Cake Couture

With wedding season upon us, Australian Baking Business takes a look at the latest trends in cake design and the artists behind these stunning creations.


Established by Anthea Leonard in Sydney in 1980, Sweet Art is renowned as an industry leader in creativity and style. With a background in fine arts and sculpture, Anthea put her talents towards redesigning the way traditional wedding cakes were assembled. Indeed, the Sweet Art team approaches the design process with an artist’s eye as well as of that of a stylist.

Asked about the techniques she uses to give her cakes a signature look, Anthea says, “Colour combinations, use of piping and flowers, and altering the cake shapes but maintaining the elegance. Less is more with cake design.”

This ethos extends beyond the decorative, with Anthea spending many of her early years in the business perfecting her cake recipe.

“The range of flavours I offer is extensive and my recipe allows for a range of different shapes to be created. I layer everything with Belgium chocolate ganache, ensuring that each cake tastes delicious.

“When I started in the ’80s, all wedding cakes were made of fruit cake with pillars, extended lace and tiny flowers wired together. I worked hard to create wedding cakes that exuded opulence. I created large, handpainted flowers and worked with colouring the cakes to create detail and a luxurious feel. I extended cake flavours to include chocolate Belgium mud, white Belgium chocolate, orange and poppyseed, carrot and walnut, hazelnut and red velvet. I use real ingredients in all my cakes, working to enhance the flavour and texture of the cakes.”

Anthea says the wedding cake industry has grown exponentially and is continuing to as interest in food and cooking develops.

“My business has extended to include not only cakes, but also floral design, stationery design and event management, allowing couples to coordinate their cakes to their particular event requirements. I am also now running a cake decorating school, which we have had huge interest in. We run classes for both children and adults, and love passing on our knowledge and skills to those who are interested – be it for a hobby or a career change.”


Renowned both nationally and internationally for his exquisite sugar flower work, Greg Cleary has been designing wedding cakes for more than 30 years. His Brisbane-based business, Sweetums Designer Cakes, has an enviable reputation and his designs are often seen gracing the pages of bridal magazines Australia-wide.

Understated elegance and total perfection are hallmarks of Greg’s style, and these are among the reasons he is one of the most sought-after trainers in the industry. Indeed, his signature sugar flowers are handmade with exceptional attention to detail so they appear lifelike and natural – you have to touch them to know they’re not real.

Other signature design features include Greg’s gorgeous sugar ribbons, pearls and satin-like draping – all of which combine to create a look of luxury and elegance.

While Greg can create couture cakes for any occasion, his tiered creations bursting with flowers are among his most frequently requested, along with the more quirky ‘mad hatter’ designs, which are still surprisingly very popular.

When it comes to his exquisite, original designs, the sky is the limit, however, Greg always considers the style of wedding and personality of the happy couple – and their budget – when tailoring his designs.


Led by pastry chef Kerry Sullivan, Modern Cake Creations specialises in wedding and special occasion cakes for customers in Coffs Harbour and the mid-north coast of New South Wales. Kerry is no stranger to the industry, having won many prestigious awards during his career, including the 2002 Australian Baking Industry National Scholarship Award, the prize for which was a trip to Chicago. On this trip, Kerry picked up as many ideas and tricks of the trade as possible and met with some of the best cake decorators in the United States.

“This proved to be invaluable – it was at a time when the wedding cake industry was undergoing a rapid change where the fruit cakes started to become a thing of the past,” Kerry recalls. “Resources for new styles and techniques were limited and were often self-taught. Anytime I called these decorators for advice they were always more than happy to help. When you’re just starting out in business, it’s comforting to know the people in your industry are very supportive.”

Describing his style as “versatile, with attention to detail”, Kerry is best known for his Wicked Berries and Cake Bombs Tower, which are a fresh twist on modern wedding cake design.

Asked about the most popular requests he gets from brides and grooms, Kerry says the two- to three-tiered round mudcakes with two flavours are leading the list, accompanied with fresh flowers and ribbon to match the bridal bouquet and colour theme.

In terms of trends we are seeing now that are likely to continue over the next 12 months, Kerry says taller tiers are becoming popular with the modern bride, along with sharp edges – one of Modern Cake Creations’ signature looks. He also says individual cake styles such as cupcakes will definitely be here to stay for a while due to their uniqueness, practicality and versatility.


Based in the quaint township of Highfields in Toowoomba, Merivale Cakes & Crafts was recently named State Winner of the Wedding Cake Design category of the 2012 Australian Bridal Industry Awards (ABIA). Since 2007 owners Mary Reid and Cheryl Stace have been in the top five cake decorators in the state and in 2010 and 2011 they placed third and fourth in the ABIA. Their formula for success? Giving back to the community through training a steady stream of students who have gone on to place highly in international competitions.

“Across the globe, today’s cake decorators have a certain fearlessness about their craft as they enjoy the challenges to use the many different products and tools now available to them,” says Mary, who has been decorating cakes since she was a teenager and has seen cake design evolve dramatically with the creation of modern techniques and tools.

“It seems like only yesterday when the sugar artist depended on the dexterity of their hands to create their masterpieces. But today’s tools of the trade are sophisticated beyond belief, allowing the sugar artist to create intricate designs that were inconceivable a decade ago.”

In terms of the trends we’re seeing now, Mary says it’s a case of “everything old is new again”, with many brides eager to emulate the recent nuptials of Prince William and Princess Catherine.

On a recent group tour of the UK, Mary and Cheryl met with internationally acclaimed decorators/authors Peggy Porschen from Peggy Porschen Cakes in London and Marion Frost from Patchwork Cutters near Liverpool. Peggy and Marion showed the group several of their own wedding cake designs using either the lace mould with piping or the lace cutter with piping techniques to create a timeless vintage design. To learn how to create this technique, see Mary’s tutorial on page 50.


Situated in Newcastle, New South Wales, Hello Naomi is a boutique cake studio created by its namesake, Naomi Henderson, who began cake decorating as a hobby while she was studying post-grad engineering. By posting photos of her work on flickr, demand for Naomi’s cakes grew to the point where she decided to take the plunge and start her own business.

Naomi’s soft, delicate and simple designs have proved hugely popular with brides looking for something uniquely different to the more traditional, ornate cake designs.

Naomi says her most popular request from couples if for her extended tier cakes, which are usually decorated in her signature style of using colour, delicate piping and sugar flowers.

Asked how wedding cake design has changed over the five years she’s been in the business, Naomi says bridges have certainly deviated from wanting big bold patterns and bright colours, instead opting for more classic yet modern designs that are both “simple and elegant”.

She predicts rustic-style wedding cakes will continue to grow in popularity over the coming 12 months, featuring spatula icing, natural colours and unstructured flower arrangements.

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