An American Wedding Cake…in Paris?

wedding cake

This weekend, I’m going to my first-ever French wedding. I don’t know if the Bridezilla phenomenon has taken root in Paris, but my friend insisted, nicely, that her gâteau de marriage be one flavor in particular: carrot.

I’ve written about a carrot cake before, but she wanted a nice and tall one – with lots of billowy cream cheese frosting, bien sûr!

chocolate wedding cake carrot cake

Normally when couples in France tie le nœud, a croquembouche serves as the wedding cake, which is a towering cone of sticky cream puffs filled with Bavarian or pastry cream, then drizzled with wispy caramel strands, tying whole damn thing together.


Personally, I don’t mind croquembouche, but if I had a choice, I’d choose carrot cake, too. Especially one with lots and lots and lots of cream cheese frosting.

wedding cake flowers

We made the trip to a place I heard about near Paris which specialized in American-style wedding cakes, named Wedding Cakes Avenue, on a Friday afternoon for a tasting, during the annoying, but inevitable, rush hour traffic on le périphérique; the highway the encircles Paris. Fortunately the bride isn’t a Bridezilla, and handled le bouchon (bottleneck) like a pro-Parisian, and there was no endless honking and huffing and slamming of her hand on the steering wheel repeatedly.

When we arrived, she quickly found a parking place (illegal, of course…after all, she is Parisienne…) and we tumbled out of the car in search of the bakery.

cupcakes

To be honest, it’s wasn’t all that difficult to find. I mean, how many bakeries have American-style wedding cakes lined up in the window, and signs advertising cupcakes* and chocolate chip cookies, in France?

(*And I know all you Americans living here want to ask the same question I asked: “Where did you get those colored cupcake cups!?” Her answer: “America.”)

Once we took a look at everything, we gathered ’round a table and tasted, sampled, and discussed.

bavarian cream tasting

After each of us neatly polished off a rather hefty wedge of cake, we also tasted a variety of cream fillings, which traditional wedding cakes usually feature. But our bride-to-be was having none of that foofy stuff and she dug in her heels and stuck with the real-deal: Philly-frosting, which Jenny, the baker, decorator, and owner, ship from Belgium. For some reason, it’s about 75% cheaper there than it is in Paris. Certainly a valid reason to visit our friends up in Brussels more often. Eh?

white cake wedding cake

So this weekend is the big fête, and I’m anxious to see the finished cake, and to see how many of the fifty French guests react when they see a towering spire of cream cheese-frosted cake, topped with flowers, covering spiced layers of carrot-flecked gâteau américain. I suppose if they don’t get it, they can drink plenty of the Champagne the hostess is offering. She called me in a panic, noting that she only had 48 bottles for 50 people. That’s about a bottle per person which, personally, I think is a pretty good ratio.

However I am quite upset about something.

When we left the wedding cake shop, there was half a cake leftover from the sample they made for us, which was handed over to the bride. I guess it is her week and all, and she’s entitled to amenities like free (albeit illegal) parking, an extravagant dress that she’ll only wear once, and yes, an all-American cake for that big day. Except ever since that day last week, I’ve had a groom-sized hankering for a piece of carrot cake, which I’m going to have to wait until Saturday night to indulge in.

But you can be sure I’ll be right there, as slices of that carrot cake are being cut, waiting for my piece with a coupe de Champagne in tow. I just hope there’s plenty on hand.

Of both.

Wedding Cakes Avenue

Other places that make American-style wedding cakes in Paris:

Sugar Plum Cake Shop (I love this place, and my write-up is here, with photos of their work.)

Cupcakes Berko

Cupcake & Co

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56 comments

  • November 12, 2008 4:01pm

    When I made carrot cake with finely ground walnuts in France recently – the recipe was from Sheila Lukins’ international cookbook, minus the pineapple, replacing the oil with melted butter – they LOVED it – of course I couldn’t get cream cheese so we ate it with creme fraiche, which I wish was more widely available here in the States. Maybe we could work out a cream cheese for creme fraiche trading system.

  • Cheryl
    November 12, 2008 4:31pm

    Hi David!
    You know I am a HUGE carrot cake fan, so this makes perfect sense! (and I am jealous, although I did think of you a couple weeks ago when I went to the Salon du Chocolat here in Lyon- YUM!).

    I have a quick question (and it was actually my husband who suggested I ask you!)- where can you find cream of tartar here in France? I got as far as finding out that it’s called acide tartrique, but that’s it. We ran out of American baking powder and the stores were closed for the ferie, and we NEEDED biscuits…so I googled and found a recipe for baking powder- baking soda and cream of tartar. The biscuits were REALLY fluffy. We don’t know if that’s because of the homemade BP or the fact that the BP we had been using that just ran out was (I think) almost 2 years old. Probably the latter. But, in true American optimistic “I have a goal and nothing will keep me from it” fashion, I wanted to find it. Or at least somewhere I could find baking powder in quantities greater than those stupid little envelopes! (Bahadourian, maybe?). Thanks for any help or advice!
    Cheryl

    ps- I am a hero to my 14 year old son because since I have talked with you, and you spent the day with Andrew Zimmern, that’s only one degree of separation!

    Cheryl: I’ve never seen cream of tartar here, either, but I’ve never looked. (I bring it from the states.) Tartaric acid isn’t exactly the same thing. You might want to ask a pharmacist…and in France, as you know, there’s no shortage of them! : ) -dl

  • Susan
    November 12, 2008 4:39pm

    Isn’t that just like a bride; to want something unique? Oh well..it’s her big day..and bridezilla gets her way or…look out!

    Personally..give me the creampuff tower, um..if I’m ever so crazy as to do this again!

  • November 12, 2008 5:04pm

    Ooh I had carrot cake and croquembouche for my wedding too, but sadly no French bubbles, no champagne… (opps le bébé?!)
    I will just have to do it all again I guess! ;-)

  • November 12, 2008 5:06pm

    I love to see how smooth her buttercream is. Funny we try to do more European style cakes over here covered in fondant , and they want the reverse. Beautiful cakes and great idea for a shop abroad.

  • debby
    November 12, 2008 5:28pm

    I love the idea of carrot cake for a wedding. Make sure you post a pic of the wedding cake (please), I’m excited to see it!

  • November 12, 2008 5:43pm

    Carrot cake sounds more than perfect to me. And I happen to *love* the butterflies! Funny how traditions are so different from country to country, and how we tend to want the exact opposite of what’s traditional in our homeland… I’ve been craving American carrot cake with creamy cheese frosting for quite a while now. Do post some pics of the cake (if the bride doesn’t mind, of course), and have a great time!

  • November 12, 2008 5:46pm

    My mom makes the BEST carrot cake ever, and always makes me one for my birthday, which just past, so I still have 3/4 of a lovely, rich, cream-cheese frosted carrot cake in my pantry, made with PECANs, of course. None other will do.

  • November 12, 2008 6:43pm

    Wow, those are beautiful cakes but I’ll take a cream cheese frosted cake over fondant any day!

  • May
    November 12, 2008 8:10pm

    Great post, David. You’re a “food porn” photography master :)

  • Jill
    November 12, 2008 8:26pm

    I insisted on finding a caterer who would make a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for my wedding too. Only she said that since the frosting wouldn’t harden up like traditional frosting, she wouldn’t be able to stack the tiers. Instead she found a lovely wrought iron three tiered cake holder and the florist piled flowers all around it. I had tons of compliments on the quality of the cake. And, to top it off, the American tradition is to keep the top tier to freeze and eat at your first anniversary, and the baker would have none of that. Instead we were to phone before our anniversary and she’d bake us a fresh “top tier”. My mouth is watering at the memories evoked by your photos. Share the final product, please!

  • November 12, 2008 8:50pm

    I would much rather have the croquembouche! I’ve been in 15 American weddings and have attended at least 150 others…so I am American wedding caked-out! Plus…most of the time the cake is not that good anyways…looks pretty but not as good as cream filled puffs! YUM! Though carrot cake is one of my favorites, too!

  • cindi
    November 12, 2008 9:07pm

    that yellow looking cake is beautiful!

  • Wendy
    November 12, 2008 9:58pm

    Carrot cake and champagne…does it get any better? Have fun at the wedding!

  • November 13, 2008 2:22am

    Ok you guys, I’ll try to post a picture of the cake on my Flickr page after the wedding party this weekend!

  • November 13, 2008 2:45am

    Carrot cake is my favorite too. We had it at our wedding and my husband (who is not a baker) always used to bring home a slice from the bakery for my birthday. Last summer, my first birthday in France, he actually made a carrot cake and unwrapped a million little squares of Kiri for the the frosting. It wasn’t pretty but it sure tasted good.

  • November 13, 2008 4:09am

    We love Carrot Cake What beautiful cakes …can’t wait to see photos of the finished cake for the day..I think the blue cake with butterflies on, is amazing.

  • November 13, 2008 5:02am

    My husband is German and I’m Brasilian and we both love carrot cake, either brazilian or american style. Carrot cake and a bottle of champagne – great fun.

    Moules de papier (caissette de papier) you can find here: http://www.miamstramgram.com

    c u

  • November 13, 2008 5:13am

    How fun! Your friend is lucky to have you as a taster/quality evaluator! Looking forward to the Flickr pictures, that’s what i was going to ask for too! Have a great time at the wedding, sounds lovely. And all best to the non-bridezilla!!

  • Sandra
    November 13, 2008 7:00am

    We had two family weddings here this past August. The first one was a late night Saturday wedding in New Haven CT. It was a really lovely affair. The cake was frosted in a black and white ( same as the wedding colors) fondant,which is just too sweet for me.

    We had the second wedding the following Sunday afternoon on a beach, also in CT. However, in the spring both families met with the wedding planner at the resort hotel in Westbrook. We all got to participate in the cake tasting, after the menu chosen by the kids, was finalized. The choice of a wonderful chocolate cake with a raspberry chambord filling was made by the couple and happily agreed to by the rest of us. The frosting was a butter cream done in the bride’s summer color choices of a buttery yellow and raspberry swirls. There was also a bow on top in the same raspberry color, possibly made in fondant, but I don’t think it was eaten at all. We had bought the kids a cake topper in Las Vegas. Maybe you’ve seen ads in magazines from the Paris Las Vegas hotel/casino of the cake-topper couple in a very sexy embrace. They liked the topper, but forgot to bring it for the cake, or maybe they didn’t, on purpose. I also assume the top layer was wrapped and frozen to be saved until their first anniversary, etc.

    One question–what else is your bride friend serving besides cake and champagne?

    Hi Sandra: Because the bride is a wily-one, they’re keeping the rest of everything top-secret until the party, including the menu! x-dl

  • Eileen
    November 13, 2008 8:47am

    Please take photos of the wedding and the food for all of us to see!

  • Lore
    November 13, 2008 8:56am

    It is true about the philly cream cheese. My hubby is Belgian and we often pick some up when we visit his family.

  • November 13, 2008 8:58am

    Nice cakes! And please come back to share with us your friend’s wedding cake, I am curious now!
    Ana

  • November 13, 2008 9:01am

    I am back just to ask you something,… when talking about carrot cakes, have you ever tried one “Brazilian Style”??
    I am from Brazil and there we make carrot cake a little different than in the USA.
    Take a look for a picture and a recipe if you would like to see (or try!) it!: Carrot Cake
    Ana

  • November 13, 2008 11:04am

    These are absolutely gorgeous cakes. I agree that a cream cheese frosting would taste so much better than fondant, but isn’t there some way to at least get the fabulous butterflies? I want some on my next birthday cake.

  • November 13, 2008 12:31pm

    I gotta say that carrot cakes seems so…60’s to me.
    Still these are as gorgeous as can be and I’d love to see the final result.
    Don’t you get to take a slice home to put under your pillow so you will dream of your loved one?
    Kind of messy but should make up for that lost half of cake.
    Have fun!

  • November 13, 2008 1:08pm

    gotta love a bride who chooses carrot for her wedding cake. that’s my request every year for my birthday!! i’m a new yorker who married a frenchman in france, and so it was a croquembouche for us. not bad. but one day, i’ll ask for my big multi-tiered cake… and it might just have to be carrot.

    ironically, i posted Rose Bakery’s carrot cake recipe on my blog today: http://www.MyKugelhopf.ch – there are carrots in the air. from paris to zurich….

  • November 13, 2008 2:08pm

    those cakes are super cute! Really romantic. Usually US wedding cakes looks more cute than French one, but when it comes to taste I do prefer the French wedding style :-)

  • Oakjoan
    November 13, 2008 4:49pm

    Ah, Kerrin! I was beginning to despair that Rose Bakery’s famous carrot cake would not be mentioned. They’ve been making it for six years, and say that it’s what put them on the map in Paris….

    It’s made with sunflower oil and is very good. I believe (and am correct in that belief) that a carrot cake, like brownies, are not the real thing without nuts. Rose Carrarini’s has loads ‘o’ nuts.

    Will have to try that French carrot cake.

    Btw, the photos of the wedding cakes are terrific! Gorgeous photog.

  • andrea Ulbrick
    November 13, 2008 4:52pm

    I beg you to take some photos at the big fete — your food porn is among the brightest moments in my day – alongside the appearance of freshly sprouting lettuce and tomatoes on my sundrenched balcony here in Sydney

  • janice
    November 13, 2008 8:07pm

    Now, will you be sending us a picture of the cake from the wedding??

  • November 13, 2008 8:52pm

    Croquembouche is much more fun to make, but not as much fun to eat. That aqua cake is lovely.

  • November 13, 2008 9:14pm

    I love that all white cake – I wish one of my friends would take me to help choose a wedding cake. Sounds like a fun time.

  • November 14, 2008 11:37am

    Love carrot cake. My mom made the best. Nice and moist.

    Would it be wrong to bake one and eat the whole thing myself? I don’t have an office to go to or any roommates.

  • Neeltje
    November 14, 2008 4:23pm

    Coloured cupcake cups? Lots of them here in the Netherlands (shops like Albert Heijn and Xenos, for the insiders..)! I actually went through lots of trouble trying to find plain white ones a while ago!

  • Linda H
    November 14, 2008 11:43pm

    Carrot cake as wedding cake is terrific, but there is one even better. Cathy’s Rum Cake of Scottsdale, Arizona, makes fantastical rumcake/pastry creme/ strawberries layer cakes frosted with mountains of piped whipped cream frosting. The cakes are beautiful and truly delicious.
    I don’t know if it’s possible (or wise) to make a rum carrot cake.

  • November 15, 2008 1:29am

    How funny! I just flew to Ohio this past weekend to make my friend a wedding cake and the bottom layer was her mom’s favorite carrot cake. However, the pumpkin cake which was the middle layer was gone in a flash!! I wish mine had turned out as beautiful as these but that is what happens when one bakes such a big responsibility away from home!!

  • November 16, 2008 4:24am

    Due to popular demand, I posted some pictures of the wedding and the cake on my Flickr page. (Excuse the flash…); Top of cake, Cutting the cake, Lifting the top off, and Wedding cake table.

  • Amy
    November 16, 2008 9:42am

    Do you know of any American-style wedding cake bakers in Brussels?

  • November 16, 2008 12:29pm

    I too love the idea of the carrot cake. Great photos of some really spectacular wedding cakes.

  • November 16, 2008 2:18pm

    Amy: I don’t know much about Brussels, but perhaps a classic bakery like Wittamer might do one?

  • November 16, 2008 5:07pm

    Un gâteau avec des petites fleurs rouges ! Mais c’est merveilleux !

  • November 17, 2008 3:53am

    We had carrot cake for the top layer of our wedding cake. It was really tasty, even after a year in the freezer!

  • November 18, 2008 1:02am

    Dare I ask if there were any outlaw carrots in this cake?

  • Amy
    November 18, 2008 4:35am

    I looked on the Wittamer website and it looks promising…thanks for the tip!

  • Sue
    November 21, 2008 3:27pm

    David, I hope you will do a report on how the cake was received by the French. I used to have my own cake decorating business until teaching got in the way and I had to choose. But I will be really interested to hear how it went: the taste, the appeal to the guests, anything else you can report. Thanks so much. Sue M.

  • E Rhineberg
    January 6, 2009 10:39pm

    David,

    That chocolate cake is outstanding! I also really like the butterflies. I have never been to a wedding in Paris, no matter how American, and I am jealous! But I do love the pictures. I really want a chocolate cake like the one with the reverse-highlights frosting up there. I know this may be a HUGE long shot, but do you know of any of the cake bakeries on http://www.gatheringguide.com/ec/wedding_cakes_bakeries.html that do one like that chocolate cake? I have been looking up and down all day and that is my favorite style I have seen so far. I really want it for my wedding. I just don’t want to have to go to Paris to get it!

    Thanks,
    Eliza

  • Sarah
    July 20, 2009 4:43am

    Beautiful cakes, yes, but beware! I too hired Wedding Cakes Avenue for my wedding cake in Paris and was swept away with the wonderful taste of the red velvet. Delivered on my wedding day, it tasted like cardboard, and we were unable to eat it. I was moritified and had to pay for another last minute dessert from our (2 star!) restaurant. A total embarassement and very expensive. Wedding Cakes Avenue promised a full refund and sent an apology but my cheque was never returned, and Jenny refuses to contact me to deliver on her refund promise. She is an excellent decorator but lacks in professionalism – take note!

  • July 20, 2009 4:57am

    Hi Sarah: Sorry you had that experience. The cake that my friend ordered was delicious & beautiful, although the delivery was a bit later than expected.

    (There are some pictures of the cake here and here.)

    I hope your interaction was a misunderstanding and you’ll clear it up with her.

  • Jennifer Evans Gardner
    January 6, 2010 10:24pm

    Hi David,

    I am a big fan of your blog. I have a question: I know that the French normally have croquembouche for weddings, but I have also been told they sometimes do towers of French macaroons. I am a bit suspicious about this as I never once saw one while living in Paris years ago. Have you ever heard of this as a French wedding tradition? I would love to hear your opinion about this, and thank you!

  • January 7, 2010 2:37am

    hi Jennifer: Macarons are pretty Parisians and you don’t see them outside of Paris much. I haven’t been to many French weddings (in Paris or otherwise), but I would imagine if someone ordered a tower of them, that would not replace the cake but be served as petits fours along with coffee afterward.

  • katya
    May 15, 2010 11:02am

    I’m always looking for a lower calorie version of carrot cake – my favorite cake. I tried this over the weekend and liked it a lot. I reduced the calories a bit further by using Splenda baking blend to replace both the white and brown sugars. And, because I’m a big whole grain advocate I replaced one cup of the flour with whole wheat flour. I also sprinkled a few crushed nuts on top to give it a little crunch. Gave most of it away – the secret to not being an overweight baker – and got rave reviews from my mom and the neighbors. I’m awaiting the review of my adult niece who is a great cook and baker and will undoubtedly have some suggestions on what else can be done to tweak the flavor/texture.

  • Milla
    July 2, 2010 6:34am

    Hello David,

    How highly do you recommend WCA? We ordered our wedding cake from there several months ago and as our wedding is rapidly approaching, I have been trying to contact them but no reply. When I go there, they’re closed/only the baker is there. I’m starting to get very nervous.

    I am worried about having the same experience as Sarah above or worse, no wedding cake!!

    Many thanks,

    Milla

  • July 2, 2010 8:29am

    My only experience with them was when I went to order the cake mentioned in the post. (You can see a picture of it in my previous comment link.) The cake arrived later than expected, but that was the only issue. However I wrote this post in 2008 and businesses and people change, and I haven’t had any other dealings with the shop or the owner.

    If you feel something is amiss, and you have misgivings, you may want to follow your instincts and modify your plans to ensure that your wedding runs smoothly.

  • Nathanael
    August 27, 2010 9:57pm

    Have you gone to the Sugarplum in the 5th? Not necessarily to get a wedding cake, but to try them out as a coffeeshop?

  • September 27, 2010 10:36pm

    creme fraiche is easy to find at Trader Joe’s.