The wedding cake and its little secrets
By Ivan Sanna Del Brocco
January 6 2023
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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.
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.
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.