For some brides a wedding cake is little more than decoration. For others the cake is an integral part of the celebration and dining experience. Wherever you find yourself on that scale the nationwide movement towards "green food", using ingredients that are sourced locally and travel as short a distance as possible from farm to table, is starting to have an impact on wedding vendors, even cake designers.
We talked with Amy DeGiulio whose Sugar Flower Shop has made an ongoing commitment to use products from local farms and New York city green markets in her wedding cakes and other products.
DeGiulio's original location in the rural Hudson Valley, one hundred miles or so north of the city, allowed her to discover farmers who were thrilled to supply the natural ingredients her cakes needed. In fact, her connections have left her only needing to obtain flour, chocolate and sugar from more traditional sources.
There are challenges to the green baker. Traditional bakers can source all their ingredients from one wholesaler, with one invoice, and assured delivery times. Using local sources can be more of a balancing act, requiring more preparation, better business practices, and an awareness that certain items are in season at certain times. "There have been times when I have a large number of cakes to produce in a week and I cannot obtain the quantity of ingredients I need. Fortunately, we are in a bountiful area where multiple farmers are producing the same high-quality product," Amy points out.
The obvious question is, "Will my guests notice a difference?"
It's a question DeGiulio has answered many times. "A cake made from local and sustainable ingredients is definitely a more wholesome cake. If you've ever seen a free-range, vegetarian fed and hormone free egg alongside a factory produced egg, you can immediately see the differences in the brightness of the color and the fullness of its shape which directly correlates to the nutritional value." All these differences filter down onto the taste buds, "The organic heavy cream, for example, gives my chocolate ganache an incredible thickness and rich flavor. High-quality ingredients that haven't been overly processed result in a better tasting product!"
What brides need to know when choosing a "green" wedding cake?
When trying to think locally it's important to talk with your baker about what's in season. In the spring and summer DeGiulio's shop has access to a wide variety of berries which can be turned into an unlimited combination of fillings and toppings. In the fall apples and pears are locally in season. Certainly this varies depending on where the wedding is taking place.
Using fresh ingredients can cost more because they are more perishable and subject to availability. Because the farmers work in smaller quantities than larger industrialized suppliers the price of certain items may be higher. DeGiulio does her part to compensate for the cost of the ingredients in order to make natural cakes more appealing to brides, "I'm willing to make a little less money at times knowing that I am producing a cake that satisfies my stomach and my conscience."