Wedding cakes weren’t always what most of us envision to be the traditional tiered, white frosted cake, with a cake topper that resembles the newly wedded couple. The origins of what came to be the wedding cake date back to Ancient Rome, where a cake made of wheat or barley was smashed over the head of the bride to seal the marriage, and promised good fortune. Fast-forward to the Middle Ages in Medieval England, where baked goods were stacked as high as possible. If the couple could successfully share a kiss above the pile without knocking it over, they were guaranteed a lifetime of prosperity with each other. Another early stacked wedding “cake” was the Croquembouche (a conical stack of profiteroles, joined together with caramel and decorated with spun sugar), created by French pastry chef, Antoine Carême.
Similar to the tradition of tossing the bouquet, a pie made of oysters, cockscombs, lamb stones, and sweetbreads, or mincemeat, known as “brides’ pie”, was served to wedding guests in 17th Century England, where it also sometimes served as a centerpiece. A glass ring was placed in the pie, and whichever woman found the ring was supposedly next to be married.
Eventually, both the bride and groom had their own respective wedding cakes. The brides’ cake was typically a pound cake, covered in white icing, representing virginity and purity, while the grooms’ cake was a darker colored fruitcake, symbolizing fertility and prosperity. The grooms’ cake was also taken home by wedding guests to be put under their pillows for good luck.
White icing on cakes appeared in Victorian times, and became known as “royal icing” when it was used to decorate the cake at Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. Aside from symbolizing purity, the white color of the icing also represented wealth. The finest, refined sugar could only be afforded by wealthier families, hence the cakes with the purest, white icing was a display of affluence.
Today, many couples still take the route of the “traditional” wedding cake, but there are also lots of fun, creative, non-traditional desserts to choose from. Trending ideas include cake pops, donuts, cupcakes, macarons, milk and cookies, just to name a few. Some couples even rent ice cream trucks for their guests to enjoy! Having smaller desserts let you have multiple flavors of each item, or for both you and your spouse to choose your favorite flavors, or even flavors that represent the two of you, similar to having signature cocktails. DIY options, like a S’mores bar with various marshmallows and chocolate, a candy bar with bags for your guests to fill and take home, or creating your own ice cream sandwiches or sundaes, allow everyone to get involved at more laidback, and casual receptions.
So the question is: do you opt for the traditional wedding cake, or a more unconventional dessert display at your reception? Or maybe even both?
Whichever dessert (or desserts) you end up choosing, happy wedding planning!
Niki, Bridal Consultant