The interesting origin of the wedding cake

The interesting origin of the wedding cake

You probably think wedding cakes have always been about indulging in something sweet on your special day. It’s an easy assumption to make. Of course, nothing in life is that simple. The wedding cake has a centuries long history and started as a tradition that was said to ensure fertility.

In Ancient Rome, weddings would end with the bride and groom having a wheat or barley cake broken over their heads. Yes, really. This practice is said to have been to ensure prosperity and fertility in the couples future. The guests would try to secure some of these blessings for themselves by scrambling for a few crumbs which had fallen from the broken bread.

The tradition made its way to England, and was eventually altered quite a bit. In medieval England – as the English acquired more spices – the wheat and barley cake shifted to something tastier. Instead of simple bread, they would use spiced buns, scones, and cookies.

Another alteration that the English made to the tradition was to forget the breaking of the bread. The ‘confections’ were stacked into a tower as high as possible. At a wedding, the newly-wed couple would be required to kiss over the tower of treats. If they managed to kiss without toppling the tower, it was said they they were guaranteed some good fortune.

From there things took an odd turn. Instead of wedding cakes, wedding pies were more popular. Again, eating the pie was meant to ensure the couple had a happy life together. The pie also contained a ring, which single ladies would try to find. Finding the ring meant that they would be the next to get married (kind of like the bouquet toss that we do today). This may sound pleasant, but it most definitely was not. The first recorded wedding pie recipe, from 1685, contained oysters, lamb testicles, throat, and pine kernels.

Luckily, things began to change for the better from there when cakes replaced pies. As sugar became more available in England, white icing became the cake topping of choice. Queen Victoria had a wedding cake covered with white icing.

Tiered cakes took off in the 18th century. The story goes that a trainee of a baker in London fell in love with his bosses daughter. In an effort to dazzle her, and get her to love him back, he baked her an elaborate, tiered cake.

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