With spring and early summer comes the rush to find cakes for graduation parties and warm-weather birthday celebrations.

When it comes to graduation cakes, the most influential trends are those that shy away from tradition, says Shawna LaMott with Tacoma, Washington-based Lucks Food Decorating Company.

For graduation cakes, think bold, multi-colors instead of traditional black and gold. Also prepare for clever takes on modern young adult life.

“Sheet cakes are always a popular sale for graduation and can be updated with growing trends like cheeky messages or images found in social media,” says LaMott. “Puns like ‘Welcome to Adulthood’ or ‘Go on with your grad self,’ along with piled-high sweets keep the party celebratory rather than scholarly.”

But to truly be prepared for a profitable graduation season, you might have to be prepared to go easy on the cakes.

“Right now people are not buying as many cakes as they have in the past,” says Lynn Schurman, owner of Cold Spring Bakery in Cold Spring, Minnesota. “We’re doing a lot of cupcakes. We’re trying to figure out new designs to incorporate more options with cupcakes for graduation parties and events. Really, anything we can do to use them right now is important, because that’s what people are looking for. They’re not necessarily looking for cakes.”

For example, cupcakes and a sheet cake can be combined in a design; the sheet cake decorated to look like something and the cupcakes arranged in a shape.

“We’re also trying to figure out if there are other kinds of desserts that can be incorporated,” she says. “Not all graduation parties are doing cakes anymore. They’re looking for other options and we try to come up with new ideas, whether it’s using cookies, brownies or anything like that.”

For graduation parties, consumers are looking for unique ideas like ice cream sundae bars, bowls of candies in the school’s colors and more, all of which can be incorporated to boost cake sales. LaMott says a cost-effective way to respond to these current trends is by adding trendy details and style to desserts that don’t require a lot of time for decorating.

Child’s play for birthdays

Birthday cakes have long been geared toward children — for the most part, at least — but adults are increasingly getting into the act of whimsical, bright and creative celebratory bakery items.

John Gardner, assistant vice president of sales for Anoka, Minnesota-based DecoPac, told IDDBA that the trend toward adults releasing their inner child with cakes has been a popular theme among retailers.

This trend allows shoppers to express themselves in their own unique ways with birthday cakes. Instore bakeries can target this with whimsical designs, throwback decorations, toppers centered around fun and play, and increased personalization.

DecoPac created its Multi Colored Bursts as a ready-to-place product that looks custom. The bursts wrap up multiple products — including Gum Paste curls and a center carnation — into one large cluster of color.

Another option is  the company’s new scripted candle holders, which can feature celebration messages in a stylish, scripted font. The extravagant, freestyle combinations can be used for consumers of all ages and can help decorators who are stuck in a rut with their cakes, the company says.