WEDDING CAKE TRADI TIONS
Wedding cakes have been a tradition for hundreds of years… initially made of rye bread and broken over the bride’s head. This tradition was to signify the breaking of the bride’s virginal state and that the groom now had dominance over her. That doesn’t sound very PC for today’s couples!
By the 19th century, the ‘Bridecake’ was a simple plum cake. It was so named because the bride was the focus of the celebration…and still is! These versions would not have been iced nor decorated. It was the bride’s duty to cut the cake and serve it to her husband and guests, as a way of showing how she would serve them.
By the early 20th century, multi-tiered fruitcakes were served at weddings of the English royalty and nobility. These would be covered with white icing, reflecting the purity of the bride. The fruitcakes would be covered with marzipan and royal icing decorations, which would set very hard, and the groom would ‘help’ his bride cut the cake. The tradition of feeding each other a piece of the wedding cake was said to signify how each would provide for the other.
The bridesmaids would serve the cut cake to the guests who, by eating it, would be toasting the fruitfulness of the bridal couple. A slice would also be sent to invited guests who were unable to attend the reception. Single women would save their slice of cake to place under their pillow. It was said that they would then dream of their future husband.
The top tier was kept for the christening of the first born, which in days gone by, was usually before the first wedding anniversary! The cutting of the wedding cake is as much a focal point today as it was hundreds of years ago. It is the first ‘task’ the bridal couple undertake together.
Different cultures have their own traditions. Many Polynesian weddings have a strong tradition of gifting. Wedding cakes of 10 - 20 tiers are not uncommon and whole cakes are gifted to the minister and family groups.
Colours are significant to many cultures. Red is good luck in many Asian cultures, while black is avoided at some Polynesian weddings as it’s considered bad luck.
Modern 21st century wedding cake trends have seen a relaxation of styles and colours. These days anything goes and the only limits are the imagination of the bridal couple, and the skill of their cake decorator.
Couples don’t often keep the top tier of their wedding cake as today’s tastes have moved from traditional fruitcakes to a variety of lighter cakes. These lighter cakes can only be kept for a week or two after the wedding and, even if frozen, it is advisable to use it within three months. A duplicate cake can easily be made to celebrate the couple’s first anniversary, or the christening of the first child.
The latest “tradition” is to reserve the top tier for an ‘After Wedding’ function, such as a luncheon or BBQ the day after the wedding.
Brides and Grooms sometimes miss out on eating their cake at the reception, so when a tier is set aside they are sure to be able to enjoy it in the relaxed post-wedding days. It’s one way to have your cake… and eat it!