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Beyond Cake Dessert Ideas for Your Wedding Day

Written by Jan Carroll 

Your wedding day is one of the most important days in your life.  As much as you are able, you’d like every aspect of the wedding and reception to reflect who you are as a couple—including the dessert you serve.  The traditional dessert, a layered cake, is fine for some, but you and your significant other feel that a more unique dessert would better contribute to the overall awesomeness of your special day.

Nina Daniels, at Buttercream Wedding Cakes and Desserts in Eau Claire, says that most couples who decide to serve a non-cake dessert to guests choose to also have a small 6-inch cake they can use for the traditional photo op of feeding each other a bite of cake and to have some cake to put in the freezer until their first anniversary. Daniels advises that if you decide to go with a non-cake dessert for your guests, serve them all the same dessert, rather than serving some of them one kind of dessert and the rest of them another kind. She also suggests—to make the dessert part of your day go smoothly and successfully—delegate one person to be the contact with your dessert provider.

Whether your reception is casual or fancy, you can find a great non-cake dessert to wow your guests. Daniels reports that vintage barn weddings are a huge trend right now, as is the use of tree trunks of different heights on which to serve platters of desserts. For a fancy presentation, you could arrange desserts on glass tables of various heights, lit with fancy thin candles in crystal candlesticks.

Here are some of the current top non-cake wedding dessert trends.

S’mores. If you’re having an outdoor evening reception, why not place safe fire pits around the grounds and let guests toast marshmallows and make s’mores? This idea would go over especially well if there will be lots of children attending—or lots of those who are young at heart!

Ice cream sundae bar. This is another dessert that kids of all ages will enjoy, and a good way to go if you’ll be in a setting where it’s ok to be a little messy. Choose two or three types of ice cream, a few delectable syrups, and a tempting selection of toppings like chocolate chips, nuts, strawberries, and of course whipped cream. If you know of a guest that is lactose-intolerant, be sure to provide an alternative. You could also have waffle cones available, in case some guests prefer to just have a cone.

Lauren Schultz, the owner of Milwaukee’s Purple Door Ice Cream, suggests no more than four toppings, so as to not slow down the line with too many choices. She also suggests that you staff the sundae bar so that someone is making sure ice cream isn’t melting all over the place, and staff can also assist guests in compiling their cool, sweet treat.

Are you wishing for a fancier way to serve ice cream? How about ice cream sandwiches? There are dozens of recipes for them online, and they could be assembled ahead of time and kept frozen if you had enough freezer space at your venue.

Cupcakes, mini cupcakes, cake shooters, or cake balls. This is a way to have your cake but have it more casually. Almost any flavor or type of cake you can imagine can also be made into these more bite-sized prizes, but you could possibly serve some of them without plates and forks, which saves on money and cleanup time. Cake shooters are individual servings of cake presented in glasses.  This is one of the most popular non-cake dessert choices, according to Daniels, who says these desserts are usually arranged on tiered serving trays.

Donut bar. If breakfast is your favorite meal, and you’re serving quiche and bacon on your big day, maybe a donut bar would work well. These, like the mini cupcakes and cake balls, can be displayed in tiers or in special designs for a great presentation. I’m sure someone will be glad you included some with sprinkles! Or, if you like the breakfast theme idea, consider ordering up some beautiful Danish kringles and either precutting them into single servings or have your Aunt Eda and your second cousin cut them on the fly. One good source of kringle is Sue’s Bakery on 1319 Birch Street in Eau Claire.

Mini milkshakes.  You could use either old-fashioned milkshake glasses or more contemporary glassware to serve these fun treats. Start by dipping the top of the glass in melted chocolate and then into a bowl of sprinkles or colored sugar that matches your wedding colors. Let that set—you could do this part ahead and have the glasses stored in a cool place. When it’s dessert time, servers can pour in the milkshake, top with mini marshmallows, and add a decorative straw. See for directions.

Homemade pie banquet. To be sure to provide something everyone likes, why not serve a wide variety of homemade pies, including favorites like apple, pumpkin, and cherry, but also throwing into the mix some less common pies like pecan, lemon chiffon, or coconut cream. Pies could be pre-sliced so servers could easily and quickly serve each guest their requested piece of pie. Don’t forget the whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for toppers. Prefer your pie on a stick for easy eating (and easier cleanup)? See see how. Or, especially for a fall wedding, how about simple hot apple crisp served with a scoop of cool vanilla ice cream?

Cheesecake or mini cheesecakes. If you are a big fan of cheesecake, you could have a nice spread of different types of yummy cheesecake, again already pre-cut and ready to go, along with fruity or chocolaty toppings. Or, have cheesecake made in square pans and cut into smaller pieces, thus allowing guests to sample a few different types. Or have them made in individual-serving-size containers, such as small mason jars with the rims screwed on but no lids (see CutiePiesDefined on Facebook).

Baked goods bar. Your guests will enjoy choosing from a mouth-watering assortment of baked goods. It’ll be like being at a bake sale, but they won’t have to pay. This idea would pair really well with either a casual or a fancy wedding, depending on the type of cookies and bars you serve. The nice thing about it is you could make everything ahead and freeze them until the day before, and then all you’d need to do is arrange them on either beautiful glass or china platters, or for a more casual display, find several tin boxes, line them with wax paper, and show off your baking prowess.

Candy collection. Is your wedding near Halloween? Christmas? Valentine’s Day? Actually, candy is wildly popular any day. Your guests would be like kids in a candy shop! You could have the pre-wrapped smaller size candy bars or other types of candy. Or you could buy candy in bulk and set up a little sweet shop, where servers could scoop into guests’ decorative bags whatever sweet treats were pointed to—with a pretty please. This is a nice way to also give folks something to take home with them. For fancier candy offerings, consider serving chocolate-dipped strawberries (using dark, milk, and white chocolate) or a nice variety of truffles.

Ooo la la—Macarons! These fancy little meringue-based cookies originated in Paris, but they are often available in the United States now too. If you can’t find a bakery near you that makes them (and you aren’t able to jet over to Paris and back to purchase some), try Martha Stewart’s recipe. These are classy, sophisticated treats, and because they are quite rich, you’ll only need to plan on two or three per guest. Maybe serve with some fine after-dinner coffee or espresso.

So, if the idea of serving the usual cake at your reception isn’t doing it for you, go ahead and think outside the box and serve a unique dessert—lots of other couples are too!

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