The A-Z of wedding cakes: Everything you need to know

Cakes // by QB

From decorative trends to expert techniques, we’ve decoded all the cake lingo you need to know for your next tasting session. Dig in!

Related article: 10 things you need to know about wedding cakes


Airbrushed cake from the wedding of Chelsea + George

A: Airbrushing

Similar to airbrush makeup, airbrushing (for cakes) is where the cake artist uses a small air pump to spray food colouring onto the cake. It’s mainly used to add detail or shading and gives the cake a flawless finish (see above).

B: Brushstroke cakes

A simple iced cake decorated with layers of chocolate ‘brushstroke’ shards, this textured finish looks incredible as-is or topped with masses of flowers or berries.


Cheese tower from the wedding of Sharni + James

C: Cheese towers

Cheese towers have been a popular option for a while now, and for good reason! Perfect for couples who prefer savoury treats, a cheese tower looks best stacked with fruit (see above).

D: Drip cake

Easily one of the most popular cake trends of the past few years, drip cakes are adorned with a pool of ganache, icing or caramel glaze artfully ‘dripping’ from the top tier (see below). Go big on the finishing touches – think macarons, doughnuts, ice-cream cones or fresh flowers for a cake that will truly amaze your guests.


Drip cake from the wedding of Ashton + Mike

E: Edible foil

Eating anything covered in delicate gold or silver foil is guaranteed to make you feel like Marie Antoinette. An edible yet flavourless paper-like substance, edible foil is often used to cover an entire tier or to add little flecks of sparkle to the finish (see below).

F: Fondant (sugar paste)

If you’ve ever trawled through Pinterest for cake inspiration, chances are you’ve seen the word ‘fondant’ a few hundred times. Still not exactly sure what it is? Fondant is a thick paste made of sugar and water, and is used to smoothly cover tiers and whole cakes, or to make decorations like flowers or bows.


Gold foiled cake from the wedding of Amanda + Maurice

G: Ganache

Melted chocolate and whipped cream – it’s a match made in confectionery heaven known to us mere mortals as ganache. Often a filling for layer cakes or used as a glaze, ganache is kind of like a thick chocolate icing. You’ll often find this indulgent ingredient used for the ‘drip’ on a drip cake or as a luscious exterior icing on chocolate wedding cakes.

H: Hand-painted

The trick to this showstopper trend is all in the name. A (very) skilled cake artist will carefully ‘paint’ an intricate pattern or design onto a finished iced cake using a fine paintbrush and food colouring to create a detailed custom finish. It’s the perfect canvas for wedding motifs, such as floral patterns or lace.


Intricate Icings

I: Isomalt

An ingredient used by cake artists, isomalt is a sugar substitute that can be moulded into pretty much any shape and will harden clear after being caramelised. If you’re adding any novelty details to your cake (like geode crystals or edible gems), this is the ingredient your cake artist will use to make them (see above).

J: Jar cakes

Don’t think too hard about this one – jar cakes do what they say on the tin… or, er, jar. A layer cake made and served in a jar, this style is easy to transport so they’re great as bonbonniere.


Doughnut tower from the wedding of Sherri + Sam

K: Krispy Kreme cake

PSA: you can use whatever doughnuts you like, as long as you use a lot! This cake alternative involves stacking doughnuts into a tower and decorating them to suit your wedding theme (see above).

L: Latticework

This icing piping technique resembles the latticework on a house. It’s often added to a cake for texture and, up close, it looks a little like mesh (see below).


Latticework-detailed from the wedding of Anna + Tyrone

M: Marble cakes

No, we’re not referring to the good ol’ marble cakes your grandma used to make. In the wedding cake world, marbling usually refers to the look of the icing, where food colouring is worked through to create a marble effect worthy of any kitchen countertop.

N: Naked cakes

You’ll have spotted these cakes all over Instagram: they’re the ones iced thinly enough to allow the actual cake to peek through (see below). This popular style can be the base for myriad wild decorations, but greenery and fresh flowers are bang on-trend.


Naked cake from the wedding of Kristine + Jason

O: Ombre cakes

Remember when we became obsessed with ombré hair? An ombré cake translates the look to icing that fades from dark tones to light.

P: Piñata cake

When cut, a piñata cake will reveal a centre filled with an array of sweets (see below). It’s a colourful trend that’s a hole lot of fun. (Sorry, we had to!)


A piñata cake from the wedding of Toni + Tony

Q: Quartz cake

Also known as a geode cake, a quartz cake features decoration made with coloured isomalt crystals to resemble a giant geode crystal – amethyst and rose quartz are popular choices.

R: Royal icing

Similar to fondant, royal icing is a cake icing (often used to completely cover cakes) made with egg white, making it harden and appear matte when dry (see below). Still confused between the two? Think of it this way: royal icing is hard, fondant is pliable.


Cake with royal icing-detail from the wedding of Laura + Caleb

S: Swiss dot detail

A pattern that looks similar to the one you’d often find on wedding dresses or veils, Swiss dot detail involves finely piping dots of icing onto a cake. It’s a delicate, sophisticated option that looks best in simple layers of white on white.

T: Translucent cakes

The (even more) rustic cousin of the naked cake, translucent cakes have just a thin smear of icing or clear glaze to show off the layers of cake below (see below).


Translucent cake from the wedding of Tralisa + Scott

U: Upside-down cakes

Also called chandelier cakes, upside-down cakes are inverted and suspended from a stand to look like a chandelier. They’re often decorated with strings of crystals to emphasise the cascading effect.

V: Vegan cakes

Don’t know what makes a wedding cake vegan? It’s okay, neither do most people. It’s all about the ingredients – your cake artist will have to replace dairy products with things like coconut oil or almond milk but, trust us, they can still be super tasty!


From the wedding of Courtney + Ben

W: Watercolour cakes

This modern look is achieved by hand-painting food colouring onto an iced cake to look like the soft, almost transparent effect seen in watercolour paintings (see above).

X: (E)Xtras

Okay, yes, this technically starts with an ‘E’, but work with us here. Many couples are opting to serve a range of sweets with (or instead of) their wedding cake. Think brownies, mini tarts and cute biscuits arranged to create a dessert bar. So good!


Dessert table from the wedding of Amanda + Maurice

Y: Your style

Personalisation is big right now and it’s a great way to add a unique touch to your wedding. It can be as simple as including your monogrammed initials or making a tier in one of your favourite flavours. Or, go the extra mile and add elements related to memories – salted caramel popcorn like the sort you share at the movies, or a matcha-flavoured layer like the green tea lattes you sipped on in Japan. You get the idea…

Z: Zest

Adding citrus zest to your cake can really ‘brighten’ the flavour and give it depth. Your guests will love a jaffa cake with real orange zest or a gourmet lemon and rosemary cake – we know we would!

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