Wedding Cake Glossary


Almond paste: A sweet paste made of ground almonds, sugar and egg whites, which is used as the main ingredient in marzipan.

Basket weave: A piping technique which resembles a wicker basket. The icing is piped onto the cake in interwoven strips of deliciousness.

Buttercream: A creamy icing, made from butter, which is used in decorative piping or cake fillings. Buttercream can be coloured and/or flavoured. It is sometimes used to frost the entire cake but doesn’t give as smooth an appearance as fondant or marzipan.

Cake flowers: Real flowers, supplied by your florist, to sit on top of the cake or in between the tiers as an embellishment.

Cake ribbon: Ribbon which is wrapped around the cake tiers as decoration. Cake ribbons are often made of the same fabric as the bridesmaids’ dresses or are a colour which ties into the overall wedding theme.

Cake topper: A decoration which sits on top of the cake. Traditional cake toppers are small bride and groom ornaments but these days, many wedding cakes are topped with jewellery, flowers, monograms, photographs, or any other significant ornament.

Cornelli: An intricate freehand piping design of curvy strings which resembles a lace pattern.

Dragees: Tiny balls of sugar which are coated in edible gold, silver, or pearl colours. Dragees are used to decorate cakes and tend to look like jewellery.

Fake cake: A Styrofoam tier or cake base which is incorporated into the cake design and decorated to look exactly like the rest of the cake. Fake cakes give the appearance of a bigger cake and may assist in the soundness of the cake’s structure.

Fondant: A stretchy sugar dough which is rolled out into sheets and draped over a cake as icing. It is then cut to size and offers a smooth surface for adding decorations. Fondant can be coloured and/or flavoured and usually has a matte finish.

Ganache: Thick gooey icing made of chocolate and heavy cream. Ganache can be used as icing or as filling but ganache-frosted cakes may need to remain refrigerated until it’s time to cut the cake, especially in humid climates.

Gold leaf: A very thin sheet of pure gold which is used to decorate cakes, chocolates and/or candy. Gold leaf is very fragile and difficult to work with which is why many bakers choose to use liquid gold leaf which can be ‘painted’ onto the cake.

Groom’s cake: A smaller, more masculine looking cake which is usually chocolate or liqueur flavoured. In the past, the groom’s cake was served to the bridal party after the reception but nowadays, it can be served at the reception in addition to the main cake.

Gum paste: Also known as ‘candy dough’. Sugar, cornstarch and gelatine are combined to create gum paste which is used to mould cake decorations such as flowers or customised edible ornaments.

Individual cakes: Miniature cakes which are decorated and packaged individually. Individual cakes make great bonbonnieres. Alternatively, special allergen-free cakes can be served to guests with special dietary requirements.

Internal structure: Inedible elements which are used to build and support a cake to enhance its overall design and strengthen it internally. Wooden bases, Styrofoam layers and cardboard or metal pillars are often used to keep cakes from collapsing.

Latticework: A piping technique which resembles lattice, with lines which intersect in a criss-cross pattern.

Marzipan: A type of icing which has been used on wedding cakes for many, many years. Marzipan is made of ground almonds, sugar and egg whites. It is often rolled out and draped over the cake, much like fondant, but is also used to mould edible cake decorations such as flowers.

Monogram: The initials of the bride and groom, which are sometimes decoratively displayed on top of the cake (in edible or inedible form) or piped onto the side of the cake.

Piping: A technique for decorating cakes with icing, using a pastry bag and metal nozzles. Depending on which nozzle is used, leaves, borders and flowers can be created with piped icing.

Royal icing: Hard icing which is made of icing sugar and egg whites. Royal icing can be flavoured and/or coloured and is often used to create decorative flowers, bows and cake jewellery. It can also be used in the latticework piping technique and words or lettering can even be precisely piped.

Stacked cake: A cake which consists of multiple layers, stacked on top of one another. Internal pillars are usually inserted into the layers to support the cake’s structure but these pillars are not visible. The layers usually decrease in size as they go higher, resembling a staircase.

Tiered cake: A cake which consists of multiple layers, or tiers. Each tier is displayed above another and is supported on visible pillars. The tiers usually decrease in size as they go higher but all of the tiers may be the same size and shape.

Topsy turvy cake: A stacked cake which contains layers of uneven shapes and disproportionate sizes. A topsy turvy cake looks as though it might fall down but in fact, the layers are usually cut straight in the middle and supported with pillars so that it is only the edges which are truly topsy turvy. Topsy turvy cakes add a whimsical element to a wedding (think Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter Tea Party).