The Hows and Whys of the Wedding Cake

In today’s world there are just so many different options and choices available to us. We can get a hold of people by traditional phone, smart phone, regular cell phone, email, or regular mail. If we want to get somewhere we can drive a car, ride a bike, take a bus, or stroll along. Given all the various options available to us today, it’s only natural that this variety should work its way into one of our most cherished and honored traditions…that of the wedding cake. Selecting the flavor of the cake and the color of the icing is just getting started with the process. You will also need to take some time to choose the best wedding cake topper for your special cake. In this article we will be exploring the realm of the wedding cake. We will be providing some background details on the tradition, and eventually working on up to the selection process of the perfect topper for that very special wedding cake.

The wedding cake is usually displayed proudly and strategically during the wedding reception. Towering into the heavens, it competes with the bride as the “center of attention” on the big day. This work of art establishes a focal point that the other aspects of the reception revolve around. For those couples that prefer a bit of the dramatic, the wedding cake can be wheeled in at the end of the reception for a “grand entrance” for all to see. To many people this will trigger the memories of the bride who walked down the aisle earlier in the day.

The Beginning

The wedding cake has evolved with the passing of time. In the beginning it was a simple symbol of fertility, but it has transformed itself into an artistic tradition with many different artistic interpretations. For many people in the ancient world, wheat was a symbol of both fertility and a bountiful harvest. The Ancient Romans used to throw grains of wheat at the bride and groom as a symbolic “fertility wish” to the new couple during their wedding. This custom eventually evolved into bringing little wheat cakes to the wedding banquet itself. People would crumble this cake over the head of the bride to wish the couple “many children”. The fallen crumbs would then be eaten by the guests as a symbol of sharing in the couple’s good fortune.

Did you know that this “crumbling of the cake” over the bride’s head may have evolved into another one of our wedding day traditions? Happen to know what it is? Well, in order to protect the hapless bride from the shower of wheat, the bridesmaids draped a cloth over her head before the “crumbling tradition” took place. Many believe that this simple cloth eventually evolved into the wedding veil of today.

Welcome The Middle Ages

By the time the Middle Ages entered the scene, buns or sweet rolls had replaced the wheat cakes, but it was still very customary for wedding guests to bring these tasty treats to the wedding. They were placed in a huge pile between the bride and groom, and if the happy couple was able to kiss over this stack of wheat, it was believed that they would be blessed with many children during their marriage.

It is commonly believed that the next step in the evolution of the traditional cake was performed by a French pastry chef during the 17th century. During a trip to London he happened to observe this “cake piling” ceremony. Upon his return to France he dusted the stack of buns with sugar, and thereby “cemented” them together into one tasty art form. This was to become the first rendition of the tiered and frosted wedding cake, and a forerunner as to what was to come in the years ahead.

The Classic

You are probably familiar with the classic style of the modern day wedding cake. It’s the one with the distinctive design of smaller tiers as the cake builds vertically? Here’s a bit of trivia for you. It is believed that this model was inspired by the spire of the 14th century Saint Bride’s church in London.

Victorian England has brought us many of today’s valued wedding traditions. For example, Queen Victoria herself is said to have had a cake that weighed in at 300 lbs. As confectioners and bakers became more daring and skillful, their creations became even more daring and elaborate. When England’s Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were married back in 1947, their wedding cake weighed in at a whopping 500 lbs, and was 9 feet tall.

Today’s Version

In today’s world the elaborate wedding cake is no longer reserved for the rich and famous. Every couple can share in the tradition of having a wedding cake added to their big day. The wedding cake specialists of today’s world have taken their art to towering heights (pardon the pun). Long gone are those bland days when you were limited to a white cake with white frosting. Although a white cake will probably always be the most popular due to its traditional meaning, today’s couple is limited only by the limits of their imagination (and budget) when it comes to their wedding cake.

And The Color White Comes From?

White is definitely the color of a wedding, but did you know that there is another reason why the white is the customary color of a wedding cake? Back in Victorian times the finer ingredients of a wedding cake were scarce and hard to come by. If the cake had a white icing, this revealed the fact that only the best and most expensive white sugar was being used. Brown sugar was much more common, and therefore much less expensive. So, the more white the cake, the richer the people.

Be Prepared…Plan Ahead

One of the most important things that you can remember is to not leave your special cake till the last minute. Whether you choose the local baker, a talented family member, or a pastry chef who specializes in these tasty masterpieces, if you plan well in advance you will be able to navigate the hard waters of whatever obstacles might come your way. Some bakers require only a minimum notice, while many are booked far in advance. It’s a shame to have that perfect cake of your imagination be “cancelled” due to the fact you cannot allocate a baker’s time.

What if you have no idea who will be baking your wedding cake? If you don’t have a particular baker in mind, you have a bit of homework to do. Shop around and get some recommendations from family and friends. Investigate the yellow pages and the internet as they are both valuable informational resources. If you happen to be surfing the web you will find that many bakers today are posting photos of some of their masterpieces. As a sort of masterpiece gallery, they showcase what they are capable of producing, and this will jog your imagination as to what you would like your own wedding cake to look like.

Don’t Forget Your Budget

Be sure to consider your budget before you let your imagination get the better of you. You want your wedding day to be one of celebration, not the day that you started your journey into financial disaster. Many people are surprised at the cost of a wedding cake. Keep in mind that you are asking an artisan to create a masterpiece for you, and this can often be reflected in the price that he/she will be charging. The cost of labor is often the largest expense in the creation of a wedding cake but keep in mind the simple fact that fondant is more expensive than buttercream.

Have you thought about staging your masterpiece? This comes next. Be sure to take the wedding cake stand into consideration during your planning phase. While some cakes can be simply placed on flat boards that will not be seen by the general public, others are elaborately displayed on beautiful stands for everyone to see. Keep in mind the simple fact that actual size of the cake table must be in proportion to the actual size of your cake. A table that is too small will make the cake look way too big, while a table that is too large will make it look like a tiny cupcake. And before we forget, your cake table will need a beautiful covering to compliment its strategic location at the wedding reception. Oh, don’t forget the cake knife and cake server. There needs to be a place on the table for these two items as well.

The Topper For The Wedding Cake

Topping off that special cake is the wedding cake topper. The wedding cake topper is the simple name for the decoration that sits atop a wedding cake. While it is true that some couples prefer to have simple elegance of an unadorned cake, many prefer to have that final “crowning touch”, the wedding cake topper, added to the upper layer. The simple plastic “bride and groom” of yesteryear has more likely been replaced by the classic porcelain figurine of today.

So what types of wedding cake toppers are available to us today? We’re glad you asked. Many different types of figures are available. They range from the classic poses to figurines depicting some of the potentially “humorous” aspects of the wedding. For example, a bride dragging the hapless groom back to the altar. Personalized wedding cake toppers are also popular these days, while niche toppers such as a “marine marriage” have their place as well.

Our Conclusion

We have so much to say, but there is only so much detail that one can go into in a single article. If you would like to learn more about wedding cakes (and wedding cake toppers to be more specific) please come and visit us on our blog.

Sue Toliver has two web sites: (1) special wedding cake toppers and (2) dinner set review if you would like more info on how to “jazz” up your wedding.

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