November 12, 2012

The Wedding Cake: Brown Betty Dessert Boutique

It's time for wedding food post #2! (Check out the rehearsal dinner here.)  This report took a bit longer, as I was waiting for the professional pictures from my super awesome photographer (hi, Amanda!) for full effect.

So this is actually the story of the wedding cake that almost wasn't.  I am against tradition-for-traditions-sake, and so therefore we didn't partake in many of today's common wedding rituals.  We debated a number of alternatives to the wedding cake (baking many mini-desserts for a dessert buffet, Rita's Water Ice, or s'mores-- which we ended up doing in addition to the cake), but in the end my husband-to-be requested we have a cake (and since I made the other 99% of decisions, I figured it would only be fair to grant him his wish!).  The generous offer from my grandmother to help us with the bill sealed the deal.

Who needs cake when you could have this?    Source
We tasted at two places, Sweet Jazmine's in Berwyn and Brown Betty Dessert Boutique in Northern Liberties.  Note to future brides: tasting at two bakeries in one day AND registering at two stores in that same day is not the smartest idea.  Sugar and stress overload.  While we loved the staff and flavors at Sweet Jazmine's, I had my stomach heart set on Brown Betty from the start.  The bakery had a small outpost just down the street soon after we moved to Center City, and their moist, dense cupcakes with thick, sweet frosting were some of our go-to treats during that time.

Just try to resist...    Source
Unfortunately, our experience with the staff at Brown Betty was always touch-and-go, and during the months between our tasting and the wedding, I at times wondered if we would actually have a wedding cake at all.  There was constant turnover of staff, including at the baker/decorator and manager positions, leaving me always wondering who I needed to be speaking with and when (I had to reach out to THEM to confirm the details).  Second note to future brides: when you pay the deposit, sign a contract.  We were told just weeks before our wedding we would have to pay an additional $100 delivery fee, but thankfully we were able to work things out.

While Brown Betty certainly isn't cheap (we paid about $6 per serving for a very simple design), they do allow you to choose among all of their popular flavors, and let us pick three different flavors for a three-tiered cake.  It wasn't easy, but we eventually decided on strawberry, coconut, and red velvet (I told you tradition isn't my thing!).

I wanted to keep things simple on the decoration front, since our wedding was a fairly casual affair.  No fondant, no flowers, and no crazy designs- just cream cheese buttercream frosting, and a simple ribbon and fondant dot border.  We were asked to provide our own ribbon-- something I was fine with doing (it's not that expensive!) but was a little surprised to have to do.

Swoon Over It Photography
The "fondant buttons" were instead piped with buttercream frosting, creating a bit of a non-uniform (can I say sloppy?) look.  Thankfully, I was way more concerned about the way it tasted than the way it looked, but for the price, it was a little disappointing.

Two non-food related comments that I must make: 1) our cake toppers were made by my very talented husband (pandas are "our" animal), and 2) our serving utensils were provided by my parents- the same set they used in their own wedding over 30 years ago.  Both of these made the cake so much more meaningful and personal to me (wedding portraits from family members surrounding the cake also helped!).

Swoon Over It Photography
To cut, we had to remove part of the ribbon on the bottom tier (thankfully our photographer avoided this awkward part of the process) and with last minute advice from my dad, we fed each other with no cake-to-the-face mess.  The bottom tier was our favorite flavor, and one we felt might be most popular- strawberry.  I wouldn't typically think to pair strawberry with cream cheese frosting, but Brown Betty's cream cheese buttercream is just that- a good mixture of both icing's textures and flavors. 

Swoon Over It Photography
Our caterers took care of cutting the slices, intermixing the three different flavors for people to choose.  The red velvet was fudgy, it was so dense and chocolate-y-- if anyone was looking for a light, fluffy cake, they wouldn't find it here!  Thankfully, we only heard rave reviews- although I doubt any guests would complain to the bride if they hated her cake :)

Swoon Over It Photography
The coconut was the top tier, providing the fewest slices-- we didn't intend to save any cake for our one year anniversary (hopefully Brown Betty will still be going strong so we can purchase a small cake to celebrate!).  For this flavor, the cake itself is actually a plain white vanilla, but the frosting between the two layers is chock full of sweetened coconut- just enough to provide flavor and texture, but not too overwhelming.  I will also say that the bit of leftover cake we did have, once stored in the fridge/freezer, had an even better flavor and texture!

Swoon Over It Photography
If I had to do it again, I would still choose Brown Betty to bake our cake, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend them to other brides- their service and design didn't meet my expectations.  Overall, while we sometimes struggled with the cake process during our wedding planning phase, we ended up with exactly what we wanted- delicious cake, fun flavors, a simple design, and special-to-us touches.

Swoon Over It Photography
Brown Betty Dessert Boutique
722 N. 2nd Street


  1. Love that I got a shout out. :) Glad my cake pictures also were well appreciated!! Also, was totally interested to hear this review since I've always said that had I gotten married in Philadelphia that I totally would have gotten BB to do it. LOVE THEIR CUPCAKES! :)

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  3. What a great work..Delicious and lovely cakes.Thank u so much

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