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The Short Version: Elaine Ardizzone, Co-Founder of San Diego’s Sweet Cheeks Baking Company, doesn’t cut corners when it comes to using simple, clean ingredients in wedding cakes. That means relying on real foods instead of extracts, which can make a significant difference in quality and taste. The Sweet Cheeks team is committed to not only creating better-tasting cakes, but also bringing each couple’s vision to life with a decadent, artistic creation. For couples who desire something other than the typical wedding cake, Sweet Cheeks offers a fresh take on tradition.
California couple Bree and Brock enjoyed a cake to remember on their wedding day. It was covered in a bouquet of flowers and had a topper that read “foreva eva.” The cake itself was vanilla bean filled with strawberry cream, and alongside it were other desserts, including pistachio and lemon cake shots, s’mores shooters, and citrus cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.
San Diego’s Sweet Cheeks Baking Company delivered the array of delectable desserts and sophisticated sweets. Elaine Ardizzone co-founded the bakery to create delicious sweets with all-natural ingredients, and wedding cakes have become one of the company’s most popular offerings.
Many couples think they know what to expect when it comes to a wedding cake. They can see the tiers of white icing with bride and groom figurines on top, and they can practically taste the uninspiring, and often dry, cake inside.
But, as marriage itself has evolved, so have wedding cake expectations. Couples may want a cake that’s midnight blue or black instead of white. Or maybe they want a cake with artful squares and gold leaf flourishes.
In fact, Elaine and her team recently made a cake with some of those specifications for a same-sex couple who recently got married at San Diego’s famous Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa.
“We create designs for a lot of same-sex marriages, especially male couples, and they often want a little more masculine design. Those lines give it a crisp, clean feel,” Elaine said. “We take great pride in the relationships we build with both our clients and our fellow wedding pros, in order to give the client the finest possible experience on their celebration.”
Sweet Cheeks designs its cakes to fit each couple’s vision and thoughtfully constructs a flavor profile that suits their palates.
One of the most popular options is the company’s signature cake: a vanilla bean infused with a whiskey-honey soak. The tiers are layered with cream cheese and lemon buttercream frosting.
“It’s an ode to the hot toddy because the drink is delicious, and it’s meant to be a cure-all,” Elaine told us.
The name Sweet Cheeks comes from Elaine’s childhood nickname, and today she is known as “The Right Cheek.” “The Left Cheek” nickname belongs to co-founder Donna Cellere. When the two friends founded the bakery, Elaine said she wanted to get away from some industry norms that produced bland products.
As a former restaurant owner, she didn’t like that many bakeries used mixes, preservatives, stabilizers, and other shortcuts in their baking processes, rather than making sweets from scratch.
“We wanted to make treats with all authentic recipes and all real ingredients,” she said.
Sweet Cheeks goes back to the basics, using butter, flour, eggs, and the natural ingredients in a recipe, rather than the extracts. The bakery also uses local, organic ingredients in its products, including lavender from Southern California, French nut purées, and single-source, sustainable chocolate.
“If you use real ingredients, you can get real flavor. If you put pistachios in a cake, for instance, the cake will taste like pistachio,” said Elaine.
Couples planning an outdoor wedding and who want to order a Sweet Cheeks wedding cake will need to find a way to keep the cake cool until it’s time for dessert.
“If you leave one of our cakes outside during a wedding, it’s going to melt. If you’re working with real butter and without stabilizers, it affects what you can offer on a hot day or in a hot room,” said Elaine.
Couples who order those buttery Sweet Cheeks cakes should ensure they have an air-conditioned space to set up their display. The difference in the taste is clear, so the extra care is well worth the effort.
And the bakery caters to the dietary restrictions and preferences, as well.
“We bake really outstanding versions of both vegan and gluten-free cakes and desserts,” Elaine said. “This is a huge trend and shows you really care when you provide special items for your diet-specific guests. And it saves your belly on your own wedding day if you are diet-sensitive.”
According to Elaine, more couples come to Sweet Cheeks looking for something other than the standard fare. That’s why the bakery keeps up with trends in the industry.
For example, Elaine said she sees some couples who ask for gold leaf textures or vibrant colors for each tier of their cake. Others seek out textured or fondant-covered cakes for more elegant designs.
“If someone wants detailed appliqué, they usually need to opt for fondant instead of buttercream, which is for piping,” Elaine said.
In addition to artful designs, the bakery also focuses on creating memorable cake flavors.
One of its most popular products is its Cheebee’s Best Carrot Cake. It is Sweet Cheeks’ take on a classic carrot cake with raisins, coconut, and a cream cheese and cinnamon buttercream frosting.
Another standout cake is The Elvis Favorite, which is made with banana cake, peanut butter mousse, and truffle. But what makes it even more unique are the crushed chocolate chip cookies inside.
Continuing with the musical theme, the Smashing Pumpkin Cake is a moist pumpkin puree cake with seasonal spices and covered in latte cream cheese and white chocolate mousse.
Sweet Cheeks recommends that couples begin thinking about the flavors and designs at least nine months ahead of the big day. Six to 12 months in advance of the wedding, they should choose the bakery they want to make the cake. Finally, three to six months from the wedding, they should finalize their flavors and design.
With so many designs and flavors to choose from, Sweet Cheeks allows couples to customize their cakes even if they can’t agree entirely.
“Each cake we make can have a different flavor for each tier if they choose,” Elaine said.
The Sweet Cheeks team is a tight-knit group that works together to create artful cakes. Elaine said she relies on the entire team using its cake-making strengths to deliver the level of quality the bakery produces.
“Everyone gets along, brings tremendous skills to the table, and everyone cares. They realize that whatever goes into a product is what’s going to come out of it,” she told us.
The Sweet Cheeks team includes a diverse group of artists skilled in cake-making, decorating, and management. For a wedding cake, the management team first determines what the couple needs before handing off the plans to the bakery team. After the cake is baked, the design and decor team focuses on decorating it to the client’s specifications.
In addition, Elaine wants all of her customers to know that, if they want a tasty Sweet Cheeks cake for their wedding, the cost will reflect the painstaking work that goes into crafting it.
“When people see us on Food Network or Pinterest, they see these fantastic cakes, but they don’t always realize the time and cost that goes into making something like that. They don’t recognize how much effort it takes,” she said.
The baking team loves making wedding cakes that capture the imagination of both couples and wedding guests. They also appreciate couples who are excited about their Sweet Cheeks wedding cakes.
“We love working with people who are so in love with each other and so appreciative of us. We will bend over backward for those people,” Elaine said.
Photo credits: Boyd Harris Photography, Walter Wilson Photography, Michael Radford Photography, and Garrett Richardson Photography