Why Do We Have the Wedding Cake? by Nidhi Pattni

Why Do We Have the Wedding Cake?

Why Do We Have the Wedding Cake?

I don’t know about you but I’m way more likely to attend a wedding for the food than for the couple getting married. More specifically, the wedding cake. I love the moment when the bride and groom celebrate the fact that they managed to complete their wedding ceremony without any objections with a large slice of some ridiculously expensive cake.

Wedding cakes are something we all have just accepted as the norm at these events. It’s as vital to the big day as the flower arrangements or the groom himself. They’re so normal in fact that we never question why the cake is such an important component of a wedding. So, let’s dive in to why we have these flavoured five-storey buildings as a part of the wedding festivities.

The History Behind Wedding Cakes

What is a cake? It’s basically just sweet bread, right? Well, that’s exactly how the Romans saw it when they included it in their wedding ceremonies. However, this was less of a cake and more of a thick loaf of bread that was to be broken over the bride’s head after the wedding ceremony had finished. 

This tradition became a part of their weddings as a way to wish the couple a healthy life of fertility and good luck. And it was not just the bride and groom who reaped the reproductive rewards of this bread-breaking custom as the crumbs were collected by relatives and friends who wanted a little share of that luck.

The Romans then brought along this unique tradition over to us in Britain. However, we did it a little different back then. Instead of having bread broken over the brides’ head, Brits took it a step further and threw bread at her. 

Also, in medieval times, buns were stacked on top of one another at the wedding and the bride and groom had to be able to kiss over this literal obstacle in their way. Upon successfully doing so they were blessed with some good luck for their lives ahead. As you can see, the cake served several purposes except for literally being served as dessert at the wedding.

Back to the history. So, during the sixteenth century, people sort of starting realising that hey! We could actually make something sweet and edible from this large loaf of bread. And alas! The wedding cake we know and love was born. This was due to the fact that refined sugar made its way to England and blessed the whole country with the possibility of dessert. Wedding cakes quickly became one of the most important parts of planning the wedding and was now a symbol of the wealth the families of the couple loved to brag.

Princess Diana's wedding cake

The Symbolism of Big Cakes

The cakes were big and ivory-white, which we will get to in a bit. But the size was important, as it was not just about measurements, but what the measurements represented. The bigger the cake, the richer the family seemed to guests and to society. It was a symbol of class and sophistication. Only the rich know how to make something as simple as cake into a statement of wealth. But that’s what it was.

Cakes have now expanded into something much more than dessert, it’s a definition that transcends race and religion and sneaks its way into wedding practices all around the world. It’s common to book the cake not long after finalising the wedding venue because of the challenging and detailed labour that goes behind baking the perfect cake. Picking the size, flavour of the sponge, colour of the icing and the decorations on top can cause an immense amount of stress for a couple heading towards their wedding day. 

To achieve that perfect result, one must spend a significant amount of time brainstorming how to make their cake stand out whilst simultaneously blending in with the aesthetic of their wedding. But if you’re not-so-fancy like me, you’ll be just fine with a Betty Crocker fudge cake with a ton of Nutella as the icing.