History of the Wedding Cake
The origin of the wedding cake can be traced as far back as the roman empire, when icing was not even invented. A loaf of barley bread was baked for the ceremony. The groom would then eat some of the bread and break the remaining piece over the bride’s head! (The symbolism of this is discussed later)
In medieval England, the cake described in accounts were not cakes in the conventional sense. They were described as flour-based sweet foods as opposed to the description of breads which were just flour-based foods without sweetening. The presence of the cake was included in many celebratory feasts. However, there are no accounts of a special type of cake appearing wedding ceremonies. There are tales of a custom involving stacking small sweet buns in a large pile in front of the newlyweds. The couple would then attempt to kiss over this pile, with success being a sign of many children in the couple’s future.
In the early 19th century, a popular dish being served was bride’s pie. First appearing in the mid-17th century, it was a pie filled with sweet breads, a mince pie, or by some accounts, just a simple mutton pie. The main ingredient was a glass ring. An old adage claims that the lady who finds this ring will be the next to wed. Though bride’s pies were not a fixture at weddings, there were accounts of these pies being the main centerpiece at less affluent ceremonies.
In the late 19th century, the wedding cake became popular, ousting the bride’s pie from popular culture. The cakes were originally given the title “bride cakes” to emphasize that the focal point of the wedding was the bride (Many other objects were prefixed with the word “bride” such as the bride bed, bridegroom and bridesmaid. All these terms have altered or disappeared with the exception of bridesmaid.) The early cakes were simple single-tiered cakes, usually a plum cake, but variations were recorded. It was a while before the first multi-tiered cake appeared that the wedding cake started to resemble today’s modern ideal.
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