Wedding cakes reach back to Roman times when wheat or barley cakes were considered a harbinger of good luck. For a century and a half, from the mid-1600s forward, a bride’s pie was more common than cake. When sweet cakes gradually replaced savory pies in England and colonial America, fruit cakes were the norm and were tiered and often topped with marzipan.
The 17th century saw the addition of a groom’s cake: smaller, darker and richer than the bride’s version. The groom’s cake faded from from the scene in time, but in recent years has come storming back as a means to offer something beyond the traditional tiered, white wedding cakes, which had become the norm.
In early days, white cakes were unusual because of the rarity of white sugar, but with the wedding cake served at Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert, white cakes roared to the fore, as did the name attached to the new frosting — royal icing.
The modern cake debuted in 1882 at the wedding of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany. While edible, the cake was covered in a dense, hardened frosting so as to be able to support the weight of the mounting height of tiers.
In the 21st century the basic rule for wedding cakes have been abandoned with vigor, and almost anything goes as couples look for new and innovative ways to reinvent this ancient tradition.
So what is in store for 2019? A bit of research suggests brides and grooms might be on the look out for these trends.
1. Use of plants, ferns, eucalyptus, etc. as decorative add-ons.
2. Doughnut Cakes: As both a cost saving idea and a twist on the traditional, structures made by tiers of doughnuts, much like French Christmas Croquembouche (stacked towers of filled cream puffs) can offer as much variety as any wedding party could want.
3. Decorative cheese wheels: Not big on sweets? How about a cheese wheel decorated with fresh fruits and berries?
4. Smaller, single tiered cakes: Keeping it simple has also brought on the naked cakes with simple glazes rather than richer icings.
5. Desserts from other cuisines: Kransekake is a Scandinavian celebratory cake made of rings of what is essentially a meringue of egg whites, sugar and almonds. The result is firm but soft, chewy, cookie-like layers that are stacked to make a tower. From Italy comes millefoglie, a puff pastry concoction built with layers of fruit and custard.
6. Painted or printed designs on fondant to emulate tiles has emerged as an alternative to traditional swirls and rosettes of butter cream for decorating simpler single-tiered cakes.
7. Non-wedding cake cakes: Pound cake, sponge cake with fruit and glaze, scones, etc. If you can bake it, you can turn it into a wedding cake.
8. Non traditional shapes. Wedding cakes are round, or at least they used to be. Now square and rectangular cakes are in.
9. Edible flowers: The use of edible flowers for decoration is growing in popularity.
10. Cake noir: Black is the new, hot color for wedding cakes.