If you’re wanting to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to cake design, you’ve got two choices: either create your own unique style, OR keep your eyes and ears open for style and design trends coming through and create designs based on those.
While sometimes we start our own thing (drip cakes, I’m looking at you) more often than not cake trends come from other industries. One of the best places to look for cake trend inspiration is on visual-based social media where pictures rule – usually Instagram or Pinterest. By following loads of NON-cake companies you will start to see things which can easily be translated into cake. You should use your “discover” page on Instagram to see what others around you are looking at and you’ll start to find themes repeat themselves. Follow companies with a strong visual component to them – stationers, interior design companies, textile companies, furniture companies and clothing companies (especially kids’ clothing). You can also follow illustrators and artists to see what kinds of themes are gaining in popularity. Colour pallets change each season too, as do different textures – I like reading celebrity and lifestyle magazines as they usually have a “hot right now” feature showing what clothing trends people are wearing.
As an example, several months ago I started to notice that calligraphy and hand lettering were coming back into fashion – the work of Seb Lester started gaining attention in mainstream media. Not long after, I noticed LOADS of hand lettering videos posting on Instagram as well as hand-lettered framed quotes appearing in stationary stores…so it’s no surprise that now hand painting and lettering are big trends in cake. Same is true of trends in kids clothing and bedding – about 2 years ago there were owls on everything made for kids, then it became (and still is to a degree) pineapples, then foxes and stylised woodland animals. For a more adult look, we’ve the themes of concrete planters, succulents, day-glo colours and graphic shapes (hexagons etc) have been popular for a while now.
There are also events which you KNOW will be on trend (or will spark trends) simply because they happen each year at certain times – the Pantone Color of the Year announcement (December), NY Women’s Fashion Week (September), the Met Ball (usually around May) and in the U.S., Pumpkin Spice Season (Ha!). Make an effort to notice what movies are coming out (especially animated ones) and what games and TV shows are about to be released. Keep an eye on what is happening in the world around you and you’ll start to notice colours, themes and motifs get repeated a lot across several industries. Then take those things and turn them into cake designs and bang, you’re on trend! The same is true for flavour profiles – for a while there, everything was salted caramel flavour. These days lots of tropical flavours are in – coconut, lime, lemon, passionfruit.
Right now I’m seeing a lot of: sprinkle mixes of every size/shape/colour, decorations using fruit and edible flowers and leaves, character based desserts (eg cream puffs that look like Pokemon), ornately decorated rice krispie treats, crazy amazing caramel apples, buttercream piped everything, a lot of the gem colours (sapphire, ruby, emerald), gourmet flavours and shapes of cotton candy and so on. What are YOU seeing?
The benefit to being on trend at the start and not jumping on the bandwagon after are is that you’re much more likely to get some attention than something which has already ‘been there, done that’ by tons of designers before you. Right now, I’d be abandoning my naked cakes, drip cakes and the “throw all the shit on there you can!” cakes and looking ahead to see what things are now trending in the fashion and homeware industries. (Note: Apparently my saying I’d abandon these types of cakes has annoyed a bunch of you. Please remember this article is about creating and developing new trends. There’s nothing wrong with offering clients what they asked for even if it’s something trendy. Your business, your rules.)
Don’t JUST FOLLOW the next big thing in cake. BE the next big thing in cake.