Wedding cake glossary: a cheat's guide to wedding cake terms

Wedding cake glossary: a cheat's guide to wedding cake terms

The process of choosing a wedding cake can be a thoroughly confusing process with so many decisions to make regarding sizes, portion count and design.  Add to that all the funny cake terms which sound like a foreign language.  So I have decided to create the following wedding cake glossary of the most popular terms to make the process a little less confusing.

Buttercream

A yummy combination of butter and icing sugar (American buttercream) or butter, icing sugar and eggs (the less sweet Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream) which can be used to fill and coat your wedding cake.  Can be flavoured and coloured and also now a popular way of creating painted and floral designs either by piping or painting with a palette knife.  Stable at room temperature but does not withstand excessive heat so not suitable for hot and humid conditions so be wary of choosing it as a cake covering during the summer months or if you are having an outdoor wedding.

Dowels

Internal supports placed in each tier to provide vertical support and prevent tiers sinking into each other.  Although you may see it done on some YouTube videos cake alone, with perhaps the exception of a rich fruit cake, is not strong enough to support the weight of tiers above it.

Dragees

A fancy name for little hard sugar balls.  Commonly found in silver or gold but also available in a range of colours and sizes.  Fiddly and time-consuming little buggers to stick on but produce a beautiful effect.

Embossing

The technique of imprinting a pattern into sugarpaste icing.  Diamond/cushion patterning is particularly popular for anniversary cakes but all sorts of textured moulds are available including brickwork, bark effect and crocodile skin.

Flowerpaste/gumpaste

An icing which can be rolled super thin and is perfect for making sugar flowers.  It is edible but not particularly palatable as it dries to a hard, brittle finish which is why sugar flowers are so delicate and fragile.  There is a newer paste on the market which is much more flexible and I am dying to try it as flower breakage is perhaps one of the most demoralising things for a cake maker.  Many a swear word has been said as I have dropped flowers on the floor and watched many hours of work just smash to smithereens.

 

 

Fondant/sugarpaste

A soft and sweet icing that can be rolled and applied over a buttercream or ganache base to give a clean and smooth look.  Not to be confused with the softand sticky fondant icing used on top of say a bakewell tart.  Can be embossed, moulded, draped and modelled to produce a range of decorative effects.   Perfect for all but extreme weather conditions and does not require refrigeration (in fact, it should never be refrigerated as it will cause condensation and no-one likes a sweaty cake).

Ganache

Chocolate added to heated double or whipping cream to make a thick fudge-like icing.   Perfect for covering cakes to produce a crisp clean straight-edge look underneath fondant or on its own.  Can also be whipped lightly for use as a filling.

Lustre

A beautiful sheen which can be applied to icing to give a soft glow.  Can be achieved by using edible lustre sprays or dusts painted or sprayed directly onto the sugarpaste.  Particularly beautiful when a royal icing pattern is stencilled over the top.

Naked cake

A cake without any buttercream or ganache covering so that all the layers are fully visible. Not something I will provide (if you read my blog on naked wedding cakes, you will understand exactly why!).

Ombre

A colouring technique where the colour graudates from dark to light (or vice versa).  Not only fashionable for wedding cakes but becoming more so in wedding dress design.  For some wonderful examples, check out my chums at Bexbrides and Legend Bridal.

Rosettes

A technique using frilled strips of sugarpaste to create rose-like decorations.  A similar example can be used to create sideways frills, vertical stripes or all-over blossom ruffles (see images below).

 

 

Royal icing

A soft icing which can be spread or piped and dries to a hard finish. (remember the teeth-cracking Christmas cakes of old with spiky hard icing!!).   Used to create delicate patterning, piped dots and intricate lacework.  Although it has long been out of favour for modern wedding cakes, the techniques have been brought back to life by some amazing cake designers whose piping skills are out of this world.

Semi-naked cake

Similar to naked cake but with a very thin layer of buttercream or ganache.  The layers are just visible which achieves a rustic look but the slight covering provides a degree of protection and helps to maintain the cake’s moisture.

Tier

An individual cake level, made up of layers and usually made up of just one flavour.  Each of these cake tiers can then be stacked on top of each other, although be sure to stack using dowels (as mentioned above).

Wafer paper

A thin, fairly tasteless paper made of rice or potato starch which melts on the tongue (like a Communion disc I am led to believe, not being Catholic myself!).  Can be airbrushed and painted (although contact with moisture will make it wrinkle) and can be used to add textured effects onto sugarpaste and also to make the most beautiful flowers, as an alternative to flowerpaste.  Very popular in modern wedding cake design.

I hope this wedding cake glossary has helped you understand some of the cake terms that we cake makers throw around willy-nilly but any queries, please don’t hesitate to shout if you are stumped by anything.

A thank you to Photography by Kathryn for the sweetpea cake image and to Your Choice Photography for the green cake image.