Wedding Cake Traditions

Maybe you’ve wondered how the tradition of having a huge wedding cake at receptions got started. Of course it has roots in customs that go far back in time. For example, in Roman times the wedding cake was a symbol of fertility.
But the ‘wedding cake’ of that time was little more than a bun which, in Roman celebrations would be broken over the bride’s head. Wheat in Roman culture was symbolic of fertility and the resulting crumbs that were created by breaking the bun were considered good luck charms.

Later in the Middle Ages, there was a custom that the bride and groom would kiss over a mound of small cakes brought by the wedding guests. And that custom seemed to evolve such that by the 1600’s, the bridesmaids would bake little cakes with small fruit like currants. These small cakes would be used as decoration for the wedding couple’s table. It was a centerpiece of sorts.

Finally by the 1700’s a version of the modern wedding cake began to emerge as a French baker put frosting on the stack of sweet buns to hold them together. So this could be the origination of the first tiered wedding cakes that have become the norm today.

In these original customs there was no concept of giving a slice of the cake to every guest. As far as we can tell, that may have originated with the Chinese who did have a custom of serving each guest a slice of cake as a way to share good luck with all.

Of course no discussion of wedding cakes can be complete without addressing the groom’s cake origins. These days the groom’s cake is some cake that the groom really likes. But not so long ago if you were of Irish or English descent, the groom’s cake would be a type of fruit cake. A strange story related to the grooms cake is that guests who take home a slice of the groom’s cake and slept on it would have dreams of their future spouse. Now I can’t figure how this old wives tale got started. Who would sleep on a
slice of cake? But believe it or not, it makes a good story to tell.

With the wedding cake we celebrate today the tradition of the cake cutting. This is where the bride and groom cut the cake and typically feed each other a bite. Many couples like to order a special wedding cake serving set for the reception and it makes a great keepsake that the bridal couple can use again. In fact a personalized cake serving set can be passed down from generation to generation with more names and dates engraved with each marriage.

After the cutting of the cake, typically the toasting commences. The best man and maid of honor typically give a toast. Some wedding couples have special toasting flutes that are used for this but this is a relatively new trend. And finally a word about wedding cake toppers. Often a couple will choose the toppers used by the bride or groom’s parents. But when that is not available or even a choice the bride and groom want, you have many choices including flowers or personalized cake toppers made with crystals and more.

Obviously the history of our modern wedding cake is a long and rich one. So as you plan your wedding day, consider its history and your cake will taste that much sweeter and richer when you appreciate where it came from.