The wedding cake is an iconic symbol of weddings. It’s a piece of art that is enjoyed by the eyes, and then by the mouth.
I decided to do some research to discover the history of the wedding cake, and found sound interesting facts.
- The dessert dates back to Ancient Rome where a cake was broken over a bride’s head for good fortunate at the end of the ceremony.
- In Medieval England small spiced buns were stacked into a tower as high as possible. If the bride and groom were able to kiss over the tower they were to have a lifetime of prosperity. Many believe this is how the traditional French wedding cake, the Croquembouche, was created.
- Original a “bride’s pie” was cut and served at a wedding by the bride. As the pie was replaced by cake, and grew in size, the groom was required to assist in cutting a serving the cake. This is how the cutting of the cake tradition was created.
- Fruit cake was the traditional wedding cake since it represented fertility and prosperity, while white icing symbolized virginity and purity.
- In the past it was common to hand out pieces of wedding cake as favours to the guests. A common superstition was for single girls to sleep with the piece of cake under their pillow, and which ever man she dreamed of she would eventually marry.
- For decades it has been common for couples to save the top tier of their wedding cake for their first anniversary or first child’s christening.
When my parents were married in the early 1980s, it was common to save the top tier until their 25th anniversary. Since fruit/Christmas cake was the common cake of the day, it would last in a freezer for this amount of time.
My mother followed this tradition, which included moving the cake across Canada a few times as my father was in the military. The cake went around Ontario, to Alberta, to British Columbia, and back around Ontario again. On their 25th anniversary my mom took the cake from the freezer, and despite some hard/dry icing, the cake itself was still good and enjoyed.
Today, a wedding cake can be anything a couple wants. The traditional cake has even been replaced by cupcakes, donuts, cookies, etc. at many weddings.
To get the scoop (or should I say slice) on what a couple planning their wedding should know about wedding cakes I spoke to the extremely talented Rachael Code of RMC Cake Creations; located just outside of Perth, ON.
- What should a couple look for when choosing their baker?
When choosing a baker Rachael suggest couples consider the following qualities besides price of the cake:
- Details: Is the baker’s work consistent on all elements of the cake (ex. the overall icing as well as the decorations), and amongst other pieces of work?
- Experience: How much experience making wedding cakes does the baker have, and does he/she have a variety of options to show the couple?
- Taste: While the cake should look good, it should also taste good.
- Location: How far is the bakery from the wedding venue? Some bakers charge a delivery and/or set-up fee?
- How early should a couple order their wedding cake?
Ideally, a couple should order their wedding cake 6 months in advance, and no later than 4 months in advance of the wedding.
If the couple is getting married on a popular date (ex. when Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday), ordering 9-12 months in advance is a good way to secure your date with the baker.
- How should couples determine the size of cake to purchase?
If the cake is going to be served as a dessert course, or the only dessert, you should plan on a piece for every guest (including the wedding party).
If the cake is going to be served later in the evening with other desserts, Rachael usually tells couples they can reduce the number of servings by thirty people as not everyone will eat cake when other options are available.
- What is the average cost of a wedding cake?
The average cost of a wedding cake generally ranges from $5 to $12 per servings.
For a wedding of 150 people, where a piece for each guest is planned, the cost would be $750-$1,800.
- Does the time of year of the wedding affect the price of the cake (ie. are cakes more expensive during the busier wedding season of May-October)?
Unlike flowers and some other wedding elements, the cost of a wedding cake is not affected by the season of the wedding.
If the baker offers a “seasonal special” flavour this may affect the price due to the availability of ingredients.
Rachael offers many of her “seasonal special” flavours year round since they have become so popular.
- What other factors contribute to the cost of a cake?
Several factors contribute to the cost of a cake, such as:
- Style/Design: Elements like lace, ruffles, and handmade fondant figures take additional time and material, which will increase the price.
- Flowers: Having the baker make handmade sugar flowers will cost more than if you provide them with real flowers to place on the cake. (Note: depending on the type of flowers, a cost comparison may need to be done here).
- Size: The more cake, the higher the price.
- Mediums Used: The type of icing used on the cake’s façade (exterior), and the type filling of the cake contribute to the cost.
- Location: Some bakers charge a delivery and/or set-up fee in additional to the cost of the cake.
- Are there ways to save money on a wedding cake?
Rachael provided several options for couples working with a tight budget to save on their cake.
As mentioned above, the mediums used on the cake will affect the cost. Buttercream is a less expensive option than fondant for the façade of the cake. It is also less expensive than a speciality fruit-filling in the cake.
Choosing a simpler design will also reduce the cost.
Another options is having cupcakes instead of a cake. Some couples order a small cake for the cake-cutting traditional, while other cut one of the cupcakes.
To help with costs on larger weddings, Rachael has made a standard 3-tier cake, and then provided a less expensive slab cake to meet the serving needs.
Alternatively, having a partially fake cake is another cost saving option. One tier of the cake can be real for cutting, while the additional cakes are fake (usually iced Styrofoam). This allows for the focal point and dramatic effect of a large cake, at a reduced price. Cupcakes or slab cake can be served to guests.
- Does an outdoor wedding (where the cake will be outside) affect options for the cake?
Outdoor weddings can affect the vulnerability of a cake due to the temperature. Some icings, such as a cream cheese icing, melts easier in the heat.
Buttercream or fondant icings generally stand-up to the heat if they are not in the direct sunlight, or left outside for an extended period of time.
To be safe, consider storing the cake inside where it is cooler, or having it delivered just prior to guest arriving for the reception to reduce the amount of time that it is outside.
- What are the current and upcoming trends in wedding cakes?
Colour is the number one factor that changes with seasons and wedding themes/trends. At any given time there are certain colours that are more popular than others.
While cake styles have remained relatively similar over the past few wedding seasons, Rachael has noticed small changes towards more detailed and elegant designs.
Current trends that are continuing into 2017 weddings include:
- Personalized Cakes: Couples are choosing cakes that are personalized to them, with colour and or/design elements unique to their personalities, love story, cultural backgrounds, or wedding theme.
- Metallic: Each year metallics grow in popularity in a variety of colour.
- Semi-Naked Cakes: This rustic/visually organic design of an un-iced, or sparsely iced, cake is highly popular for next year. It pairs well with woodland floral designs to create a simple, but still romantic and elegant look.
- Cake Collaboration: Changing up the traditional wedding cake to include different sized; matching design themes on mini cakes, cupcakes, and cookies, etc. is another popular trend which creates a fun and visually interesting dessert table spread.
- What additional advice do you have for a couple choosing their wedding cake?
Rachael recommends going to your baker with ideas in mind. She suggest bringing items such as your wedding invitation, photos of cakes you like, any special logos you wish to include, pictures or names of flowers you are using in your floral arrangements, and colour swatches to help the cake designer create the wedding cake of your dreams.
All this talk about cake has got my sweet teeth (yes, I have more than one) wanting a treat. Too bad blog writing doesn’t require a taste test.
I’d like to send a big thank you to Rachael for answering my questions in preparation for this blog. Find out more about RMC Cake Creations here.
All images shown are from RMC Cake Creations, except Croquembouche, donut cake, and cookie cakes.