KANSAS CITY, MO — Trendspotting is a superpower. It requires a knack for seeing what others don’t, the ability to move seamlessly between the present and future, and possibly even a crystal ball.
“Cakers can see trends coming long before customers have picked up on them,” said Emily Nejad, founder of Chicago-based Bon Vivant Cakes.
In the US, today’s trending cakes are at opposite ends of the style spectrum, ranging from vintage-inspired cakes on one end to a more modern, carefree rustic style on the other.
“Vintage-inspired cakes, with their mixture of Lambeth design and classic Wilton, started trending with cake pros in 2018-2019, and exploded in 2020 when the non-cake world started seeing them on Instagram feeds,” Nejad said. “People really got into the nostalgia of those designs [during the pandemic]. We wanted comfort and familiarity. We just needed a security blanket. Those designs are also just so orderly. That’s what we were really craving.”
Three years later, classic vintage cake decor remains popular, yet Nejad is seeing a shift toward something a little less buttoned up.
“I call it a modern rustic cake style,” she explained. “These cakes have an organic feel to them. There’s a full coat of buttercream icing on the outside of the cake, with buttercream squiggles that add a whimsical feel.”
The whimsical aesthetic is enhanced by a more carefree — but also carefully calculated — application of other embellishments.
“I’m seeing buttercream crumbles that look like they’ve been haphazardly tossed on the cake, even though the designer knew exactly what they were doing,” Nejad said. “It may look accidental, but it is intentional.”
Upscale edible decor, like shimmery chocolate, and ruby red and bronze pieces that look like tiny rocks, is replacing traditional sprinkles.
“It’s like you took a cake and dragged it across the floor of an enchanted garden,” Nejad explained. “It’s whimsical; it’s magical; it feels organic. We’ve gone the complete opposite direction of the vintage design. It’s a very maximalist interpretation of a rustic design.”
While the general public has yet to spot this particular cake trend, Nejad is betting it will begin appearing as early as this fall’s wedding season.
“The more adventurous couples, the ones who are saying to their cake artist, ‘I trust you,’ will have these cakes,” she said. “They’ll start popping up at the most chic, trendsetting weddings in fall 2023. There will always be a place for the classic Wilton cakes, but it’s so fun to see both trends sort of competing for real estate in the cake world right now.”
Other trending edible decor includes non-traditional fruits such as figs and gooseberries. Also, dustings of freeze-dried strawberry powder, matcha powder and crushed meringue can add contrasting texture, a pop of color, or a hint of elegance to a cake.
When trendspotting, Nejad takes to Instagram and Pinterest, following bakers and cake artists from around the world, particularly Australia and Korea.
“Australia’s cake trends percolate into the US, and a ton of cake trends also come from Korea,” Nejad said.
She’s rooting for one Korean cake trend in particular.
“There’s a style Korean cute style that I’m calling a micro trend in the baking world,” Nejad said. “It’s a buttercream cake with a shell border on the top and bottom and little piped mushrooms and flowers on the sides,” Nejad explained. “Then, on top of the cake are these puffy, glossy piped buttercream bears sitting around their own tiny buttercream cake. It’s a bear picnic. It’s hyper-cuteness and truly next level.”
In the cake world, that’s what trendspotting is all about — finding the next level and bringing it to customers before they really even know they want it.