That moment right there. That moment was the moment when I realized how equally cool wedding cake was and understood just how different our two countries were about wedding cake. For starters, that’s not a fluffy cake we’re cutting into, it’s a fruit cake made thick with dried fruit and soaked in tons of brandy. Secondly, that’s some damn thick icing and there’s ribbon at the bottom. And, no one expect us to a) cut a slice of it out or b) feed it to each other! But see, that right there again, that’s me being an American with my own experiences of wedding cake. You could be anywhere in the world. The great thing about being a bi-national couple–and planning two weddings–is that you get to have more than one cake. (And sometimes four…)
If I haven’t already said this enough times: Alex and I love food. Planning-our-holidays-around-where-we-get-to-eat kind of love food. So, designing our wedding cake(s) was just another bonus in the wedding planning process and, with our focus being to have each piece of our wedding have special meaning to us, we wanted our cakes to say the same.
A month after I proposed, Alex and I found ourselves at a family gathering for her grandma’s 80th birthday. Her aunt had made a gorgeous fruit cake with icing roses on it and individual fruit cakes (the size of a can of beans!) for each of us to take home after the party. Not knowing that her aunt was such a cake enthusiast–or so good at making them!– we hadn’t considered a family member making our UK wedding cake. But after that day, the idea was sealed. We knew our colours were purple and green and that we wanted real flowers. From the initial discussions we threw around different ideas–like having purple icing; but her aunt quickly cautioned us against having all of our guests having purple tongues on our wedding night–and finally settled on a 2-tier fruit cake with white icing, a thick purple ribbon with a thin green ribbon, fresh flowers on a silver board. For our cake toppers, we found old letterpress stamps of ‘A & E’ at Spitalfields Market in London.
As we were incorporating different wooden bowls my dad had made, we toyed around with the idea of having a wooden cake stand as well. In the end, though, we decided it would be too heavy to ship over and it wasn’t as important to us. The silver cake board would be just fine! We also didn’t buy a cake knife for the actual cake cutting moment (oops!), but amazingly moments before a close family friend (whose house was literally two mins from the reception venue) ran back to hers to get the silver cake knife she had used at our wedding. It was perfect and meaningful.
Now what I haven’t said so far is that our decision on our wedding cake was culturally influenced. Everyone I have met, spoken to, or seen at an event has confirmed one thing: fruit cake is known as the wedding cake. Yes, you can have Victoria sponge cake, or chocolate if you’re being all modern, but the fruit cake is loved or hated with a passion as wedding cake.
Plus, all the British wedding traditions/customs I’ve learned since all make more sense when it’s fruit cake. For example, couple slice into the wedding cake only (no cutting or slice or feeding it to eachother) and then it is whisked away to be cut up into finger length, inch wide pieces to be eaten with your hands, usually after being given a napkin. The top layer is also saved, but instead of being frozen for a 1 year anniversary like I’m familiar with in the States, the top layer is saved in a cool, non-seal tight container until your first baby’s Christening (talk about planned expectations!). Even more interesting I think, though, is that the left-over wedding cake is to be shared with even those people who couldn’t come or weren’t invited to the wedding. My father-in-law sent some home with my mom to share and even suggested she buy the special cake-piece-sized boxes to airmail to relatives! This could have sounded really strange except that a few months before I had heard a story from my mother-in-law about receiving a slice of wedding cake from a family friend’s daughter’s wedding back in the 1980s that was sent from England to Indonesia where they were living!
In addition to our wedding cake (which acted as our dessert) we wanted some other late night snacks. For us, cheese, crackers and grapes were the perfect solution, and the perfect presentation was a cake of local and continental CHEESES! Damn. It was good. And we were still eating it (along with the fruit cake) weeks later. The caterer was so excited about the idea in our initial discussions she googled loads of options for us before creating the most gorgeous cake of cheeses we’d ever seen.
Photos by Cornish Wedding Photography.
What I love about American (and Canadian) weddings is the amazing colors and double cake combo. While we did have two ‘cakes’ for our UK wedding, the cake of cheeses wasn’t necessarily a ‘groom’s cake’ so to speak. I intended, for a while, of making a lavendar sponge cake with lilac icing as a ‘bride’s cake’ but then it just seemed like too much to do in the run-up to the wedding (and would have required the necessity of learning how to use the family’s Aga! Not easy!). Still, we knew we were going to have a ‘bride’s cake’ in California anyway, and both of them were decided a long time before the UK wedding anyway.
On one of my first visits to SYE, Kelly had posted a photo of a rainbow cupcake: white icing on the outside, rainbow on the inside. I knew instantly that I wanted that cake and I didn’t care what Alex thought–it was the CA wedding and if she didn’t like, she could have whatever cake she wanted in the UK. Luckily, she loved the idea even as much as I did! Even more luckily, in the months that followed, we discovered that my high school friend and old soccer teammate studied cakes for her Senior project and that she had already made a few wedding cakes for her friends–and she agreed to make ours!
Photo by Truffle Pig on Flickr
I don’t know if it will look like this one in particular–there are as many ways to make a rainbow cake on the internet as their are rainbow couples!–but I can’t wait for our guests to see the beautiful white, unsuspecting wedding cake and have the joy of eating rainbow cake later! Like our UK wedding, we’ll enact a ‘Jamacian kissing-birds’ cake tradition (where you bite from the same piece of cake held in each other’s mouth–like Lady & the Tramp! Thanks for the tip, Lara!).
To accompany, our white/rainbow wedding cake, our ‘bride’s cake’ is taking another rainbow twist: rainbow Jell-o. You see, there’s a story behind this one: about a month after Alex and I got together, I invited her up to Northern California for Thanksgiving, a huge affair with 30+ all crammed in my G’ma’s house where she spends the 3 days before doing all the cooking. Pies, cookies, and sweets galore line the shelves in the garage, and in the refrigerator are 2 kinds of Jell-o. One is cherry Jell-o with cream and the other is 6 or 7 layers of different colored Jell-o. When Alex saw this for the first time, she fell in love, photographed her plate and hasn’t stopped talking about it since. Thus, when I asked her what she wanted for her ‘bride’s cake’ the response was instant: Jell-o!!! G’ma was less than enthusiastic (she just couldn’t believe Jell-o was what Alex really wanted), but she is really happy to make it and just told me she’s found the perfect glass dish! Now you’ll just have to wait until October for the photos…