The macaron tower - an array of brightly-colored cookies arranged in a tight cone formation - has been slow to catch on in Seattle. "They're more popular on the East Coast right now," a Seattle Wedding Show vendor trying to pitch the concept said glumly.
Perhaps what's stifling the fad is a local fondness for wedding cakes that defy traditional cake geometry. Although many brides still buy tiered round cakes, the popularity of cake sculptures has surged since the Food Network started broadcasting shaped cake competitions.
"When I first started, 17 years ago, I couldn't sell a sculpture to save my life," says Mike McCarey of Mike's Amazing Cakes in Redmond. The cake pictured on the front of McCarey's promotional brochure depicts a scaly red dragon playing dice with a groom and his mermaid bride. (I asked an assistant how couples slice an armored knight carved out of cake. "You want the smart aleck answer?," she asked. "With a knife.")
Unlike standard wedding cakes, which are priced by the slice, a sculpted cake is sold as a single work of art. The cost varies according to the cake's complexity, but four-digit fees haven't scared off brides intent on doing something different. McCarey has created a dog-shaped cake for a bride and groom who weren't allowed to bring their pooch to their Hawaiian destination wedding, and sculpted a 1968 Mustang cake for a bride who wanted her groom to feel more involved in the wedding.
"They want to represent something from their lives," McCarey says. "In Seattle, we do a lot of bikes."
McCarey's cakes are trendy on the inside, too: Like most of the bakers at the bridal show, he's accustomed to fielding requests for vegan, allergen-free and gluten-free cakes. He's also making more salted caramel cakes since the flavor become an ice cream shop mainstay. McCarey says he doubts his clients would be so adventurous if he lived in Texas.
"In the South, there's a deep-seated cake tradition," he says. "We're a newer economy: Brides here aren't afraid to get something with trees on it."