In ten months’ time, my daughter will be getting married. The planning of this event is sure to inspire an occasional post on this blog. My daughter is so laser-focused on the details of her big day it’s as if her hospital crib should’ve been labeled “Wedding Planner” instead of “Kelly”. Let’s pluck one item from her list today. Or rather, taste one item. Let’s talk about wedding cake.
Are you a fan of this grandiose dessert? Do you revel in the wedding ceremony and the reception, but secretly count down the minutes ’til the big white cake is sliced and served? Twenty years ago you’d be guaranteed a piece of wedding cake. Today, the after-dinner options run the gamut. A cupcake from a tower. A cookie from an endless table. Strawberries from a chocolate fountain. Petit fours or truffles. Cream puffs.
Given all those temptations, I still choose wedding cake. Why? Because it’s not just any cake. Wedding cake is heavy and layered and full of frosting. It’s sinfully delicious. Furthermore, wedding cake makes a statement, one much bigger than the generic desserts you find in the supermarket bakery. Consider, wedding cake is:
- white. “Well of course it is, Dave, but so are a lot of other cakes.” Yes, but in this case, white means pure and refined (as with the bride’s dress). Makes that bite of cake just a little more special.
- tiered. It’s like several cakes in one. Stacked with columns or not, cake tiers create an elegant display (and serve a lot of people, avoiding a cake the size of the American flag). Don’t even think about a taste of the uppermost layer. It’s (supposed to be) reserved for the bride & groom to enjoy on their one-year anniversary.
- topped. Sure, a kid’s cake can have a doll or a dump truck, or some other toy on its surface. Birthday cakes are dotted with candles. But only wedding cakes have true “toppers”, typically a miniature bride & groom. These days you don’t see wedding cake toppers so much. I’m okay with that (even though I liked the little Precious Moments couple atop our own cake).
- fondant-ed. Fondant is like edible wallpaper. It’s a smooth, dense, shiny layer of sugary frosting you can roll out like cookie dough, to perfectly costume the cake, or to create flowers and other three-dimensional objects. Fondant seems to come out of the closet just for wedding cakes. My take? Fondant looks a lot better than it tastes. In other words, I’m not really “fond” of it.
- a statement. Think about it. At a wedding you’re celebrating what is, at least for now, the most important day in the lives of the bride & groom. It’s not as if this occasion happens once a year or on holidays. It happens once. Sit back and admire your plate for a second. That’s an important slice of cake you’ve got there.
Here’s a happy-ending wedding cake story for you. When my wife & I got married, our hotel not only hosted the reception, but also created the wedding cake. As we dashed away to our honeymoon they assured us they’d keep the top layer in their refrigerators. But when we returned, there was no top layer to be found anywhere. Maybe a waiter got a little hungry one night or something. Anyway, without skipping a beat, they perfectly recreated our top layer at no extra charge. One year later we enjoyed our anniversary with cake after all. How did it taste? Just like you’d expect a one-year-old piece of cake to taste. We threw the rest away.
Here’s a slice of wedding cake trivia. It’s technically called “bride’s cake”. Sometimes you find two cakes at wedding receptions. The darker, shorter, more modest-looking dessert; he’s called a “groom’s cake”. He’s meant to acknowledge more manly tastes. Accordingly, a groom’s cake is often alcohol-infused. Or covered in chocolate. Or shaped like a football. But no matter how you slice it, the bride’s cake wins out with the bigger, bolder statement. Hmmm… guys, is there an underlying message at work here?
Heads up as I close this post. There’s a reason I chose wedding cake as today’s topic. This week, you and the $300 you’ve been saving for a rainy day could win a slice of Princess Diana’s wedding cake. It’s up for auction as we speak. It’s forty years old, wrapped in plastic and packed into an old cake tin. One of a kind, right? Not really. Charles and Diana had so many guests at their royal celebration they required twenty-three wedding cakes.
No wonder there’s still a slice left.