Origins

With This Wedding Cake

Q.
What are some wedding cake-related superstitions?

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This sweet embodiment of forever love is rife with superstitions.

Pity the Medieval couples forced to seal the fate of their marriage with wedding cake jenga. Great piles of spice buns were piled one atop another into an unwieldy tower. The new spouses had to stretch up over the edible wedding spire and kiss each other. Knock down the bun tower mid-pucker and your marriage was doomed. To add injury to insult, guests would then throw the wedding buns at the bride to boost her fertility.

Come the 17th Century, superstitions centered on the rather alarming Bride Pie. Here’s just the first few sentences from a multiply paragraphed recipe in Robert May’s 1660 Accomplisht Cook:

‘To make an extraordinary Pie, or a Bride Pie, of severall Compounds, being several distinct Pies on one bottom.
Provide cock-stones and combs, or lamb-stones and sweet-breads of veal, a little set in hot water and cut to pieces; also two or three oxe pallets blanched and slic’t, a pint of oysters, sliced dates, a handful of pine kernels, a little quantity of broom-buds pickled, some fine interlarded bacon sliced, nine or ten chestnuts roasted and blanched, season them with the salt, nutmeg, and some large mace, and close it up with some butter….’

The first unmarried woman to find the glass ring stuffed inside this offal Bride Pie would be next to wed.

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In 2021, some still stand by the superstition that a wedding cake must be baked in the morning as the sun rises. Soon to be married couples will ask pastry chefs to incorporate good luck symbols – such as horseshoes – into their icing or fondant design.

For a happy marriage – and, according to one Yorkshire superstition, a large family of children –  the bride should cut the cake alone or with her spouse’s hand placed atop hers. In centuries past, you might have found a not so fresh piece of wedding cake hidden under the marital bed. Its purpose? To ensure the spouses stayed loyal to each other.

Jamaica is one of the cultures where the top tier of the wedding cake – often made with black rum – is put away to be served at the christening of the couple’s first child.

Wedding cake rituals extend beyond the happy couple. It’s considered good luck for guests to eat every last crumb of the wedding cake on their plates. The more richly decadent the taste, the better the luck.

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Single and looking to wed? Easy-peasy.  1) Pocket a morsel of lucky wedding cake, 2) pass it through a wedding ring from a happy couple, 3) put the well-traveled cake bit in your left sock and, finally, 4) put the sock under your pillow. Do all this and – if onlookers haven’t carted you away – you’ll dream of your future spouse.

UK writings from the early 1800s further complicate the sock pillow ritual by encouraging would-be-brides to back into bed whilst clutching the now ball of wedding cake and cycling through an eight line poem: ‘I put this cake under my head …To dream of the man that I am to wed.’

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www.justcurious.ca

Header Photo: Joshua Glass

Photos 2 + 3: Deva Williamson

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Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton