At Pittsburgh weddings, the cookie is king, but the cake has its place

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STephanie Hnat says she and her husband Bill Van Cleef “are not cake people”. At the time of their wedding, she didn’t even think they would have a cake.

“Every time I go to a wedding, I’m more focused on the cookie table, and I knew we were going to have a ton of cookies. [at the wedding],” she says.

But to keep with tradition, she decided to order a cake for her wedding on Nov. 7, 2020. She scheduled a tasting at Bethel Bakery for the same spring 2020 weekend that the coronavirus pandemic ended life daily.

“That obviously got canceled, and I just thought, ‘OK, I guess we’re not baking cake. “”

But as the pandemic dragged on, her sister, Jessie, started baking cakes for the family’s birthdays. Stephanie asked her if she would be willing to bake a cupcake for their wedding.

The simple cake matched the vintage, rustic vibe Stephanie and Bill were aiming for with their day at Shady Elms Farm. It also ticked other boxes: A personal cupcake for the bride and groom meant Stephanie and Bill had to choose a flavor that matched their preference — almond vanilla — and it meant guests could enjoy the other desserts without COVID worries.

vancleefwedding110720print 1174“Our cookie table was more than elaborate,” says Stephanie. “No one was hungry, that’s for sure.”

She says looking at the photos, she’s glad they decided to go ahead with a cake, and it was personal that her sister was the one who made it. It was important to the rest of his family too; her mother was upset by the idea of ​​a cakeless wedding.

“I think it’s a question of generation,” says Stephanie. “My oldest sister, when she got married 10 years ago, it was a full, elaborate four-tier cake. My other sister got married about four years ago – they completely removed the cake and they made an ice cream bar instead.

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To pop the cupcake and add a personal touch, Stephanie and Bill found a figurine of a dog that looked a bit like their pup, Logan, to sit on.



OWhen Brianna Albert married Cole Puchi on August 21, 2021, she enlisted longtime family friend and baker Joelle Sykes to create something special.

Sykes, who has an artistic background but has started cooking more at home during the pandemic, was chronicling her burgeoning business, JoBakeson Instagram.

“I’ve been constantly impressed with what she does and how she does it,” says Brianna.

Sykes had been experimenting with rustic styles and kept coming across cakes of edible pressed flowers on Pinterest; she thought it would be perfect for Brianna and Cole’s garden party held at Brianna’s parents house in Elizabeth. Brianna had a simple, woodsy decorating theme in mind with lots of summer flowers.

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Sykes wanted to grow the flowers for the cake herself on her family’s urban farm, but it would have taken too long for them to bloom. Instead, she bought them from a flower farm in Squirrel Hill run by artist Moonhawkmakes and from Cutting Root Farm in Mercer County. Once she brought the edible flowers home, she pressed some into books and some she microwaved with damp paper towels on top to flatten them.

The result wowed Brianna.

“My mom and I share similar tastes, and she showed Joelle some of the flowers we were looking at, and I felt like [the cake] fit my personality,” says Brianna. “It couldn’t have been more perfect.”

Sykes, who offers cake decorating classes, says the smaller, more rustic look is growing in popularity.

“I think there’s beauty in simplicity,” she says. “I like it because it gives the bride and groom something so intimate on such a shared day and it’s something just for them.”