Why Do We Serve Cake at Weddings?
Why Do We Serve Cake at Weddings?
Cutting the wedding cake is an iconic and traditional part of any wedding celebration. Taking your first slice of cake together will be one of the most romantic moments of your big day, and one you’ll remember forever.
You may have wondered how the tradition of cutting the wedding cake started. After all, some big events seem to call for cake, while others don’t. And along with the cutting of the cake, there are many smaller traditions like using a personalised cake knife, feeding cake to each other, and having a cake topper.
In today’s article, we’ll find out how the tradition of wedding cake originated. We’ll delve into the wedding cake’s rich history, and see how ancient rituals compare to more modern traditions. By the end, you’ll be something of a wedding cake expert!
Wedding Cake and Breaking Bread
You’ll have heard the term ‘breaking bread’ before. The idea of ‘breaking bread’ with somebody means eating with them, often in the context of reconciliation or new friendship. These days, the bread doesn’t literally need to be bread, but when the tradition began it did.
The practice originates in ancient Rome. Roman traditions held that a wedding was only finally sealed when the bride and groom broke bread together.
You might picture the pair eating together at a table, surrounded by their happy guests, dividing the bread for them each to share and eat. But that’s not quite accurate.
Instead, the bread was broken over the bride’s head, which was (to the Romans at least) a symbol of good fortune. A special bread-cake hybrid known as a mustaceum was used especially for this.
Afterwards, the pair would eat some of the crumbs that were left over. This was known as confarreatio, meaning ‘eating together’. The guests would then gather the rest of the crumbs and keep them as mementos for good luck.
Evolving Wedding Cake Traditions
Over time, this practice changed. The Roman poet Lucretius recorded in De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) that rather than kicking off their marriages with a form of bread-based abuse, later Romans would crumble the bread over the bride’s head instead.
At the same time as this evolution in the tradition occurred, the idea of the confetto was established. This was where each guest would be given a handful of sweetened nuts, dried fruit and honeyed almonds.
These remained popular almost until recent times: it was recorded in a chronicle of 1487 that they were still offered at the marriage of Lucrezia Borgia and Alfonso d’Este (two very important people), more than a thousand years after the tradition started.
Wedding Cake or Wedding Pie?
The earliest recipe for any kind of English celebratory wedding ‘cake’ was actually for a pie!
A book from 1685 titled The Acomplisht Cook detailed a recipe for a large, round pie called a Bride’s Pye. It had a decorated pastry crust with a filling of oysters, pine kernels, cockscombs, sweetbreads and ‘lambstones’, which are a part of the anatomy which definitely isn’t normally eaten.
Another traditional recipe from Yorkshire was also called ‘Bride’s Pie’. Like the one described above, this was a big, rounded pie. But this one contained a plump hen stuffed with eggs and surrounded by minced meats, fruit and nuts.
Interestingly, this seemed to be around when other traditions were forming: a ring would be placed inside the pie, and the woman who found it would be the next to marry. Refusing a slice was considered the height of impoliteness.
Modern Wedding Cake Traditions
At Medieval English weddings, it was customary to bake as many small spiced buns as possible and place them in a pile. If the couple could kiss over the stack, it was supposed to bring good luck.
It was only in the 19th century that more modern wedding cakes, like those we have today, became possible. That’s because it was only then that finely milled and bleached white flour became available. Light flours like these are necessary to bake moist and airy cakes. So, once this could be done, cakes became the norm instead.
Over the years, the cutting of the wedding cake has become a firmly cemented tradition. It usually takes place after the wedding breakfast, or in some cases, during the evening reception.
Wedding cakes are typically multi-tiered, and topped with a ‘cake topper’. This is usually made from plastic or porcelain, but can be fashioned from edible icing, too.
Traditionally, wedding cake toppers took the form of a mini bride and groom. But modern wedding cake toppers can have more abstract designs such as artificial or real flowers, heart shapes, or even 3D text.
Cutting the Cake
In centuries past, the bride used to have to cut and serve the cake herself. But as weddings became bigger, with more guests the groom started stepping in to help. That’s when the tradition of the couple cutting the cake together started.
In modern weddings, the married couple typically cut the first slice of cake together. They then proceed to hand-feed each other a slice of cake, as a romantic gesture.
The first slice of cake is usually taken from the middle or bottom tier. This is because the top tier is traditionally saved for the first anniversary, or the first child’s christening.
Instead of having a multi-tiered wedding cake, some couples prefer to serve cupcakes or a different dessert altogether. In these cases, they usually have one small cake made specifically for the cutting tradition.
Interestingly, the tradition of the couple feeding cake to each other has transformed more recently into smashing or smearing cake into one another’s face.
There’s no deep meaning behind this it’s purely done for fun. But if you want to do this at your wedding, make sure you get permission from your bride or groom beforehand. Nobody likes being covered in cake if they aren’t expecting it!
Cake Knives and Serving Sets
The cutting of the cake is considered by most couples to be one of the most important parts of the wedding. It symbolises your life starting together, and your commitment to each other.
Because of this many couples choose to purchase a special cake knife and serving set for their big day. They can be silver-plated and budget friendly, or made out of expensive metals. Usually, the cake knife is engraved with the bride and groom’s names, or the wedding date.
Although you could use a normal knife there are lots of benefits to having a personalised one. For example, they look fantastic in photos and make a great keepsake. You can use them again on milestone anniversaries or even pass them down to your children.
At Bride & Groom Direct, we aim to stock all the little things you need to make your big day special. We sell wedding stationery, like invites and thank you cards but we also sell cake toppers, and wedding cake knife and server sets that you can keep and treasure.
These sets consist of a cutting knife (which can be personalised), and a cake server. We offer a variety of styles, and all at a budget that suits any wedding.