Wedding cake advice: What sort of wedding cake should you choose?
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
A wedding cake is a traditional part of wedding days that can be traced back medieval times. You shouldn’t feel compelled to have one. After all, Petite Weddings are all about breaking the rules, or at least bending them to ensure you have exactly the sort of wedding day you guys really want. If a wedding cake does take your fancy you might want to read on as we draw on past traditions and current trends to give you some inspiration you to be bold in your wedding cakes decisions and discover a way of bringing something of yourselves to your choice.
Why do we have wedding cakes?
Back in medieval times a wedding cake was actually a pile of wheat-based buns rather than a single cake. This bun pile and all the other baked goodies for the wedding feast were piled up and if the couple managed a kiss over the tower of sweetness without toppling it over they were assured of a prosperous life together. After this the bride would go somewhere private to cut the cakes on her own – symbolising the impending loss of her virginity on the wedding night. Every guest would be given a bit of cake and they’d then throw the cake at the bride to encourage fertility.
Tiers and pies
A French chef visiting Britain in the 15thCentury introduced the use of sawn-down broom handles to provide stable stacking for the wedding cake “pile” However, the tiered cakes we often see today did not come into being until the 18thCentury. The story goes that William Rich a baker’s apprentice in Ludgate Hill fell in love with the baker’s daughter. When he proposed he was keen to impress and design a tiered cake that draw inspiration from St Bride’s Church spire. Sadly no images of this beauty can be found, but by the time of Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert tiered wedding cakes were certainly “the thing”. By this point refined sugar had become more accessible, albeit expensive and the bigger and whiter the cake, the wealthier the bride and groom. And we thought Instagram was to blame for wedding oneupmanship!
For a period in the 17thCentury “the cake” concept was replaced by “bridal pie”. The pie was a savour dish filled with anything from sweet breads, minced beef or mutton. There was a sweet tradition that went with this incarnation of the wedding cake. A glass ring would be hidden in the cake and if a woman found it she would be the next bride. In the USA charms are often added to the cake each with a different meaning e.g. heart meaning true love, a wishing well meaning your wished will come true, a highchair meaning children are on the way and many more. These are lovely ways to make your cake cutting and eating a lot of fun, but do warn your guests as otherwise it might mean a few unnecessary trips to the dentist!
Austerity in the war years
In the 19th Century two world wars meant rationing and a creative approach to making a wedding cake. For many during these periods a wedding cake become a mini-community project with friends and relatives donating rations to ensure there were sufficient to make a wedding cake. There are also a few devious tricks we wouldn't necessarily recommend like using gravy browning to make a fruit cake look richer (and taste saltier!) and using a cardboard cake with a much smaller real; cake hidden inside.
Modern day wedding cake traditions
Today your cake doesn’t have to be a fruit-cake, white or in fact be a pie! And that’s no bad thing. What’s more a bunch of modern day wedding cake traditions have evolved including:
· Cutting the cake and feeding each other the first bite – a sign of togetherness, love and affection, and sometimes a chance to smear cake over your new spouse’s face. We recommend caution here.
· Saving the top tier of a fruit cake for your first child’s Christening – Fruit cake keeps for ages and can get better with age, it's a little outdates these days with many couple getting married after they have children or indeed option not to have children at all.
· Sleeping with a piece of cake under your pillow – this sounds messy and it is. The theory is that a single woman who does this will dream of her future partner that night. We’re dubious, but it’s a bit of fun.
Inspired? Why not have a think about these ideas?
We've drawn on some of the history behind the wedding cake and come up with our favourite modern twists on these traditions.
A wedding pie: We love this wedding pie that’s a marriage between a traditional Chinese wedding pie, and an old-school British pork pie. www.ladyandpups.com/2014/11/30/molly-yehs-wedding-pie/
A modern day twist on the pile of buns: We adore Emily Hankins cakes, and these edible teacup cakes really are to die for. https://www.instagram.com/p/BxesuRTgrTH/
Don’t fancy a cake? Why not have some personalised biscuits? These beautiful handmade biscuits by Oona’s Cakes include local edible flowers – just gorgeous! https://www.instagram.com/p/BytDQNzHvJP/
A modern wedding stack: If you’re not big cake people, perhaps you enjoy cheese? We can recommend Newlyn Cheese and Charcutierie – their cheese is devine and they’ll bespoke your stack to include all your favourite cheeses. Shipping available across the UK. https://www.facebook.com/Newlyn-Cheese-Charcuterie-120262954708698/
“Austerity” wedding cakes for the budget conscious. By far and away the best value for money and the biggest crowd pleasers are naked wedding cakes. These can be made to scale and decorated in line with your wedding theme and flowers. You can also choose from a range of sponge flavours and fillings including strawberries and fresh cream, cheese cake, carrot cake, classic vanilla with butter cream and jam and much more. These options are easy to make vegan friendly too. Chef Indulgence Catering provide lots of our couples with these perfect cakes. www.indulgence-catering.co.uk
A white wedding cake with tiers and a modern twist: White wedding cakes are still a bug crowd pleaser and look stunning whilst giving a nod to the past. We love Claire of Claire’s Sweet Temptations seaside themed white wedding cake – just perfect for seaside lovers and weddings by the sea.https://www.clairessweettemptations.com/wedding-cakes-2/
Getting married in a colour other than white? Why not match your colour theme to your cake. Here’s a lovely example by Jenna at Jenna’s Signature Bakes https://www.instagram.com/p/BVxifxsHccN/
Wedding cake tiers don’t have to be straight: a wonky by design wedding cake can be a real wow and it’s likely to be totally different to anything anyone has seen before. We love this example by Amazing Grace Cakes.https://www.amazinggracecakes.co.uk/hampshire/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Wonky-Wedding-Cake-2.jpg