Wedding Cake: The evolution from sprinkling crumbs to cake smashing
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
Have you ever wondered where the tradition of the Wedding Cake comes from? When you think about it, today's trends offer so many options for couples getting married to choose from! There are donuts and cupcakes to chocolate dipped fruits. For some couples they want to go with tradition and stay true to the classic tiered wedding cake. So how did this delicious treat become such an intricate and important part of the wedding day celebration? The tradition actually first dates back to Ancient Roman times, where the cake was used as a representation of fertility. Ancient Romans would bake wheat cakes and break them over the Bride’s head. The guest were then asked to pick up all the crumbs!
From Roman times, wedding cakes evolved over the years from pies filled with Organ Meat (GROSS) to wedding cakes made from bread to sweet buns. The evolution was driven by Europe gaining access to more spices and fruits. Around Shakespeare’s time, the bride’s friends would each bring a sweet bun to the wedding, and “the size of the pile of buns was seen as a reflection of the bride’s popularity.”
The invention of baking soda and access to refined sugar were major game changers in the evolution of the wedding cake. It is rumored tiered cakes got their start in the late 18th century, when the apprentice of a London baker fell in love with his boss’s daughter. He wanted to create an elaborate cake to impress her when he proposed.
Several additional traditions have been added since the original sprinkling of cake crumbs on top of the Brides head.
The cutting of the cake together
This tradition hasn’t endured just because it’s an adorable photo op! Slicing the cake is the first task or activity the newlyweds do together, so it’s a special moment. Historically, the cake was cut by the bride alone. But as cakes became bigger and more intricate, it became more difficult for the bride to do it alone, so she’d enlist the help of her new husband.
This sweet tradition is a favorite for Bride and Grooms and their guests.
Saving the top tier of the cake
This tradition was originally created for the cake to be saved for the christening of the first-born child. It has evolved since then and now most couples choose to eat it on their first wedding anniversary. The sweet celebration has evolved once again and if you are lucky, your baker will create you a new cake to eat as you celebrate your first anniversary.
Early American weddings added a Grooms cake to the celebration; this is typically a chocolate cake to contrast the White wedding cake. Southern states hold true to this tradition today with the Grooms cake used as a way to showcase the groom’s hobbies, Alma mater, or favorite activities.
The smashing of the cake
This modern tradition of smashing of the cake in each other’s faces is one of the more divisive wedding traditions. Love it or not, it turns out that messy food traditions have been in place for years. For example, in Yorkshire, the bride would eat a small piece of bride’s cake (which was more of a pastry than the cakes we think of today). Then, she’d throw the rest of the cake over her head to ensure a life of wanting nothing. It’s not totally clear how we got from sprinkling crumbs and throwing cake to smearing frosting across someone’s face, but one thing’s for sure, traditionally brides and grooms have always played with their food!