Sweet vintage wedding cake customs from 100 years ago

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New styles seen in wedding cake

Sometimes bound with ribbons which the bride cleaves with knife

The wedding cake, luscious and delicate of taste, with its thick layer of almond paste and its wonderful exterior covering of ornamental sugar icing, wrought in various devices, is an institution honored by long patronage and full appreciation.

But even it is subject to the changes of fashion and the way in which it is dealt with under modern auspices makes it play a less conspicuous part in the wedding celebration of today than it did five and twenty years ago.

Its place on the buffet, though it is conspicuous, is not the proud monument of the occasion it presented when the assembled guests sat down together at the hospitable board and the happy bride and her groom wore faced by the most important item of the feast.

Vintage wedding cake customs (1909)

The cutting of the cake in those days preceded the speeches that were made. Now there are no speeches, save in some cases, if the briefly uttered good wishes of the best man or one of the officiating clergy (by no means a rule) can be dignified by the title and the bride’s task of cutting the cake is made the most perfunctory of ceremonies.

The strong hand of the newly-made husband used to be required to guide the timid bride’s usage of the specially-provided knife, saw one side, sharp steel the other, a knife that would cut clean through the outer crust of sugar and cleave the cake beneath in the neatest manner. There were many tender sighs and smiles through tears when the touching little ceremony was performed in olden times.

Customs are changing

But that which happens now is different. A clever cake-maker invented the labor-saving device of sawing wedges out of the cake before the wedding, and leaving the bride the easy task of pretending only to cut the slices. Now he goes a step further on her behalf, and behold, the cake is often bound round with ribbons, which the bride slits across with the knife, thus releasing the already cloven pieces in an instant and without anybody’s help.

When wedding cakes were round and low and dumpy, with a modest-sized Temple of Hymen placed on the top, instead of the tall and imposing affairs they are now, the girls who fluttered round the blushing bride coaxed her to pass the tiniest morsel of their special piece of cake through the gleaming gold circlet, her wedding ring, for thus treated the cake, was considered an absolute guide “when dreamed over” to the identity of the future husband.

Vintage wedding cake style

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One superstition, however, kills another, and when the bride refused to take her ring off because it was considered unlucky to do so, her maids were obliged to be contented without the mystic rite.

And now they cut the cake when it is handed round with the rest of the refreshments or refuse it, if they are “on a diet” or “putting on weight,” but never think of soiling their pillow slips by sleeping on it, with the avowed object of dreaming of “him.”

But all the same, the wedding cake remains a vital item of the bridal feast, and each maker of the delightful comestible has his particular recipe, the secret of which is known only to himself.

The perfect wedding cake cannot be built in a day, or even a week, as its maturity is half the charm, and time only will impart this important factor of success. A very large cake will take two years to mature, and a smaller one should not be cut into before some months have elapsed.

vintage style wedding cake 4

This may, perhaps, explain the fact why oven the most expensive private chef is not always successful in concocting a wedding cake. The outside may have the specious appearance of a rich and inviting-looking cake, but instances have been known where the cake has turned out a disastrous failure owing to the fact that it has been baked in an oven unsuitable for the exigent requirements of the wedding cake, and that too little time is given to its maturity.

“Even the state of weather may affect the baking of a wedding cake,” remarked an expert, “and women would be surprised if they know the number of cakes that are not ‘passed’ by the professional wedding cake maker, simply because there may be some minute flaw in the baking.”

Individualizing the presentation

Brides who take a keen interest in the ornamentation of the wedding cake often insist upon giving some individual touch in its decoration.

Pretty little baskets filled with their favorite flowers, all made of sugar, are arranged around the centerpiece that forms the finishing touch of the ornamentation. Dainty silver or white satin slippers containing lilies of the valley are other favorable devices, and so are silver wedding bells.

Vintage wedding dress lookbook


It is fashionable for the bridesmaids or some of the near relatives to take away the ornaments as souvenirs of the wedding.

At some weddings, the cake, in addition to its own decorations of festoons of silver leaves and trails of sugar orange blossoms, is adorned with a touch of color in the form of pink roses or any flower that is preferred by the bride.

This, however, says the expert maker, is strictly against the correct etiquette of the wedding cake decoration. Cut flowers, to the superstitious, symbolize death, and should never be used as ornaments for the bridal cake.

The custom of sending out wedding cake

Old customs die hard, and that of sending out wedding cake to the relatives and intimate friends of the bride and bridegroom is still resorted to in many families.

Old-fashioned wedding cake

The filling of the boxes is generally entrusted to the hands of the expert, who gives the following advice to the amateur packer: “Cut a solid wedge of cake that will absolutely fill the box right to the very top. Wrap it first in a piece of tinfoil, and then in another covering of white paper; tie it round with the white satin ribbon, and insert it securely in the box.”

The mistake so often made by the non-professional packer is to cut a thin piece of cake, which speedily crumbles into pieces when it comes in contact with the official stamp.

“Those who wish to keep wedding cake must not enclose it in a tin box, as is so often the custom,” is another piece of advice given by an expert, for then the cake invariably turns musty and unpleasant.

“The best way to preserve it is simply to wrap the cake in a white cloth, and then to place it in a wooden box. In this way, the cake will keep well for almost any length of time.”

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