Icing the Deal

Icing the Deal

Where did the tradition of eating cake on the day of the wedding come from? In Icing the Deal, we take a cake-walk-through history

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Foodie  Foodie Your Guide to Good Taste  on 20 Aug '15

This article originally appeared in the latest August issue of Foodie: Wedded to Deliciousness. Read it here!

Weddings are celebrations of the coming together of two lives, and what better way to seal the deal than with something sweet. Wedding cakes have hallmarked marriages since antiquity, with some of the earliest records dating back to the Romans, when wedding ceremonies were finalised by the breaking of a wheat cake over the bride’s head. During medieval times, small spiced buns were stacked into a tower, and if the bride and groom were able to kiss over the tall stack, then they were destined for a lifetime of happiness. Interestingly though, some of the earliest wedding cakes were savoury pastries filled with meat, nuts and spices. Only starting from the seventeenth century did wedding cakes emerge filled with fruits, as symbols of fertility. Every guest must share in the cake to ensure that the newlyweds are blessed with children and prosperity.

Colour was also a defining characteristic of the classic wedding cake. During Victorian times, a pure white cake symbolised purity and virginity. It was also a status symbol, since sugar was a valuable commodity and only the finest refined sugar can be used in white icing. Hence, a pure white cake was a shiny display of a family’s wealth.

Image titlePhoto credit: Flickr

Nowadays, wedding cakes come in all shapes, sizes and flavours. From the traditional to the à la mode, we’ve whipped up a list for the sweet-toothed bride.

The Classics

Multi-tiered cakes still reign supreme in the world of wedding cakes. Here are some of the most popular shapes, and the type of venue and decor they are most suited for.

Round: The most classic shape for a wedding cake, this shape is perfect for any theme.

Square: The clean, contemporary aesthetic of a square cake best complements modern decor and venues.

Oval: The elliptical shape conjures up visions of Old World romance, and is best suited for romantic affairs with an antique spin.  

Hexagon: A creative spin on the clean, contemporary look, the six-sided cake is perfect for any modern wedding decor and offers more striking looks than a square cake.

Staircase: Edgy and trendy, the asymmetrical silhouette of this cake adds style and funkiness to any square or round tiered cake.

Image titlePhoto credit: Shannon Hansen

The Trendsetters

Wave goodbye to convention with these delectable confections.

Mini Cakes: Why cut pieces out of a giant cake when guests can either share a mini cake at each table, or get their own personal sized cake? Mini cakes offer guests a chance to get up close to the pretty cake design, although they are a lot of work for weddings with large guest lists.

Cupcake Towers: Love it or hate it, cupcake towers have been gaining popularity at weddings. The multi-tiered cupcake stand is a more informal setup and ideal for a rustic themed wedding.

Ethnic Cakes: Various cultures have their own styles of wedding cakes. The French celebrate with croquembouche, a massive tower of choux pastry balls drizzled with caramel silk. The Chinese give out individually packed cakes to guests as a token of thanks for joining in the celebration.

Image titlePhoto credit: Naoki Hiroshima

Naked Cakes: There’s nothing scandalous about these cakes, despite the provocative name! The “naked” part refers to a cake without icing, so the layers of sponge and filling are exposed. These can look beautiful in a rustic, country wedding, especially with berries peeking out from the filling.

Outdoor Weddings

There are few settings more beautiful than marrying in Mother Nature’s glory. Outdoor weddings can be unforgettably gorgeous, or nerve-wrecking! Weather conditions are unpredictable, and can temper with a wedding cake.

Sun & Heat

If your ceremony and reception is in the summer, or somewhere tropical, try only taking the cake out of the fridge moments before cake cutting. Flies love sweet things, and heat also melts icing. Humidity turns sugar flowers gummy and wilts fresh flowers, while chocolate curls melt and coloured icing bleeds.

Frostings ideal for hot weather: Royal icing, marzipan, meringued buttercream, toasted marshmallow, fondant

Frostings ideal for colder weather: Custard, Bavarian cream, whipped cream, cream cheese, ganache

Image title

Photo credit: Flickr

Nifty tricks to help stabilise icing:

Substitute part of the butter in the icing with shortening, which holds its shape better and doesn’t melt as fast.

Add cornstarch, meringue powder, gelatin or powdered milk to frosting to help make the icing sturdier



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