Wedding Cake Trivia and Finding That Special Cake

Finding that special cake for your special day or your wedding sounds fun, right? Tasting all those yummy confectionery treats and yes, it can be done, but don’t over due it all in one day or you will have destroyed your taste-buds and gotten sick of cake even before your big day. Plus, if you do too many taste testings all in one day, all the cakes taste will run into each other and you won’t be able to tell which cake was your favorite. That is not unless you have taken extensive notes. Taste testing cakes should be done much like the tasting of good wine. You must rinse your palette between each flavor or you are not giving the new flavor its full due.

Once you know your menu and how many guests are attending, if it is not just a dessert reception, you will want to have a cake that compliments your meal rather than acting against its in taste. Nothing can ruin a great reception quicker than having a strange taste from the dessert after a fabulous meal. You want your guests to leave thinking that not only did they get the best meal, (but where did you find that great cake maker?) (also known as a baker), as well. Also, you don’t want to add all that sugar to your system in one day for another reason, your hips. You’ll still want to be able to get into your dress or suit after all of those tastings.

I suggest you take a pad and writing utensil, so you can take notes. Sometimes that is unnecessary because you’ll run into or taste a cake you absolutely hate, but I’d even make note of that, in case someone you know has recommended that baker or that particular flavor. You will want to remember why you didn’t choose the cake or baker and have a definitive reason for not going with it or the baker. I know it all sounds strange even impossible. It is true that our tastes change suddenly even from childhood to a couple of years and definitely after 10 – 15 years, in terms of what we like or don’t like. Take notes, it will save the day and your taste memory.

There will be descriptions of taste flavorings that sound so delectable that when you taste it, you still may not believe how horrible it tastes, or even vice versa. Try all that you can until you find your favorite. Take water or seltzer to clear your palette after each tasting, so that your next taste of a different flavor will not have the lingering taste of the previous confection. Finding your favorite will be almost instantaneous sometimes and other times it is a long expedition into the cake world of taste and textures of cake and frosting.

When you find the one, that you believe you want. Wait a day or two and go back and taste it again. If you have your meal planned out already and it is something that you can marginally duplicate, do that, eat it and then go to the baker and try the cake again. Or if you liked it on the spot, see if you can take a slice or two home to try it again, with “the” meal or something similar, so you can see if it will work. If it doesn’t work, you are on your search again, unless you want to change something in your meal. Or just have a dessert reception.

Just like there are wedding dress trends there are also wedding cake trends. When I got married, I knew that I wanted my cake to be on three different pedestals arranged askew, not in a row or on top of each other, I was bucking the 2005 wedding cake trend. Back then most of the cakes looked like round hats stacked on top of each other, complete with the bow. Color was just starting to get adventurous, back then. Also I knew after tasting several cakes randomly, that I wanted double chocolate/carob and my friend’s specialty butterscotch rum in the middle. I also, love fondant, so I knew that I wanted that as my frosting. Although I didn’t buck traditional altogether since my cakes were white with purple ribbon at the bottom of each layer with flowers to compliment my dress. Because of my allergy to milk, I knew that the top had to be a white cake and hopefully something that would keep for a year, or so I thought.

For the year 2011/2012, when I say wedding cake trends, I am not talking about the color. I think most wedding couples will go with either the color shadings of their theme color or maybe this year go with the colors from the United Kingdom’s Royal wedding colors: Silver and blue. Traditionally until the 19th century all wedding cakes were white, even the decoration on it. White, to denote purity, much like the dress. No, when I say trends I am talking about the design and or set up of the cake once it is on the table. Of late, there have been a lot of boxes, some askew, others in rigidly shaped edged box shapes and traditional cakes, but seemingly all stacked somehow one on top of the other. Held together presumably with straws or poles and a prayer, especially when transporting from bakery to venue.

Fruit cakes, fillings are out, even though the United Kingdom’s Royal wedding went with a traditional fruit cake, which most Americans shun religiously at Christmas, so would NEVER be included or thought perfect for a wedding cake to be shared with your new relatives, friends, or even your spouse. Prior to the tradition in the United Kingdom of sweet or fruity cakes, in Medieval times the cake was usually made of a plain unsweetened bread. Actually probably a truer metaphor for what the bride was getting into than anything since. The bread was usually eaten first by the groom, who then broke it over the bride’s head showing his dominance over her (presumably throughout the rest of their married life.) I can see why that is not practiced anymore.

The added sweetness, fruits, minced cakes are from the “Bride’s Pie” which became the norm in 19th century England. Sometimes that pie was even made from mutton, especially if the family was not of the elite or royal lineage, with wealth to have the sweet meats. By the late 19th century, the bride’s pie was out and single tiered plum cakes were the norm or trend of the day. It was not until much later when guest lists expanded that cake or wedding cake, earlier called the “Bride’s Cake”, that layering started to become trendy. Initially the layers were just mock-ups, much like the mock or fake cakes of today in which it was all either hardened sugar or hardened frosting on the top layers. As you know the use of the fake cake is for pictures now and the first cut. Nowadays the fake cake after the first cut and pictures is taken to the kitchen or back room while the cuttings for the guests are taken from a sheet cake of the same frosting design. This is both for convenience and to keep the cost of the wedding cake down to a minimum.

Now, the trend tends to be for a deeper cakes, and we are back to stacked in the traditional straight stair-step up. The only break from tradition is the deepness and the dimensions of the layers are a little bigger to accommodate more guests. Nowadays, the cake no longer has to be the traditional round layered cake, but can be a veritable extravaganza of shapes and sizes, but are usually still stacked one on top of the other. The wedding cake as we know is the center of the wedding reception, much like the Bride has evolved to be the center of the entire event. It is said that the dress and the cake should be chosen with equal care. In the beginning of the dessert for the wedding it was called Bride ‘something’, whether it was pie, cake, or non edibles like the bridesmaids, and bridegroom, all to denote the day of marriage was to be centered on the bride. It was and is her day.

In terms of the decor of the cake for 2011 there seems to be a trend of elaborate decorations for the cake. Such as mimicking the cheap gothic beach plus size wedding dresses (lace or flowers) or some elaborate part of the theme of the wedding. I have seen beautiful crisp white cakes with what look to be butter cream frosting dipped or sprayed Vanilla wafers that wrap around each layer of the cake. The sugar flowers are still big, along with butterflies, and now etchings or drawings of trees and entire forests on the cake. The colors of the traditional cake is usually white to denote the purity of the bride and the whole ceremony. Now this year and next, that trend has been tossed out the window to replicate the brides’ wedding colors, or the couple favorite colors. Much like the theme of the Groom’s Cake. The Groom’s Cake was first introduced in early American wedding ceremonies. It was traditional for the groom’s cake to be chocolate and maybe decorated with the groom’s hobbies displayed in sugar decorations on the cake. Now though through contemporary times the Groom’s cake is not used much other than in the southern states of America.

Okay, by now, you know, I do research on trivial/little known traditions, so let me tell you why, supposedly we are to keep the top of the cake for a year and then eat it with your spouse on your one year anniversary. You know I had to know. One, because it seems so random. Two, our cake did not make it through the first six months (My husband had never heard of that tradition and thought that I’d forgotten that we had cake in the freezer. Ate, some of it and then called to remind me that we had cake. Do I hear a collective intake of shocked breath?) The tradition comes from the 19th century [There were a lot of things pertaining to cakes happening during that century. I wonder if Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom loved cake. Yum.] Anyway, during the 19th century, it was usual and expected that the bride and groom would invariably have a child 9 months or so after their marriage, so the top layer of the cake was saved to have at the Christening. This was before refrigeration, so where were they keeping it? For nine months and was it still any good? Boggles the mind doesn’t it? Maybe they were filled with liquor to keep or fermented or fermenting fruit?
Here’s the last one I came across, but I am sure there are many others, do you know how the tiered cake became the tiered cake? No? It seems guests of a wedding would bring sweet buns to the wedding feast, pile them as high as possible and the request, probably demand the new married couple to kiss over the top of the sweet buns. A French men came along in England and said enough with the piled sweet buns, let me just make a cake that has tiers.

Actually I have heard and read in the last year that bakers do not subscribe to the idea of holding onto the cake for a year, since unless it is a whiskey or rum soaked cake it will be the worse for wear after a year, even in the freezer. Much like my husband said, that it was getting dry sitting in the freezer. The reason our particular cake was getting dry, had nothing to do with the ability of my baker, it was the ingredients I had requested. I was trying to give up wheat at the time and requested the top layer to be made from rice flour. Well, if you know anything about baking or even rice, you know that rice is one of those foods that absorbs the liquids around it, much like mushrooms, or potatoes do. Even though she used mayonnaise to add moisture to this cake, even after just five short months the rice flour had completely sapped up all the moisture in the cake itself and was already dry, as my dear husband told me as he was eating it.

That’s another thing if you have special diets, which I did at the time, make sure that whomever your baker is, that she or he is on your side as to what you want. Do not go to someone who does not respect what you want. You are paying for the cake. They may say they are an artist and they have always done it a certain way, but you are paying and as an artist, they should be flexible. Artistic ability is a show of compliance and flexibility to make something beautiful out of almost anything… or even difficult situations.

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