The Wedding Cake.
Single tiered, multi-tiered, fruit, sponge, iced, swags, flowers – heard of these before? They are not strangers from the glorious and traditional wedding cakes that we have grown to love and bake or have baked for our weddings. Sitting proudly atop a shiny cake stand and adorned with sugar flowers, with a rum soaked fruit cake that lurks underneath layers of marzipan (regardless if the bride and groom like fruit cake or marzipan – we have to keep those parents happy) is the ‘traditional’ wedding cake.
Granted, this is a far cry from what the wedding cake used to look like. The custom of the wedding cake has been traced back to the Romans (that lovely friendly and romantic bunch) who traditionally would have a loaf of barley bread that the groom would break over the brides head (not in the violent way…as far as I understand it). This apparently symbolised the loss of her virginity…right. I don’t know about you but I would be TOTALLY hacked off having spent ages doing my hair and getting all dolled up to have some chauvinist Roman throwing his leftover breadcrumbs at me – I don’t think so hubs!
This developed into stacking lots of little sweetbreads up in a pile with the bride and groom aiming to kiss over the top. If they were successful it was a sign that they would have lots of children…I tried really hard with this to figure out why but I am still at a loss. This continued to develop and by the 17th century there was a growing tradition of baking what was called a ‘bride pie’ which could consist of mutton, sweet breads or other types of meat that would often be the focal point of celebrations with a more modest budget. It wasn’t until the 20th century that tiered cakes became ‘the norm’, but now, after that brief and arbitrary flashback we are going to consider alternative options for your very own ‘bride pie!’
Firstly, flavours – talk to me! The only flavour rule that I have after years and years of watching couples make the same mistake…don’t have fruit cake if you don’t like it. Just don’t do it. You’re not making anyone any happier and if your parents are saying you should have fruit cake, I can almost guarantee that their wedding cake was almost exclusively fruit – now it’s your turn! Chocolate orange, lemon, strawberry & white chocolate, cookies & cream, Malibu & coconut, almond, caramel, banana, red velvet….what are you scared of!? Bake a bright pink sponge, lash on some white chocolate buttercream, coat it in royal icing (hold the marzipan thanks) and cover it with fresh strawberries, roses and white chocolate fingers – or something to that effect! (If you are really going to annoy someone because they were only coming for fruit cake, uninvite them or buy a small fruit cutting cake from M & S. Job done!)
Now onto design. If you are opting for a sponge cake, why not forgo the icing altogether? Instead, try lashings of unevenly spread buttercream with fresh fruit, leaves, jam peaking through and sit it in a silver dish filled with more fresh fruits. The perfect cake for a summery, vintage wedding. Rustic and chic with lots of character! If you are a raging fan of royal icing like me, and want to stick with the beautiful finish that it gives, it doesn’t have to be white. Have different coloured tiers, have patterns, go metallic (yes that is possible and if you don’t believe me you HAVE to check out ‘Cotton & Crumbs’ cake designers) do a half and half cake, have suitcases for a destination theme, hexagonal, birdcages, animal print – the world is literally your figurative wedding oyster!
But what happens if you decide, actually – to hell with cake! Yes it’s all very nice and it’s customary but so what? What could you serve with your tea and coffee or your evening buffet that still nods to tradition in terms of ceremoniously cutting something delicious for afters but that makes you that little bit edgier, that little bit more playful. What options are there?
Well, I am thrilled to say that you could literally have anything. Yes that’s right. Anything! A few years back those devious little, mouth watering, bite size (in my case anyway) cupcakes exploded onto the scene and saw the traditional 3 tier cake in the shadows. Cupcakes seemed to have opened the flood gates in terms of possibilities and since that fateful first 7 tier arrangement the possibilities are limitless.
Have you considered fondant fancies? They are perfect to go with an afternoon tea theme – delicate, deliciously sugary and with a fondant icing that can be made into any colour with any decorations sitting quaintly on top. These little morsels look stunning and are still reasonably ‘underdone’ in terms of their regularity but they come with a price tag that might put some budget-conscious couples off. If you’re in the mood for a fondant fancy or fifty, you’re probably going to want to loosen those purse strings!
A cheeeeeese…..cake? Trending on Pinterest and across the UK the good old cheesecake, adorned with fresh fruit and indulgently sweet and tangy cream cheese is a fantastic and quirky way to replace tradition. Cost effective due to both the ease of production and as you can serve this as your dessert for your wedding breakfast, it’s easy to see why the cheesecake is the dark horse when it comes to your wedding cake!
Krispy Kremes – yes that’s right, you read correctly. Forget the cupcakes, 100 of these melt in your mouth, alternately iced gifts from God will cost you around £100 including the bags for your guests to take them away! Easy to assemble, no need for cutting and a flavour to suit everyone, this has to be one of my personal faves! Custard filled chocolate glazed for me tah!
Cheese lovers – this is your lucky day! Forget the traditional cheese board served to the tables, have yourself a cheese tower! Decorate wheels of assorted cheeses with figs, dried fruits, gems, ribbons and let the colours of the rinds do the rest! Perhaps not the most fragrant of options especially if camembert or stilton are to feature in your dairylicious delight (or if you’re planning a summer soiree) but a really great feature that can be served as your evening snack with some crackers, crusty bread, pate and chutney. (I didn’t mention vino because that is mandatory and needs no mentioning).
Now, this one is not for the faint hearted….Pork pie cake anyone? Larger than life, tiered pork pie stacks made an appearance a few years back and unsurprisingly – but rather disappointingly – have failed to grab the attention of you loved up lovelies. Filled with kilos of pork (please GOD no jelly) and coated with that chewy, soft & crunchy pastry found nowhere else in life other than a pork pie, this really is a show stopper and should be a consideration for your wedding day. (Again, if you really need some cake in the evening, 2 words – ‘cutting’, ‘cake’!)
Last but not least on our journey through unconvention, why not bring a little bit of the continent to your big day and opt for a Croquembouche. Never heard of it? Google! An impressive tower of cream filled choux buns (or profiteroles as they are lovingly known in the UK) lathered with chocolate sauce and encased in spun sugar, this French classic will have your guests itching for a bite! For a quirky twist on these creamy delicacies, why not create your Croquembouche using macaroons in a variety of pretty pastel colours? Now that is a twist on a wedding cake and these perfectly airy, light bites can be served as petit fours after your wedding breakfast or with a glass of champagne al fresco in the evening. Merci beaucoup!
So that’s it for my alternative to wedding cakes. Some you may have heard of before and some you may not have – the fun thing about a new trend is you can take it and make it your own but if you want to be at the forefront you have to constantly look into uncharted territory and go where no one has gone before. Be creative, have fun with your ‘cake’ and if you are not lucky enough to have a baker in the family, find a cake maker who is willing to push their comfort zones and their boundaries and who inspires you!
If anyone knows of a friend or family member who had a super awesome cake and wants to enter into our ‘Real Weddings’ section then simply send them to our submissions page to feature right here on Pistachio Blush.