Wedding Cake Traditions and Traditional Wedding Cake
Wedding cakes make fantastic centre pieces, and are chosen as much for their visual appeal as for how they taste! The classic multi-tiered affair became popular I believe in Victorian society after a cake designer took inspiration from St Bride’s Church in London. I wonder if the steeple itself took inspiration from the cute older tradition of piling cakes as high as possible to challenge the Bride and Groom to kiss over the top of the cakes? What a fun game! As with most wedding traditions, the couple could expect prosperity and fertility should they succeed in kissing over the cake tower! Nowadays the ritual associated with the special cake is the joint cutting of it and feeding it to one another by the newlyweds. These important first joint acts and exchanges as husband and wife symbolise the bodily and spiritual nourishment the couple have pledged to provide each other throughout their marriage.
The luck imbued in the cake was treasured by couple and guests alike after the Wedding too. Ladies! If you sleep with a slice under your pillow you will dream of your future husband! While the convention of saving the top-tier of cake for the Christening of your first-born child has recently given way to saving the top-tier for your first Anniversary. But with fewer people opting for fruit cake and fewer cakes having tiers, the saving of cake to be eaten at the next big event looks set to become a thing of the past.
One delightful cake tradition that has sadly fallen out of fashion is to bake different charms into the cake, (“cake pulls”) so that when ribbons are pulled, your Bridesmaids receive different blessings depending on the charm revealed. A Heart: for love. A Clover: for luck. An Engagement Ring: you’ll be the next to wed. An Anchor: adventure will come your way. A Flower: love is going to bloom. A Horseshoe: you are lucky in life. If you like the idea of the nostalgic bridal luck charms I discuss here, why not make this sweet tradition part of your wedding too?
Reinventing the Wedding ‘Cake‘
I like to deconstruct every element of the wedding so that it can be reimagined in a fresh, fun way which suits the couple and the wedding they dare to dream of. A wedding cake generally serves the following purposes:
- It is a stunning centrepiece to the reception room
- It is a tasty treat for guests to look forward to
- It has to feed all your guests
- If you want to cut it, it needs to be cuttable
- It has to not spoil or melt as it stands on show for at least a few hours
Given this ‘cake’ criteria it is apparent that the cake need not be made of make at all. There are many reasons why you may not want a cake cake. If you are servings lots of cakes as part of an afternoon tea spread; if you dislike cake; if you want your food budget to go further; if you particularly like the look of towers or croquembouche; or particularly like another type of sweet treat.
Myself and my husband went for a cheese tower draped with tomatoes, figs, and grapes instead of a cake cake. A) I love cheese, and it just seemed so fitting B) we didn’t have a traditional wedding breakfast but afternoon tea, so we needed savoury not more sweet! C) the cheese tower still had the shape of a wedding cake, and the three tiers could still be cut by us.
Pork, chicken, vegetable… theoretically you could make a tower of pies, with any firm filling. A fruit pie would soon turn to messy mush, but savoury pies provide an easy to slice, tasty and substantial alternative. A practical option with the oooooooo! factor.
If money had been no object? Choccywoccydoodah, and not just because they have a funky name. These chocolate sensations do look quite tricky to cut and are ‘only’ chocolate coated. But what a coating. These cake cakes are all about the chocolate and the sculpture created. If you were going to choose a cake cake, this company offers the most delectable choice of sponges as opposed to the usual vanilla, chocolate, lemon or carrot.
Don’t Tell The Bride does have its moments. A creative Groom designed his own chocolate box wedding cake which instead of a cake and fruit filled chocolate box tower cake you can order from Patisserie Valerie or Druckers (YUM!) he went further and revealed to his Bride a chocolate made chocolate box with individual chocolates inside it! Marvellous! I wonder if Thorntons do these.
Pile fudge, l, or profiteroles high to make a wedding cake shaped tower. There are no tiers and it might be impossible to slice but who cares when you can dive in and start scoffing these morish morsels!? Cupcake towers have become uber popular lately. It’s cake already individually portioned so saves all that cutting and holding the crumbley slice over a napkin while you eat it, but it’s still cake. Bitesized confectionary or patisserie somehow seems more decadent. I also love that while the individual pieces of yum are easily plucked one by one, they can be laced together with streamers of chocolate, so that the ‘cake’ is one.
I think what makes tiered cakes so pretty is the diagonal dressing with flowers or other decoration, so that the tower takes on a twisted effect appearance. Towers can easily be given a twist by stacking slightly asymmetrically. My advice with every aspect of your wedding is to think about what suits YOUR wedding best. So if you are having an early wedding and want to serve brunch, how about a sweet breakfast pastry tower – almond and chocolate croissants, Danish pastries, cinnamon swirls. For an evening do how about an after dinner coffee and mint theme or cocktail theme? For weddings in the tropics, baked Alaska; and for winter weddings serve your cake hot, flambe and carve the sponge and serve with custard?
For a metaphorical twist, there are cakes with a super surprise inside. Yes this could be a full-blown person, but think along the lines of the bridal good luck charms, and perhaps you could hide sweets, chocolate money, lottery tickets, easter eggs, kinder eggs! inside a regular looking sponge cake.
If you don’t care about the cake being sliceable, but want maximum tower centrepiece effect, why not consider (guilty pleasures of mine) chocolate and/or champagne fountains? I adore the concept of these edible fountains. They really encapsulate the spirit of sharing and diving in I associate with the wedding cake. An added bonus is that unlike the other options, as they are devoured, they do not lose their shape or illusion of plenty. Who wants to choose between chocolate and champagne? If I could plan my wedding over again, I’d have one of each.
Our cake 🙂
Cutting our mini cheese tower
Ben getting a mouthful
A cracking cracker