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

56 comments

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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! ;-)

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • that yellow looking cake is beautiful!

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!!

  • 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

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

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

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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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….

  • 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 :-)

  • 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.

  • 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

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!!

  • 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

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

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