Wedding cakes are a very ancient tradition in many cultures. The Romans ate a ‘cake’ baked from wheat flour, salt and water as the marriage contract was performed, and tribes such as the Iroquois Indians and the Fiji Islanders have long traditions of the bride offering a cake to her new husband. In this country the Roman type of cake gave way to a spiced bread or biscuit, and by Tudor times sugar, eggs and fruit were added to make a mixture more similar to the rich fruit cake we know today.
The traditions of the cake
Originally the custom was to bake many small cakes and to throw them at the bride after the ceremony, or to shower her with them as she entered her new home; in some countries the bride’s attendants threw the cakes to the witnesses to the marriage. After the Restoration the fashion of covering a pile of small cakes with marzipan and sugar was introduced from France; the whole edifice could then be broken over the bride’s head at an appropriate moment and all the little cakes would shower out. Gradually the pile of small cakes became one large cake that formed the centrepiece of the wedding feast.
Your wedding cake will be the focal point of your reception, even if you are only having a casual buffet, and you will probably want to make sure that your own version of this traditional item is a very special reminder of a very special day. You will need to think of the size of cake that you want, its decoration and shape, whether you want more than one tier, and whether you want to incorporate any special features such as real flowers, ribbons, a message or initials, etc.
Who will make it?
Do you want to make your cake yourself, or will it be made by a friend, a relative, a bakery chain, or a cake specialist? Sometimes wedding caterers or hotels that provide wedding receptions will quote for the cost of a cake as well. The traditional recipe is a rich fruit cake but you don’t need to keep to this if you don’t want to; American tradition is to have a plain white cake under attractive frosting, and some brides in this country choose a plain sponge or a chocolate cake. You could be completely different and have a cherry cake, orange cake, lemon cake or any other recipe to make your cake unusual – and less filling! If your cake is to be made by a firm of bakers or caterers, ask to taste a sample first to make sure that it is of good quality.
The size of your cake will depend on the number that you want to feed with it. This will take into account the guests at your reception, any extra pieces that you will want to save for friends, relations, etc, who couldn’t come to the wedding, and any pieces you may want for other people such as friends at work or at a social club. Some couples save the top tier of their cake for their first wedding anniversary, the christening of their first child, or their housewarming in their new home – if you want to do this you will have to add the size of the top tier to the amount of cake you need for consumption on the day. Professional caterers work to standard portions; you could work on the principle that a piece of cake 13 x 6.5cm (2in x 1in) x the height of the cake will be ample for each serving. Work this out for a square cake, then convert it to the equivalent if you are having a cake of a different shape. Remember that the cake will be larger once it is covered with marzipan and icing.
Checklist for your wedding cake
|Who is going to make the cake?||How big does the cake need to be?|
|Who is going to ice the cake?||What shape is the cake going to be?|
|How much is it going to cost?||What recipe do we want?|
|How early do 1 need to order the cake?|
|How many guests will need a piece at the wedding?||Will it have tiers – if so, how many?|
|How many people will be unable to come, and will need to be sent a piece?||Do we want any special decoration or features?|
|Do we want to have any extra pieces for friends, workmates, etc?|
|Do we want an extra tier to save?||When will we need to collect the cake?|
The cake – Recipes for fruit cake
Making your own cake
Many people want to make their own wedding cake – not just for economy’s sake, but because home made cake is tastier and you have the pride of achievement as well! Here are two recipes for fruit cake. One is very rich and one is slightly lighter, but either will make an excellent wedding cake.
Rich fruit cake
The instruction outside the brackets is for a 6 in round or 5 in square tin. The first instruction inside the brackets is for an 8 in round or 7 in square tin.
The second instruction inside the brackets is for an 11 in round or 10 in square tin.
|170 (340, 680)g plain flour||6 (12,24) oz plain flour|
|¼ (1/2, 2) level tsp mixed spiee||¼ (1/2,2) level tsp mixed spiee|
|½ (½, 2) levei tsp cinnamon||½ (1/2, 2) level tsp cinnamon|
|Pinch (large pinch, ½ tsp) salt||Pinch (large pinch, 14 tsp) salt|
|142 (283, 595)g butter||5 (10,21)oz butter|
|142 (283, 595)g sugar||5 (10,21)oz sugar|
|Small amount grated lemon zest||Small amount grated lemon zest|
|3 (5,11) size 4 eggs, beaten||3 (5,1) size 4 eggs, beaten|
|½ (1,2) tbsp treacle||½ (1,2) tbsp treacle|
|1 (2,3) tbsp brandy||1 (2,3) tbsp brandy|
|227 (454,1134)g currants||8 (16, 40)oz currants|
|113 (198, 397)g raisins||4 (7,14)oz raisins|
|113 (198,397)g suttanas||4 (7,14)oz sultanas|
|57 (142, 283)g glace cherries||2 (5,10)oz glace cherries|
|28 (85,198)g chopped mixed peel||1 (3,7)oz chopped mixed peel|
|28 (85,198)galmonds, blanehedand||1 (3,7)oz almonds, blanched and|
1 Pre-heat the oven to a temperature of Gas mark 2/300°F/!50°C.
2 Grease and double line the cake tin.
3 Prepare fruit, nuts, and mixed peel; mix them together in a large bowl.
4 Sift flour, salt and spices together into a separate bowl.
5 Cream butter, sugar and lemon zest together until pale and fluffy.
6 Add eggs to creamed mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition.
7 Fold flour into mixture a little at a time using a metal spoon.
8 Fold brandy and treacle into mixture.
9 Fold fruit and nuts into mixture.
10 Put mixture nto prepared tin and bake at Gas mark 2/300°F/150°C for approximately 214-3 (314,7) hours. Cover with greaseproof paper after 114-2 hours to prevent top over-browning.
11 Cool in tin overnight. Turn out, wrap in double thickness of greaseproof paper, store in airtight tin.
Lighter fruit cake
This recipe is adaptable for any size or shape of cake tin. The quantities given here are for a cake tin of 1 pint capacity. Check the capacity of your chosen tin by filling it with water, and then multiply up the quantities in the recipe as required.
|113g plain flour||4 oz plain flour|
|½ level tsp mixed spiee||½ level tsp mixed spiee|
|Pinch salt||Pinch salt|
|85g butter||3 oz butter|
|85g soft brown sugar||3 oz soft brown sugar|
|1 size 2 egg, beaten||1 size 2 egg, beaten|
|142g currants||5 oz currants|
|57g sultanas||2 oz sultanas|
|57g raisins||2 oz raisins|
|28g glace cherries, chopped||1 oz glace cherries, chopped|
|28g chopped mixed peel||1 oz chopped mixed peel|
Pre-heat the oven to a temperature of Gas mark 2/300°F/150°C. Grease and line the cake tin. Prepare the fruit and the mixed peel and mix them together in a bowl. Sift the flour, salt and mixed spice together into a separate bowl. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the egg. Fold in the flour using a metal spoon, then fold in the fruit and peel. Place in the prepared tin and bake at Gas mark 2/300°F/150°C until a fine skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then store wrapped in greaseproof paper in an airtight tin.
The cake – Shapes and styles
Shapes and styles
There are many different shapes in which your wedding cake can be made.
The easiest shapes of ail, of course, are square and round; these are also easiest to decorate as they are regular shapes. If you are just having a small wedding celebration you could simply have a single round, square or heart-shaped cake; if you want something more elaborate you might choose two or more tiers, spaced on top of one another by decorative columns (round for round cakes, square for square ones). American brides often place the tiers one on top of the other without pillars so that the different layers can be iced as one cake.
If you want to be more unusual you could go for one of the more elaborate designs – interlocking hearts or rings, a cake iced like a basket of flowers or a box of chocolates, a cake in the shape of a flower or a butterfly, or two cakes made up in the shape of your initials. Cake tins can be bought or hired for all these shapes and many others such as hexagons and octagons, stars, clover leaves and horseshoes.
1 Simple round cake
2 Interlocking heart cake
3 Cake made in the shape of a basket of flowers
4 Two-tiered cake
5 Tiered cake in American style
6 Three-tiered cake
Traditionally, the origin of the tiered wedding cake is attributed to a pastrycook on Ludgate Hill in London. He used to make cakes for the many illegal marriages that took place near the Fleet prison, and apparently decided to copy Sir Christopher Wren’s design for the spire of St Bride’s Church.
The cake – Decorating/Colour/At the reception
Decorating the cake
The decorations you choose for your cake are the main features that will make It uniquely yours. Generally royal icing is used for wedding cakes as it is harder and easier to pipe into fancy shapes, but the relatively recent advent of malleable fondant icing has meant that very attractive finishes can be obtained much more easily. If you are icing your cake yourself look through some of the specialist books to see the many effects that can be used to good advantage on your cake; if you are using a professional ask to see a portfolio of work so that you can choose your own combination of decorations.
Most wedding cakes are iced in white, but there is no reason why you have to keep to this tradition. The cake offers an ideal opportunity to pick up the colour scheme of the rest of your wedding party – the colours of the flowers, the bridesmaids’ dresses, the ribbons in your hair, etc. You may choose to have a Wedgewood effect of white decorations on a pale blue or green icing, or you could have the whole cake iced in a pale shade of yellow, orange, pink, green or blue. Iced flowers and trelliswork can be done in white or in coloured icing, and ribbons and real flowers can be incorporated into the design to make your cake really special. To personalize the cake you could have your initials or names or the date included in the decoration.
At Jewish weddings the tradition is to cut the cake when dessert is sewed. The bride cuts the cake with a knife decorated with dowers and ribbons, and then feeds one or two mouthfuls to the groom.
At military weddings the cake may be cut with a ceremonial sword instead of a knife.
At the reception
The cake will generally form the focal point of your reception, and the tradition is to place it in the centre of the top table at a sit-down reception, or in the centre of the plates of food at a buffet. However, you might find it more convenient to have a special table set aside for the cake, so that your guests will be able to admire it at their leisure. At some receptions the bride and bridesmaids place their bouquets around the cake; at others the cake is already decorated with flowers – real or imitation – to match the bouquets.
Cutting the cake
This ceremony is usually the last formal part of the reception, although some couples choose to do it before the speeches and toasts so that the cake can be cut up while these are taking place. If the icing is to be very hard, it is sensible to make a cut in the cake before it is iced and to mark its position covertly when the icing is on; this will prevent bride and groom from struggling with a sharp knife in an unseemly way! The bride and groom usually cut the cake together, with the groom’s hand covering the bride’s. The cake is then removed to be cut up into small pieces and distributed to the guests. If you are saving one of the tiers, arrange for it to be wrapped in greaseproof paper and stored in an airtight tin until needed; do the same with any cut-up pieces of cake that will be sent to friends and relations.
At many American weddings the Bride’s cake, which is eaten at the reception, is a decorated sponge cake. The Groom’s cake, which is the rich fruit cake we associate with weddings, is often cut into pieces and boxed before the reception; the boxes are placed on the tables, at the edge of the buffet, or on a silver platter at the door, for guests to help themselves as they leave.
Arriving and welcoming