A Piece of Cake

Lately I have been thinking about many things wedding (as well as many things deadline and many things revision-y).  My favorites so far have been dresses (of course!), and, since I have a terrible sweet tooth, cake.  I think I want to go for something chocolate, or at least white with chocolate filling, but haven’t made up my mind yet.  So today I decided to take a quick look at some cakes of the past.

In ancient Rome, a barley cake was broken by the groom over the bride’s head for good luck.  (Like so many other wedding things we do and don’t know why–it’s for luck).  In medieval times, there was something called a “bride’s pye” (one recipe of which calls for cockscombs, lam testicles, sweetbreads, oysters, and–thankfully–spices).  The traditional French wedding cake is a croquembouche, sort of like glazed profiteroles glued together with spun sugar) is said to come from another medieval tradition where the bride and groom had to kiss over a large pile of cakes.  Why?  Luck!!  (or superstition–much like the tradition of bridesmaids taking a piece of cake home to put under their pillow so they will dream of their own future husbands.  This sounds very messy to me)

Like so many wedding things, cakes became more elaborate in the Victorian era.  Sugar had become more plentiful and affordable, and after Victoria had a white wedding cake, white icing became known as “royal icing.”  In Carol Wilson’s article “Wedding Cake: A Slice of History” she says that elaborate whorls and decorations of icing and fresh flowers and columns were “a status symbol, a display of family wealth.”  (I tried to link to this, but it doesn’t appear to be available any longer).  I think this notion is still valid, considering how expensive cakes have become.  I have friends who have spent over $1000 for a cake; a new trend is having a cake made of styrofoam, with the guests served discreetly from a cheaper sheet cake.  (my own wedding is very small, so I probably won’t need to resort to quite this level of subterfuge…)

The queen’s daughter Princess Louise (the one who married a “commoner”) had a piece of her wedding cake sold at an antiques fair a few years ago for $215.  A bargain compared to the piece from the 1937 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, which sold for $29,000.

The English traditional cake is a plum or fruit cake (which I think Will and Kate had at their wedding…), in the US we consider a white cake traditional.   When Elizabeth II married in 1947, her cake weighed 500 pounds; Princess Diana’s cake, encrusted with marzipan Windsor coats of arms, was 5 feet tall.  (I wonder if they served sheet cake on the sly??)

These are a few I am thinking about:

(The ones with pink roses look like my parents’ cake 40 years ago, so I was going to try and reproduce it for my own wedding…)

What is your favorite kind of cake??  What is the best cake you ever had at a wedding?

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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7 Responses to A Piece of Cake

  1. I’ve always wanted to have a white chocolate cake with passion fruit filling for a wedding cake. Other than, I’ll eat any kind of chocolate cake. Not a big fan of red velvet, but banana cake. Yumm! I’ve also had a Sylvia Weinstock wedding cake at a friend’s wedding which was delicious and lived up to the hype she has a wedding cake maker here in NY.

    Not a big fan of the English tradition of fruit cake for weddings.

  2. Jane George says:

    vvavotio 25Those are all lovely! I think a nod to your parents’ cake is not only thoughtful but will be beautiful as well.

    I’m a sucker for the classic slight-almond taste of white wedding cake, even though mine was chocolate hazelnut (and decorated with real sterling roses, tiny purple flowers, and trailing variegated ivy).

    Have fun choosing your cake!

  3. Diane Gaston says:

    I can’t even remember my wedding cake! Or anyone else’s, so I sure can’t see spending $1000 on it.

    I like the idea of reproducing your parents’ cake. But of the cakes you show, I love that pink one with the white dogwood blossoms (or they look like dogwood blossoms to me)

  4. White chocolate with passion fruit–yum!!! A raspberry filling is also a classic, as is hazelnut, so I am not sure what to go with 🙂

    I just took a writing break and went to have a lemon-raspberry cupcake.

  5. I got married in Germany and the cake was typical for the region. A type called sandtorte with jam in between the layers. But rather than putting the layers one on top of the other, each had a little platform and pillars. When my son got married, I had a chocolate groom’s cake for him.

  6. Elena Greene says:

    You are all making me hungry!

    My favorite is chocolate, but it has to be really rich, not just brown cake. I’ve made the Emeril recipe flourless chocolate cake and my fellow chocoholic daughter declared it “flawless”. Cheesecake, carrot cake with cream cheese icing and lemon poppyseed are great too.

    There was a local baker who specialized in cheesecake wedding cake. Not layered, or it would collapse, just arranged on a multi-leveled base. So we went for that with strawberries and it was a big hit.

    Amanda, I like that one at the bottom with the roses. Whatever you choose I’m sure it will be wonderful. Share some pics!

  7. Susan/DC says:

    The bottom cake is beautiful, and the connection with your parents’ wedding cake makes it even lovelier. My only question would be what type of frosting, as I’m not a fan of sugary white frosting. Buttercream always tastes better to me, smoother and not so overly sweet. I had a Sacher torte made by the Blacksmith House bakery in Cambridge, MA. It stood on the location of the original blacksmith and spreading chestnut tree from Longfellow’s poem, but I don’t think it’s there any more (a shame, because it was a great bakery and had the best chocolate rum balls in the world).

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