Words Of Wedding Wisdom: WEDDING CAKES

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

Wedding Cakes

Along with the “something borrowed, something blue etc.” and the throwing of the bride’s bouquet, the wedding cake is another of the traditional mainstays of most Western weddings. Its origins are said to go back to Roman times or even earlier, and a ceremonial cake pops up in a number of non-Western cultures, as well.

It seems the inclusion of fruit and nuts in the cake was originally to represent fertility, or at least the hope of it. In fact in some cultures the cake wasn’t so much eaten as squashed up and thrown over the bride to ensure her fertility. Not so good for the expensive hairdo, though.

Cutting the cake together

It’s said to symbolize your new partnership when you both hold the knife and make the first cut. At many weddings people cheat and have the cake already cut where the couple insert the knife. It may be a little disrespectful to tradition, but it does avoid the embarrassment of the knife slipping or the icing exploding all over the guests. After the first cut is complete and the photographs have been taken, a wise couple will hand over the rest of the carving process to a capable family or staff member. Cutting up a cake is probably not how you want to spend even ten minutes of your wedding day.

Who should make yours?

If you’re lucky enough to have a friend or relative who is an expert cake-maker and wants to make yours, that’s probably a good idea and will save you a fair amount of money. But be warned. Weddings are busy times and if it’s a close relative like your mother or your mother-in-law who is making the cake, she will have quite a lot of other stuff to do around the same time as she is making it. This can be distracting. And it only takes an incorrect measurement of flour or sugar to create a last-minute disaster.

Unless you’re really on a budget I think it’s much safer to opt for a professional cake maker. If Auntie Margaret has her heart set on making your cake and will be deeply offended if you go elsewhere, try to distract her by saying you wouldn’t dream of putting her through all that work and would she like to do a reading at the ceremony, or make a short speech at the reception, instead? That way she will still feel valued, and chances are will probably decline the invitation to speak unless she knows she’ll be comfortable with it.

The professional cake maker does not need to be one of those glossy specialist companies with a whizzing-bow-tie website and a brochure like a coffee table book; your local bakery probably does some lovely designs and will come in at a reasonable cost.

What your local bakery or patisserie does not have, however, is all the other time-consuming aggravation surrounding the organisation of your wedding, particularly in the last couple of weeks when the cake should be made, and it has the resources, staff and time needed to do the job properly. Also the bakery or patisserie has a reputation to keep up and will shift Heaven and earth to ensure you are not disappointed.

This is a pretty obvious one, but I’ll say it anyway: order your cake in plenty of time. Two or three months before the wedding is about right.

If you do have your cake made privately, you or someone else will have to get it to your wedding reception. A couple of tips here. One, if the cake has more than one tier do not assemble it until it’s in its final resting place at the reception venue; if you do and there is unscheduled movement during transportation, it could all fall apart. Two, place the boxes containing the cake components on the floor in the passenger footwells of your car (not on the seats or in the cargo area) and pack old sheets or coats or similar around the boxes so they’re cushioned should you have to stop suddenly.

Fruitcake, or something else?

You don’t have to have fruitcake, of course, despite its ancient meaning of fertility (very important in the UK!). The only advantage of fruitcake is that it keeps very well even if it isn’t frozen, although freezing does help retain the moisture and quality. The point? Many couples keep the top tier of the cake to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, or the birth or baptism of their first child. Not so successful a plan if your cake is made of chocolate and ice cream, though.

The other benefit of fruitcake’s longevity is when it comes to sending pieces of cake through the post to friends and relatives who were not able to get to the wedding – a common tradition. It may be a little dry by the time it reaches northern Australia from your wedding in London, but it will still be edible. Chances are a piece of sponge or rich Madeira cake would only be fit to serve to wild birds.

However if you both hate fruitcake (I do) then nuts to it, have what you like. It’s your wedding!

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.