Kinda your grandma’s cake

Vintage-style cakes are taking over weddings with their intricate piping and callback to yesteryears

They’re petite, draped with buttercream swags and ruffles, often crowned with whole cherries, and sometimes even colored Pepto-Bismol pink.

These are vintage-style cakes—reminiscent of celebrations in the 1980s and before—and they’re dominating the dessert table when it comes to weddings on the Central Coast. 

“I honestly did not think it was going to be a long trend because trends come and go, but here we are. It’s going strong, more now than ever,” SeaBreeze Cupcakes & Sweet Treats owner Breanne McLaughlin said. “Everyone loves the vintage piping!”

click to enlarge Kinda your grandma’s cake
Courtesy photo by Breanne Mclaughlin
WORTH THE WAIT: Vintage-style wedding cakes take longer to prepare because the designers’ piping skills are put to the test, SeaBreeze Cupcakes owner Breanne McLaughlin said, but the end result is perfectly picturesque.

McLaughlin’s created vintage-style wedding cakes of almost every kind, be it single or multi-tiered, monochromatic elopement cakes that bear “Forever” and “Just Married” signs, and even one that was all metallic silver. 

In 2023, 95 of SeaBreeze’s 382 cakes were vintage style for weddings. This year, so far, McLaughlin has decorated 15 of the bakery’s 51 cakes with those designs.

“Inquiries this year have shown that the trend continues with the vintage style, about 25 percent,” she said. “The most requested is a single tier, all-white heart-shaped cake with writing on top.”

Vintage-style cakes burst on to the digital scene roughly a year ago when they appeared on phone screens as the burgeoning choice for birthday parties. It’s hard to avoid the smorgasbord of icing videos, especially if you have a TikTok account. Online bakers festooned their cakes with old-fashioned piping made from icing tinted with colors that telegraphed the theme clients wanted. They included ’70s disco, matte-black Goth, and even the iconic striped dress Jennifer Garner wore in 13 Going On 30.

“I love TikTok, … that’s where I first saw it,” McLaughlin said with a laugh. “They’re very ’80s, ’90s. You know, that was when you got a cake, you got a lot of piping detail.”

The trend caught Casey Davis by surprise too. The cake decorator at Arroyo Grande Bakery for 31 years told the Sun that the vintage-style wedding cakes demand a lot more buttercream than usual. It’s a deviation from the previous pattern where couples favored “naked” cakes that were barely coated with icing.

Arroyo Grande Bakery makes frosting from scratch, and the ample amount on its vintage-style cakes caused a surge in popularity, Davis said.

“For myself, it’s probably more frosting,” she said. “People could just want to get back to how things used to be.”

The small size of these vintage-style cakes makes them fashionable too. Davis, SeaBreeze’s McLaughlin, and Brianna Nudson of Bri’s Sweet Retreat in Oceano all confirmed that couples often order a small old-school cake and pair it with a dessert bar loaded with brownies, mini pies, cupcakes, or cookies for guests. 

Present day vintage-style cakes are also reinstating characters once sidelined for couples’ initials placed on top.

“To me, the vintage is the swag, more the frosting flowers and the cake people on top,” Davis said. “So when I see people who want more vintage, that’s what they bring in: the bride and groom toppers.”

The rekindled interest in traditional toppers on vintage-style cakes underscores the rise in nostalgia for weddings culture, the bakers said. Some of the toppers are family heirlooms that couples received from their grandparents, according to Nudson. 

“They’re trying to resemble the cakes they had back then,” Nudson said. “This trend started last year but it’s picked up for 2024.”

click to enlarge Kinda your grandma’s cake
Courtesy photo by The Cakery
TAILORED FOR YOU: Amy Marks of the Cakery designed this vintage-style cake for a couple who rescues dogs and also wanted a Wes Anderson-inspired cake that referenced the Grand Budapest Hotel.

Other bakeries around the Central Coast, including Cake Cathedral in SLO and Just Baked in Paso Robles, also witnessed a rise in orders for vintage-style cakes. The Cakery in Atascadero designed 20 such cakes as a one-woman bakery since the trend began in 2023. Owner Amy Marks said while the piping styles are a throwback to the last century, the shapes of these cakes are now modernized.

“If you see, you know, your grandparents’ cake, … it tends to have shorter tiers, and then there’s usually separation where they’re on some sort of a stand as opposed to being stacked,” she said. “Now I’m seeing it either in an individual tier just for the couple, or colored cylinders, or heart shaped.”

Marks, Nudson, McLaughlin, and Davis predicted that the vintage-style cakes will be in high demand for weddings throughout 2024. Davis said that she’s also decorating more and more birthday cakes in that style. It shows how cyclical trends are, according to her.

“Just like anything, I think it comes back,” Davis said with a laugh. “I mean, look at how bell-bottoms are coming back.”

Reach New Times Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal, from the Sun’s sister paper, at [email protected].

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