Today’s wedding cake has evolved out of many traditions. It is believed that the wedding cake began in Ancient Rome where wheat bread was broken over the bride’s head symbolizing fertility and good fortune. The guests were treated to the subsequent crumbs on the floor, and eating them symbolized their good fortune. Over time, the sweet breads were replaced with rice and flower petals, which continue today to be tossed at the Bride and Groom after their ceremony as gesture of good fortune.
In Medieval England, baked goods were piled high, over which the Bride and Groom exchanged their first kiss. If the pile of baked goods remained intact, without falling over, the belief was they would have a lifetime of prosperity. This concept of stacked baked goods was refined by a French pastry chef, and the Croquembouche (a tower of cream puffs held together by, and decorated with, spun sugar) was born.
The precursor to the wedding cake was Bride’s Pie in the 17th century. Bride’s Pie was either sweet bread or mince or mutton pie. A glass ring was placed in the pie, and the guest that found the ring in their serving was believed to be the next to marry. This tradition was later replaced by the modern bouquet toss. Not eating a piece of the Bride’s Pie was considered impolite and was thought to bring bad luck.
The tiered wedding cake is believed to have originated with a British baker in 18th century, who wanted to create an impressive wedding cake for his love. He drew inspiration from St. Brides Church in London.
Modern wedding cake construction can trace its roots back to the Duke of Albany’s wedding cake in the 19th century. The individual tiers were supported by hardened icing. The hardened icing technique was soon replaced with a tier separating system made of wooden broomstick handles covered in icing. Today this technique has evolved to the use of wooden, plastic or metal dowels as internal supports within each tier.
The pure white cake was highly desirable and symbolized purity since the Victorian era. Prior to Victorian times, a white wedding cake symbolized a family’s affluence. Sugar was expensive and a white wedding cake indicated that refined sugar had been used, a commodity afforded only by the wealthy.
Today white continues to be the most common color of wedding cake, however other colors have been requested as well, to match the theme of the wedding, or invitation design, or the bridal gown design, just to name a few of the modern design influences. Metallics have become very popular the last few years, as are bold colors such as navy blue, red and black.
The rules have changed – there are no rules. Brides are no longer pelted with cake, guests no longer have to settle for crumbs and cake tastes great. As a far as design goes, you are only limited by your imagination and your budget.