Wedding cakes are more than beautiful sculptures. They're supposed to be delicious, too. So what do you do when you can't eat traditional baked goods? Do you skip out on your own wedding cake? Luckily, it shouldn't have to come to that. Many bakeries exclusively specialize in ingredient substitutions, but even if you can't find a local baker who's dedicated to the craft, you can still custom-order a cake with ingredients you can enjoy.

Offering Options

Maybe you want a gluten-free, dairy-free, and wheat-free cake, but you want to still serve a traditional wedding cake to the majority of your guests. You do have several options. You can serve a large, traditional wedding cake and supplement it with a smaller cake (or cakes) on the side. Many couples choose multiple wedding cakes (such as a groom's cake) as a way to incorporate fun, fanciful themes as well as classic white tiers.

Which part of the cake will you be eating? If the bride or groom is the only one who needs a cake with special ingredients, there's no reason to bake a whole separate cake. Just make the top tier according to the specific dietary needs, and take the ceremonial slices from there.

For larger weddings, the wedding cake on display during the reception is only the tip of the icing-iceberg. When the time comes to serve slices, most of the helpings actually come from a sheet cake being cut in the kitchen. If you use this approach, you serve different slices from different cakes, depending on guests' dietary preferences.

Alternatively, you can allow your guests and yourself absolute freedom in selecting your preferred desserts by serving an array of wedding cupcakes. Cupcakes can be presented in a cupcake candelabra or other tiered stand so they evoke the same elegance as a classical wedding cake. Arrange cupcakes on tiers by ingredients so your guests can easily see what's in each one. What's more, serving cupcakes in individual portions will allow everyone to choose the flavor or icing decoration that appeals to them most.

Ingredient Substitutions

If you're attempting a DIY wedding cake, you will have much greater control over the ingredients you use. However, it's essential to consider how much work is actually involved in creating a wedding cake. It's not a good idea to make your own cake because you will almost certainly miss part of the reception experience while dealing with dessert-related distractions. Instead, give these ingredient suggestions to a trusted friend, if you're lucky enough to know an excellent baker who wants to give you a delicious, handmade wedding gift.

Butter-Free: Delicious non-dairy and even vegan wedding cakes are indeed possible. Can't find a recipe that doesn't include butter? Use an equal amount of vegetable-based shortening, a neutral-tasting oil such as canola, or margarine. Keep in mind, however, that the combination of butter, sugar, and eggs is what gives most cakes their fluffiness. If you're using oil, you can approximate the same result by pureeing it with high-fat-content nuts like walnuts or macadamias.

Milk-Free: Need a substitute for milk? Use an equal amount of soy milk, almond milk, or rice milk. Avoid strong flavors, such as coconut milk and vanilla-flavored beverages, unless you desire that taste in your cake. If you're substituting non-dairy ingredients for buttermilk, use soy milk with a light squeeze of lemon juice. If your cake batter looks too thin, you may want to experiment with adding packets of non-dairy instant pudding mix, tapioca, or gelatin. It sounds a little strange, but it can help to keep the cake texture firmer, which is essential for stacking tiers.

Gluten-Free: Since gluten is the part of wheat that gives dough its elasticity, most gluten-free baked goods face the problem of crumbling apart. Luckily, wedding cakes aren’t supposed to be chewy, so baking a gluten-free dessert masterpiece is a lot less challenging than baking something like pizza crust. You can approximate some of the stretchy gluten feeling by adding xanthan) or guar gum (check first to see whether your store-bought flour already includes these.) You may also want to add some egg whites, as the protein will give the cake a less crumbly texture.

Whenever you're substituting ingredients, it's doubly important to bake a few "practice cakes" before the big day. This advice goes triple for cakes with more than one stacked tier. Once you perfect your recipe, not only will you rest easier knowing that the wedding cake will be flawless–but you'll also be able to hold some "cake tasting parties" along the way.

Your wedding cake should reflect who you are. Your choice of icing and decoration reveals whether you prefer classic elegance or you like to play with tradition. Even your choice of cake topper says a lot about you. Your cake's color, flavor, and shape all make a statement about your personality. There's no reason that the ingredients that go into the cake shouldn't also be chosen with personal care. After all, it's your wedding–you should be able to have your cake and eat it, too.

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K | Report Abuse

Sounds good in theory, but there is way too much risk of Severe Allergic reaction and Anaphylaxis from cross contamination ESPECIALLY when it comes to people that have a nut allergy. Their life is at risk when it comes to foods they do not prepare themselves in a TOTALLY nut free environment. To even have food on a table that is not nut free will be a huge concern for most people with Nut Allergies.

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Gaea | Report Abuse

Thank you for bringing up an excellent concern, K. Although this article focused on dairy and gluten rather than nut allergies, nut allergies should still be taken seriously. (Perhaps a future article can be written on weddings that avoid nut allergies.) Hopefully any bride, groom, or guest with a severe allergy like you bring up will insist on the wedding becoming a nut-free environment.

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