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A wedding cake is the traditional cake served to the guests at a wedding reception (or in parts of England, at a wedding breakfast) after a wedding. In modern Western culture, it is usually a large cake, multi-layered or tiered, and heavily decorated with icing, usually over a layer of marzipan or fondant. Achieving a dense, strong cake that can support the decorations while remaining edible can be considered the epitome of the baker's art and skill. The average cost of a professionally made wedding cake in the U.S. in 2005 was $543.
The wedding cake is a tradition that began back in the Roman Empire. At the time, it was a loaf of bread that the groom broke over the bride's head as a symbol of his dominance in the marriage and over her. The color of the cake is typically white to symbolize purity. The joint task of the bride and groom cutting the cake is meant to symbolize their first joint task in married life. The gesture of feeding cake to one another is a symbol of the commitment the bride and groom are making.
One of the earliest forms of the wedding cake is the French Croquembouche. The legend of this cake says that a pastry chef, visiting medieval England, witnessed their tradition of piling sweet rolls between the bride and groom which they would attempt to kiss over without knocking them all down. The pastry chef then went back to France and piled sweet rolls up into a tower to make the first Croquembouche.
History of the modern cake
Far from being a historic institution, the modern wedding cake was a creation of the 20th century. The sugar paste frosting used on many wedding cakes was invented in 1888. The pillars, used to support tiers of layer cake, were developed in 1902.
Wedding cake toppers are small models that sit on top of the cake, normally a representation of a bride and groom in formal wedding attire. This custom was dominant in US weddings in the 1950s where it represented the concept of togetherness. Wedding toppers today are often figures that indicate shared hobbies or other passions, if they are used at all.
In the United Kingdom, the traditional wedding cake is made from a rich fruitcake, although many modern cakes now consist of either vanilla sponge, chocolate sponge or carrot cake. Most cakes are between three and five tiers in height. Among some more elaborate cakes the United Kingdom see are those prepared for the Royal Weddings. These cakes are actually decorated boxes with the fruit cake cut into portions on the inside, allowing them to be easily served to hundreds of guests.
Another trend is for wedding cupcakes. To imitate the tiers of a wedding cake, the cupcakes are placed on a stand and decorated in the wedding colors.
Wedding cakes can also be decorated with flowers.
Another innovation, pioneered in 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, was the introduction of the combination of the tiered cupcake trend with a conventional cake. At one wedding, mixed chocolate and vanilla cupcakes - with white frosting - were paired with a conventional 7-inch cake in a combination of delightful deliciousness. It was, one source reported, a transcendental experience.