10 Creative Alternatives to Wedding Cake

If the ol' tiers are making you shed tears of boredom, sub in one of these unique options.
By: Natalie Gontcharova

Photo By: Kate Arding

Photo By: Ben Chrisman ©2012, Ben Chrisman

Photo By: Leigh Anna Thompson ©2012, MossAndIsaac.com

Photo By: Rafael Marxuach ©Rafael Marxuach

Photo By: Rebecca Yale Photography ©2015, Rebecca Yale

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Photo By: Off Beet Productions ©Off Beet Productions

Photo By: Robin Lin Photography ©2014, Robin Lin Photography

Photo By: Kevin West

A Cheese Wheel

Talbott & Arding Cheese and Provisions in Hudson, N.Y., specializes in custom cheese wedding cakes. That's right — not cheesecakes, but wheels of cheese. The shop specializes in cheese produced within the Hudson Valley region, but if there's a particular cheese you'd like to feature from somewhere else, they'd be glad to source it for you.

Cake Pops

Sometimes you just want to let the guests dance. And you can't exactly dance with a giant slice of cake on a plate in one hand and a fork in the other (well, you can, but it's awkward). So why not give them the taste of cake in the easy-to-hold shape of cake pops? That's exactly what Samar Hattar, founder and owner of Blissful Events in the San Francisco Bay area, says she likes to do for many of the weddings she coordinates. "From specialty Popsicles made of the couple's signature drink flavor to cookies and milk to a candy bar, guests have a ball getting to dance and eat these lovely desserts," she says.

Dessert Bar

You can choose one alternative to the traditional tiered cake — or you can serve 'em all. Erin McKenna, owner of Erin McKenna's Bakery in New York City, says she has noticed an uptick in requests for sweets tables covered in miniature doughnuts, brownies, cookies and more. "The wedding experience is transforming into a much less formal affair and more about family," explains McKenna. "From there, family-style food-sharing experience is in demand. I think it's much less fussy and way more approachable than a wedding cake. Guests can graze at the table casually and on a whim!"

Rustic Cakes

Yes, it's cake. But it's not traditional, expected cake. In fact, it's a little rougher around the edges — and that's what makes it different. Salvatore LoBuglio, a co-owner and pastry chef at Little Cupcake Bakeshop in New York City, says the most-popular wedding cake offered at his shop is the homemade, rustic-looking kind. "We found that couples are forgoing the traditional and fancy tiered fondant cake, and would rather give their guests several options of smaller cakes that look almost as if they were homemade by their grandparents," says LoBuglio. 

Cupcakes

What started as a trend is now a perennial favorite: Georgetown Cupcake co-owners Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne have been baking and decorating delicious wedding cupcakes for years. "We do cupcakes for many weddings each weekend," say the sisters. They're also a much more customizable option than regular old cake: You can serve a number of different flavors to cater to guests' tastes. The pair say they love customizing cupcakes with couples' monograms and wedding colors, as well as whipping up seasonal flavors.

Cheesecake

Tami Cabrera, the owner of Muddy Paws Cheesecake in Minnesota, makes cheesecakes in over 200 flavors (everything you can imagine, from caramel to Irish whiskey!) as the sole dessert for more than 400 weddings a year. Her tips for serving cheesecake? Skip the frosting, as the cake tastes best without it, but do add fresh fruit or flowers.

Croquembouche

This lofty French dessert—this one created at Ceci-Cela Patisserie in New York City—consists of small pastry balls shaped into a cone tower and bound with threads of caramel. "As far as cake alternatives, this year we saw a lot of French, garden-inspired weddings," says Kelly Heyn, owner and event coordinator at SociaLife Event Planning in New Jersey.

Truffle Croquembouche

We couldn't resist adding another croquembouche: The traditional French dessert tower gets a cake-truffle-flavored makeover from Milk Bar, Momofuku's sister bakery. Chef, founder and owner Christina Tosi's croquembouche is a medley of Milk Bar's signature cake truffles, stacked sky-high — perfect as a dramatic wedding centerpiece.

Pie

Guests will appreciate the homey favorite, and you'll appreciate its affordability relative to oft-overpriced wedding cakes. Get creative and offer a few different options, such as Oreo cream, pecan and blueberry. You can also go smaller with a mini-pie bar, including hand pies so guests can sample all the flavors!

Crostata

The crostata, an Italian tart, is a rustic take on pie. Sweet variations use fruit preserves (typically apricot, cherry, peach or nectarine) or berries as a filling. Not only is this a delicious alternative to a wedding cake, but it's also incredibly chic.