Wedding Cake History
My interest in cakes is purely gastronomic, not symbolic. Wedding cakes have attached to them all these meanings that I simply don’t care for. Though the meanings have evolved over time, I’m still appalled by the history of the custom.
“The wedding cake has been an important part of the wedding celebration since Roman times when a thin wheat cake, representing bounty, was crumbled over the bride’s head to ensure her fertility… The groom would eat part of a loaf of barley bread baked especially for the nuptials and break the rest over his bride’s head. History tells us that breaking the bread symbolized the breaking of the bride’s virginal state and the subsequent dominance of the groom over her.”
I didn’t want to do the cake ceremony at my wedding for this reason. My mother dismissed my objection. I was being silly, she said. Silly because I don’t want to participate in a public spectacle dedicated to my virginity and fertility? Because I don’t want to continue a misogynistic tradition?! Apparently, yes.
Ryan of course thinks the Roman tradition is hilarious and asked if he could break cake over my head. So that it isn’t sexist he’d let me break cake over his head too. An amusing idea, but one that was ultimately rejected.
The cake ceremony also “symbolizes the first time the newlywed couple breaks bread as husband and wife, and it also demonstrates their pledge to support and nourish one another.” Cheesy, but at least more egalitarian.
“Most couples freeze the cake with the intention of sharing it on their first wedding anniversary. The tradition has its roots in the late 19th century when grand cakes were baked for christenings. It was assumed that the christening would occur soon after the wedding ceremony, so the two ceremonies were often linked, as were the cakes.”
Call me unromantic but I don’t relish the idea of eating year-old wedding cake. I prefer to attach sentimental value to things that are less likely to give me food poisoning.
Also, this tradition started in the 1800s? Electrolux patented the first domestic refrigerator in 1922 and G.E. introduced the first refrigerator with a freezer component in 1939. How were people storing their wedding cakes before then? A christening ideally takes place at least nine months after the wedding. Do you mean to tell me that people actually ate cakes that were sitting around in open air for nine entire months?! I’m genuinely scandalized.
Not that any of this matters now.
In which my fertility is ensured and my hypothetical virginal state is ceremonially broken
November 30, 2010