History of the Wedding Cake

  • Ancient Roman Times
  • Anglo-Saxon
  • 17th Century
  • 1850's
  • Today
The origins of the modern day lavish wedding cake can be traced back to ancient Roman Times. The first version of the wedding cake was more like bread than cake as we know it today. There was a ritual where the cake was broken over the bride's head, then guests would scramble to collect the crumbs in hopes of securing good luck and good fortune for themselves.

The breaking of the cake has three symbolic reasons.

  • The first reason was to show the breaking of the brides virginal state
  • To show the husbands dominance over her.
  • The third is that it would bring good fortune and fertility to the couple and guest that got the crumbs.

The Anglo-Saxon's had a unique wedding cake. Instead of a single cake, they had hundreds!

Guest would bring several little cakes with them to the reception and pile them between the bride and the groom. The couple would then have to try to kiss over the huge pile.

If the couple was successful then it was said that they would have many children in the future.

17th century England changed the way the world looked at wedding cakes.

The first change was the emergence of the bride's pie. Instead of a soft bread they made savory pies. The fillings of these pies would range from mince meat, mutton, to sweet breads. A "main ingredient" inside these pie's was a glass ring. Tradition states that the lady who found the ring would be the next to be married.

The second change was invention of plumb cakes. These were slightly sweeter bread then the "wedding cakes" of the past and they had a layer of white sugar icing coating the top. The white color was seen as a sign of wealth. Because sugar was expensive and varied in quality, the whiter the wedding cake, the more expensive and higher quality the cake was.

The pure white color quickly became a symbol of the virgin purity of the bride herself, and when colored cakes were introduced they were quickly discarded for a "traditional" white; colored cakes were a sign of impurity. Because of labor needed to produce just a simple white icing, cakes were unadorned; decoration was not needed.

The 1850's was when cakes similar to modern day wedding cakes really started to evolve. Cakes began to grow in height and tiers were added. The wedding cake that we know today with successively smaller layers, supporting pillars, fancy frosting and festoons originated 150 years ago with Queen Victoria's daughter's wedding. However, her huge ornate cake was not all cake. Only the bottom layer was, the rest were pure sugar.

In 1882 Prince Leopold had the first all cake tiered wedding cake. But it would take another 20 years before the tiers would be able to be separated by columns (usually pieces of a broom's handle).

Since1900's scientific advances, readily available ingredients, and experimentation have lead to the modern wedding cakes that we know today. Cakes since the 1930's have broken all the traditions. Until then most wedding cakes were round and white. Now in the 21st century anything goes. Cakes are no longer restricted to any style, shape, color, or traditional values. Wedding cakes are now sculpted creations with the only limitation put upon them is that they must remain edible. If you have seen some of the modern day wedding cakes it is hard to believe that they are edible.