The wedding cake has always been important to the marriage celebration. In ancient Roman times, bread was broken over the head of the bride, representing good luck for the couple. As time passed, different foods replaced bread and were piled, the happy couple anticipated to lean over it and kiss before dismantling and functioning. The contents evolved into buns and small cakes or pastries, occasionally even meat pies that were consumed as part of their meal. However, the symbolism has pretty much stayed the same, that of fertility and good fortune, as the newlyweds ceremoniously cut the cake and share with each other prior to their guests.
Contemporary cakes are often not even edible but only concealed cardboard Vero Beach Wildlife Control or styrofoam, elaborately decorated, then whisked off to the kitchen where a simple sheet cake is cut and served to the unsuspecting guests. Traditionally the top layer, often called the groom’s cake, is stored and consumed at a later date, or may be separate entirely. At some weddings, the cake is composed of tiered cupcakes for easy serving, or displayed on an elaborate “sweet table” of desserts where the guests can help themselves.
During the Victorian era in Britain (1800s) that the royals and elite class took the wedding cake to a new high (literally) with sweet cake and white icing as a status symbol of the bride and groom, exemplified by the lavish display served in the 1871 wedding of Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise, that took three months to finish. One has to wonder how well it held up literally throughout all that time and was it still edible. Apparently so, as portions of the original were auctioned off years later. One buyer described the texture as “company,” an understatement to be sure. Even though most royals prefer a lavish but somewhat traditional cake, elaborate reproductions of palaces and historical landmarks have been prominently featured at some elite children’s weddings.
No longer the traditional white cake or fruitcake (preferred by Brits) the contemporary cakes have evolved into spectacles of artistry, with unique themes, sculptures, photographs and even replicas of the bride and groom themselves. They are carrot cake, chocolate or cheesecake, with colorful icing and decorations of any flavor, and frequently include a price tag far surpassing the bridal gown. Specially trained pastry chefs compete on Food Network and have their own companies that make wedding cakes exclusively.
Possibly, the most renowned wedding cake in history belongs to the character Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ legendary novel Great Expectations. The jilted spinster, left at the altar, spends the rest of her life in her bedroom wearing her wedding dress, the rotting wedding cake display, covered with cobwebs. Although not so dramatic, here are some famous modern-day cakes which deserve mention:
Actress Grace Kelly’s celebrated marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco showcased a six-tiered wedding cake at their reception in 1956, also depicted a three-dimensional replica of Monaco’s Pink Palace, her soon-to-be new house.
When a radiant Elizabeth Taylor carved to a five-tiered white cake in her lavish first wedding to hotel heir Nicky Hilton in 1950, it was topped with traditional wedding bells, created by the pastry chef at the chichi Bel-Air Country Club in California. Imagine the lucky bakers who were commissioned by Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Even though the cakes got smaller and smaller with each subsequent marriage, they had a terrific repeat business from each of the two actresses.
In the 1947 royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth, soon to become Queen of England, the 500-pound fruitcake (a standard British popular) stood 9 feet tall. It took 660 eggs, 300 pounds of dried nuts and fruits, and three-and-a-half gallons of Navy rum. (And some people complain when we get a measly two-pound fruitcake at Christmas.)
Prince Charles and Diana’s five-foot tall cake was adorned with marzipan Windsor coats of arms and was so vital to the royal celebration a duplicate copy was created, in case of an accident. (Kind of like “an heir and a spare.”)
Made by the pastry chef at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, he proudly proclaimed the layers of his masterpiece were filled with apricot marmalade and liqueur-flavored Bavarian cream, then glazed with fondant icing, topped off with marzipan roses.
Donald Trump and Melania’s cake cost $50,000 and couldn’t be served to the guests due to the amount of wiring used to keep it intact. (Author’s note: I don’t know about anybody else, but it sounds so delicious that I would have picked out the wires and devoured it.)
No question, the simple wedding cake has developed into an art form, where creativity and ingenuity know no bounds. If you can dream it up, and absorb the cost, you will discover a willing and talented baker to create it. In the words of a famous French royal, “Let them eat cake.” Indeed.