By Howard Lewis Russell – Contributing Writer

For Elena Moore, making a wedding memorable is about just desserts

Elena Moore’s wedding cakes avoid fondant and embrace unusual decorations, such as live flowers. – ARNOLD WAYNE JONES/Dallas Voice

Julia Child once famously quipped, "Bake one thing well and you’ll make all things better; make all things better and you’ll eat best."

At Elena’s Cakes, Child’s workaday motto has been elevated to miracle-worker mantra. Elena Moore, the Elena of her eponymous Greenville Avenue confectionery, is passionate about cakes in the same way that, oh, Tiger Woods is fond of golf.

Every cake that goes out Elena’s door has been personally created by Elena herself — from the design to the baking to the decoration. She even answers her own phone in her sweet-as-buttercream voice.

"Assistants help with the prep work only," Moore confides. "If you come to me with a specific design in mind, I can create anything you ask for, and in any flavor. My specialty is liqueur-flavored cakes — white chocolate liqueur, amaretto, Grand Marnier and champagne — layered, at no extra charge, with a mousse filling of strawberry, raspberry or lemon."

Opened in 2004, Elena’s specializes in every imaginable sort of tailor-made specialty cakes. A child’s birthday bite might be made in the shapes of Noah’s ark, Pooh’s hunny pot, dueling saguaro cacti in cowboy hats or Barbie in a ball gown. Grown-up celebration or anniversary cakes come in the shapes of robin’s-egg-blue Tiffany boxes, champagne flutes and the White House. She even does slightly naughty (albeit tastefully executed) confections: a mooning male backside, or a shapely tush in a too-tight pink thong — perfect for the gay or lesbian bachelor(ette) party.

But it is wedding cakes for which Elena’s is most celebrated, whether for hetero or same-sex couples. And while Moore dispels the suggestion that she has ever baked for a bridezilla — male or female — she has done her share of outrageous decorating.

But it all starts with the cake.

What makes her nuptial dessert stand out so dazzlingly delicious from the pack?

"You want to know the secret?" Moore divulges conspiratorially. "Fondant: I won’t use it. I don’t cover any of my wedding cakes with fondant because it affects the taste of the cake; fondant is too sweet and once you taste my cakes, you’ll see they’re sweet enough already."

Moore is being modest. She’s one of a small number of wedding cake purveyors who possess the talent, and verve, to go fondant-free. Fondant —a malleable icing made of gelatin, confectioners’ sugar and water — is smooth, glossy and can cover many a baker’s sins and mistakes. Fondant isn’t put on with a knife, but rather rolled out to a uniform thickness (imagine a limp, sweetened white sheet of cardboard) then laid over the cake; a fondant-covered cake can be spotted by its rounded edges. Elena’s are iced traditionally.

The price of one of her custom-designed creations starts at $3 a slice for a classic, simple buttercream. To have the buttercream "pearlized" adds a buck per slice, but for a wedding cake, it’s a no-brainer: a pearlized cake looks exactly the way it sounds: glistening with a pearly, jewel-like sheen.

"We never freeze cakes, either," scoffs Moore. "I refuse to bake my cakes weeks in advance as some other nameless bakeries do. My non-liqueur cakes are made one to two days in advance; my liqueur cakes are made three to four days in advance, in order for the liqueur to steep properly."

Of the wide range of custom flavors offered by Elena’s, the most popular for weddings is the champagne cake, baked with actual champagne and crushed white chocolate filling. And when she says champagne, that’s it: No milk, no water, just bubbles, which creates a cake so light and delicious, it exudes elegance.

And elegance is the key word for Moore. One will find no bride-&-groom adornments atop her cakes, no plastic Corinthian columns and no sugar bells, doves or crackling-hard candy roses. Rather, her cake toppers include fresh-cut flowers, and the only frosting decorations she uses are heraldic, filigree fleurs-de-lis swirls of buttercream, or simple, shimmering satiny ribbons in soft pastels that tie in the ceremony’s color theme.

For groom’s cakes, however, almost anything goes. (Yes, groom’s cakes are still common — even with same-sex couples.) Elena’s Cakes will tailor one to a client’s exact wishes.

"The bride usually chooses everything; the groom only has one window to express himself," she explains. "If people want a specific design, I listen . . . but it must be tasteful. A groom’s cake usually reflects his particular interests, and people do come to me with very specific designs in mind: I’ve done groom’s cakes in the shapes of race cars, decks of cards, Hawaiian shirts, wine bottles, pirate ships, police badges, the continent of South America and even an aquarium swimming with fish."

"At Elena’s Cakes," says Moore, "If you can imagine it, I can make it."

Elena’s Cakes, 4902 Greenville Ave. 214-827-9338.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 9, 2008.

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