The traditional wedding cake as we know it has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. Although many variations have sprung up since it first became popular; the tiered, white-iced fruit and rum flavoured classic has stood the taste test of time. But how did it all start?
The first cake
In antiquity, the very first cakes were nothing but thin loaves made of wheat or barley - more like bread. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians would bake a bread cake in the shape of a bird or grain, and break it over the bride's head as a symbol of her fertility, fruitfulness and good fortune (ouch!). Guests then scrambled for the pieces of cake hoping to secure good luck for themselves.
Sugar was added to the mix
In Anglo Saxon times, sugar made its appearance turning the original wedding loaf into more of a sweetened bun. It was tradition for guests to bring these little cakes to the wedding and pile them up one on top of the other, as high as they could. The bride and groom would attempt to kiss one another over the tower without knocking it down. If they were successful, it meant a lifetime of prosperity.
The creation of the tiered wedding cake
It is said that in the 1660s, a French chef was visiting London and observed the cake piling ceremony. Appalled at the haphazard manner in which the British stacked baked goods, often to have them tumble, he conceived the idea of transforming the tower of buns into an iced, multi-tiered cake sensation. By the end of the century, British bakers accepted the idea and started creating their own magnificent constructions. "¨Through the Renaissance they grew to great heights amid the general extravagance of the age. It became customary to build the wedding cake as a palace, iced with white sugar to symbolise purity, and complete with figures of the new "Lord and Lady of the Manor," miniature gardens and horses.
Purity was not the only reason white icing was all the rage; it was also a sure way to tell everybody you had more than a few pennies. White icing had to be made using only the most refined white sugar - a very expensive ingredient at the time; so the whiter the cake, the wealthier the bride's family had to be.
As the modern age dawned with the 1700's it became tradition to box up small pieces of cake for the maids and bachelors to take home and put under their own pillows. Before going to sleep a prayer was said, which with the aid of God, the saints, angels or Venus, would allow the sleeping person to dream of their future marriage partner. Being by then a 'civilized' Christian culture, no one openly called it a spell, but now we can safely say that's exactly what it was!