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All About the Sweet Treat

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To ensure you get a baker whose culinary and aesthetic abilities you adore, Sharon Alexander, owner of boutique bakery Sweet Sensations in Newnan, Ga., advises booking at least six months prior to the big day. But first, schedule tastings with a few top contenders, inquire if they bake from scratch or use mixes, and ask to see lots of pictures of cakes they did for actual weddings - if a baker clearly specializes in a classic look, they may not be the best fit for your colorful, topsy-turvy request.

In general, plan to order a cake that would serve about 80 percent of your guests, as some people don't eat cake and others will leave before it's served. Prices typically range from $400 to $1,600 or more, depending on the town, cake size and ingredients - fondant is more expensive than buttercream, and intricate details like sugar flowers and royal icing can really bump up the bill.

In this era of “Ace of Cakes,” couples who are looking to personalize the traditional tower of tiers certainly can have an architectural masterpiece that replicates their city skyline or a scene from “Star Wars.” But Katelin Gallagher, senior editor for, suggests using textured buttercream and herbal accents for a more organic look, or considering fondant cutouts for a contemporary vibe. Or stick with a simple white exterior and focus on memorable flavor. Alexander loves Neapolitan and coconut-and-lemon-curd cakes, but her top pick is a chocolate cake with dulce de leche filling. “It tastes like a candy bar!”

If you want something visually unique, you can add a groom's cake, the southern tradition that is gaining popularity across the country. “We've done just about anything you can imagine, including flooded woods, the groom's dog, cars, stadiums, computers, mountains, games, etc.,” says Alexander. Need more unique dessert inspiration? Gallagher recommends checking out, and

If your mantra is “more is always better,” consider getting a small, one- or two-tier cake for cutting, and then offering an array of favorite treats. Gallagher loves pretty pastries like macarons and cake pops, as well as heart-warming sweets like Whoopie Pies, cookies-and-milk and seasonal desserts like mini hot chocolates, pumpkin pie and berry tarts. For even more flair, include a DIY dessert station, and let guests build their own gooey s'mores, giant ice cream sundaes or colorful shaved ice.

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