Black or white, tall or short, anything goes when it comes to wedding cakes these days. Inspired by the countless cake-related cable television shows, brides are now shifting away from the traditional, three-tiered white wedding cakes and moving toward cakes with a true wow factor. Shirley Mooney of Siblings Bakery says that with the Internet, her brides now have thousands of images available to them, and therefore, “They have unlimited creativity at their fingertips.”

This year’s wedding guests might find hexagons mixed with squares, tilted layers, or drums and lights inserted between layers to give cakes more display value. Stark white cakes decorated with black piping and completely brown chocolate cakes are becoming the norm. Mooney even made a cake shaped like a sea urchin for one beach-themed wedding, and another to look like a stack of pillows for another bride. It was so believable, “Nobody even knew it was cake,” she says.

With today’s tighter budgets, many brides are doing smaller cakes or skipping cake altogether and serving individually decorated desserts. La Starr bakery does monogrammed brownies, individual tiramisus and tiny chocolate mousse bombes (spheres of mousse dipped in chocolate).

Many bakers are seeing a shift away from fondant icing to a more traditional buttercream for its good taste and lower cost. LaStarr Cakes in Ventura is known for using texture when decorating cakes, to give them dimension and a trendy look, without the high price tag.

Bobbi Corbin of Knead Baking Company bucks tradition by not icing her wedding cakes. Her tiered cakes are built from pound cake moistened with citrus syrup, decorated with a few lines of frosting, and then embellished with fresh or candied fruit.  She says, “I’m not hiding the cake under icing, and the cake stays moist because it is soaked with the syrup.”

These days, brides have high expectations when it comes to flavor and texture. Star Heiliger of LaStarr Cakes says that when it comes to taste and appearance, “You don’t have to give up one for the other.” Special requests like gluten-, lactose- or sugar-free are becoming more common. And many brides are starting to inquire about the fruit used to decorate their cakes, wondering if it is local or organic.

For today’s brides, who are no longer bound by tradition, their choice of cake offers a chance to set the perfect tone and satisfy their sweet tooth at the same time.