35 Simple Wedding Cake Ideas for an Understated (but Still Striking) Centerpiece

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Wedding season is coming and with the pandemic still raging you’re probably reshaping the idea of what your big day will look like. The guest list is way smaller than you initially planned, and your dream venue might be closed indefinitely. With so much to sacrifice already, there’s at least one portion of your plan that doesn’t have to take a major hit: your wedding cake. Regardless of how many guests you’ll have, we promise that you can find a wedding cake that feels both simple and jaw-dropping. Whether you’re tying the knot in your backyard or you’ve decided a trip to the City Hall will suffice, you can still delight your guests with a cake that’s understated yet striking. From surprising flavors to gluten-free options, here are 35 simple wedding cake ideas to consider for your big day.

Watercolor Cakes Are the Next Big Wedding Trend

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1. Go Semi-naked

Semi-naked cakes are all the rage, so why not keep your wedding on trend? You don’t have to skimp on flavors either. You can try a chai spice sponge with vanilla cream cheese frosting, go the nostalgic route of cookies and cream or keep it classic with red velvet cake.

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2. Go All The Way Naked

Or you could say bye to all that extra frosting and opt for a totally naked cake for your big day. It’ll be one to remember, that’s for sure.

3. Choose A Bold Color

If you’re going for simplistic décor, then maybe you want a vibrant cake to provide some contrast. You can match the frosting or fondant to your wedding party colors, coordinate it with your overall theme or maybe just go with you and your betrothed’s favorite color. Either way, this magnificent dessert will be the center of attention.

4. Or A Soft Color

Just because your wedding dress is white doesn’t mean you can’t embrace pops of color elsewhere. But you also don’t have to go totally bold. Instead, try this soft pink ombré or go for baby blue, or pale peach for an extra touch of elegance.

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5. Go Black And White

Don’t want to overthink it in the color department? Make life easier for yourself by selecting a black and white cake. You can flip this two-tone design any way you want—alternating between tiers, making each layer half black and half white, or having one black cake and one white cake. The choice is yours.

6. Tone It All The Way Down

So, you’ve gone over-the-top in the décor department and want something to ground the occasion? This single tone cake with decorations in the same color is almost architectural in its simplicity. It’ll be the perfect contrast to accent the rest of the wedding—not to mention, it’ll look great in photos.

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Butter Be Ready

7. Stick With A Classic Flavor

Weddings are stressful as is, so why add more to your plate by trying to experiment too much with an over-the-top sponge flavor. There’s nothing wrong with sticking with classic flavor profiles, such as red velvet or something zestier for the palate like this lemon-flavored Bundt. The best part is you can make this cake yourself, so no need to worry about the bakery delivering it on time.

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Eat with Clarity

8. Try An Unexpected Flavor

Your wedding, your rules. So if you want to go with an unconventional flavor, you’re totally entitled to do so. You won’t regret opting for this gluten-free banana cake, which uses pureed bananas and cinnamon in the batter and is topped off with a delicious cream cheese frosting.

9. Pick A Minimalist Design

Looking for a simple cake, with just the right amount of decorations—nothing too crazy but also nothing too simple? Try embellishing with some pearls. They can be as colorful and bold as you want or equally as modest as the rest of your all-white cake.

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10. Add Some Gold Accents

Bling out your cake with a touch of gold. Nothing says “we’re indulging” quite like golden desserts.

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11. Metallics Never Hurt Anyone

If gold is not exactly your metal of choice, no worries. You can shut it down with this metallic silver cake. Simple? Yes. Understated? Definitely not.

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Butter Be Ready

12. Show Off That Drip

Take a swing at more timeless touches, such as chocolate drip. It’ll make your guests want to dig in ASAP and it looks ultra-cool in wedding photos. Offer your guests a slice of this chocolate stout cake and they’ll be left wanting more.

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13. Be Fruitful

Fruit can be a great accent for wedding cakes because not only are they part of the overall aesthetic, but they also kick up the flavor. Win-win.

14. Decorate With Roses

Is there a flower more romantic than a rose? The addition of these blooms is a simple way to keep the day enveloped in romance. Not to mention, they ooze major sophistication. Whether you go red, pink or yellow, you can’t go wrong.

15. Or Other Blooms

Roses are great but don’t stop there. You can also decorate your layers with other flowers, such as lavenders, violets, and even dahlias. If you and your betrothed have a particular favorite blossom, add that one in there, too. Added bonus: you can pick fresh flowers (so they match your bouquet) or create them with frosting. Take your pick.

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16. Consider Olive Leaves

When we think of cake decorations, we often think about bright florals. However, olive leaves work just as well—especially for a minimalist vibe. The strong shade of green brings a hint of earthiness to the whole cake.

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17. What About Succulents?

These made-for-indoors houseplants also make the perfect decoration because of their full leaves. Plus, given the way they’re able to thrive in environments that kill other plants, succulents are the perfect symbol of strength and endurance. That’s a nice nod on your wedding day.

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18. Add A Print

Keeping things modest doesn’t mean your guests still can’t be wowed by your cake design. Adding a print can make your otherwise frill-free wedding cake a little more dynamic. This artsy print, for example, is both demure yet interesting to look at.

19. Or A Pattern

You can add an all-over pattern in fondant to your cake to make it a lot more eye-catching. Show off your inner designer by accenting your cake with stripes, houndstooth even gingham. Bonus: A good pattern will also translate well on Zoom, so even those faraway guests will get an eye full.

20. Try An Unexpected Shape

Don’t be afraid to experiment with a shaped cake. Your typical cylindrical cake is expected. But you know what’s even nicer? A heart-shaped sponge or even square tiers, just to shake things up a bit.

21. Make It Personal

There won’t be any confusion on whose day it is, but just in case that one cousin wants to have a moment (or several) during your big day, a cake monogrammed with you and your spouse’s initials is sure to keep things in perspective.

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Morten Falch Sortland/ Getty Images

22. Think Outside The Box

Stacked tiers is the most common way to showcase your cake, but it’s not the only option. Think outside the box and try out other ways of displaying. Cascading (pictured above) is a great way to show off multiple cakes and fine detail.

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23. Add A Cool Topper

Maybe you met in Paris or perhaps you want to incorporate your fur baby into the festivities. Regardless, a personalized cake topper will give more insight into your love story. Try the Eiffel Tower, or a replica of your puppy. Take it one step further and get your favorite love quote molded with chocolate.

24. Infuse Some Serenity With Watercolors

Jumping the broom by the beach? Keep the motif going by adorning your cake in watercolors. This design will bring some much-needed calm to what is sure to be a hectic day. (It’s also the perfect pick if you just want to show off your artistic side.)

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25. Sprinkles, Sprinkles, Sprinkles!

Whether you already have kids or you want to please your own inner child, the addition of rainbow sprinkles on your cake is sure to bring some joy.

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26. Stick To A Theme

Are you a life-long Harry Potter fan? Are you one of those people who constantly thinks about Halloween, no matter the time of year? You can fashion your cake after whatever event or holiday that makes you happy. Heck, you could even go for a Christmas cake at your summer wedding if it brings a smile to your face.

27. Surprise Interior

Simple on the outside, surprise on the inside is the name of the game. Have your guests’ jaws drop when you take the first slice by incorporating a colorful interior. A neon tiered rainbow cake for, example, is the perfect surprise statement. They’ll never see it coming!

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Jessica in the Kitchen

28. Vegan Doesn’t Mean Boring

This vegan chocolate cake proves that dairy- and egg-free doesn’t have to taste healthy. This recipe is super decadent and delicious.

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Eat with Clarity

29. Even Gluten Free

Having a gluten allergy sucks. And it’s even worse when it means you can’t dig into the most delicious wedding dessert with your loved ones. Cue this gluten free red velvet cake. This recipe includes ingredients to make a gluten-free version of the buttercream we all know and love. You’ll hardly notice a difference.

30. Try A Touch Of Marble

As we said earlier, it’s your big day, so you can do whatever you want. And if that looks like a marble swirl cake, so be it. This is one way to incorporate soft pastel shades without skewing too feminine.

31. Wrap It In Lace

If you have an affinity for lace, then why not incorporate it into your cake’s design as well. You can be as fancy or as minimal as you want. Pssst…You can even match it to your dress.

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32. Skip One Cake For Many Cupcakes

A slice of cake is great, but why not step it up a bit and serve up a few tiers of cupcakes to give your guests instead? You can have them match your wedding colors or have them in completely different colors, to nicely compliment the décor.

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33. Try A Rustic Finish

For lovers of the outdoors, pay homage to your favorite getaway by adding a rustic feel to your wedding cake. A wooden platter and some pinecone garnishes will add the right touch of earthy vibes.

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34. Don’t Shy Away From Decorative Icing

We’re all for keeping it simple, but let’s not snuff out the “the wow” factor. Decorative icing is a simple technique to elevate your dessert without going over the top.

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35. Decorate With Feathers

It’s a little unconventional, yes. But feathers also make for very elegant cake decorations. Delight your guests with this eccentric embellishment before you go shake your tail feather on the dance floor.

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Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...