Number 1: Why white cakes?
Why are most wedding cakes white? As with most things wedding related, the color of the wedding cake is all about symbolism. Just like the dress, the white cake symbolizes the purity and virginity of the bride. So all those parents out there who get all worked up about their little girl wearing white to the wedding and then have no problem with a colorful explosion of a wedding cake…yeah… For our two cents, it’s either go all out with the tradition and symbolism or say to heck with it and have the wedding that you want. It is 2013, after all, right?
Number 2: Symbolism
Adding insult to injury, the venerable tradition of the wedding cake was not even what we currently think of as cake until the Victorian era. At its earliest beginnings in Ancient Rome, the wedding cake was a “cake” of grain that was broken over the bride’s or sometimes the couple’s head(s) as (yet another) fertility symbol and wish. Later it became a “bride’s pie,” which could be extremely elaborate, sometimes including live animals like birds, or even snakes!
Number 3: History
Not only did Queen Victoria, venerable style icon that she was, set the tone for many of our attitudes about marriage and life in general, she even helped popularize the wedding cake itself. Queen Victoria’s wedding included an extremely elaborate cake with pure white icing and royal figures made out of said icing. The type of icing used on Queen Victoria’s cake is what today is called Royal Icing, so called because it was first popularized by a queen. Although now less popular on wedding cakes, this confection is still used in a number of applications including cookies, gingerbread houses, and any other place where a pure white, hard icing is called for.
Number 4: Grooms Cake
On the other end of the symbolism spectrum is the now primarily southern tradition of the Groom’s Cake. This cake was usually fruitcake, and was a symbol of the groom’s fertility!
Number 5: The first cake known
The very earliest known sweet wedding cake was recorded in 1655 and was a type of cake called “banbury cake.” Banbury cake bears little resemblance to modern wedding cake, however. It is a flat, oval shaped, spiced pastry filled with currants and generally served with tea. To the modern palate that may sound distinctly uninspiring, but in a time when the ingredients for an actual cake were prohibitively expensive, something as fancy as Banbury cake would have been a real treat.
Number 6: Ingredients
As ingredients for what we now think of as cake became more available and less expensive, the go-to cake for wedding cake, or “bride’s cake” as it was then known, was a white pound cake. This cake would be covered in white frosting. All of which was, of course, fraught with symbolism.
Number 7: The infamous cake topper
The cake topper is actually a holdover from the 1950’s. Modern cake toppers range from the traditional to whimsical depictions of the couple to the abstract and are generally in keeping with the overall decorative theme of the reception, while traditionally they were representations of the bride and groom in formal attire and symbolized the togetherness of the couple.
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