Over the past month, here at the KTB blog, we’ve been delving into the history of some of the important parts of the modern day wedding. With food already on the brain (there is still a mountain of Christmas chocolate residing in my house) I decided to take a look at the background of the traditional wedding cake, now I warn you, this is quite a lengthy one!
The idea of a wedding cake can be traced back to medieval times, when it was commonly made of wheat as a sign of fertility and prosperity. In a bizarre ritual, the cake would actually be thrown at the bride, again seen as a symbol of fertility.
In the Roman Empire, the groom would break the wedding loaf over the bride’s head as a sign of good fortune, and a blessing for long life and many children, as well as symbolizing the groom’s dominance over her. The guests would try and collect some of the crumbs as they believed they would then too share in the good fortune and future prosperity of the couple. Obviously as the wedding cake evolved into the bigger, more modern version that we know now, it became physically impractical to break the cake over the bride’s head. I, for one, am glad that this tradition is no longer upheld–bread crumbs in my hair isn’t what I want in my wedding day photographs.
During the medieval times, many other baked goods as well as the cake were eaten after the ceremony. These would be piled into a mound as high as possible, which the couple had to attempt to kiss over. If they managed to kiss each other without the mound falling, they were assured a lifetime of prosperity.
It is later said that during the 1660’s, a French chef visiting London was horrified by the ritual of piling up the baked goods. He recommended the idea of a more secure stacking system, using sawn off broomstick handles to separate the different layers.
In the 17th century, the wedding cake took another turn in the form of ‘Bridie’s Pie’. This was filled with sweet breads, a mince pie or even a mutton pie. Inside the pie would be a glass ring. It was said that the women that found the glass ring would be the next to be married; this is much similar to the tradition of throwing the bouquet in a modern day wedding. In less affluent wedding ceremonies, the Bridie Pie would often be the main centrepiece for the table.
The end of the 19th century was when the wedding cake really became popular. The marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert set the fashion for big, white wedding cakes. The multi tiered cakes were originally used only for English Royalty. It was said that the wedding cake should have three tiers, the bottom tier was for the wedding reception, the second tier was distributed amongst guests and the third tier was for the christening, as the wedding and christening events would take place very near to each other.
Nowadays the top tier of the wedding cake is usually used by the bride and groom to celebrate the first year of their marriage.
The tradition of the bride and groom cutting the cake is said to symbolise their first joint task of married life. In addition, feeding the cake to one another is said to be a symbol of the commitment the bride and groom are making.
So as you can see, the wedding cake has taken a few twists and turns before we reached the modern, many tiered, elaborate designs of today!
Now I don’t know about you but all this talk about cake has got me feeling rather peckish…
What are your wedding cake ideas?