Sugar Crushes: History of Wedding Cake & Tasting Tips

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Eat­ing cake is unde­ni­ably one of life’s guilty plea­sures. The look, smell, and taste, of cake, nev­er dis­ap­points. It always pro­vides sug­ary com­fort, as well as con­nec­tions to good times, and is prac­ti­cal­ly avail­able for any and all occasions—even when noth­ing is hap­pen­ing. Cake, in gen­er­al, is an irre­sistible sta­ple of our cul­ture. I’m even enjoy­ing a red vel­vet cake fla­vored pro­tein shake as I type this.

For the Love of Cake

Pure and simple—cake is beloved. As you can see below, it’s admi­ra­tion has been doc­u­ment­ed in sev­er­al forms: 

bride and groom in blue suit eating wedding cake

Rhi­an­na has a pop­u­lar song about cake. (Yes, it may or may not be about actu­al cake, but for the pur­pos­es of this blog, the song DOES say cake. A lot.)

There are numer­ous cake shows. For your view­ing plea­sure, I’ve list­ed some of the Internet’s top rec­om­men­da­tions:

  • Ace of Cakes
  • Amaz­ing Wed­ding Cakes 
  • Cake Boss
  • Cake Boss: Next Great Bak­er
  • Cake Wars
  • Cup­cake Girls
  • Cup­cake Wars
  • DC Cup­cakes
  • Fab­u­lous Cakes
  • Food Net­work Chal­lenge  — Cake, Choco­late, Sug­ar
  • Have Cake, Will Trav­el
  • Nailed It
  • Sug­ar Rush
  • Sweet Genius
  • Top Chef: Just Desserts
  • Ulti­mate Cake Off

Artists like Wayne Thiebaud and oth­ers world­wide have cre­at­ed count­less works of you guessed it—Cake art!

Back to cel­e­bra­tions, though. Let’s take a look at wed­dings. These affairs, in par­tic­u­lar, are spe­cial because wed­ding cakes are a huge sym­bol of the event. Wed­dings also offer the pos­si­bil­i­ty of two cakes. There’s usu­al­ly the wed­ding cake itself, which is often exquis­ite and on point with pret­ty much all wed­ding decor. Then there’s some­times a groom’s cake, which is usu­al­ly not part of the theme what­so­ev­er, but still equal­ly as deli­cious look­ing. 

wedding cake with pink roses and word cake topper

The Evolution of Wedding Cakes

A wed­ding cake is con­sid­ered a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of love. Accord­ing to Reader’s Digest, it all start­ed in Ancient Rome when a wheat or bar­ley cake that emu­lat­ed a scone, was bro­ken over a bride’s head. It remains unclear (to me, at least) who broke the cake over the bride’s head, but appar­ent­ly, it was to sym­bol­ize luck and fer­til­i­ty. As to why those spe­cif­ic items were used, that’s still a mys­tery, too. Either way, upon the break­ing of this cake, the cou­ple had a few bites to show they were unit­ed in mar­riage and after­ward, the guests ate the left­over crumbs, sup­pos­ed­ly for good luck. 

Over time, the wheat and bar­ley cre­ations went away, and wed­ding cakes tran­si­tioned into stacks of spiced buns, scones, and cook­ies. Some­time lat­er, these pas­try stacks began debut­ing frag­ments of a broom han­dle. I’m guess­ing for dec­o­ra­tion? Regard­less, it doesn’t sound remote­ly edi­ble. Mov­ing along, in the 1700s, some­one intro­duced a bridal pie, which isn’t any more appeal­ing than the pieces of broom, truth be told. Among the bridal pies’ ingre­di­ents were none oth­er than oys­ters and male lambs’ repro­duc­tive organs. Eww. 

I even read that sin­gle ladies at wed­dings had to eat their way through the same ques­tion­able pie to find a hid­den ring, should they want to be the next to get mar­ried. (It was like their ver­sion of a bou­quet toss.) Um, chok­ing haz­ard, any­one? Thank­ful­ly, these pies even­tu­al­ly became a thing of the past and cou­ples start­ed opt­ing for sug­ar-dust­ed pies filled with cur­rants, which are either dried grapes like raisins or tiny berries. 

Fast for­ward to around 1800—This is when our present-day tiered cake entered the pic­ture. Accord­ing to the sto­ry, a bak­er made a cake that resem­bled the spire of London’s St. Bride’s Church. What’s inter­est­ing is that he actu­al­ly cre­at­ed it for his girl­friend as part of a pro­pos­al. Of course, she loved it and so did every­one else, and now, more than two cen­turies lat­er, we’re still using the same design.

white and gold wedding cake with blue dessert flowers

Tips for Wedding Cake Tastings

One of the most enjoy­able tasks on your wed­ding to-do list is the cake tast­ing. This is some­thing you gen­er­al­ly want to sched­ule around six-months in advance, if pos­si­ble. Keep in mind that with small­er com­pa­nies or inde­pen­dent bak­ers, their open­ings may fill up faster. Below are some sug­ges­tions for the tast­ing:

  • Pre­pare ideas. It’s best to let your bak­er know what you’re seek­ing ahead of time. This should include fla­vors, taste, and appear­ance.
  • Know your bud­get. On aver­age, wed­ding cakes costs any­where from $350 to $500. Guest count, aes­thet­ic details and spe­cif­ic ingre­di­ents can affect this. A groom’s cake can cost about this much as well; how­ev­er, if it’s small­er, you can expect to pay about half of that. If it’s a sheet cake, though, bak­ers typ­i­cal­ly charge by the slice or per per­son.
  • Eat a snack before­hand. This may sound counter-intu­itive, but the tast­ing is for try­ing small por­tions of cake, not large slices. 
  • Drink water between sam­plings. Doing so will cleanse your palate, allow­ing you to enjoy and expe­ri­ence each fla­vor to the fullest. 

Last­ly, don’t for­get that there’s more to the deci­sion than the cake alone.  It’s impor­tant to choose a ven­dor you both like and trust. After all, it’s your wedding—You deserve to have your cake and eat it, too!

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