Food fashions come and go, and the “traditional” white iced wedding cake is no exception. The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Australia) of 23 June 1909 explained the current wedding fads:
NEW FASHIONS IN THE WEDDING CAKE.
The wedding cake, luscious and delicate of taste, with its thick layer of almond paste, and its wonderful exterior covering of ornamental sugar-icing wrought in various devices, is an institution in our midst, honoured by long patronage, and full appreciation.
But even it is subject to the changes of fashion, and the way in which it is dealt with under modern auspices make it play a less conspicuous part in the wedding ceremonies of today than it did five and twenty years ago.
Its place on the buffet, though it is conspicuous, is not the proud monument of the occasion it presented when the assembled guests sat down together at the hospitable board, and the happy bride and her groom were faced by the most important item of the feast.
The cutting of the cake in those days preceded the speeches that were made. Now there are no speeches, save in some cases, if the briefly uttered good wishes of the best man or one of the officiating clergy (by no means the rule) can be dignified by the title, and the bride’s task of cutting the cake is made the most perfunctory of ceremonies.
The strong hand of the newly made husband used to be required to guide the timid bride’s usage of the specially provided knife, saw one side, sharp steel the other, a knife that would cut through the outer crust of sugar and cleave the cake beneath in the neatest manner. There were many tender sighs and smiles through tears when the touching little ceremony was performed in olden times.
But that which happens now is different. A clever cake-maker invented the labour-saving device of sawing wedges out of the cake before the wedding, and leaving the bride the easy task of pretending only to cut the slices. Now he goes a step further on her behalf, and behold the cake is often bound round with ribbons, which the bride slits across with the knife, thus releasing the already cloven pieces in an instant and without anybody’s help.
When wedding cakes were round and low and dumpy, with a modest-sized Temple of hymen placed on the top, instead of the tall and imposing affairs they are now, the girls who fluttered round the blushing bride coaxed her to pass the tiniest morsel of cake through the gleaming gold circlet, her wedding ring, for thus treated the cake was considered and absolute guide “when dreamed over” to the identity of the future husband.
One superstition however, kills another, and when the bride refused to take her ring off because it was considered unlucky to do so her maids were obliged to be contented without the mystic rite. And now they eat the cake when it is handed round with the rest of the refreshments or refuse it, if they are “on a diet,” or “putting on weight,” but never think of soiling their pillow-slips by sleeping on it, with the avowed object of dreaming of “him.” But all the same, the wedding cake remains a vital item of the bridal feast, and each maker of the delightful comestible has his particular recipe, the secret of which is known only to himself. The perfect wedding cake cannot be built in a day, or even a week, as its maturity is half the charm, and time only will impart this important feature of success. A very large cake will take two years to mature, and a smaller one should not be cut into before some months have elapsed. This may, perhaps, explain the fact why even the most expensive private chef is not always successful in concocting a wedding cake. The outside may have the specious appearance of a rich and inviting looking cake, but instances have been known where the cake has turned out a disastrous failure owing to the fact that it has been baked in an oven unsuitable for the exigent requirements of the wedding cake, and that too little time is given to its maturity. “Even the state of the weather may affect the baking of a wedding cake,” remarked an expert, “and women would be surprised if they knew the number of cakes that are not ‘passed’ by the wedding-cake maker because there may be some minute flaw in the baking.
Brides to take a keen interest in the ornamentation of the wedding cake often insist upon giving some individual tough in its decoration.
At some weddings the cake, in addition to its own decorations of festoons of silver leaves and trails of sugar orange blossoms, is adorned with a touch of colour in the form of pink roses or any flower that is preferred by the bride. This, however, says the expert maker, is strictly against the correct etiquette of the wedding cake decoration. Cut flowers, to the superstitious, symbolize death, and should never be used as ornaments for the bridal cake.
The filling of the boxes for sending away is generally entrusted to the hands of the expert, who gives the following advice to the amateur packer: “Cut a solid wedge of cake that will absolutely fill the box right to the very top: wrap it first in a piece of tinfoil, and then in another covering of white paper; tie it round with white satin ribbon, and insert it securely in the box.”
The mistake so often made by the non-professional packer is to cut a thin piece of cake which speedily crumbles into pieces when it comes in contact with the official stamp.
“Those who wish to keep wedding cake must not enclose it in a tin box as is so often the custom,” is another piece of advice given by an expert, for then the cake invariably turns musty and unpleasant.
“The best way to preserve it is simply to wrap the cake in a white cloth, and then to place it in a wooden box. In this way the cake will keep well for almost any length of time.”
The recipe for the day must be for a wedding cake of course, and I have chosen one for you from the Bruce Herald (New Zealand) of 16 November, 1895.
English Wedding Cake.
The season of weddings being with us, a recipe for genuine English wedding cake is not amiss: One pound each of fresh butter, powdered sugar, ground almonds and flour, 1 ½ pounds of mixed candied peel, 2 pounds of currants, three-quarters of an ounce of mixed ground spice, 6 or 7 eggs and a glass of rum or brandy. Work the butter to a cream. Then mix with it the sugar and the spice, stirring it well together. Break the eggs and mix them one or two at a time into the ingredients, beating them well together as you add each. Then mix in the currants – well washed and dried – and the peel cut into fine shreds, next the almonds, beating the whole well together, and lastly work in the flour and pour in the spirit. Have ready a cake hoop well lined with buttered paper and bake in a hot oven. The great secret is to work each ingredient in thoroughly and separately. When the cake is quite cold, cover it an inch or more thick with the following: Mix 1 pound 4 ounces of ground almonds with not quite 2 pounds of the finest icing sugar, the raw whites of 7 or 8 eggs and a teaspoonful of essence of vanilla. Work it into a stiff dry paste and use. The next day cover this again with a thick layer of royal icing made by working together for 12 to 15 minutes the whites of three large or four small eggs, with a teaspoonful of lemon juice and 1 pound 4 ounces of icing sugar. When this is a smooth thick past, put it onto the cake with a broad knife, dipping this into cold water as you work. Let this icing stand for a day and then ornament with piping, fruit, flowers, etc.
When I was about 6 years old, my cousin got married, and my mother urged me to take a piece of wedding cake home so I could sleep on it and dream of my future husband. Maybe it's because she put it in a waxed paper bag that I had no dreams (that I remember) that night? I'm sure if I had asked my cousin to pass a little piece through her wedding ring, there would have been good dreams!
Very glad to know more about that custom.
Hi korenni - those old customs are fun, aren't they?
I have heard that superstition as well, korenni.
I've also heard that the happy couple were supposed to eat the year old cake at their first anniversary.
The saving of the upper tier of the cake to eat at the first wedding anniversary is popular here in Oz too - or it used to be before the fashion for mud cakes etc etc as wedding cakes, rather than the 'traditional' fruit cake.
An alternative I have come across is saving it for the first child's christening (which I guess was more relevant in the days when that often co-incided with the first anniversary! )
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