Wedding cakes are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. And while a modern wedding cake is certain to make a show-stopping statement, you and your partner may be more interested in paying homage to your heritage or even homing in on celebrating the destination of your wedding. And what better way to do that than with a traditional wedding cake celebrated around the world?
“Food is so often tied into the customs of a place and the rituals of a culture,” says Samantha Mayfair, owner of Samantha Mayfair Cakes. “By incorporating that into your wedding, it's a way to signify you're proud of where you came from and where you're going as you start on this new journey.”
Meet the Expert
- Samantha Mayfair is a pastry chef and the owner of Samantha Mayfair Cakes, a Bay Area custom cake business specializing in artisan sugar flowers.
- Isabelle Boizis is a French pâtissière chef and the owner of Zaza Marcelle Cakes & Patisserie, a cake and pastry business based in the UK.
For many couples, the food integrated into a wedding is incredibly meaningful. And your cake should certainly follow suit. “This is one of the aspects of a wedding where a couple can express their cultural history,” says Isabelle Boizis, owner of Zaza Marcelle Cakes & Patisserie. “Especially in multi-cultural weddings, food will tie everyone together and is always a nice way for all members of both families to feel included in the day’s celebrations.”
What to Know About Traditional Wedding Cakes
The beautiful part about choosing your wedding cake is that it truly is all about what you and your partner want! And even if you’re hoping to incorporate a traditional wedding cake from a specific locale, it’s important to remember it can still be made with a modern touch to fit your wedding’s aesthetic.
“Trust your cake designer,” says Boizis. “And if you can’t find a cake artist that offers exactly what you’re looking for, try to think about what flavors and colors would best relate to your cultural heritage to allow your designer to tie it all together for you.” Many traditional wedding cakes may be baked in certain shapes, but with a bit of creative freedom, your baker can transform that time-honored sweet into a beautiful, modern design by simply changing the size or shape or pairing it with additions such as fondant, gold detailing, or bold blooms.
What to Consider for a Destination Wedding
Celebrating with a traditional worldly cake is another great way to enhance a destination wedding. What better way to embody where you’ve chosen to tie to knot than to include a local area?
"Highlighting the local culture through different types of sweet and savory dishes is not only an easy way to introduce foreign guests to the local customs, but it’s an exciting way to have those guests experience something delicious and unique to that location, making their trip even more memorable,” Mayfair says. Consider finding a baker local to your destination to make your cake to be sure it’s as authentic as can be.
Ready to find the perfect inspiration for including a traditional cake at your wedding? Read on for 9 wedding cakes from around the world.
Kransekake stands tall and makes such a stunning statement. “This classic from Norway is made up of stacked rings of almond dough finished with royal icing,” says Mayfair. The flavor of the cookie rings features delicate notes of almond, with a bit of a crunch. According to Mayfair, these traditional stacked sweets are often decorated with piped royal icing, tiny flags, or sugar flowers, and you can even opt to hide a surprise inside the hollow rings.
This definitely isn’t a wedding cake that stands tall, but it still takes center stage at many traditional Italian or destination weddings. “A very large, low-profile round cake is made up of thousands of layers of buttery puff pastry and is stacked between a light, creamy pastry cream and fresh fruit,” says Mayfair.
The name, millefoglie, comes from all of the layers in this sweet, literally meaning 1,000 layers. The top of the cake is traditionally decorated with fresh fruit or beautiful blooms, with a charming dusting of powdered sugar. According to Boizis, this giant sweet may also be presented in a square form at Italian weddings.
This towering high sweet is as eye-catching as can be. “In France, we have the traditional croquembouche which is no less than a giant pyramid of choux puffs, filled with a delicious crème pâtissière and coated in crunchy caramel,” says Boizis.
The flavor of the cream filling can be customized, with options such as vanilla, chocolate, or coffee. According to Boizis, this sweet is traditionally brought to the couple’s table at a French wedding, rather than standing on display as a wedding cake would.
Mexican Tres Leches Cake
Tres leches is a delicate, light cake jam-packed with flavor that’s enjoyed at a variety of celebrations. Its name translates to “three milks” because of the inclusion of condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in the recipe.
Traditionally, the cake is baked in a square or rectangular shape, and once it has cooled, the top is pierced with a fork and the milk mixture is poured over the top. Then, the cake is covered in fresh whipped cream and fruit to finish off this refreshing dessert. It can certainly be served up at weddings in a square form, or a bakery can stack rounds to embody a traditional stacked wedding cake.
Jamaican Rum Cake
Who wouldn’t want a cake soaked in rum? It is a celebration after all! This traditional cake features fruits such as macerated cherries, along with prunes, currants, and sultanas. Once baked, the cake is soaked in dark rum to add great flavor and moisture, and then it’s topped with almond paste and royal icing.
British Fruit Cake
This definitely isn’t your average fruit cake. According to Boizis, this cake isn’t as popular anymore, but traditionally, it would be made by soaking rich fruit cake in alcohol, covering it in marzipan, and then finishing it with rolled out fondant.
“The couple would save the top tier to eat for their first year anniversary, or their first child’s christening,” she says. It’s a hearty cake that can be stacked tall for a bold statement on the dessert table. “These sturdy cakes are perfect for stacking for a big show-stopping cake, and they often have intricately piped royal icing decorations, sugar flowers, and more,” adds Mayfair.
Korean Rice Cakes
Rice cakes are prepared for a number of special occasions in Korean culture, including serving as a traditional wedding dessert. These decorated sweets are made in a variety of ways, but many consist of rice and sugar, along with assorted beans, formed into a small cake or cupcake shape. The cakes are then steamed and can be decorated with handmade florals or served as-is.
Ravani is a traditional Greek dessert that utilizes semolina flour as the base. The light sponge cake is flavored with citrus, such as lemon zest, and then it’s brushed with a flavorful orange syrup to add incredible moisture. This fresh, lightly flavored cake can be made in a square or rectangular shape, or it can be baked in rounds, stacked, and dressed up as the perfect wedding sweet.
Indonesian Kek Lapis
With how many layers this unique cake is made up of, you can definitely see why it would only be on display for special occasions. But weddings definitely fit the bill! The look of this cake, also known as a thousand-layer cake, is absolutely striking, but the traditional flavor is just as special. These cakes take quite a bit of time to make as the baker layers thin sponge cakes, each made with a traditional spice mix and a whole lot of love.
Want more inspiration? Browse wedding cookies around the world below.