In China, custom sways many brides and grooms to opt for an elaborate eight-course wedding banquet, long believed to bring newlyweds luck. Yet at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, nearly a third of these couples still play loose and fancy-free with the last course, requesting something sophisticated yet decidedly unconventional. Executive Pastry Chef Richard Long’s response takes the form of an elegant plated dessert: a trio of lavish tastes comprising decadent, fudgelike chocolate cake, velvety passion fruit crème and raspberry mousse atop a sliver of a joconde spongecake which, in a subtle nod to another tradition, is the basis of many a tiered wedding cake.
Into every reception a slight lull seems to come, usually — and not surprisingly — just after dinner. At The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, Executive Pastry Chef Thomas McGovern finds that a little whimsy in the form of an ice cream station really revitalizes things. Guests can indulge in create-your-own sundaes, smothering ice cream with hot fudge, caramel sauce, strawberries, whipped cream, peanuts, chopped candy bars, even Pop Rocks. Or they can instead sample minicones, showing off a veritable palette of flavors, from the more expected vanilla and chocolate and strawberry to the relatively exotic watermelon and even lemon verbena sorbet. “We tend to see a ‘WOW!’ response," says McGovern.
“Something chocolatey and over the top!” was a recent request made of Cynthia Falatic, Pastry Chef at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. “They asked us to create something special for them,” says Falatic. “All I knew is that the couple really loved chocolate.” Because she wanted guests to feel as though they had their own personal dessert — made just for them — Falatic and her team conjured an abundance of chocolatey creations, each individually portioned and plated. Tiramisu. Panna cotta. Pots de crème. Even a chocolate fountain. And, to balance the sweeter offerings, a spectacularly dark and indulgent bread pudding concocted from custard that was melded with melted Ghirardelli chocolate and heaped upon croissants. As a testament to the team’s creativity, at the end of the reception, everything was gone, says Falatic. “Absolutely gone.”
Some couples prefer to send a little something sweet home with their wedding guests. At The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin, Executive Pastry Chef Antje Rauterberg crafts his-and-hers petit fours — cognac-laced dark chocolate for the gents, strawberry-imbued hearts enveloped in red couverture for the ladies — as favors for guests. The diminutive desserts are inscribed with the names of the bride and groom or their wedding date. It’s a fanciful flourish that serves as a remembrance for family and friends, one that lingers long after the actual favor itself.
In keeping with the notion of wedding cake as décor, not just dessert, the pastry team at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami recently fashioned croquembouche cake, a labor of love created from vanilla cream pastry puffs bound together for the sake of holy matrimony by caramel. It’s an elegant, eyecatching riff on a multitiered cake, one that multitasks as both conversation starter and centerpiece given its elaborate floral and ribbon embellishments. The French form factor still affords a photo op for cake cutting — or rather, pastry plucking — given how the happy couple snatched from the cake and fed one another the first of many, many a shared dessert.