The History of the Wedding Cake
Wedding cakes are now a way to share your interests and add to your theme. People will want to know what flavour wedding cake you will have and what inspired you for the toppers, decorations, and colouring.
Well, did you know that once upon a time the wedding cake wasn’t a fancy part of the wedding ceremony? They weren’t always eaten on the day, either! Here’s a look at the history of the wedding cake. Maybe this will give you some inspiration for your own cake.
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The cake has always been a wedding tradition, even dating back to the Roman Era. However, the cake has changed in uses and filling over these years.
Back in the Roman Era, it was traditionally a cake of wheat or barley. Really, you had a loaf of bread for the groom to break over the head of his bride. He was asserting his dominance in the family, while adding luck and good fortune throughout the marriage.
That moved on to the groom throwing the cake at the bride. The Middle Ages brought the view that the cake was a symbol of fertility and would help the couple have a child quickly and effortlessly. There was also still an element of prosperity to the cake. Rather than being a few tiers of baked flour and eggs, people would pile up all types of baked goods together as high as possible. The couple would have to kiss over it and if they managed it without the tower falling, their marriage would be full of prosperity and luck.
We have to remember that the people of the Middle Ages were extremely superstitious.
How Many Tiers Will Your Wedding Cake Have?
Over time, it was tradition to have three tiers to a wedding cake. I know many people who have had more or less (and I know one couple who had a wedding cookie instead) but three was the norm and split in a certain way.
The bottom tier would be used to feed the extended family and friends at the wedding, while the middle tier (which is slightly smaller) would feed the closest family members and bridal party.
A cake’s top tier would be removed and kept for a later date: the first baby’s christening. It seems strange, considering it would take nine months (at least) for a couple to welcome their first child into the marriage. However, it’s worth remembering the type of cake that was made.
All wedding cakes would have been fruit cakes in the past. They could be kept for longer periods of time in the pantry, since they didn’t have ingredients that would go off. The only issue would be the icing. That would wrap around the whole cake to protect the middle from deterioration and rotting, and would then be removed and replaced when it came to the christening cake.
It was a smart move. Cakes were expensive to make, so reusing a cake for a later celebration helped to keep costs to a minimum.
It took a while for England to adopt to the three-tier system, though. It wasn’t until the 1600s, when a French chef visited the country and was appalled at the way the baked goods were piled. He needed to make the cake look much more presentable. It wouldn’t be until the 1700s that tiers would be extremely popular.
How About a Bride Pie Instead?
While cakes are the norm, I’ve been to weddings that haven’t used them. Many weddings now opt for cupcakes, but as I said, one couple I know opted for a cookie.
However, there was a time that the cake was a “bride pie” instead. Usually, this pie would be made of sweet breads, mutton, or mince. The pie was often the centrepiece at the wedding, which was just another way to keep the costs to a minimum.
In the centre of these pieces was a glass ring. The single women at the reception would dive into the pie to find the ring—in a similar way to the bouquet, which is thrown for the single women to catch.
Weddings were never a major celebration, though. It wasn’t until around 1840 that weddings started to become what they are today. They were simple a way for families to merge before this point. It was Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who helped turn weddings into a major spectacle, along with the decreasing costs of sugar! By the way, it was Queen Victoria who made white wedding dresses popular, too!
What Will Your Wedding Cake Flavour Be?
Of course, times have changed and now wedding cakes are a major part of the day. People try to keep up with their friends or surprise relatives with fancy designs. And they want to keep their guests happy by opting for different flavours.
While fruit cakes remain relatively popular, they’re not a necessity. Some will now opt for sponge cakes, whether plain or flavoured. Thanks to the option of refrigeration and new technologies, it’s now possible to have cakes of all shapes and sizes.
Like everything else, wedding cakes have been through changes in history. What will (or was) your wedding cake be like? Share in the comments below.