Colleen Roberts' decades of baking have never produced a "typical, white wedding cake."
Just like bridal attire, wedding cakes change with the times, and Roberts crafts hers to reflect the latest designs, whether that's staggered squares, smooth surfaces or even cupcakes perched on pedestals.
"It kind of circles around like all fashion does," says Roberts. "I could never outguess what a bride's going to order."
But Roberts, co-owner of Sensational Sweets Bakery in Eagle Point, has been in business long enough to serve the next generation of brides. Between them, she and sister Shauna Engbrecht, the bakery's other owner, have created 11 wedding cakes for their family alone and transported them as far as Michigan for the wedding of Engbrecht's son, Cody.
"It gave me a job to do and stay at home with my kids," says Roberts, 53.
Roberts started baking wedding and birthday cakes for friends during the 1980s in her Eagle Point home. The business grew to a capacity that convinced her to either refuse work or license her enterprise, Roberts says. In 1993, Roberts and Engbrecht, former bakery manager at Steve's Market in Gold Hill (now Ray's), founded Sensational Sweets off Eagle Point's Highway 62. In 2004, the duo relocated to nearby Alta Vista Road.
"I've always wanted to have my own bakery," says Roberts.
She and Engbrecht, 56, sell all the usual suspects — from doughnuts and cookies to more elaborate pastries, as well as sandwiches and a small selection of other lunch items. With about 30 ordered per year, wedding cakes are a small but still significant aspect of the business.
"The fresh-fruit fillings make a cake really special," says Roberts. "Ours is chopped fruit," she adds, explaining that some other bakeries use artificially flavored gels as cake filling.
Sensational Sweets' most popular cake is strawberry-filled. Add a smooth layer of whipped topping that approximates fondant, and the cake costs about $4 per serving, including consultation, delivery and setup. Roberts' most basic cake costs $2.50 per serving.
Roberts decorates most with fresh flowers in custom color schemes. A touch of black in the frosting recently has become popular, Roberts says, adding that some fads never fade.
"Pink is always in — it's timeless."
Roberts encourages customers to search the Internet for cake recipes and decor. She's up for applying those suggestions in her kitchen.
"It's always so neat to take people's ideas and put it together in a cake."
Marrying interests in art and cooking, Grants Pass baker Tana Pondelick is known for her unusual cake flavors and fondant flourishes. The 47-year-old, who holds a bachelor's degree in fine arts, baked wedding cakes for a decade in her Applegate home before moving the operation seven years ago to a full-service bakery.
"Between the two things, it seemed like a natural step — getting into edible art."
Pondelick's Sweet Conclusions Wedding Cakes also has been getting into a specialty market for vegan, organic and gluten-free cakes. Those options join Pondelick's menu of gourmet flavors that include raspberry Bavarian cream, tiramisu, German chocolate and apple, walnut and cream cheese. Pondelick says she uses real butter and no Crisco or baking mixes.
"They're really rich but not sickeningly sweet," she says.
Baking about 30 wedding cakes a year, Pondelick has delivered them to Mount Shasta, Calif., and the Oregon Coast. An "express" order picked up at the bakery can be had for $3.50 per serving, with carrot cake as the only choice. Pondelick's typical cake, which comes with a consultation, delivery and setup, is $4.50 per serving.
A vegan cake is available for roughly the same price as one of Pondelick's traditional cakes. Gluten-free warrants a small additional charge, and an entirely organic cake comes at almost double the cost.
Roberts and Pondelick both recommend ordering a wedding cake several months before the event.
For more information, call Sensational Sweets Bakery at 541-826-5622 or Sweet Conclusions Wedding Cakes at 541-471-1922. See the Web site www.sweetconclusions.com.