The Evolution Of The Wedding Cake

By Melissa Wynn

Every little girl dreams of her Wedding Day and most have an idea of what the cake should look like long before she considers a groom. But how did a white, three tiered cake become the tradition? Like many long standing American traditions, it began a very long time ago in Europe.

The First Wedding Cakes

wedding breadAncient Roman weddings brought the first known tradition of baked goods to the matrimonial ceremony. More like bread than the cakes we enjoy today, these wheat or barley based rounds were broken over the bride’s head to bring good fortune and fertility to the couple. Guests would then scramble to collect the crumbs in hopes of securing some of that good fortune for themselves.

The Origin Of The Tiers

St. Brides Church in LondonLegend has it that the first tiered wedding cake was baked in 1700’s London by a young bakers apprentice named William Rich. Smitten with his mentor’s daughter, William worked tirelessly to impress. After opening his own business at the end of his apprenticeship, the master baker was granted his true love’s hand in marriage. The eager groom-to-be wished to create an extravagant cake for the wedding feast. He was determined to have a unique design. His inspiration, it is told, came as he stared up at the steeple of St. Bride’s Church, where the wedding was to take place.

Three beautiful tiers, precisely stacked and regressing in size were the choice of young William and continue to dominate the shape of wedding cakes today.

Why White?classic wedding cake

It wasn’t until the 1800’s that wedding cakes became the sweet confection that we know and love today. Prior to that time the refined sugar necessary for such a treat just wasn’t available. But in it’s humble beginnings this sweet commodity was very expensive and only the wealthy could afford to have pure white icing. Consequently it became a symbol of status. This was further socially reinforced when white icing was dubbed “royal icing” after Queen Victoria showcased a pure white cake at her own wedding. Today the white cake remains as a symbols of purity and peace.