It was probably the ancient Egyptians who first introduced the world to the product we know today as cake. Baked primarily for religious ceremonies, this early creation bore little resemblance to the elaborately decorated and colorful confections we enjoy today. In fact, it was more like a honey-sweetened fruit-bread. Medieval versions were used as centerpieces for the tables of European aristocracy, but it was not until sugar became more readily available that French chefs popularized the idea of actually serving iced, sweetened cakes to guests who dined at their tables.
Because of their early cultural and religious significance, cakes have always played an important role at any commemorative event, and that has not changed. Today, colorful cakes are the focal point of weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, retirement parties, showers, graduations and holiday festivities. Decorating styles and icing colors continue to change slightly each year, but the perfectly decorated cake always blends into the overall decorating scheme of each special event.
According to Dawn Hodapp, former lead baker for Sun Valley Resorts, a soft, neutral color on a clean, simple cake shape is a sophisticated look for formal occasions. Picture stacked layers of a square cake in gentle grays or silver and adorned with pearls, pink flowers, and delicate ruffles. For a more dramatic effect, how about adding some black scroll work? Is black icing ever appropriate for a special occasion? Actually, black is one of the new trendy colors, especially for 2013 black-and-white weddings. Such cakes create a dramatic statement at the reception. Pairing black with a soft pink, gray or even a chocolate brown tones it down slightly.
Other popular icing colors this year include delicate hues such as Apricot or Candlelight. A tiered Yellow fondant with iced white flowers and floral scrolling would be perfect for a summer celebration. "Pearlized" pink fondant with rhinestones would be a little more feminine and formal. White fondant with hand-painted flowers and delicate vines or birds is also charming. The increase in popularity of Mint Green icing may be a response to Pantone's new Color of the Year: Emerald.
To choose the proper icing color for your special-occasion cake, let the theme and overall decorating scheme be your guide. By taking a swatch of material or ribbon with you, you can match almost any color perfectly or choose a fitting complementary hue. For example, Wilton icing products include Golden Yellow, Lemon Yellow and Buttercup Yellow. Daffodil Yellow is a pale, all-natural version free of Yellow #5 dye, which can be a problem for those with food allergies.
When decorating your own cake, stick with all primary colors for a bold, striking effect, or choose pastels for a softer appearance. Use concentrated gel formulas that will not affect the thickness of your icing. Standard food-color dyes may weaken the consistency. Also, always mix enough icing to finish the project in that color. It is very difficult to mix up a second batch that matches perfectly. Unlike buttercream icing, royal icing tends to darken slightly after it sets for a few hours. No-Taste Red is best for decorating a large area in this bold color. For darker colors such as Navy Blue and Black, start with a dark chocolate icing. Because black is almost impossible to mix, it is best to use purchased black icing rather than trying to create your own.
Whatever the occasion, let your colorful cake become the crowning point of the celebration. A delicious-tasting, colorfully decorated cake will always make a great lasting impression!
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