’s impressive experience here.