Wedding Cakes: The Myths and Magic of Matrimony

Wedding cakes come in all shapes and sizes and there is no limit to the creativity of the bride’s design. They have become long-standing traditions and are still being admired as the focal point of the wedding receptions today. Modern wedding cakes can be made of plain or chocolate sponge as well as the fruitcake (for the groom) and little cupcakes scattered around the bride’s cake gaining popularity since they are easier to dole out to the guests.

Wedding cakes have been a special part of the Greek and Roman civilizations. Perhaps the tradition of scattering rice or confetti over newlyweds had evolved along with the wedding cake; the Romans have scattered wheat in the belief that the bride and groom would be fertile. Wheat is a cake ingredient and symbolizes life – the abundant harvest and fertility that newlyweds must enjoy. The wedding cake back then was a special delicacy that the Ancient Greeks have eaten as part of their feasts.

During the Roman era it was a custom for the guests to give wedding cakes to newlyweds to simulate the gift of nature since wheat (also barley) as an ingredient of cake is a life-giving plant. Brides who bake their own wedding cakes were thought to be destined to face bad luck in the future.  The groom would break the gift cakes on the bride’s head. This was a quaint symbolism of the breaking of a woman’s hymen, signifying her surrender to the groom. The guests would then scramble for the fallen crumbs as they believe this would give them fortune. The evolution of the wedding cake has made breaking it less common, but in some parts of Scotland in the 19th century this tradition continued with certain variations.

By the Medieval Era the wheat cake had been replaced by the rolls and buns that were laid on top of each other. The custom was that if the groom and the bride were able to kiss on top of the tall stack of rolls they will receive the blessings of prosperity and fertility. Then during the seventeenth century a French chef added sugar frosting on the stack of cake so they would maintain their form. This was considered to be one of the precursors of the modern tiered cake with the extra frosting.

The tradition of preserving the top tier of the cake and eating it on the first anniversary could be traced back during the eighteenth century when the wedding cakes were actually fruit cakes blended with wine to keep them edible even after a long time. It was still an enduring myth that the cake must not break into slivers before it could even be eaten on the first anniversary; otherwise the newlyweds would be beset with marriage problems. Thus, they have taken great care not to let it crumble.

The bride’s pie, the cake that contains a hidden ring, could be traced back to the early seventeenth century until the nineteenth. It was believed that the woman who is able to find the hidden ring will be wedded next. The bride’s pie has evolved into the more elaborate cakes of the Victorian era. Queen Victoria adored ornamental cakes and bridal gowns that she had ordered a cake made for her weighing over 300 lbs. Since then wedding cakes had become intricately-designed and were eventually called bride’s cake.

The bride’s cake is the most common type of wedding cake, as opposed to groom’s cake, which is just a simple slab of cake that acts as a supplement for the more elaborate bride’s cake. Most bride cakes chosen by the bride are usually tall-tiered cakes with flowers and fruits. Most groom cakes are fruit cakes which traditionally were brought home by single ladies so they would “dream of their future husbands”.

Most brides’ cakes were decorated by the bride as a reflection of her decorating style. It could, for instance, have custom- made figurines on the top tier, a set of sugar flowers or fruits in season. For flower designs usually a bride can opt to lay it on the top of the cake or have it cascade around the tiers for a more ornate look. It can have the romantic appeal with one unifying motif. It can also have a symbolism such as gold, marzipans or swans.

The groom’s cake is more of a wedding favor and plays a special part on the wedding as well. The groom chooses his own design but usually it is dark colored (chocolate). It is a supplement to the bride’s cake because it may be served at the reception dinner (or even ahead of the time and given to the guests) and is consequently a lot cheaper than the bride’s cake itself.

Choosing and decorating your wedding cake may be easy but you should consider adding brandy if you wish to preserve your cake according to the tradition. You can opt to shop for spices, fruits and flowers ahead of the time; or have a florist coordinate with you. For many soon-to-be-wedded couples it would be easier to borrow or hire a cake tin stand if you would like a multiple-tiered cake.

Buy wedding cakes two months in advance; this is to assure you that you will get exactly what you have ordered. There are expensive cakes but if you are low on the budget there are ways to reduce the price of fancy wedding cakes. Check out the local bakeshops and consult with two or three bakers to get information on the prices and styles of wedding cakes.

You can get a great deal for a wedding cake by asking for pictures of the recently designed cakes (those created by their current cake decorators) and getting a free taste. Do not forget that the taste of the cake matters just as well as its fancy design.

Lastly, when selecting your wedding cake, your own preferences matter but you can always be open to suggestions offered by an expert baker.

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