Wedding Cakes

For as long as anyone can remember, wedding cakes have been a main event on that special day. Brides would spend time and money making sure the cake was perfect and there was enough to go around. Though other types of treats have been used to replace the well known cakes at wedding ceremonies lately, there is still a large amount of cakes being made today. But when did it start and why? What traditions were there besides the classing bride and groom smashing cake in their partners faces?

In Ancient Rome, when the wedding ceremony was coming to an end, there was a cake of wheat or barley presented. The cake would be broken over the brides head, this was for good fortune. When the cake was broken, the couple would share in eating a few crumbs. This was called confarreatio. After the couple had their crumbs, the guests would gather some crumbs themselves as tokens of good luck.

The croquembouche was created by a French pastry chef who witnessed a medieval England ceremony. If you are unaware of what a croquembouche is, it’s a tower of pate a choux balls glued together by caramel. But in medieval England, the tradition was simple, the bride and groom would have a pile of sweet rolls between them. They would then lean over it and try to kiss. There was a goal to this strange tradition. The goal was for the bride and groom to avoid knocking the pile over. If they succeeded, they would have a lifetime of prosperity.

Today, when a bride marries, she carries a bouquet, that bouquet is then thrown, her back to the female guests and the one who catches the bouquet is said to be the next to marry. In history, there is another version of that, which included the wedding “cake”.

The cake in question was actually a pie. This pie was called the Bride’s Pie and it was made of meat. A glass ring would be baked into the pie and every guest was to eat a piece. If they didn’t, it was considered rude. The dangerous part of it was one of the guests would find the ring that was baked inside. Now, if they were to find the ring, lo and behold, the lady finding it would be the one predicted to be married next.

Grooms cakes today are usually made as a surprise from the bride to her groom. But in the seventeenth century, this was not the case. Two cakes were made for the ceremony, the brides and grooms. The groom’s cake was not eaten but it was given in boxes to the guests to take home. The guests, at bedtime, would place the piece of cake under their pillow. The strange tradition quickly died out though.

In 1840 when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, the traditional wedding cake of today became the normal practice. It was at this time, the price of sugar had gone down and families, who before, didn’t have the money to buy sugar, suddenly could. And of course, with the influence of their queen, they wanted grand wedding cakes.

Sadly, when war struck things changed. Food became harder to buy and find and when a couple wanted to be married, their cakes were less extravagant than they could once get. Though in some cases, the ingredients for the cake were donated by family and friends, a lot of the time, the cake was made small and less attractive. The cake would be hidden and a cardboard cake would be on display. Which doesn’t stray too far to our current traditions where we make phony layers of Styrofoam to lessen the price of the cake for couples with less money, bigger dreams and fewer guests.

Cake was not always at the reception or ceremony. There was a time in Yorkshire when the cake was presented to the bride at her new home. She would eat a piece and throw the rest over her head, showing that the new couple wanted nothing. The groom would take the plate the cake once sat upon and throw it over his head, similar to the Italian wedding tradition of breaking a vase, if the plate broke, the couple would be in for a future of happiness and good fortune.

Some superstitions have been long linked to the wedding cake. Some still stand today. One for example would be that the newlyweds must cut the first piece, following that, the cake would be shared with the friends and family, this was to increase fertility and prosperity. Another tradition kept to this day, a bride must never bake her own cake, if she did, she was asking for trouble.

Wedding cakes have been long loved. Though some of the ways may seem strange to us, they were common at some point. At times, the cake may have been a lie, being made like bread or as a pie. People have enjoyed the sweet treats and good things have always come out of it. May it be good fortune, prosperity, fertility. The wedding cake has always been a huge tradition and there is no doubt it will live on for many more years to come.


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