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A world of wedding cakes

In every country, despite the culture, religion or size of the wedding, you will always find some form of wedding cake. Throughout time, the cake has continued to play a symbolic role in the wedding feast, the general inspiration being wheat as a symbol of fertility. In our last issue we looked into the history, superstitions and traditions surrounding the wedding cake - now we will take a look at the different cakes from around the world.

However similar in concept, each country has its own adaptation of the wedding cake, transformed over hundreds of years of tradition. The breaking of cake over the bride`s head is an ancient ritual, which was gradually followed by the piling of small cakes on the main feast table, over which the bridal couple were expected to kiss to ensure fertility. The pile of small cakes is still around, in the form of the French style wedding cake - the croquemboch.

Covered with a sticks almond base, the croquemboch is a pyramid of custard-filled pastries or profiteroles. Multi-coloured sugar almonds are often placed inside the pyramid for good luck. The pyramid is easily dismantled, and the profiteroles distributed to the guests.

In Ancient China, the family of the bride would take a quilt by its four corners and upon it, bounce four small cakes, baked by the groom`s family, in front of the bride whilst she quoted the virtues of marriage. Today, Chinese wedding guests will receive their slice of bean paste cake with their invitation, however they can later enjoy the traditional western cake - usually in bright red and gold - at the reception.

In Liberia a custom was established whereby the throwing of a cake over the roof of the groom`s house was considered very important in the success of the marriage, while in Macedonia it was considered mandatory that the four days prior to the wedding, be taken up with the baking of the wedding cake. A young boy, representing the husband and protector of the home would watch over the procedure, while a young girl would drop a wedding ring into the dough while no-one was looking. Whomever received the piece of cake containing the ring was said to be the next to marry.

The French first introduced the icing of the cake to the world, and with both its attractive look and sweet taste, it was readily accepted and has continued. The custom of tiers evolved from the groom`s cake and the bride`s cake - the groom`s being a heavier, darker cake, and the bride`s being a white, highly decorated cake, placed on top. Today it is still common for bridal couples to have both a fruit and a sponge cake at their wedding.

The fruit cake with marzipan and icing is most popular in Britain and her former commonwealth colonies. Australia tends to opt for dainty, feminine and very small flowers with the icing often built out beyond the borders of the cake, while the South African bride generally goes for more lavish decorations, with sugar fruits and flowers, extensive lacework and figurines. Due to our climate, ice cream cakes are also becoming very popular at South African weddings, with the cake often substituting dessert.

Because South Africa, is a country rich in diversity of culture - where so many different customs and rituals surrounding marriage co-exist, we present to you, the world`s first `potjie` cake.

America offers its own variety of wedding cakes, generally in the form of a sponge cake, usually at least two tiers high, with a butter icing and fresh flowers on top.

The baking of the traditional Jewish wedding cake is done under stringent kosher laws, with the utensils and table being blessed beforehand. Other than this, the cake looks and tastes much like any other western-style cake.

In the Philippines, an abundance of flowers adorn the tops of cakes in a very dramatic fashion. Cakes at least 6 tiers high are favoured by Indonesians, with the belief that the high the cake, the more prosperous the marriage. Greek wedding cakes are often up to 8 tiers in height, linked with bridges, fountains, pillars and stands. Golden figurines of horses and carriages, angels and doves adorn the cake, with the amount of lavishness denoting the level of festivity at t he reception.

"Dolce" is the Italian wedding cake, far richer, sweeter and with the "torte" soaked in liqueur, more intoxicating than any other. The cake is often decorated with butter cream layers, thin slivers of toasted almonds and glazed or marinated cherries. Legend has it that, around the turn of the 20th century, an Italian wedding cake was presented to the bride and when cut, released hundreds of tiny live birds.

Mexican wedding cakes tell the story of the courtship and marriage of the bridal couple, with gum-past dolls dressed in detailed costumes, positioned in life-like settings, all around the cake. The acting out of a story is also common on Polish wedding cakes which takes the form of the Temple of Hymen - the Greek god of marriage - and are lavishly decorated with figurines.

In both Austria and Germany rich, chocolate sponge cakes are traditional at weddings and consist of a combination of cream, chocolate, cognac, nougat and toasted vanilla. These 3-5 layer cakes usually consist of around 30 layer s of sponge, iced with royal icing and decorated with thin layers of marzipan or chocolate and adorned with chocolate artwork of sugar flowers.

And now for something completely different - in Luxembourg, the traditional wedding cake is dough baked on a rolling rod. The shortcake-like rings are then glazed and stacked with the largest ring at the bottom and a crown made of almonds and sugar on the top ring.

As you can see, there are many different varieties of the wedding cake to choose from, and a foreign, unusual cake at your reception will not only amaze your guests, but will also challenge your cake decorator!

Article source: LifeWorld



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