How cake got it’s big break….

This past July we took a look at wedding cake traditions around the globe and I promised to follow up with a history of wedding cake.  Well it may have taken me a few months but here it is… 🙂

The lovely (and sometimes messy) tradition of feeding one another wedding cake symbolizes the mutual agreement to support, care and provide for one another throughout your lives together.  It is one of those traditions that you will still find at most modern weddings.   Though the symbolism has survived the cake (lucky for us!) has evolved…

Back in Ancient Rome, the groom would take a loaf of barley or wheat bread and break it over the bride’s head to symbolize fertility, blessings and (some say) the groom’s dominance over his new bride.  Hmmm….not sure how I feel about that last interpretation.  After the bread had left a complete mess of crumbs all over the floor, guests would scramble to pick them up…not because they were being kind and cleaning up but because the crumbs were considered good luck!


**Fun fact: After the bread had been broken and the “cake” had been used up, the guests were given a mixture of nuts and dried fruits to toss around the room and at the bride and groom which was called confetto.  This was later replaced with petals, rice, and colorful paper….hence the modern term confetti!**

Some fabulous bride must have put up a stink about ruining her hair-do as the tradition of breaking bread over heads was (thankfully) phased out.

While most of the early cakes were not at all sweet (most were simply flour based) some traditions involved stacking sweet buns in a pile in front of the bride and groom.  The couple would then attempt to kiss as they leaned over the large tower.  A successful kiss without knocking them all on the floor meant that there would be many children in the couple’s future.

Bride’s Pie was the next baked good in fashion and consisted of minced meats, nuts and fruits and was typically decorated with with elaborate pastry emblems. The secret ingredient was a ring which was baked right into the pie.  The lady who was lucky enough to get the ring in her serving and managed not to choke on the aforementioned ring, was certain to be the next to marry.  Sort of a more dangerous version of the modern bouquet toss…

It wasn’t until the seventeenth century that the tradition of white icing began.  The first white frosting would have been a kind of meringue mixture made with egg whites and sugar, applied to the cake right out of the oven and then baked until it hardened.

The whiter the color of the icing the more wealth the family had.  The whitest sugar was triple refined and as a result incredibly expensive.  Only the most wealthy families could afford such an extravagant expense.

The term “Royal Icing” originated at Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert in 1840.   Their wedding cake was multi-tiered and measured NINE FEET in circumference!!  Surely this would have qualified for a WE Platinum Wedding episode!  Below is the more subdued wedding cake design for her daughter Princess Victoria’s wedding to the Crown Prince of Prussia in 1858:


As ingredients and equipment became more widely available and as chefs adopted more advanced processes for building multiple layers we arrived at the modern wedding cake that we all know and love.  No more crumbs in our hair, no choking hazards, and certainly no minced meats….just delicious fluffy cake!


One Response to “How cake got it’s big break….

  • Emily Howard
    13 years ago

    Thanks for the great post! I loved reading about the cake traditions. I subscribe to this blog and I always enjoy the beautiful pictures from your “Real Wedding Spotlights” but I get a kick out of your Fun Wedding Facts posts. Keep up the great work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.