The contemporary wedding cake has grown out of many traditions. One of the first traditions began in Ancient Rome where bread was broken over the brides head to bring good fortune to the couple.
In Medieval England cakes were stacked as high as possible for the bride and groom to kiss over, if they successfully kissed over the stack they were guaranteed a prosperous life together.
From this the Croquembouche was created. The myth behind this cake tells 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. The modern croquembouche is still very popular in France however it is common to place the croquembouche tower on a bed of cake and make it one of the top tiers of the wedding cake. This traditional French wedding cake is built from Profiteroles and given a halo of spun sugar.
Traditionally the bride would place a ring inside the couples portion of the cake to symbolise the acceptance of the proposal.
During the mid 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century the bride's pie was served at most weddings. Guests were expected to have a piece out of politeness, it was considered very rude and bad luck not to eat the brides pie.
One of the traditions of brides pie was to place a glass ring in the middle of the dessert and the maiden who found it would be the next to marry, similar to the modern tradition of catching the Flower bouquet. Brides pie eventually developed into the brides cake. At this point the dessert was no longer in the form of a pie and was sweeter than its predecessor.
The bride cake was traditionally a plum or fruit cake, the myth that eating the pie would bring good luck was still common but the glass ring slowly died out and the catching of the flower bouquet took that meaning.
The action of throwing the bouquet has its roots in the Ancient Greek myth of the Apple of Discord. Fruit cakes were a sign of fertility and prosperity which helped them gain popularity because all married men wanted to have plenty of children.
The brides cake eventually transformed into the modern wedding cake that we know today.
In the 1600s two cakes were made, one for the bride and one for the groom the groom's cake eventually died out and the brides cake turned into the main cake for the event. When the two cake were served together, the groom's cake was typically the darker colored, rich fruit cake and generally much smaller than the bride's cake. The brides cake was usually a simple pound cake with white icing because white was a sign of virginity and purity.
In the early 19th century, when the brides cakes were becoming more popular , sugar was coincidentally becoming easier to obtain. The more refined and whiter sugars were still very expensive therefore only the wealthy families could afford to have a very pure white frosting, this showed the wealth and the social status of the family.
When Queen Victoria used white icing on her cake it gained a new title, royal icing.
The modern wedding cake as we know it now originated at the wedding of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, in 1882; his wedding cake was the first to actually be completely edible.
Pillars between the cake tiers did not begin to appear until about 20 years later. The pillars were very poorly made from broomsticks covered in icing. The tiers represented prosperity and were a status symbol because only wealthy families could afford to include them in the cake.
Prince Leopolds wedding cake was created in separate layers with very dense icing, when the icing hardened the tiers were then stacked, this method had never been used before, it was a groundbreaking innovation for wedding cakes at the time. Modern wedding cakes still use this method but because of the size of todays cakes, internal support is added to each layer in the form of dowels.