Friday, October 9, 2009

The History of Wedding Cake

As far back as the Roman Empire, there were wedding cakes. Throughout history, the wedding cake has taken on a wide variety of customs and traditions, some of which have stuck, and others that have faded away—many for good reason!

In Medieval England, wedding cakes were really flour-based breads. In one custom, guests would stack small sweet buns in a large pile in front of the newlyweds, and the couple would try to kiss over the pile. If they were successful, they could expect to be blessed many children.

In the middle of the17th century and well into the early 19th century, bride's pie was a popular. The pie was filled with sweet breads, a mince pie, or may have been merely a simple mutton pie. The bride’s pie always included a glass ring—and the lady who found the ring would be the next to be married. Bride's pies were not at all weddings during this time, but it is known that these pies were sometimes made into the main centerpiece at less elaborate receptions.

By the late 19th century, a single-tiered plum wedding cake became really popular, and the use of the bride's pie disappeared.

As far as the 17th century, people would sleep with a piece of cake underneath their pillow, since legend has it that sleepers will dream of their future spouses if a piece of wedding cake is under their pillow. In the late 18th century brides would sometimes pass tiny crumbs of cake through their wedding rings and give them to their guests who would place them under their pillows, but at some point the custom seemingly ended when brides began to get superstitious about taking their rings off after the ceremony.

Wedding cakes are "supposed to be" white. Right? The symbolism is obvious, white has always signified purity. White wedding cake icing that first appeared in Victorian times, as a visual link between the bride and the cake. Previous to Victorian times, most wedding cakes were also white, but not because of the symbolism—instead, white was used for a very practical purpose—colored frosting was hard to make! But very white frosting was also hard to come by, since white icing required the use of only the finest refined sugar, so the whiter the cake, the more affluent the families looked, and each family wanted to appear that they had significant status in their community.

Today, wedding cakes are still front and center in the traditional cake cutting ceremony, a beautiful symbol of the first task that bride and groom perform together as husband and wife.

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