The History Of The Wedding Cake

I love a bit of history, especially the humble wedding cake which has a fascinating past. From ancient traditions to the extravagant creations of today. Each layer of history has contributed to the beautiful centrepiece that graces your celebration today. So, grab a cuppa, and enjoy the read.

How It Began | Ancient Roots

Ancient Egyptians were among the first to incorporate a sweet treat into marriage ceremonies. Honey-based breads were often offered to the gods as a symbol of fertility and abundance, and this tradition extended to weddings. Similarly, in ancient Rome, barley bread was broken over the bride’s head as a symbol of prosperity and fertility. The newly married couple then shared a few crumbs, where eating together is their first act as man and wife. Guest later picked up the remaining crumbs to throw over the couple for good luck. A tradition which evolved to the throwing of confetti in modern times.

Medieval Europe & The Renaissance | Sweet Cakes + Spices

As we transitioned into Medieval Europe, we started to see ‘wedding cakes’ more akin to what we know today, with the introduction of sweetened bread, often made with flour, honey and dried fruits. These cakes were stacked into a pyramid, which the couple kissed over. The simplicity of these early rituals laid the groundwork for what would become a grand tradition. Symbolising the sharing of abundance and the bride’s transition into her new role as a wife.

Fast forward to the Renaissance and the influence of the spice trade revolutionised the culinary palette. Cakes, once humble, now included new flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg, laying the foundation for the flavourful wedding cakes we know today.

The Victorian Era | Royal Influences, Elaboration + Elegance

The 19th century witnessed a royal spectacle as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert unveiled a towering wedding cake, standing as a testament to opulence and celebration. Intricate decorations and royal icing marked a shift from simplicity to grandeur, setting a standard for future nuptial indulgences.

In this time ingredients like sugar became much more available, and a timeless trend began to take shape. White icing started to serve as the backdrop for the artistic expression of wedding cakes. Representing purity, the base for a visually stunning display that went beyond just the taste.        

20th Century Innovations | The Electric Revolution

The 20th century saw the marriage of tradition and technology. Electric mixers and ovens became unsung heroes, allowing bakers to craft intricate designs and personalise wedding cakes. Cakes became taller, with multiple tiers and delicate decorations. Cake artistry soared, and each tier became a canvas for storytelling. Cake toppers began to emerge, initially in the form of small figurines, later evolving into sugar flowers, and thematic decorations.

Today, wedding cakes have broken free from tradition, couples nowadays are opting for wedding cakes that reflect their personalities, interests, and cultural backgrounds. From themed cakes to monogrammed designs, the possibilities are endless. But it doesn’t stop with just tiered cakes. In recent years, even more, options are available for your wedding cake, cupcakes, macarons, cake tables, cakes made from cheese, and doughnuts; the choices are as varied as the love stories they represent.

Historically, the trends for wedding cakes could span hundreds of years, but the recent influx of social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram has shaped contemporary wedding cake designs, and couples are often seeking inspiration for new styles. I’ve seen this myself with my own cake designs. 30 years ago, I made my first wedding cake, it was all fruit cake, each tier was about 2 inches tall, and sat on plastic decorative pillars, with brush embroidery decoration and fresh camellia flowers. Looking back, it’s such a stark difference to the cakes I make today, I offer a huge variety of cake flavours, a single tier now could be as tall as the whole cake before, with sharp edges rather than the curved, soft edges we used to see, new techniques of ruffles and sugar flowers, the list goes on!

The evolution and history of wedding cakes reflect the shifts in culture, technology, and taste. And, whilst cakes today are sometimes a departure from the traditional aesthetic of a wedding cake, they still retain a symbolic significance from humble beginnings to today’s edible masterpieces. Each slice tells a story of love, tradition, and the sweet anticipation of a shared future. 

Here’s to the timeless tradition of wedding cakes!

Erica Galvin


And Make Your Dreams Come True

If you already know what you're looking for and want to know if I am able to create it for you. Or if you need help deciding on what you think will be best for your wedding, please get in touch. I make elegant, classic, refined wedding cakes, each one specially tailored to you and your style.

Together we can discuss your ideas and design the perfect cake for your big day!

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