History of the wedding cake

Everyone has a wedding cake right? Go to any wedding fayre and it is venue, flowers, dress and cake.

But why do we have cake? The tradition dates back thousands of years to the age of the Romans when a wheat and barley cake was broken over the brides head as a symbol of good luck. Roman traditions still play a big part in our lives in Britain today, even the word matrimony is derived from the Roman word matrimonium.

Pepper and Nut Roman Cake - Acient World Live

Pepper and Nut Roman Cake – Ancient World Live

The earliest dated “wedding cake” is far removed from what we know today, it consisted of a large elaborately decorated savoury pie containing oysters, sweetbreads, pine kernels, lambs testicles and many spices….mmmm yum? Sugar was not readily available until the 1500’s so savoury food was the only real option and these fillings were considered a delicacy at the time  (thank goodness those days have gone?)

This pie continude to be the tradition in northern England until as late as the 19th century although the fillings changed in favour of chicken, minced meats, nuts and spice. It was considered very bad manners to not have a slice of the wedding pie, also a ring was baked inside and the lucky lady who found it was said to be the next bride.

Over time it became more traditional to have sweet cake rather than pie, but even this took time to develop into what we are used to seeing today. Ovens were not common place at home and it was considered unlucky for the bride to bake her own cake, so folk would opt for the more frugal option of sweet pastry made in a skillet on the range, this was then stacked with dried fruits.

Some 400 years ago it became traditional to have two cakes, one for the bride a lighter cake with pale covering and one darker fruit laden one for the groom. The groom’s cake is the one which was cut up and given to the guests in little boxes as a good luck wedding momento. This tradition disappeard for years but Grooms cakes are back in fashion but are usually a novelty cake in the form of cars, dogs or golf clubs.

Alright so when did we get sweet iced wedding cakes? We’re getting there, the next fashionable thing was a traditional cake, but covered in a mixture of sugar and egg white and baked to make this mixture firm. This wonderful meringue type concoction was named ‘bliss’ – which is exactly what I think of when eating a big slice of cake today.

The Royal Wedding Cake

The Royal Wedding Cake

Finally in the 1700s the fashion was a fruit cake covered in almond paste and sugar whipped with egg whites to create icing, the traditional wedding cake as we know it had arrived. The tradition for having a wedding cake in white came about as it showed signs of status and wealth. Refined sugar was available but very expensive so having a towering cake in pure white icing was a grand centerpiece indeed. When Queen Victoria had her grand wedding cake covered in pure white icing the term ‘Royal Icing’ was coined.

Wedding cakes carried on in this manner with the addition of beautiful piping and pillars to create tiers until the later part of the 20th century when the recent discovery of sugar paste or fondant icing became fashionable due to it’s adaptability and ability to colour easily. So now it seems less about how white you can have your cake and more about the overall WOW factor.

It is safe to say that wedding cakes have been a key part of the wedding ceremony for thousands of years, they show signs of fertility and are considered lucky and always make for a grand centerpiece.

Here at Quality cake company we take great pleasure in creating wedding cakes, it is amazing to know we helped create a centerpiece which really does make people go WOW!