So, we’re all familiar with the grand, lavishly decorated cakes often forming the centre-piece of the modern British wedding, but why are cakes such an integral part of wedding tradition? Do all cultures have a cake like we do? When did we stop using just fruit cake bases and start introducing sponge, carrot and even pork pie cakes?!
Well, wedding cakes have been around for centuries. Originally they were meant to bring good luck to the bride & groom and all of their guests. Before cakes, bread was used and broken over the head of bride to bring good fortune to the couple. In medieval times they had a great little game whereby the cake was stacked as high as possible and if the bride and groom could successfully reach up and kiss each other over the top of the stack it meant they’d have a happy and prosperous marriage!
In some cases the bride would place a ring inside the cake (the portion for the couple) in order to symbolise the marriage. This was then served at the wedding, with all guests obligated to have a slice to honour and respect the marriage.
We’re all familiar with the throwing, and catching, of the bride’s bouquet, to indicate the next bride-to-be. Well originally that was done differently. A glass ring was placed inside the cake and the lucky person to get that slice was deemed to be the next one to marry.
Fruit cake was the original type of cake used for weddings. Fruit cake was used as they were a sign of fertility in men. Eventually the fruit cake became decorated, firstly using a simple icing. White icing was used as a sign of virginity. At the time, the white icing was very expensive so the whiter the cake, the more wealth and status the married couple showed.
Did you know?
When Queen Victoria got married she used a pure white icing, this became known (and still is) as Royal Icing.
Traditional Wedding Cake
Multiple tiered weddings cakes didn’t appear until the 1900s. The tiers were used to represent wealth and status, being first used my Price Leopold. Sometimes the columns were crudely made of broomstick handles covered in icing!
The stacked cakes are most common today, although some truly astounding progression in the skills and innovations of sugarcraft have resulted in some unique and truly spectacular cakes being created.
In modern times it has become acceptable for weddings to include less traditional elements, with the bride and groom free to choose unusual music, dress, food and type of cake to better reflect their lives and tastes. As a result, quirky wedding cakes such as ones made of cheese or even pork pies have been used!