A Toast to Wedding Cakes
They can be the perfect culinary marriage of exquisite beauty and luscious flavor.
Or not, since some don’t deserve to be celebrated. Sometimes the prettiest on the outside can be the ones with hearts of stone, or at least they taste that way.
But the one I’ll be enjoying at the wedding of two friends this weekend will be elegant and delicious, which I know because I’ve had cakes from this Chinatown bakery before. Remember the old adage: “You cannot save your cake and eat it too”? This references the superstition that if a woman puts her slice of wedding cake under her pillow, she will dream of her future husband. I’ll be eating the cake.
Like many other things that were liberated in the sixties, wedding cakes have undergone a wonderful transformation from the staid norm of white cake/white frosting, to anything goes, like chocolate, red velvet, tres leches (Mexican “three milks” cake), carrot cake or even cupcakes artfully arranged in tiers.
Bakers sometimes decorate with real or marzipan flowers, not just squiggles of white fondant which used to be the norm, or royal icing, a hard, sugary frosting so named because it was used at Queen Victoria’s wedding cake. As a side note, her wearing of a white gown started another bridal tradition that lives on today.
Feasts have always been part of celebrations like weddings, so it’s not surprising that cake would be part of the ritual. For example, it is documented that in medieval England the bride and groom would kiss over a pile of pastries, and would have good luck if they didn’t knock it over.
In France, the traditional wedding cake is a croquembouche, a stacking of cream filled profiteroles bound together with light caramel.
I have never really understood the whole concept of groom’s cake, very popular particularly in the South, and sometimes in masculine, humorous forms representing his hobbies or interests. It is usually darker in color, often fruitcake, and is often wrapped to snack on the next day. Or to use as a paperweight, depending on your opinion of stale fruitcake.