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A wedding cake is the traditional cake served at wedding receptions following dinner. In some parts of England, the wedding cake is served at a wedding breakfast; the 'wedding breakfast' does not mean the meal will be held in the morning, but at a time following the ceremony on the same day. In modern Western culture, the cake is usually on display and served to guests at the reception. Traditionally, wedding cakes were made to bring good luck to all guests and the couple. Modernly however, they are more of a centerpiece to the wedding and are not always even served to the guests. Some cakes are built with only a single edible tier for the bride and groom to share, but this is rare since the cost difference between fake and real tiers is minimal.
Wedding cakes come in a variety of sizes, depending on the number of guests the cake will serve. Modern pastry chefs and cake designers use various ingredients and tools to create a cake that usually reflects the personalities of the couple. Marzipan, fondant, gum paste, buttercream, and chocolate are among the popular ingredients used. Cakes range in price along with size and components. Cakes are usually priced on a per-person, or per-slice, basis. Prices can range from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars per-person or slice, depending on the pastry chef who is hired to make the cake. Wedding cakes and cake decorating in general have become a certain pop culture symbol in western society. In the United States, reality television shows such as Cake Boss and Amazing Wedding Cakes have become popular and are trending in today's popular culture.
The first wedding cakes were probably made in ancient Greece.
The contemporary wedding cake has grown out of several different ethnic traditions. One of the first traditions began in Ancient Rome, where a cake of wheat or barley was broken over the bride's head to bring good fortune to the couple.
During the 16th century to the 17th century, the “bride's pie” was served at most weddings. Different from the modern sweet wedding cake, bride pie is savoury. Bride pie is a pie with pastry crust and filled an assortment of oysters, lamb testicles, pine kernels, cocks' combs from Robert May's 1685 recipe. For May's recipe, there is a compartment of bride pie which filled with live birds or a snake for the guests to pass way the time in a wedding when they cut up the pie at the table. Guests were expected to have a piece out of politeness. It was considered very rude and bad luck not to eat the bride's pie. One tradition of bride's pie was to place a glass ring in the middle of the dessert and the maiden who found it would be the next to marry, similar to the modern tradition of catching the Flower bouquet.
In the 17th century, two cakes were made, one for the bride and one for the groom. The groom's cake would die out and the bride's cake become the main cake for the event. When the two cakes were served together, the groom's cake was typically the darker colored, rich fruit cake and generally much smaller than the bride's cake. The bride's cake was usually a simple pound cake with white icing because white was a sign of virginity and purity.
Wedding cake was originally a luxury item, and a sign of celebration and social status. The bigger the cake, the higher the social standing. Wedding cakes in England and early America were traditionally fruit cakes, often topped with marzipan and icing with tiers. Cutting the cake was an important part of the reception. White icing was also a symbol of money and social importance in Victorian times, so a white cake was highly desired. Today, many flavors and configurations are available in addition to the traditional all-white tiered cake.
In Medieval England cakes were stacked as high as possible for the bride and groom to kiss over. A successful kiss meant they were guaranteed a prosperous life together. From this the Croquembouche was created. The myth behind this cake tells of a Pastry chef, visiting Medieval England who witnessed their tradition of piling sweet rolls between the bride and groom, which they attempted to kiss over without knocking them all down. The pastry chef then went back to France and piled sweet rolls up into a tower to make the first Croquembouche. The modern croquembouche is still very popular in France, where it is now common to place the croquembouche tower on a bed of cake and make it a top tier. This traditional French wedding cake is built from Profiteroles and given a halo of spun sugar.
In 1703, Thomas Rich, a baker's apprentice from Ludgate Hill, fell in love with his employer's daughter and asked her to marry him. He wanted to make an extravagant cake, so he drew on St Bride's Church, on Fleet Street in London for inspiration.
Traditionally the bride would place a ring inside the couple's portion of the cake to symbolise acceptance of the proposal. Bride's pie would evolve into the bride's cake. At this point the dessert was no longer in the form of a pie and was sweeter than its predecessor. The bride cake was traditionally a plum or fruit cake. In mid-18th century, double icing, which means covering the cake first with almond icing and then with the kind of white icing, was used in bride cake. White-iced upper surface of the bride cake was used as a platform on which all sorts of scenes and emblems could be mounted. The decoration was appeared, they were often at least partially three-dimensional, were colourful. However, since some decoration were made in a variety of substances, sometimes the decoration or even parts of wedding cake were inedible. In The myth that eating the pie would bring good luck was still common but the glass ring slowly died out and the flower bouquet toss replaced it.
Fruit cakes were a sign of fertility and prosperity, which helped them gain popularity because married men wanted to have plenty of children.
The wedding cake is surrounded by superstitions. In a traditional American wedding, maidens would be invited to pull ribbons that are attached to the bottom layer of the wedding cake. Out of all the ribbons, only one contains a charm or a ring, and whoever gets the charm will be the next person to marry. In other countries, the wedding cake is broken over the bride's head to ensure fertility and bring good fortune to the couple. Also, some people today think that eating the crumbs of the wedding cake would give them good luck because the wedding cake symbolizes happiness and good life to the newlywed couple.
There are also myths that bridesmaids have on dreaming their future husbands. Hopeful bridesmaids would take a piece of cake home and place it under the pillow. Some bridesmaids would sleep with the pieces of cake in their left stocking and the rest are under their pillows after passing the pieces of cake through the bride's wedding ring.
In the medieval era, wedding cakes were constructed in rolls and buns that were laid on top of each other. The groom and bride would attempt to share a kiss on top of the stack of rolls to ensure fertility and have good fortune.
The typical style for a modern white wedding is a decorated white layer cake. It is usually coated and decorated with frosting. The layers may be filled with frosting, pastry cream, lemon curd, or other cake fillings. It may be topped by decorations made from frosting, with edible flowers, or with other decorations. A layer cake can be a single cake, or it can be assembled to form a tiered cake.
Very tall tiered cakes are important in Indonesia. The overall height of the cake is said to predict the couple's prosperity.
In the US, three tiers has been the most common choice since at least the 1960s.
In Appalachia, a stack cake was a way for poorer people to celebrate potluck-style by spreading the expense across the community. A stack cake is made of thin cakes baked by different guests for the wedding. These cakes are stacked on top of each other, with the layers usually being filled with apple butter or cooked apples.
Among the Cajuns in the US, multiple cakes are baked at home by the bride's family, rather than having one large cake.
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