Wedding Cake History
Wedding cake over the ages
By Natalie Tsang
November 18, 2011
Did you know the multi-tiered cake is a recent invention? The sugar paste frosting was invented in the late 19th century and the the tiers weren't created until 1902! Now an integral part of the wedding, the wedding cake has a strange and roundabout history.
The wedding cake is a tradition that began back in the Roman Empire. At the time, it was a loaf of bread that the groom broke over the bride's head. Wheat and bread has been a traditional symbol of harvest and fertility, and the breaking of the bread was a metaphor for breaking a bride's virginal state and fertile state. There have been many other traditions of breaking bread or cake, including Scotland.
One of the earliest forms of the wedding "cake" is the French Croquembouche. This is a cone of cream puffs glued together with caramel.The legend of this cake says that a pastry chef, visiting medieval England, witnessed their tradition of piling sweet rolls between the bride and groom which they would attempt to kiss over without knocking them all down. The chef then went back to France and piled sweet rolls up into a tower to make the first Croquembouche.
A popular dish in England was the bride's pie. We have a mention of it in cookbooks dating back to the 17th century. The pie was filled with sweet breads, a mince pie, oysters, or may have been merely a simple mutton pie. A main "ingredient" was a glass ring. An old adage claimed that the lady who found the ring would be the next to be married. Bride's pies were by no means universally found at weddings, but there are accounts of these pies being made into the main centerpiece at less affluent ceremonies. Or they could include live birds or snakes!
Before the prominence of the white cake for the wedding, couples from the United Kingdom would celebrate with fruit cake. Due to its dense, alcohol soaked nature, a portion of the cake would often be saved for the Christening since the first child was often born within a year of the wedding.