For The Love Of Cake
by Amy Newson
Wedding cakes have been the pièce de résistance at the wedding reception for centuries. From fascinating histories to on-trend flavours and styles of today, find out more about these fabulous must-haves.
The masterpiece of the wedding reception is, of course, the wedding cake. These days it’s very different from its Ancient Roman predecessor, which was a loaf of bread presented to the newlyweds where the groom would crumble it over the bride’s head for good luck. Though the wedding cakes of today carry on their heritage of bringing prosperity to the couple and their guests, they are usually a sweet treat served after the wedding banquet.
The history of the wedding cake
In the 17th century two cakes were made: a ‘bride’s’ and a ‘groom’s.’ This was because the bride’s cake was seen as too feminine for the groom to enjoy. The groom’s cake would be a dark, alcohol-soaked fruitcake, which is similar to the traditional icing covered wedding cake that later became the trend.
Tiered wedding cakes originate from when scones and biscuits were piled high and the newly wed couple had to kiss over the top of the mound. If they managed the kiss without toppling the pile, they were assured a lifetime of prosperity.
Later, the groom’s cake and the piles of scones and biscuits were brought together to create the traditional tiered fruitcake topped with marzipan and icing. This was seen as a luxury item and the bigger the cake, the higher the social standing was. It was the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert that set the trend of white icing on a wedding cake. Their wedding cake was covered in white icing (later known as royal icing) and this came to symbolise money and social importance in Victorian times.
These fruitcakes usually came with three tiers and each tier had a special purpose. The bottom tier (the largest) was for eating at the ceremony, while the middle was for guests to take home. The top and smallest tier, was kept and eaten at the couple’s first child’s christening – in the 19th century this usually followed the wedding rather quickly! As the cake was a fruitcake, it had a long shelf life so could be kept for quite some time after the wedding. In the 20th and 21st centuries this tradition changed as families were started later, so the top tier was kept for the couple to enjoy at their first wedding anniversary instead.
Wedding cake toppers became popular in the 50s, where a miniature model of a bride and her groom would be put on top of the cake. The topper tradition is still followed today, but now they’re usually decorated with flowers, dried herbs such as rosemary sprigs, or even fruit. These are either real or made out of colourful icing or marzipan.
The traditions that come with wedding cakes
The wedding cake and the ceremony that surrounds it is an important part of any wedding day. The cutting of the cake is a charming tradition, and great photo moment, that represents the first activity the newlyweds do as a married couple. There is also the tradition of the couple feeding each other a small bite of cake. This symbolises their commitment and showcases their love and affection for each other.
Couples are now moving away from the traditional white-iced fruitcake and are exploring other options to use as the wedding reception’s centrepiece. There’s plenty of different cakes to choose from: flavoured cakes, such as chocolate, carrot, vanilla and salted caramel, just to name a few; individual cakes, such as cakes constructed of many dainty cupcakes, one for each guest to enjoy or even ‘naked cakes’ that have no icing and are decorated with wild flowers and herbs (the perfect choice for a country wedding).
Another increasingly popular option couples have recently been looking at is the cheese wedding cake – a tiered tower of artisan cheese, which creates the perfect cheeseboard. Usually decorated with flowers and fruit this creates a different kind of centrepiece that’s perfect to enjoy at the evening reception, particularly with a glass or two of wine.
So whatever cake you decide to go for, whether you bake it yourself with friends or have it made for you, make sure you choose one that suits your personal style and the theme of your wedding.