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The wedding cake and its little secrets

By Ivan Sanna Del Brocco
January 6 2023

The wedding cake is not only a beautiful eye-catcher, there is more behind it than meets the eye. From the height to the cutting, it is full of symbolism for the bride and groom and their guests.

As an international wedding planner, we travel all over the world and always deal with the customs of the respective country. Now it was time to take a closer look at the symbolism behind the wedding cake.

Kaffeebohnen geröstet
Coffee Beans

Why do they hide two coffee beans in the cake in some countries? And why are there sometimes 3 tiers or even their 5? Or what do the ancient Romans have to do with the wedding cake?

There are some well-known facts and maybe we can give you some new insights into the meaning of the wedding cake.

Whether as wedding planner or a wedding speaker, the wedding cake is one of the important highlights of a wedding celebration and deserves its own contribution.

The history behind the wedding cake tradition

The wedding cake has a long tradition. Even in ancient Rome there was a special cake for the occasion. According to the earliest records, a traditional pastry, an almond cake, was baked for the celebration. However, the "cakes" of that time no longer have much in common with today's wedding cakes.

During the confarreatio, a form of marriage in Roman antiquity, this dry almond cake was crumbled over the bride's head. The many crumbs were then eaten by the invited guests. Since sugar and flour were still very expensive at that time, this was supposed to bring wealth and prosperity to the bride and groom.

Hochzeitsbrot Traditionell
"wedding bread"

From the early Middle Ages until modern times, there was a tradition of baking a special wedding bread. This was blessed by the priest before the actual cutting. During the actual blessing ("In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit"), he used a knife to "draw" a large cross on the loaf of bread.

After the blessing, a piece of the bread was cut off and given to the bride. However, it was not meant to be eaten. The bride kept it to make leaven later - the first bread as a wife. The bride and groom ate the second piece together. The rest was for the guests. The more people ate it, the happier married life would be.

The wedding cake as we know it today only came into being in the 19th century, probably in England at first. With the development of confectionery, it became customary among the nobility to have richly decorated cakes made for all festive occasions, although initially there was no special wedding cake. In England, the three-tier cake was popularised by the wedding of a daughter of Queen Victoria in 1859, with the top two sections made entirely of icing. Then, at the marriage of Prince Edward1882, all three tiers were made of cake. In Britain, the wedding cake is usually covered with a hard layer of icing called royal icing.

A wedding cake that had to be taken to court

A legal sensation was caused by one on 5 December 2017 in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in the United States Supreme Court ruling that a pastry chef could refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding party on religious grounds, citing religious freedom.

The colour of the wedding cake

The traditional and classic wedding cake is white, as this colour represents purity and innocence. However, at the same time this establishes a connection with the bride, as she usually appears all in white. For this reason, the wedding cake has also been called the "bride's cake". The white icing with which the cake is usually covered was something special at that time, as only the richest families could afford it.

Hochzeitstorte Weiss-Gold
Wedding Cake(Pinterest)

The tiers and their symbolism

The classic wedding cakes have either 3 or 5 tiers.

In the case of the 3-tier cake, the tiers stand for the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The 5-tier cake symbolises various important stages in the life of a Christian:

birth/baptism, communion/confirmation, marriage, birth of one's children and death.

The ingredients and their meaning

Almonds, Marzipan and Rose Oil

Marzipan is often used in today's wedding cakes. The sugar in the cake stands for happiness and love, the bitterness of the almonds for the bad times you have to overcome together as a bride and groom, and the rose oil symbolises the passion in your relationship.

The coffee bean in the wedding cake

Another wedding custom is that a roasted and an unroasted coffee bean are baked into the cake, these are also called oracle beans. The cake is distributed to your wedding party and the guest who finds the burnt bean in his piece of cake can look forward to a speedy engagement. The guest with the unburnt bean is said to remain single.

Cake pull charms

Originating in Victorian England and known as the Ribbon Pull, this tradition has gained popularity in the southern states of the USA (especially around New Orleans) and has become known as the Cake Pull. Both traditions are identical.

We at Simply-Si Wedding Planners are always happy when a couple decides to follow this custom.

Surprises are inevitable and are sure to bring a smile or two to your guests' faces.

The single ladies were often asked to pull ribbons from the bottom tier of the cake. A ring was attached to one of them, and tradition said that the lucky girl would get married next.

Nowadays we, as wedding planners, recommend including both sexes. It's just so much more fun!

Charms and their meaning

Wedding bells = marriage

Ring = Engagement

High chair = children

Heart = Love

Anchor & boots = travel

Flower = new love

Handbag = luck and fame

Rocking chair = long life

Horseshoe & clover = happiness

Chilli pod = Hot romance on the horizon

Key = A seam of opportunity

Telephone = Good news coming

Purse = Financial security

Boat = Adventure

Clef = Harmony

Horse = free spirit

Of course there are much more. According to your guest list, one can

add what is likely to get some smiles out of your guests.

Ask us as your wedding planner to help you finding the right ones for your wedding.

Cutting the wedding cake

The joint cutting of the wedding cake symbolises the "joint action" of the bridal couple. Often, however, there are minor "differences of opinion" at first.

This is because, according to superstition, the incision

will also have a decisive effect on later married life. It is said that the person whose hand is on top will also be in charge later on in their married life together.

Of course, as an international wedding planner, we also have a solution for this moment to support equality.

equality: Two handles!!!

Knife for cutting lies next to the cake

Another superstition is that whoever hands the knife to the bride and groom for the cake cutting will be struck by misfortune. We as wedding planners make sure that the knife is ready next to the cake and that this custom is also respected.

Number of guests when the cake is cut

Another superstition says that the more guests attend the cutting of the wedding cake, the greater the happiness for the bride and groom. As wedding planners, we are happy to help you achieve this happiness and will coordinate the cutting of the wedding cake, so that all your guests are also present to give you as much happiness as possible.

Freeze the top layer

The top layer of your wedding cake should not be eaten. Instead, the wedding couple should freeze it.

On the first wedding anniversary and the christening of the first child, one half should be eaten.

This is supposed to bring good luck to the little family. Nowadays, you simply freeze a piece and on the first wedding day you enjoy that piece as a couple.

If you are planning a family right after the wedding, it is of course a good idea to freeze two pieces and enjoy one of them

at the christening.

Do not bake it yourself

All brides who want to save money by firing up the oven themselves should think twice, as this is said to bring bad luck.

Therefore, leave the task directly to a professional or your friends and relatives.

We as wedding planner are happy to help you save costs elsewhere to keep any "misfortune" away from you.

7 reasons why you should not do it yourself, besides that it brings bad luck.

A crêpe cake, for example, can be made very well by your relatives. Add a delicious filling between each crêpe and you'll have a delicious wedding cake!

The costs? Very low and an eye-catcher.

P.S You can also serve them for breakfast the next day :-)

Feeding each other

The first piece of cake is for the bride and groom. Traditionally, they feed each other. The feeding is meant to symbolise the joint care in later married life.

Kiss over the cake

A kiss by the bride and groom over the wedding cake, without touching or even knocking it over, is said to bring the couple a rich blessing of children.

Sleeping with a piece of cake under the pillow

In the 1700s, girls slept with a piece of cake under their pillow to dream of their future husband. Similarly, there is a belief that virgins sleep with a piece of cake in their left stocking.

Sugar flowers thanks to Sylvia Weinstock

In the 1970s, Sylvia Weinstock began lavishly decorating wedding cakes and became an icon of the cake industry in New York and later worldwide. She is often referred to as the "Queen of Cakes" and her customers include many Hollywood stars.

The groom's cake

Early American weddings featured groom's cakes, and in the southern states of the USA this wedding tradition is still maintained today. Many modern weddings have revived the tradition of this cake to showcase the groom's hobbies, individual tastes and even favourite sports teams.

Groom's cakes are usually chocolatey to contrast with the wedding cake itself, although any flavour is acceptable.

Why you should not bake your wedding cake

We have seen a lot, when it comes to wedding cakes. Up to the wedding cake we had to organize within 24 hours; because it did not work as the bride and had planned.

So we thought as wedding planners and a wedding celebrant to list some reasons why you should : NOT BAKE IT YOURSELF.

It's easy to go DIY-crazy when it comes to your wedding day. From crafting your sweetheart table garland to making your favors,

there are tons of easy and fun ways to personalize your celebration. But there is one aspect that's better left to the pros: your wedding cake.

Attempting a large, tiered wedding cake is a big feat for an amateur baker. There are many things to consider logistically and too many potential ways any of the process could go wrong or take longer than expected. So, before you start planning the five-tiered coconut cake of your dreams, read on. These eight factors may convince you to put the spatula away and leave the cake baking to the professionals on your big day.

1) It's not like baking a birthday cake.

Even if you make a killer sponge cake and filling that people go wild for, baking a wedding cake isn't like making a one-tier cake at home. Consider this: if the cakes you usually make have 10-12 servings, can you imagine the amount of work you'd have to do to scale that recipe to serve even 50 people at a small wedding?

2) It takes a lot of time.

Making wedding cakes is a time-consuming endeavor to say the least. Depending on the design, it can take a long day and night of decorating (and into the wee hours of the morning) to finish the job. You should much rather get a good night's sleep before your wedding!

3) The Stress Factor

Weddings are stressful to begin with, making your own wedding cake on top of planning your own wedding is just more stress. So get a wedding planner.

Even if you regularly find baking a relaxing activity, being tethered to the kitchen the morning of the wedding may be more stressful than you think!

4) Wedding cakes require a lot of support (literally!)

If you've never made a tiered cake, now may not be the time to start. "From knowing which recipes work well on a large scale to how best to build a stable, internal support system, there is a great deal of foundation work that needs to be done before the decorating can even begin. Imagine the horror you'd feel if the top tier started sliding off its base at your reception?

You should be celebrating, not decorating a cake. Most of the work on a wedding cake happens the day before, which is when you will most likely be attending your rehearsal, and tying up all the loose ends before the big day, says Saskia of Simply-Si Wedding Planner in Switzerland.

5) Storing a wedding cake takes up a lot of space

Wedding cakes require climate-controlled storage—certain ingredients can be disastrous on a warm day, for instance. Buttercream does not hold up well in a hot environment and will melt if left out in the sun. If your refrigerator isn't large enough to hold your cake, you could be in a lot of trouble.

6) Getting a wedding cake from point A to point B is complicated

Any professional baker will tell you that delivering a cake is the most stressful part of the process. And if you've ever had to drive a birthday cake to a friend's house for a party—or gasp!—carry it on a crowded subway, you know exactly what she's talking about. Now consider what it'd be like to carry a three-tiered wedding cake for 100...

7) Timing it right is complicated

Other factors many amateur bakers often forget is the coordination with the florist, event planner, and venue that has to happen when delivering a wedding cake. "Timing is crucial to creating a wedding cake. Just as you shouldn't bake it too far in advance, you also need to deliver and set it up not more than an hour or so before the wedding," says Saskia of Simply-Si Wedding planner.

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