Some might say the wedding cake is the focal point of the reception, just as the bride is the focal point of the wedding. Wedding cakes today average around a thousand dollars, and are elaborate constructions of cake, plastic pillows, artistic frostings and flavors. Most, however, are of white, chocolate or marble cake, with primarily white frosting.
The wedding cake tradition, however, did not start out this way!
Several sources have it that the wedding cake tradition began with a wheat and salt bread that was broken over the bride's head by the groom at the wedding. It is said that the guests would then take crumbs from the bread that fell to ensure their own fertility and prosperity.
As the Romans conquered most of Europe, their traditions followed. Breaking bread at the wedding ceremony was widely practiced at almost every corner of the realm. In England, it became traditional to stack sweet bread in as high a pile as possible, and make the bride and groom attempt to kiss over it. To succeed in this venture was supposed to promise great fertility to the newlyweds.
It was not until a French chef visiting England observed this particular practice and was appalled by it that something began to change. He devised a means of neatly stacking the bread on top of each other with the ends of broomsticks supporting the cake.
The means of making a cake of this sort required some preparation, sometimes days in advance. Without refrigeration, cake would quickly dry out or spoil in the days it took to prepare and then to serve the cake. To prevent this from happening, cake was then covered over in a layer of lard, which was traditionally scraped off prior to serving.
Occasionally, sugar was mixed in with the lard to improve the flavor, which made it possible to leave the lard on the cake when serving.
From then on, wedding cakes evolved in creation and methodology to become more and more elaborate! Today, the wedding cake tradition is alive, and still bases its roots in prosperity and sharing the wealth and the luck of the bride to the friends and relatives of the newly married couple.