Photo Credit: Fairchild ArchiveBy Leslie Yeh, Gourmet Live guest blogger
It seems the whole world is abuzz with what's surely to be one of the most memorable weddings of the century-the royal nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. And while we don't have a front seat to the festivities (who does?), we have been keeping a keen eye on the day-to-day developments related to the can't-miss confection-the royal wedding cake. But that got us thinking … when did cake become such an essential element of exchanging vows? Read on for the sweet history (and a few surprising facts) about why we've come to cut cake on every couples' big day.
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Back in the era of the Roman Empire, the wedding cake was a messy affair. It was customary for a groom to break the cake over his bride's head (to symbolize breaking her virginal state). Luckily, back then the wedding "cake" was usually a dry piece of oatcake or barley bread. In medieval England, other accounts describe the custom of guests stacking sweet buns in front of the newlyweds who would attempt to kiss over the pile.
These early customs evolved into the "bride's pie" in the 17 th to 19 th centuries, which was a type of mince pie filled with sweet breads-if you were so lucky. Some earlier recipes called for much less appealing ingredients, with lamb testicles and boiled calf's feet among the worst. The pie was often baked with a glass ring inside, and whoever found it would be the next to get married. By the late 19 th century, wedding cakes were starting to develop into our modern day version, beginning with single-tiered cakes and growing with complexity over the decades.
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While cake size has increased over time, the traditional white color remains unchanged. Besides being considered the color of purity, white used to be associated with affluence, since white icing could only be made with the most expensive refined sugar. Cake cutting also has historical roots; back in the day, a bride would pass crumbs of cake through her ring and distribute them to her guests as a gift of fertility. Nowadays, brides have the help of their grooms to cut and pass out the cake, but it is still an act of spreading good fortune among loved ones.
From early "bride's pies," cakes have evolved into modern extravagant multi-tiered masterpieces boasting everything from hand-crafted sugar roses to full-size replicas of the bride and groom (yes, it's been done!). So whether you keep it classic with traditional white, or opt for a cupcake-tiered creation, we hope you take a second to savor the long-lived traditions behind every wedding's star confection.
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Photo Credit: Conde Nast Digital Studio
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