The History of Wedding Cakes

Plus, tips on how to find the perfect cake for your own special day.

three tier wedding cake with white florals

Photo by Dani Toscano

A wedding cake is a celebratory creation that has become a sought-after dessert for most wedding receptions. And while this specific confection is absolutely delicious and loved by couples and wedding guests alike, is it just a cake? Or, does it signify something more?

From decadent five-tiered structures to simple and sleek designs, a cake's meaning and symbolism may not be as arbitrary as you think. That's why we tapped Emily Lael Aumiller, an expert baker and owner of Lael Cakes, to help us share the history behind the traditional wedding cake. Ahead, keep reading to learn more, including tips on how to select this dessert for your own special day.

Meet the Expert

  • Emily Lael Aumiller is the founder and owner of Brooklyn-based Lael Cakes. She is also the author of Pure Artistry: Extraordinary Vegan and Gluten-Free Cakes.

The History and Meaning of Wedding Cakes

Believe it or not, but the first wedding cakes were actually created as a way to signify luck and fertility. According to Aumiller, “In Roman times, grains of wheat represented fertility and were thrown at the newly married to ensure fruitfulness.” What's more, the bride and groom would then eat the cake crumbs together as a sign of unity.

After some time, the Roman wheat cakes morphed into a more traditional cake design, eventually becoming the wedding dessert we all see and love today. Additionally, during the Victorian era, white icing became prevalent on wedding cakes since the hue represented purity and virginity, which ultimately led to the establishment of the white wedding cake trend. “Over the years, as a sign of prosperity, families began to stack the cakes,” Aumiller adds, further noting that the popularity of cakes made a way for alternative nuptial dessert options like “mini caramel apples, chocolate tarts, coconut macarons, and shortbread cookies,” to name a few.

Today, traditional wedding cakes are a huge staple at most modern-day weddings. In fact, it's not uncommon for newlyweds to preserve the top tier of their cake for their one-year anniversary, which started as a way to manifest good luck and prosperity.

How to Choose a Perfect Wedding Cake

A quick scroll through social media for wedding cakes will likely yield a wide array of responses, ranging from a groom’s cake shaped like an iPad to an enormous homemade wedding cake baked by the bride. So before planning out your own dream dessert, be sure to do your research and find a design and baker (one who can execute your vision flawlessly) that speaks to you the most. More specifically, when shopping for the "perfect" wedding cake, consider picking a flavor and style that reflects your personality, and ask yourself: "What does this cake say about me?"

Additionally, couples should lock in a baker once their venue and caterer have been secured, in order to ensure a cohesive flavor profile from dinner to dessert. Securing the venue also allows you to relay your exact guest count to your baker, allowing them to bake a cake that can serve all guests in attendance. Lastly, be sure to schedule a taste test so that you're cake tastes as good as it looks. After all, who doesn't love eating free samples of delicious cake?

Article Sources
Brides takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Gastronomica. "Wedding Cake: A Slice of History." May 1, 2005.

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