Wedding cakes have been a traditional sight at weddings, both here in the UK and abroad, for around two thousand years, although not always in the iced, sliced and tiered format which we know and love them. In fact, it is only in the last few hundred years that traditional wedding cakes have risen to prominence - prior to that things were somewhat different...
The Original 'Cake'
With origins tracing back to Ancient Rome, the original wedding ‘cake’ was actually a wheat or barley bread loaf, baked especially for the wedding ceremony.
Unlike with the modern cake, the loaf was not cut and shared out among the guests, but instead was it broken over the Bride's head to bless her with a fertile, plentiful and happy life. Once broken, guests at the marriage would then all scramble for the loaf's crumbs which were viewed superstitiously as good luck tokens.
From Loaves to Buns...
In medieval times, and following on nicely from the 'wedding loaf', the 'bun cake' rose to prominence. Rather than a cake provided by the Bride & Groom, the 'bun cake' required each of the wedding guests to bring along a sweetened bun as a token gift for the happy couple.
The buns would then be piled up as high as possible and it was the duty of the Bride and Groom to kiss each other over the top of the pile. Success meant a happy and fertile future for the newlyweds, failure meant a face full of sticky buns!
As Time Went By...
In later years the 'brides pie' replaced the 'bun cake' in popularity and offered up both a tasty treat for the guests and somewhat of a treasure hunt.
Normally served only to the single ladies at the wedding, hidden somewhere within the 'bride's pie' would be a lucky symbol or token, often a ring.
As with the tossing of the bouquet, superstition dictated that the lucky guest to find the token would be next to be married (assuming they hadn't choked to death of course!)
Traditional White Iced Tiered Wedding Cakes
The 'bride's pie' continued to be prominent at weddings until early Victorian times, upon which time it was superceded by the traditional white iced tiered wedding cake that we know and love today.
Starting out as a simple, single tiered plum cake, the styles became more elaborate and the taste combinations more varied over the years culminating in some of the jaw-dropping wedding cakes that you'll see today.
From humble beginnings, the wedding cake really has come a long way.
Recommended Reading: For those of you wanting to find out more, we've a whole host of other wedding cake articles on our site packed full of expert information and helpful advice, not to mention our online wedding directory that's filled with cake makers, cake topper designers and more. For friendly tips and helpful advice take a look at our wedding cakes & catering forum, or why not check out the 'pages & websites you may like' below.