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What makes a "wedding cake" a wedding cake?

Is it simply that it is presented at a wedding?

Or is there some other tell-tale sign?

Curious as to your thoughts.

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  1. Great question. I've certainly seen enough wedding cakes to know that it doesn't matter what flavor it is. It doesn't even matter how many tiers it has. I think what makes a wedding cake special is it's significance. For the rest of your life, no other baked good will have as much thought put into it as this cake. You'll have birthday cake every year, but only one wedding cake.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Whinerdiner

      I think it's the decorations. It has to look like an extra-special cake. Doesn't matter what it tastes like (for purposes of this question). If you brought out the world's most delicious sheet cake in a baking pan, people would not see it as a wedding cake.

      1. re: Whinerdiner

        --You'll have birthday cake every year, but only one wedding cake.--

        Or two. Or three.

        Well, you aim for only one.

      2. Well, when it's brought up, the first thing that comes to mind are the little traditional touches. Everything from a layered white cake with the bridge/groom figures on top to the croquembouche. But, the ones I really like are the ones that tosses the traditions away and somehow reflects the bridge and groom.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ediblover


          ...or a "groom and groom" or "bride and bride"...whatever the case may be.

        2. I'd say about 2-3 thousand dollars..........depending on decorations and who's baking it.

          1 Reply
          1. there used to be a mexican bakery on wabash at evergreen in east la. their window sign was: "wedding cakes for all occasions", except that occasions was misspelled. this was before cell phone cameras, or i would have a photo.

            1. Sadly in many cases, wedding cakes are very pretty, but very mediocre-tasting confections. They seem to be tiered by tradition, but other than that, I think all bets are off. I'm guessing it used to be all-white, but nowadays all shapes, sizes, and colors are acceptable.

              Personally, I think a wedding "cake" should be whatever the bride and groom want it to be, even if it's not a cake at all. It's a celebration of happiness through sugar and deliciousness. Adherence to tradition, even when it doesn't gel with the couple's personalities, is one of the most frustrating things to see when attending a wedding.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tazia

                You are right, they are usually art and not food, I have never eaten good wedding cake. Give me food any day!

                We did a pie buffet where friends and family made special pie recipes. People still talk about how great it was.

              2. Tradition. 21st century US wedding cakes have always been a layered cake with white icing. In the UK the wedding cake is a fruit cake covered with royal icing fondant. In France it's a croquembouche.

                Of course you can serve anything you want at your wedding and even not have a cake so should you chose, but in each country/culture a "wedding cake" will have very clear imagery.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Roland Parker

                  Fruit cakes used to be more common at weddings in the US in former generations (I think it was more common when people actually had receptions - featuring light food, punch/champagne, and wedding cake, plus dancing - that were not full-bore dinners, because a more substantial cake made more sense in that context). It's actually easier to make a good-tasting fruitcake than a good-tasting white cake (that is, delightful white cake rocks, but most versions are mediocre, sad to say).

                2. For me, a wedding cake is a cake served at a wedding celebration [and I have the pictures to prove it.]

                  1. When we got married (in Ontario, quite a few years ago) our wedding cake was a fruitcake my mother had made and had professionally decorated. It was 3 tiers, covered in almond paste and iced with hard royal icing. The top tier had a wedding bells cake topper on it.
                    When it was assembled, the bottom tier had been replaced with a block of styrofoam that had been iced - the real cake having been cut into small pieces, wrapped, and put into small white boxes imprinted with our names and the wedding date, for the guests to take home. Unmarried girls were told (semi-seriously) that they would dream of their future husbands if they slept with the cake under their pillows that night.
                    We forgot about the styrofoam (the first cut was to be made into the second layer) and tried to cut into it, to the general amusement of the assembled guests.
                    The top layer was taken home by my mother and frozen, to be saved for the christening of our first child in accordance with custom. No kids, don't entirely know what happened to that cake.
                    Fruitcake must have been customary because of its abundance/fertility aspect.
                    A white cake was served as dessert at the reception - it was called the groom's cake.
                    Reading this over I realize that it makes us sound as if we had been married in the 1840's or something, except for the styrofoam aspect!
                    Do people in Canada still have fruitcake wedding cakes?

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: buttertart

                      I've never heard of that custom of saving the top layer for the christening of the first child -- I've only heard of saving it for your first anniversary! Is that still common in some places? (Alas, I only got to try two bites of my delicious cheesecake wedding cake before I got pulled away to take pictures, and then they cleared the rest of it away and told us there wasn't any left, let alone a whole top layer! I'm still a little upset about that. Of course, if we had saved it for five years and served it at our first child's christening, it wouldn't have been much better.)

                      1. re: Pia

                        People worked fast in them days! I suppose it was a carryover from pre-Pill days when if you were fertile you would most likely have had a baby within the first year or so.

                        1. re: Pia

                          I'd heard the same about first anniversaries. When I got married, the bottom two tiers served everyone but my now-ex's table of nieces and nephews. I told them to serve from the top layer and wrap up what was left, if any. We did have it on our first anniversary, and it kept quite well. I was able to enjoy it by then!

                        2. re: buttertart

                          This person in Canada had a fruitcake wedding cake and has attended many, many, many more ( I am a pastor) that served the stack with the traditional layers and even the little bride and groom figures, especially in small towns in the east. Lately, however, whether here in Nova Scotia or back in NL or in Ontario, there is much more variety.

                          When I had the honour of presiding over the marriage of our daughter and my SIL last year, they had 10 cakes. The young couple are very much involved in the foody community here (stall at the market, original members of the Slow Food Movement in Italy and now here...) and they had so many offers to make the food for the reception that they said "yes" to all comers, just keep it size small...big wedding, small budget and donations happily co-ordinated and received by clever team of foody bridesmaids and groomsmen.

                          The result was a wonderful seafood dinner and a stunning dessert table with 4 fruit cakes with both tradtional and Cake Boss style decoration, 2 carrot cakes (one gluten free for celiac bride, one the same recipe as we made for our own wedding 30 years ago, both made and frosted by the bride's 88 year old grandfather, great aunt and proud mom and dad), one strawberry meringue short cake and one stunning Black Chocolate Cake. The cakes were all visually tied into the theme colours with co-ordinated plates, Tibetan prayer flags and retro table-clothes: really knock out looking...more photos were taken of the cake table than the bride and groom!People who attended still stop me on the street a year and a half later and ask about this display.

                          I'd say anything goes and what makes it a wedding cake, is that it is made/paid with love.

                          1. re: LJS

                            Now THAT's a wedding cake story! So much better to have cake(s) made with love than some towering gargantuan-in-the-mode-of-the-day-signifying-nothing. Thanks for sharing your story, LJS. You made my evening.

                            1. re: LJS

                              You are right about the made with love.I was (and am) very happy that my mom made ours.

                            2. re: buttertart

                              What a work of love that must have been (styrofoam aside!). Was it a fruit cake, as in the type passed around at Christmas, or was it an rum/alcohol cake w/ dried fruit? My friend is from Jamaica and had a rum black cake for her wedding. She said they started it a year or so in advance and it's very pricey. I think it's along these lines.


                              1. re: chowser

                                Fruitcake, with candied fruits, raisins, nuts, and marzipan under the royal icing. We usually called it Christmas cake because that's when it was always served. I made 15 lbs of fruitcake this year (have more stuff to use up, going to make more - my husband's family loves it any time).

                              2. re: buttertart

                                Yes, my sister had the exact same thing and saved the top tier as well. Fruitcakes are still fairly common where I'm from.

                                1. re: im_nomad

                                  I have my mom's Christmas cake tins (my brother made them for her in metal shop) - the very ones our wedding cake was made in, right around this time of year 38 yrs ago.

                              3. It is served at a wedding...however there are "traditional wedding cakes" and those are usually the white with tiers etc. If you showed me a picture of one of those and asked what it is I would probably say wedding cake as opposed to cake.

                                1. Is it simply that it is presented at a wedding?


                                  I'd say it's any cake you present at a wedding. I've seen cakes that don't even resemble a wedding cake...but they were at a wedding.

                                  Watch Ace of Cakes and see what they come up with for wedding cakes.

                                  Our wedding cake came from a Chinese bakery noted for their strawberry cakes...the cake we got was the same cake, but tiered and with wedding like piping for decorations.

                                  1. They're tall, tiered, highly decorated, and taste just dreadful. Fondant and white chocolate are craft materials. The heavy use of these, along with the unnaturally colored food dyes, are among the defining characteristics of a wedding cake.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Isolda

                                      I think you have been at the wrong weddings.

                                      1. re: Sooeygun

                                        Either that, or the people whose weddings I attend all watch those cake decorating shows where the cakes are just someone's art, rather than actual food.

                                    2. A scary cannibalistic idea:



                                      Phototransfers, not a good idea for a wedding cake:


                                      The Hostess Wedding cake:



                                      Pork pie wedding cake:


                                      The most disgusting scene from Star Wars that could be a wedding cake (aka what happens when geeks marry):


                                      So, really anything can be a wedding cake.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: chowser

                                        I don't know which is funnier: the redneck doe and buck cake topper or all the comments on the site asking where they can get one for their wedding cake.

                                        1. re: gaffk

                                          I didn't read the responses until you pointed it out. Too funny! People have camo themed weddings? I thought the funniest was the one about the topper being a large buck and a small buck, not a doe and buck, so it must be for a gay wedding.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            A redneck, cammo, same sex wedding--I'd pay for an invite to that!

                                      2. We wanted ours to taste good as well as look pretty so we had three simple tiers - one of chocolate fudge (for him) and two vanilla bean (for me) with a vanilla buttercream. It was very simple but everyone enjoyed it. It was what was meaningful to us and we wanted something people would actually eat!

                                        1. The little man on top of the cake.

                                          1. I don't think all traditional wedding cakes taste bad. I had one with a simple design, but it tasteed wonderful with layers of dacquoise, ganache, and blackcurrent mousse.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Avalondaughter

                                              Black currant mousse? That sounds fantastic! I could probably sandwich that between two sneakers and eat it. Recipe?

                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                Me too! Good one - I usually say "put that on a brick and eat it".

                                            2. As someone who does not like cake, I am happy to say that our wedding this year will not have one. Not sure what dessert we will have, but it won't be cake. Maybe Ben & Jerry's!

                                              1. A wedding cake has nothing to do with decorations, size, cost or flavor. Its a cake that is served at a wedding, period.

                                                1. Our wedding cake was delicious. We went to the same bakery we use all the time for cakes, donuts, breads, etc. They made us a lovely wedding cake, and it cost under $300.

                                                  1. When Mr. Meatloaf and i married, the cake was a laye rof lemon cake with blueberry filling and another of chocolate with cranberry filling. The baker was a James Beard award winner, an deservedly so. We have several tasty wedding cake producers where we live, thank goodness.