These 2021 Wedding Cake Trends Are Unlike Anything We've Seen Before

And they'll taste as good as they look.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on features, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Oct 23, 2020

What's a party without cake? While wedding trends fluctuate year over year, wedding cake is one component that's here to stay. That's not to say reception desserts haven't evolved over time—now, plenty of couples put their personal spin on sweet treats, from alternative spreads to interactive experiences that revamp traditional catering. But of all the 2021 wedding trends, intentionality is an overarching theme that will influence what marriage celebrations look like in the next year. And while the coronavirus pandemic has substantially changed what gatherings are like now, some timeless wedding elements can't be replaced—like cake.

Wedding cake trends in 2021 will be driven by intentionality and personality. As couples trade large parties for intimate minimonies and microweddings, cake is one wedding element that offers some semblance of normalcy. And, even as guest list sizes decrease, wedding budgets are generally remaining the same, allowing couples to splurge on décor, entertainment and food. Wedding cakes in 2021 won't necessarily be large, tiered confections like in previous years. Instead, expect to see pre-packaged desserts, thoughtfully designed cutting cakes and personal details that put the emphasis on the newlyweds. Here, we break down wedding cake trends of 2021 that are unlike anything we've seen before.

Mini Cakes

With intimate gatherings on the rise, there's no need for couples to invest in large, multi-tier confections. Instead, they'll opt for small cutting cakes of one or two tiers. "Because weddings are more intimate, there is a rise in small micro-wedding cakes and single-tier cakes," says Marleeta Peppers, owner of Leeta's Creations Custom Cakes. Adds baker Arley Arrington: "Lately, I've been working less on tiered cakes, and more on individually packaged desserts."

Cutting cakes are nothing new, especially for couples who envision spreads of alternative desserts like cupcakes or donuts. But in 2021, downsized guest lists eliminate the need for large wedding cakes. Instead, couples who want the traditional cake cutting experience can enjoy the special moment with a small confection.

"Having a small cake still allows for a traditional cake cutting moment, which many couples feel strongly about having," says Sarah Crowell, planner for Mavinhouse Events. "With lingering health concerns, it really isn't sanitary to have a big cake on display and then serve it to everyone." Those who want loved ones to have a slice of cake can provide mini versions for each guest or table. Or, for a more economical dessert option, couples can offer pre-wrapped desserts, which are COVID-safe and budget-friendly.

Individualized Desserts

Guest and vendor safety is top of mind for couples wedding planning during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, individual, pre-wrapped dessert portions will be a major 2021 trend. Not only will this limit contact between guests and venue staff, personal desserts can double as cost-efficient wedding favors.

"While mini cakes seem like a safe route to take, they are labor-intensive which makes them cost prohibitive," advises Sarah Schlesinger, owner of Sarah & Simon Cake Design. "Couples should see mini cakes as a way to combine the wedding cake and the wedding favors, so everyone can go home with their own tiny decorated cake or cookie—it justifies the 'splurge' more."

The popularity of alternative sweet spreads has been on the rise in recent years. From custom cookies to S'more kits, individualized desserts allow couples to take their wedding food to new heights. Regardless of which dessert option newlyweds choose, pre-wrapped treats are safe to pass around and easy to take on-the-go. "Individual packaging will definitely be a consideration moving forward, and is more economical to do with things like cookies or tarts or treat bars," Schlesinger adds.

Purposeful Twists on Design

The most memorable weddings are those infused with thoughtful touches and details that represent the couple—anything that makes a guest think, "Wow, that was so them." Cake trends in 2021 are all about intentionality, especially since a smaller wedding allow the couple to experiment heavily on the details. One way to make an unforgettable statement is with the cake.

"Right now, couples want thoughtfully and carefully decorated cakes—not necessarily minimal, just more purposeful," says Schlesinger. "People are ready for something different; sugar flowers will always be popular, but more couples want a twist on that. They want to go beyond a heavy arrangement of ruffle-y blush roses."

Examples include anything with personal significance. Think: flowers from the couple's respective hometowns, a design inspired by their favorite pop culture emblem or a cake topper that was passed down from a family member. Couples should tap into the most defining aspects of their relationship to inspire their wedding cake, and work with their vendor to bring their ideas to life. "I gather inspiration from being in my couples' presence, which helps me make a custom design especially for them," says Peppers.

Hand-Painted Art

Even with smaller guest lists and subdued venues, couples won't skimp on the details. In fact, 2021 weddings are expected to be just as lavish (if not more) as those in years past. One area couples will focus more on is cake design. Custom art is a major trend expected to be everywhere (and on plenty of cakes). "Hand-painted art, as well as edible printed patterns inspired by textiles, will be a trend we continue to see taking on more life in 2021," says Janderyn Makris, owner of Earth & Sugar.

The idea of "edible art" will make its way to wedding cake, which will serve as a piece of functional décor at the reception. Couples will work with their pros to plan an intimate gathering that's accented by pieces that complement each other—a cake design that echoes the vibe of the setting will create a cohesive atmosphere that will wow guests. "A creative wedding cake adds a unique touch to the wedding. Guests can marvel and say 'That's edible?'" says Schlesinger.

Textured Accents and Aromatics

In addition to statement-making art designs, wedding cakes will feature more textured accents that add dimension and body to these confections. "Cakes will move away from traditional piping designs to more palate painting and imperfect markings," notes Makris, "which will still create movement when combined with proper floral styling."

As a result of the pandemic, some experts have taken time to experiment with new decorative materials and techniques, which will be prominent in 2021. As couples gravitate toward unexpected and unconventional designs, cake pros will have the opportunity to experiment with out-of-the-box styles.

"A lot of cake artists have been able to spend their quarantine time experimenting with new edible mediums, and that's going to filter into next year's designs," says Schlesinger. "Texture is still on the rise, as is the use of wafer paper for flowers, abstract paper-y shapes and edible fabric draping."

Even trendy accents like succulents and grassy clusters will be upgraded in 2021. Materials that have other sensory benefits will completely transform the look, taste and smell of a wedding cake. "The inclusion of aromatics or herbs, like lavender, tea soaks, citrus and rosemary, is steadily getting more popular," Schlesinger adds. Wedding cake will be more than just a dessert—it'll stimulate the senses in addition to satisfying a sweet craving mid-party.

Emphasis on Tradition

What matters most about a wedding cake, especially in 2021, isn't the flavor, the piping or the decorations. Given the impact of COVID-19 on gatherings, a wedding cake offers a sense of normalcy to those tying the knot during a time that's anything but. "The wedding cake will always be important, no matter what," says Peppers. "Couples enjoy the tradition of cutting into their cake together on their first day of being life partners. Wedding cake is bigger and deeper than many people think or even realize."

Cake can (and should) be included at any type of ceremony, from a City Hall elopement to an outdoor soirée in the couple's backyard. During a time when some traditions have to be altered to prioritize safety, couples will appreciate a part of the wedding that doesn't have to be changed (even if it means giving guests pre-wrapped cookies or cake pops to go).

"Wedding cake has always symbolized the 'fun' part of planning a wedding—it's hard to be stressed when you're eating cake," Schlesinger says. "Couples see cake as a tradition they don't have to give up, which is empowering when other elements of the ceremony might have to be adapted."

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