A towering wedding cake can be a show-stopper at your wedding reception. But what if you aren’t a cake lover? Do you still have to have a wedding cake? The answer is no!
Your wedding dessert options are limited only by your imagination! As I always tell my clients when they ask me if they “have” to do something, it’s your wedding. It should be a reflection of your and your fiancé(e)’s personalities. If you don’t love cake, you don’t have to serve cake.
But what if you have a relative (read: mom) who insists that you can’t have a wedding without a wedding cake? Tell her I gave you permission to not have one. :-) But if she insists, it’s probably because she wants the photos of the cake cutting. In that case, why not compromise? Have the dessert you want, but have a small, single-tier cake just for cutting. It doesn’t need to be sliced and served to guests, but you have it for the cake cutting photo op. Win-win.
Here are some other ideas for non-cake wedding desserts.
Cupcakes are sort of the OG of alternative wedding desserts. They’re nice because nothing needs to be sliced and plated, and they are self-serve. Plus, it’s easy to have many different flavors of cupcake. With a wedding cake, each tier can be a different flavor, but if you only have two tiers, you’re limited to two flavors.
But beware: don’t decide on cupcakes because you think it will save you money. It takes a lot of time and effort to frost all those individual cupcakes. They can easily cost just as much as (or more than) a wedding cake.
2. Cake pops
It started with baby showers and has made its way to weddings—the cake pop phenomenon is still going strong! As with cupcakes, cake pops make a great dessert because there’s no large cake to slice, and guests can grab their own cake pop. Bonus: they’re easily transportable (when they’re wrapped in cellophane) so guests can take one for the road!
3. Doughnuts (or donuts, if you insist)
There are a few ways to serve doughnuts. Doughnut display walls with pegs have become popular in the past couple years. But make sure your doughnuts aren’t too gooey, or this doesn’t work at all because they slide off the pegs.
I once had a client make a “cake” out of Krispy Kremes. We used a tiered stand and arranged the doughnuts on top of each other on each tier to make it appear that it was a cake. We even put a topper on it.
Doughnuts can also be stacked on trays on a buffet table.
With pie you can have large pies to be cut and served as slices, or you can do smaller, personal pies for each guest. Again, the smaller the unit, the more versatility you have with choosing flavors. And you can do a variety of fruit pies alongside something like a Boston Cream for variety.
5. Ice cream
Sundae bar, anyone? Imagine all the sundae fixings lined up on the buffet. Your guests choose their favorite ice cream flavor from a (limited) selection, it’s served to them in a compote cup, and then they get to customize with sprinkles and nuts and drizzles to their heart’s content. Fun!
In some cultures, it’s common for the family members of the couple to bake cookies and bring them to the wedding for a cookie buffet. But even if that’s not one of your cultural traditions, you can still order cookies from a bakery and have a cookie buffet.
Or do a buffet with cookies, brownies, Rice Krispy treats and other childhood favorites.
French macarons make for a colorful display and have the added bonus of being light and airy, so no one feels weighed down by dessert.
7. Hot chocolate station
Perfect for a smaller fall or winter wedding. You can offer a buffet with options to dress your hot chocolate—whipped cream, caramel, nutmeg, cinnamon, whiskey, rum…
8. Culturally traditional desserts
A croquembouche is a traditional French dessert, which is essentially a cake, but not what we Americans generally think of when it comes to wedding cake.
Some Pakistani clients of mine served a buffet of traditional Pakistani desserts in lieu of cake because most of their guests weren’t cake lovers.
9. Chocolate fountain
Chocolate fountains used to be really popular, but they’ve waned a bit in the past decade. But there are so many goodies that can be dipped in a chocolate fountain: pretzels, Rice Krispy treats, vanilla wafer cookies, marshmallows, berries, graham crackers.
Speaking of graham crackers—s’mores! This idea really only works if your wedding reception is taking place outside and you have access to one or more fire pits, but many outdoor venues are making this part of their wedding packages. You can go the traditional route with Nabisco Honey Grahams, Kraft Marshmallows, and Hershey bars, or you can make it artisanal with homemade graham crackers, homemade vanilla marshmallows, and dark chocolate. You’ll just want to make sure you have plenty of fire-safe skewers available.
11. Mix and Match
The greatest thing about the above options is that you can combine some of them! Do a buffet of cupcakes, doughnuts, and cookies! Have cake AND cake pops! Offer s’mores WITH a hot chocolate bar. So. Many. Desserts.
I hope I’ve given you lots of food for thought (no pun intended) when it comes to dessert options! If you have a dessert idea I haven’t covered, let me know in the comments!
Tl;DR here’s the video
This post was written by Sacramento wedding planner Risa Weaver-Enion. If you're feeling overwhelmed by planning your wedding, we are here for you! Read more about what we do on our Welcome and Packages pages. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or want to inquire about getting help with wedding planning. And if you'd like to have future blog posts delivered to your inbox, please join our Insider’s Club on the Welcome page.