Linda Noddin’s birch bark cake. Linda Noddin photo

One of the most individualized elements in today’s wedding ceremonies is the wedding cake. The once-standard white multi-tiered wedding cake with roses is being replaced by cakes of all different sizes, designs and colors.

And Lisbon cake artist Linda Noddin is riding that sweet wave of distinctiveness. Big this year? Black wedding cakes. One of her very elegant black and gold wedding cakes was featured in the January issue of Real Maine Weddings magazine. Her wedding cakes have also been featured in the $100,000 Real Maine Wedding of the Year contest in which Maine vendors donate their services to give the winning couple a $100,000 dream wedding.

“I’m not sure who started the trend but I’ve had six orders for black wedding cakes already this year,” Noddin said.

Noddin is the owner of Mainely Wedding Cakes in Lisbon Falls. She’s been designing wedding cakes professionally for many years and has seen a number of changes in the industry during that time. In addition to the recent call for black wedding cakes, Noddin said many couples are requesting birch bark wedding cakes. Both Maine-based couples and couples traveling to Maine for destination weddings are frequently requesting those, she said.

“Birch bark cakes are one of our most popular designs, from rustic birch bark to an elegant birch bark cake with edible sugar lace,” she said, noting that much like with all her wedding cakes, birch bark cakes can be any flavor and are entirely edible.

Another popular wedding cake across the nation, according to Noddin, is the “semi-dressed” cake — intentionally made with very little frosting so that the bare cake layers show through.

EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER

Linda Noddin of Lisbon stands in her fully licensed kitchen. Bill Noddin photo

Noddin has enjoyed baking ever since she was a child. She grew up in Lewiston in a very close family of five children. She said that her family has remained close throughout the years with many family gatherings centered around food. She said the first wedding cake she ever baked was for a relative and it was a total flop.

“My sister used to bake wedding cakes,” said Noddin. “So I asked her about making one for a relative. It had been a long time since she’d baked one and she didn’t realize how much she had forgotten. We worked on the cake all night long the night before the wedding. About 1 in the morning, my husband told me that the cake looked awful. We had to pay a lot of money for a professional to come in the next morning to repair the cake.”

Noddin said after that experience she was determined to try again, and began baking other cakes for friends and relatives. She didn’t charge for any of the cakes, but after a while decided that she at least needed to be compensated for the ingredients. She continued to bake birthday and wedding cakes over the years, but a family decision 13 years ago ultimately changed her career path.

At that time, Noddin was employed as a manager for G.M. Pollack and Sons. She and her husband, Bill, decided to adopt a newborn baby with multiple birth defects whose prognosis wasn’t encouraging. Her husband wasn’t working at the time, so he assumed care of the baby while Noddin was at work. Baby Blair survived. He is blind and cannot speak, but is full of life and a blessing to all who know him, Noddin said.

Noddin decided to change careers to be at home with baby Blair. Given her love of baking and her growing cake baking experience, she and her husband decided to build a licensed commercial bakery in their Lisbon Falls basement. That was the start of their now flourishing wedding cake business.

Mainely Wedding Cakes consists of Noddin, her mother and her husband, with Noddin doing all the baking herself. The focus of her business is on high-end weddings with a minimum of 100 guests, as well as large corporate functions.

THE PERSONAL TOUCH

A black and gold wedding cake by Linda Noddin. Jessica Woodcock photo

Noddin said another change in the wedding cake industry over the years is more couples wanting more than just wedding cakes. Many are now asking for assorted dessert tables, cake shooters (glass cups with layers of cake and fillings), doughnut walls, smore’s bars and cookies.

“With my business I had to adapt to these changes and now offer a large assortment of desserts from pastries to panna cotta,” Noddin said. “Mini cheesecakes are a favorite of many customers.”

For Noddin, a favorite thing is the tasting and design consultation she offers her clients. The bride-to-be and two friends are treated to four or five cake flavors with fillings and a sample of Noddin’s homemade fondant. She serves the samples on fine china with special linens.

“You get to know the baker and sample . . . products. This is an excellent opportunity to collaborate with them and fully understand the range of (our) abilities,” according to Noddin.

She said the consultation is part of the process she likes best: getting to know her customers and finding out how she can service them.

Noddin recommends clients consider a number of things when selecting a wedding cake or dessert menu, including the location of the wedding, the style, the number of guests and the couple’s budget. Noddin said one bride-to-be who planned to have her wedding on a farm ordered 100 cupcakes for the wedding. Noddin asked the bride-to-be who was going to tend 100 cupcakes and swat the flies away during the ceremony. The bride-to-be quickly changed her mind ordered 100 cake shooters (which came with a lid on them) instead.

Noddin is still a few months away from her busy season that runs May to September, but she recommends that couples give plenty of time for choosing and ordering the cake for their special day. She’s currently booking six months out but does have a few openings.

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