Donuts and Popcorn and S’mores, Oh My! ~ Wedding Cake Alternatives

wedding desserts

When I was getting married, I wasn’t into doing all the traditional wedding things. I think it’s because I had photographed so many weddings and seen it all. There was NO WAY I was going to wear a giant dress I would have to haul around all day. (I’m only five feet tall.) And there was certainly NO WAY I was going to have anyone help me pee. I love my best friend, and she loves me, but I’d rather pee alone, thank you very much.

The puffy princess dress just wasn’t “me.” I bought fabric in a crowded fabric store on Height Street in San Francisco and designed my dress myself – two pieces so I could pull the skirt down and pee in private.

Another thing that just wasn’t “me” was a fancy wedding cake. I had photographed many couples cutting the cake and feeding it to each other, and to me, it felt like it would just be a show. Also, I grew up in a very frugal household, and I couldn’t swallow the idea of paying $500 or more for a cake. When I told Sarah (my BFF and Maid of Honor), she said, “You HAVE to have a cake. People will expect it.” I said, “I don’t care. It’s MY wedding.” And I wanted tiramisu. It was, and still is, my favorite dessert of all time.

My caterer was a business contact at the produce company I worked for (my “day job” at the time), and I was getting a KILLER deal on a gourmet Italian spread – food that people talk about to this day, nine years later. She said she would include the dessert for around $1 per person. SOLD! The guests were delighted and in love with their large slices of tiramisu that was garnished with an edible orchid. It was heaven.

In this day and age, it is more common for people to deviate from the very traditional in favor of unique wedding details. Cupcake towers have been replacing traditional cakes for a couple of years, and dessert bars have been popping up more and more. Personally, I love this. I’m one of those rare people who love change, especially when it means I get to gorge on rice crispy treats at a wedding.

I did some research and some brainstorming, and came up with some great wedding cake alternatives that might strike your fancy.

wedding cake alternatives

Dessert Bar
I’ve attended several weddings with dessert bars, and those are my absolute fave. Christina and Tim had two giant buffet tables filled with delicious desserts – bite-sized cheesecakes, mini pies, little fruit tarts, crystal glasses of tiramisu… I literally made myself sick, and it was totally worth it.

According to, donuts are supposed to be the next big thing in handheld wedding desserts. You can keep them simple if you like, such as cake donuts with white icing, or you can seriously class these up. Think about doing beignets with cups of chicory coffee, or mini churros served with dulce de leche and passion fruit dipping sauce. #yummy!

Who doesn’t love s’mores? I dare you to admit you don’t love s’mores. You might be chased down the street by angry Girlscounts. They’re called “s’mores” for a reason… you want sm…more. Granted, this could be a lot of prep and work. You do have to have at least one working and attended hibachi at the wedding for people to make their s’mores. For extra pizzaz, you can have flavored marshmallows, such as vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, mint, coconut, key lime… The sky is the limit here.

When I was in beauty school, one of my friends was graduating, and for her graduation day, I brought my portable s’mores kit.  (I have a portable s’mores kit!  My BFF Sarah gave it to us for an anniversary gift!  Do you see why I’m pushing you towards s’mores? It’s because I want some!) We all had fun toasting our marshmallows, making our s’mores and eating them. Everyone said it was the best graduation day EVER. Not only is it delicious, but it’s interactive, so it gives your guests something fun to do.

Popcorn Bar
Tonight, while I was eating my homemade caramel and dark chocolate drizzle popcorn while making notes for this blog, I thought, “Oooo…. different kinds of popcorn at a wedding!!! In little popcorn cups! FUN!” Putting out a buffet of different types of popcorn would make your guests feel like kids at a movie. The flavor possibilities are endless! White cheddar, caramel, kettle corn, rosemary and olive oil, garlic, cracked pepper, peanut brittle, cinnamon, chocolate drizzle… I could seriously go on and on. You can find popcorn boxes that look like they’re from a vintage movie theater for about $1 each. This could be a fun and affordable option. You and your bridal party can get together before the wedding and make the flavors. Recipes can be found online, and the popcorn can be stored in airtight containers for weeks.
You can find some fab popcorn recipes here:

If you prefer to order the flavors already made, this is a great web site:

wedding desserts

Cookies or Desserts from Your Culture
One wedding we photographed used the desserts as a way to celebrate their culture. Carmella and Rhett’s wedding was a simple affair, and they were on a budget, but no one went hungry! Carmella’s Italian family pulled together and cooked a DELICIOUS lasagna dinner with salad and garlic bread (during my pre-gluten-free days). For dessert, her grandmothers, mother and aunts got together and made traditional wedding cookies! OMG, was this amazing!!! There were several different delicious kinds, including cannoli! Can you tell I was excited about this!? Being Italian, I really appreciated the nod to her culture. The only drawback was that while we were taking photos before the wedding, I kept trying to steal cookies, and Mark kept intercepting like I was a five-year-old. I attempted firing him on the spot, but he still blocked me from the cookie table.

Cold Stone Ice Cream Catering
Yes! Cold Stone caters! My assistant, McKenzie, recently shot a wedding where Cold Stone was there. BRILLIANT! At the wedding she shot, they had the actual stone and were mixing flavors for people, but they also have a simpler sundae option.
You can find Cold Stone’s catering info here:

I’ve photographed several weddings that had cheesecakes instead of traditional wedding cake, and the guests were delighted. It’s always a hit.

This is a great option for a fall or winter wedding. What’s more comforting than pumpkin pie with whipped cream or a warm Dutch apple pie? This can add variety to your wedding. COSTCO has the best pies in any town at a very reasonable price. Also, if the groom is being naughty at the wedding, the bride can tell him to shut his piehole! And there’s always the opportunity for the classic pie-in-the-face.

Chocolate Fondue
I found this idea on It’s a classier, more grown-up cousin of the chocolate fountain. You can have several fondue pots (attended, of course) and lots of fun dipping items – pound cake, rice crispy treats, dried fruits, nuts, marshmallows, etc. I had a grown-up slumber party a few years back, and we made chocolate fondue, and WOW did we have fun! We were like little kids. It was an absolute blast.

Well, my vicious sweet tooth and my love of s’mores is no longer a secret! I hope this was helpful. See you around the hibachi soon!

Share: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus


September 12, 2012

What great alternative!! I made cheesecake cupcakes for my sister's wedding. People were gathered around the table before the "cut the cake." :)

Comments are closed.