15 Wedding Cake Traditions and Facts
As a Toronto photographer, I am aware that the cake is one of the key elements of any wedding and brides often spend north of $5000 on that work of edible art (check out the cake at this Chateau Le Parc wedding), so I brought you a few traditions and facts I trust you will find interesting.
1. The CAke Symbolizes Prosperity, Good Luck and Fertility
The wedding cake symbolizes prosperity, good luck and fertility and is made of the best ingredients available so that the marriage will be long lasting, happy and with many offspring.
2. Three Tiers
Traditionally, the wedding cake at three tiers. The bottom one was served during the ceremony while the middle tier was offered after. The bride and groom would save the top-tier for their first child christening. In the old days it was not uncommon for the first child to be born a few months after the wedding. Some couples still follow this tradition and freeze their top-tier (or slice of it) to eat it on their first wedding anniversary.
Nowadays, wedding cakes have from 3 to 7 layers depending on your preference and budget. If you decide to distribute the cake during the dinner, you will need about three tiers for a small wedding (up to 100 guests) while a larger reception hosting 200+ people will require at least 5 tiers of goodness. Please make sure you discuss your details with your baker.
3. Kiss Over the Cake for a Long Marriage
In the middle ages, the three tiers will be stacked in the bride and groom with kiss over the cake. If they could do it without damaging the cake, they would have a long and happy marriage.
4. Current Cake Style Was Invented in London
In the 18th century, Thomas Rich, a chef in London, England, created a new style of wedding cake taking inspiration after the steeple of St. Bride's Church.
5. Luxe, Status and Celebration Symbol
Originally, the cake was made of fruit and a white icing was expensive and very sought after. Refined sugar was rare and only rich brides and grooms could afford a white icing, a symbol of purity and wealth. Queen Victoria wore a white dress at her wedding with Prince Albert and had a white icing cake, which was afterwards named the royal icing.
6. Lucky Charms
Often the single ladies were asked to pull ribbons from the bottom tier of the cake. One of them would have a ring attached and tradition said that the happy maiden would the next one to get married.
Other charms would be baked into the cake and here are the symbolistic
wedding bells - marriage
ring - engagement
high chair: children
flower: new love
purse: good luck and wealth
rocking chair: long life
horseshoe and clover: good luck
7. Two Cakes Instead of One
Originally, the bride and the groom had each one cake. Generally the groom's cake was made of chocolate because the dark color symbolized masculinity. The bride's cake was covered in white icing to symbolize purity.
The bride's cake would be served during dinner while the groom's would be sliced and distributed as favours.
8. Wedding Toppers
Modern wedding cakes feature toppers. They are usually a porcelain or sometimes Lego figurines often funny like the one in the image above. Often the bride and groom will use the topper as a christmas ornament and sometimes
9. Cutting the Cake
Along with the first dance, grand entrance, ring exchange and first kiss, cutting the cake is a photo opportunity and a major moment of the special event. Professional wedding photographers know they absolutely have to take a good photo of the couple cutting the cake as it is their first endeavour together. I usually take a detail shot of the hands (the bride's hand featuring the rings on top) and a good shot of the couple while cutting the cake.
10. Feeding the cake
Once the couple cuts the cake, it is the time to feed each other a slice or more of the cake. I absolutely love this opportunity to take some great candid shots of the bride and groom having fun. I typically ask them to feed each other two slices as the first time they are more formal and once they know we have the photos "in the bag" they become more playful. Typically, it is the second round of photos that make it into the wedding album as the emotions are more genuine.
Originally, it was the bride who cut the cake as a symbol of her losing her purity...
In the past, brides would receive the cake at their home, take a bite and throw the rest of the slice over their head to symbolize a prosperous life. A somewhat similar custom was documented in Rome where groom would break bread over the bride's head to symbolize prosperity and fertility.
Many couples take advantage of this moment to smash the cake into each other's face and that often leads to interesting photos. Sadly, the dress is often ruined and even the groom's tux. Fortunately, the event takes place at the end of the dinner and it is followed only by the party.
11. Sleeping With a Piece of Cake Under the Pillow
In the 1700s, maidens would sleep with the piece of cake under their pillow to dream of their future husband. Similar beliefs include maidens sleeping with a piece of cake in their left stocking.
12. Types of Wedding Cakes
Over time wedding cakes evolved and depending on the country and culture we know of traditional cakes (white), cupcakes, frosted cakes and fruit cakes. In addition, we can classify cakes based on flavours and sometimes different tiers are chocolate, carrot, Italian Cream, Italian rum, mint, etc.
13. Croquembouche in France, Sponge Cake in Germany
In France, the wedding cake is made of profiteroles (pastries filled with cream) stacked in a tower and decorated with flowers, almonds, ribbons and caramel drizzle or chocolate. As a side note, "croque en bouche" means it cracks in your mouth.
In Germany, the couples enjoy a sponge cake with jam, liqueurs, marzipan and frosted in chocolate or fondant.
As a side note, the French and Germans always use natural colours.
14. Sugar Flowers thanks to Sylvia Weinstock
In the 70s Sylvia Weinstock started lavishly decorating wedding cakes and she become an icon of the cake industry in New York and then worldwide. She is often referred to as "the Queen of Cakes" and among her clients we can list Donald Trump, Mariah Carey, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones and many many more.
15. European Countries Have Different Cakes and traditions
There are a few different cakes in various European countries. For example, in Sweden and Hungary traditionally the bride and groom would eat a spettekaka and kurtoskalacs (a conical cake). The Lithuanians have the sakotis, a dough formed into a tree and a similar cake can be found in Poland and Germany. Finally, in Ukraine members of the bride and groom's families cook the wedding cake (korovai) and pray for a long and happy marriage while baking the cake. The church is blessed in the church and only then can be eaten. As a side note, the families dance and carry the cake from one to the other. When the dance is over, the bride and groom pull the dough bread and try to get the biggest part of the bread to "rule the household" as you can see in the image below.
Naomi & Bruce "Wedding Cake Types"
Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture
Wilson Carol "Wedding Cake: A Slice of History"
Tucker Abigail "The Strange History of the Wedding Cake"