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Tradition Tidbit

In Yorkshire, England, wedding guests used to throw the wedding cake out the bride's parent's window as she returned home from the wedding day. If the plate stayed intact, her future would be grim; if the plate broke, she would enjoy a happy future with her new husband.

 

Wedding Cakes: A World Tour of Wedding Cake Traditions

Wedding customs and rituals vary significantly around the world, and the cake is no exception. Here's a roundup of wedding cake traditions from around the globe.

Photo: Erin Johnson Photography

Asia

Japan: Many Japanese actually use imposter cakes at wedding receptions. Made of artificial rubber, these faux confections are iced with wax -- and even feature a slot for the bride and groom to insert a knife. Believe it or not, some models have even been known to produce a puff of steam! Other dupes consist of elaborately frosted Styrofoam dummy cakes. While the imposters are just for show, sheet cakes hiding out in the kitchen are cut and served to guests.

Korea: Many American-style wedding cakes would be considered too sweet for Koreans. They opt instead for a cake made of ground steamed rice covered in red bean powder. A tiered sponge cake covered in nondairy whipped cream is also a popular treat.

China: The traditional Chinese wedding cake is a massive, many-layered creation known as lapis Surabaya. The layers represent a ladder of success for the couple. Traditionally, the bride and groom cut the cake from the bottom up, starting with pieces for each parent and grandparent, who are all fed by the newlyweds.

British Isles

Great Britain: A fanciful fruitcake takes center stage at British weddings. Usually the cake is made with cognac-soaked dates, prunes, raisins, currants, and orange peel, to create a very moist cake. Popular frostings include marzipan, brandy butter, or fondant. And rather than saving a piece for their first anniversary, Brits hang on to the entire top tier, called the christening cake, until the birth of their first child.

Ireland and Scotland: Fruitcakes are also popular in Ireland and Scotland, where the heady, three-tiered confection is often times laced with bourbon, brandy, or whiskey and each layer is spread with almond paste.

Caribbean Islands

Caribbean: Caribbean couples traditionally feast on fruitcakes. The cake is often dark and filled with dried fruits and sherry, wine, or rum.

Bermuda: In Bermuda, it's common to have a small cedar sapling top off a wedding cakes. The sapling is said to symbolize the couple's growing love, and is usually replanted after the ceremony.

tip

If you're having a traditional white wedding cake, consider ordering up a groom's cake that reflects your heritage.

West Indies: Party guests in the West Indies pay for a lucky peek at the wedding cake hidden under a fine white tablecloth. Here a rum-laced fruitcake is the sweet of choice.

Central Europe

Germany: Though American-style wedding cakes are slowly making their way into Europe, countries such as Germany are hanging onto their own traditions. German couples often serve up a rich nut or genoise sponge cake to their guests. The cake is usually laced with liqueur or syrup; filled with jam, marzipan, or nougat; and covered in fondant or ganache. Any use of artificial coloring on a cake is considered a major faux pas.

France: The French traditionally serve up what is known as a croquembouche. This tall tower of cream-filled pastries is coated in caramel and formed into a pyramid shape, and makes quite a statement.

Italy: Wedding cakes are regional in Italy, and in some areas cake is not served at all. At those where they are, taste trumps decoration. In many areas, the custom is to serve a mille-foglia, an Italian cake made from layers of light filo pastry, chocolate, and vanilla creams, and topped with strawberries.

Eastern Europe

Lithuania: In Lithuania, the wedding cake is actually a cookie-like pastry shaped into a Christmas tree. Baked to a sunny yellow hue, the pastry, called a sakotis, displays fresh flowers and herbs protruding from the top peak.

Ukraine: Ukrainian couples share a type of wedding bread known as Korovai. Decorated with designs representing eternity and the joining of the two families, the bread is considered a sacred part of the wedding feast.

Northern Europe

Norway: Shying away from cake altogether, Norwegians serve brudlaupskling, a type of wedding bread first developed when white flour was a rarity on farms in Norway. Any food containing wheat was once highly prized, so the wedding bread was considered a true treat. Topped with cheese, cream, and syrup, this unique bread is folded over and cut into small squares and served to all the guests.

Denmark: The Danish are known to feast upon a cornucopia cake. Made of almond cake and marzipan, the ring-shaped confection is decorated with pastilage and filled in the center with candy, almond cakes, fresh fruit, or sorbet. Sometimes marzipan portraits of the bride and groom are attached to the outside of the cake. To avoid bad luck, the newlyweds cut the cake together; all the guests must eat a slice.

Iceland: Icelanders enjoy a kransakaka at weddings. Made up of ring-shaped almond pastries piled on top of one another to form a pyramid, the hollow center of the tower is filled with fine chocolates or candies.

The Mediterranean

Italy: No Italian wedding would be complete with out zuppa inglese. Scrumptiously filled with chocolate custard, vanilla custard, rum cream, and fruit, tiers of pound cake are elaborately trimmed with flower blooms of royal icing.

Greece: These days, most Greek couples prefer a flourless almond cake, which is filled with vanilla custard and fruit, and covered in sliced almonds. The traditional rendition of a Greek wedding cake consists of honey, sesame seed, and quince, which is said to symbolize the couple's enduring commitment to each other. Sourdough wedding bread decorated with beads and blossoms is also a traditional treat.

-- Sarah Doyle

See More: Wedding Customs , Wedding Cakes