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Wedding Cake Broken Over Bride’s Head.
Whenever we hear of a wedding, we know that at some point the topic of the wedding cake will come up and so it has been since the weddings of Ancient Rome. However, the wedding cake then was more a symbol of plenty than the carefully sculpted cakes we enjoy today; what’s more the Roman bride had the cake broken over her head.
During the reign of Elizabeth I, it was the custom to throw cakes at the onlookers. Whilst in the seventeenth century, French cooks who came to England decorated the cakes with ornamental wings but these were still broken over the head of the bride. However, by this time, those who could afford two would order one for breaking and one as the table’s main decoration.
Wedding Cake Offered as a Bribe.
If we return to Ipswich, 1788 we find a wedding cake being offered as a bribe. A local farmer had cohabited with a lady for several years. The woman acted as dairy maid and housekeeper and had several children to the man. Whilst at a coursing party at the local manor house, the female gentry urged him to marry the woman and if he did they would provide the wedding cake and four gallons of brandy. The farmer agreed and the wedding took place on February 2.
A Faux Pas with a Royal Wedding Cake.
In 1840, Queen Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert. The wedding cake weighed nearly 300lbs; it was 3 yards in circumference and 14 inches in depth. The cake was covered in the purest white sugar. The figure of Britannia was on top of it blessing the bride and bridegroom who were dressed in the costume of Ancient Rome. The figures were nearly a foot in height with a dog at the feet of Prince Albert to suggest fidelity and a pair of turtle doves at the feet of Queen Victoria to depict the happiness of the married state.
All was going well until someone noticed that the little figures of cupids, on top of the cake, strongly resembled Lord Palmerston. Lord Palmerston would become Queen Victoria’s Prime Minister in 1855. However, in 1840 he was a member of parliament who, although popular in the House of Commons, was strongly disliked by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. On February 6th 1840, Downing Street issued a statement that not one of the cupids on the royal wedding cake was intended to represent Lord Palmerston. It would have been a particular irritation to the bride if the images on her wedding cake really did have a look of him.
Wedding Cake Put in a Coffin.
In Baltimore 1895, we find wedding cake bizarrely used as a symbol of long lasting love. At a 25th wedding anniversary, a piece of wedding cake from the actual wedding, twenty five years previously, was on display. It had been carefully put away after the reception and kept in a silver box. A piece of the wedding cake made for the anniversary was also put in the box with the other slice. Both pieces were to be kept until the last survivor of the couple died; they were then to be put in his or her coffin.
You Can’t Call It Off, the Cake’s Been Ordered!
If the wedding cake had been ordered then the marriage should most definitely be on. Promise of marriage was taken seriously in the nineteenth century and breach of the contract could end up in court, as did Mr Grosvenor at Stafford in 1889. The court heard that the defendant had proposed to Miss Ede and the ring and wedding cake had been ordered. However, Grosvenor then went and married Miss Taylor whom he had previously had disagreements with Miss Ede over. The judge was not impressed and awarded Miss Ede £500 in damages for breach of promise of marriage.
On January 8th 1940, four months after the outbreak of World War II, food rationing was introduced. This meant that when Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) married Lieutenant Phillip Mountbatten in 1947 ingredients for a Royal wedding cake would be scarce. However, fruit growers at Renmark, South Australia sent all the currants and raisins needed for the cake as a gift.
Weddings cakes have a history of their own it seems.
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