Wedding Cakes are a significant part of a Wedding ceremony. Today, Wedding Cakes are an elaborate multi-tiered artistic extravaganza and at the same time they are a gourmets delight. No wonder, couples like to cherish this sweet and special part of their wedding every year by cutting a cake on their anniversary.
History of Wedding Cake
History of Wedding Cakes goes back to the time of Roman Empire. At that time, the cake was actually unsweetened bread made of flour, salt and water. The bride and the groom first tasted the cake and then it was broken over the head of the bride by the groom. The custom symbolized happiness, prosperity and fertility for the couple. Guests vied for the crumbs as these were assumed to be tokens of good luck. With the passage of the time cakes grew in size and the custom became impractical and is not longer practiced.
Later, guests invited to attend the wedding ceremony began to bring cake for the couple. All these cakes were piled up in front of the newly weds. The couple was then asked to kiss over this pile of the cake. Success in the endeavor was considered to be a good omen and spelled fertility and good times for the couple. Later the pile of cake was made into one and icing was given to them. This gradually developed into the custom of making tiered wedding cakes.
Symbolism of White Cake
Wedding cakes are generally thought of in white colour. Popularity of white Wedding Cakes can be explained with the fact that color white is associated with purity. Another reason is that Wedding Cakes were originally referred to as Brides Cake. This helped to create a visual link between the bride and the cake. The link has been strengthened today as brides in present time coordinate the colour of the cake with their wedding gown even if its not white.
Food historians believe that in the ancient times it was difficult for people to get ingredients for icing. White icing required finest quality sugar so the whiter the cake, the more affluent the families appeared. Thus white cakes became the symbol of affluence.
Superstitious Beliefs related to Wedding Cakes
Around 17th and 18th century an interesting superstitious belief was related to the wedding cakes. Bride used to pass a piece of cake through her wedding ring and gift it to unmarried girls. They would keep the piece under their pillow in the hope of seeing their future spouse in the dream. The custom stopped when the brides became superstitious about taking off their rings just after the ceremony.
In the UK a ring was baked inside the cake. It was believed that person who found the slice of cake with the ring would be next to get married and find happiness and luck.
In ancients time there was a tradition to keep a Grooms Cake along with the wedding cake in America and England. Grooms cake was reserved for guests to take home as a memento for wedding. To make it last long it was made of fruits and was therefore dark brown in color. Some believe that Grooms Cake were said to bring fertility to the newly wed and was therefore made of fruits. Others believe it was to be saved for sharing with friends after the honeymoon. Even today, some societies follow the tradition of having a Grooms cake in reception. These are now made of chocolate in innovative shapes.
Modern Wedding Cakes
Wedding Cakes have undergone a major transformation in present times. Today, they are a multi-tiered elaborate affair. They are prepared in intricate and artistic designs and are cynosure of all eyes in a wedding ceremony. Personalized decoration in wedding cakes and Wedding cakes matching in colour with the dress of bride and groom are in vogue.
Transformation of pile of cakes to well synchronized multi-tier cakes took its own sweet time. Earlier, multi-tiered wedding cake was used only be English royalty but even then the top layer were mock-ups made of sugar spun. Challenge before bakers was to prevent the upper layer of cake from collapsing over the base. Pillars, used as decorative earlier, now came to be used to support the upper layer. To prevent pillars from sinking into the bottom tier and to provide necessary support icing was hardened. Icing of the cake is considered to be a tough task and has been developed to a great extent in present times.
Cutting the Wedding Cake
Ceremony of cutting the cake is the most important part of wedding. Following the tradition bride and the groom cut the cake together and feed one another with the first slice of cake. The gesture symbolizes the joining of their lives and their mutual commitment to each other. The cake is served to guests along with a glass of champagne.
Saving the Wedding Cake
There is also a tradition of saving a portion of wedding cake. The custom began years ago and is still practiced. Newlywed couples freeze the upper tier of the cake and use it on their first anniversary. Since normal cakes do not last so long and taste good too, bakers prepare a special layer that can survive upto one year in a freezer.
The tradition is rooted in late 19th century when grand cakes were baked for christening of the first child. At that time, it was assumed that christening would occur soon after the wedding ceremony so the two ceremonies came to be linked along with the cakes. Gradually, wedding cakes became more elaborate and christening cake took a back seat. Later, when the custom of three-tier wedding cake emerged, the bottom tier was used for reception, the middle for distribution and the top for the christening. With the passage of time wedding became disassociated with christening as the time gap between the two events increased. Hence the reason for preserving top layer of the cake changed. Couples began to preserve it for their first anniversary and to remind themselves of their special day. In the UK, there is a tradition to send a piece of wedding cake to people who are unable to attend the ceremony and make them a part of celebrations.