The days of plain white iced wedding cakes with floral décor are numbered. Most consumers are now asking for sculptured or tiered cakes that tout contemporary designs and sophisticated flavor profiles for both batters and fillings.

Rolled fondant is an increasingly common cake-covering request at supermarket bakeries. Shaped fondant decorations are popular as well.

Retailers must significantly alter their in-store bakery offerings or risk losing shoppers, according to Tony Byington, assistant VP of bakery operations at Hy-Vee Food Stores, West Des Moines, Iowa.

Many brides are inspired by TV cake competitions and ask decorators to replicate the intricate shapes and designs.“Consumers love watching all the cake design and competition programs on TV, and they come here asking for cakes that are similar to what they have seen made by advanced cake design professionals on those shows,” Byington told SN. “Many want wedding cakes that are sculpted and have different flavors from tier to tier because they know not everyone will like the same thing. Groomsmen’s cakes are also becoming more popular, not just in the South where they originated.”

Colors have evolved as well, from plain white or off-white icing to a rainbow of pastels and even chocolate frosting, he added.

Designer training

Of the 200 bakeries owned and operated by Hy-Vee, only a handful currently have cake designers who are qualified to handle more complex orders. But the chain has brought all of its designers together once a year for the past two years for hands-on classes led by the most skilled bakery staffers.

Intermediate and advanced techniques were taught during these sessions. And additional measures are being taken to train employees year-round.

“Three years ago, we created a cake design program at Hy-Vee, teaming up employees with artistic abilities with our most experienced cake designers for six months,” said Byington. “The goal is to take them from beginner designers to intermediate and, ultimately, expert designers.”

At the same time, the supermarket has worked to create its first, chainwide bakery menu, he added.

Along with standard chocolate and vanilla, the menu — expected to be in stores by the end of 2014 — will include new flavors like red velvet, salted caramel and wedding cake. These flavors, among many others, will also be offered to wedding shoppers.

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market will host a “Whole Wedding” expo from 6 to 9 p.m. on April 16 at its Boca Raton, Fla., location. The free event will include wedding cake tastings, a four-tiered cake display and a lookbook containing examples of custom wedding cakes Whole Foods designers have made.

The expo will also showcase an array of other foods and products commonly used for weddings and receptions from other departments throughout the store, such as floral, prepared foods, seafood, Whole Body, meat and specialty – wine, champagne and cheese.