Do you know the symbolism behind your Wedding Cake?
Every part of your Wedding Cake has history and symbolism attached to it. Including the colour, the tiers, and the cutting of the cake ritual.
Are Wedding Cakes a modern invention?
Not at all. It can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, where there was a tradition of the guests breaking a cake (manna) made from barley over the bride’s head. This was supposed to bring fertility and good luck.
Tip: No need to do this!
Why is white icing the tradition for wedding cake?
Sugar was an expensive commodity in the early 19th century. Even when it became easier to get, the whiter refined sugars were so expensive that only wealthy families could afford to have a very pure white frosting. This was a way to display the wealth and social status of the family. Queen Victoria used white icing on her cake and it then became known as royal icing. It soon became the goal of all ambitious brides to have the same. As the icing hardened off it, it also allowed the cake to be stacked up high in multiple layers, which became popular.
Tip: These days wedding cakes are made in many different styles and colours. Why not style your cake to fit in with the overall theme of your wedding day?
Why does the cake have multiple tiers?
As we’ve seen the cake has been used as a status symbol. A time to show how important and successful your family were. The tiers were symbols of wealth and status. The more tiers the higher the status of the family. In Medieval days the bride and groom were expected to kiss over the top of these multiple layers. If they succeeded, they were guaranteed a prosperous and happy life together.
The cake is still seen as a focal point, but the current fashion in the UK seems to be to be to have only two or three tiers, but it really depends on how many guests you have. The more guests the more cake you’ll need. The individual piece of cake can be wrapped for guests to take home, as they might not have room for cake after the wedding feast.
Tip: The amazing skills of today’s wedding cake-makers mean they produce some beautifully artistic creations. Some of the cakes featured here are made by local artisans – click on the links to find out more.
Should we keep the top layer?
Traditionally the top layer was put aside by the bride and groom to be used as a Christening Cake for their first-born. Babies were usually born within a year of the wedding so the cake kept well for this period.
You can freeze your cake if it’s well wrapped and in an airtight container. These days couples who don’t have their first child within a year can use it on their first wedding anniversary.
Tip: Always consult your cake maker about the best way to preserve the cake.
What’s the best filling for a wedding cake?
As you’ll have realised by reading this far, traditions aren’t set in stone. Although the symbolism usually stays the same, the details change over time. For many years a heavy fruit cake has been popular. This has the advantage that it will keep well for using the top tier later.
However, many couples now want to have different fillings and cake makers today are very creative with flavours.
Tip: Get advice from your cake maker about which flavours go well together, but you can really choose whatever you want. Time to get really creative with the flavours.
What is the cutting the cake ritual all about?
Initially it was done by the bride and it was a ritual that symbolised the breaking of her virginity on her wedding day. But over time it’s come to signify the couple’s first task in their lives together as a married couple. After cutting the cake, the bride and groom can feed each other a small piece from the first slice to symbolise their joining together and a promise to provide for each other forever. Traditionally the cake cutting comes at the end of the wedding breakfast although these days nothing is set hard and fast.
Tip: This ritual is a wonderful photo opportunity not to be missed. Your photographer will want to capture this moment for you, for posterity. It’s usually accompanied by a toast to the bride and groom so make sure everyone has a glass of something bubbly.
So as you see, Wedding Cakes have a long tradition behind them, and they symbolise many different things. Although the style of the cake might change through the years, the rituals and symbolism are fairly constant. Don’t be afraid to have the kind of cake you want. You could also have a one tier cake for the symbolic ritual and choose something else for your guests to eat.
On your Wedding Day, you’ll enjoy feeling a part the history and tradition surrounding the special occasion, when you and your new life partner step up together to perform the first symbolic act together as a married couple – Cutting the Cake!
Sharon Gordon – Celebrant
I am a Celebrant based in the Heart of England. I create and officiate personalised Symbolic Wedding Ceremonies for couples who want an intimate and relaxed ceremony with family and friends, or an intimate elopement ceremony.
I enjoy outdoor venues, tipi ceremonies, forest weddings, rustic venues and regenerated urban venues.
If this sounds like something that you’re interested in for your own special day get in touch for a chat