WED­DING CAKE TRADI TIONS

My Wedding - - FOOD & DRINK - By Thea Poole www.cake­cou­ture.co.nz

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!

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