The Wedding Cake

Well before that famous French lady said, "Let them eat cake," people have been baking up sweet, splendiferous concoctions of sugar and spice and everything floury nice to honor the most sacred rites of passage, the wedding. Of course, there was a time the wedding cake was more a "structure" to look at and take wedding cake pictures with rather than a delectable dessert to eat. The old white cement edifice that stood sturdy and tall has happily given way to the creative and unique gateau de marriage.

Forget about purchasing your cake from your caterer, unless you want a triple-layered sheet cake with so much globbed on frosting that one bite would put you into diabetic shock. These days the same work that goes into finding a caterer should go into finding a reputable cake baker. This means taste-testing samples as well as flipping through cake portfolios to compare and contrast the look and taste of your wedding-cake-to-be. And don't rule out the local chefs at your favorite restaurants. These guys often jump at the chance to break from the entrée-of-the-day ho-hum to show their apres dinner desert skills.

There is no shortage of wedding cake designs in today's wedding world so be prepared to look at cake snapshots until your eyes fall out. The round, tiered traditional white cakes of years past are passe these days. Many bakers specialize in creating cakes that look like anything from birdbaths to wedding dresses. Couples-to-be should really put their heads together and think up a cake shape that will be both meaningful and memorable.

And while you're brainstorming about the size and shape of the cake, don't forget to use a few brain cells to consider the wedding cake's top. Most couples have dumped the ol' Ozzie and Harriet plastice bride/groom pose. Nowadays cake artists create golfing newlyweds, skiing newlyweds, or tanning-on-the-beach newlyweds. Not only can these culinary artisans make exact replicas of Mr. and Mrs. You Guys, but they can also make the Happy Couple edible. Now that's cake history!

Okay, you're ready to make some choices. First up: What type of cake and what type of filling? These days the choices are limitless. Pound cake, cheese cake, carrot cake... it's all at your fingertips. This is where taste-testing comes in handy, but more often than not couples already have favorite desserts and the best bet is to go with something you already love--just have them make it bigger. And there's no end to adding custom-made sugar flowers, dragees, and the like to make the tiered wonder your own unique wedding cake.

Who says size doesn't matter? With wedding cakes it does bigtime. Large receptions with hundreds of guests would call for a cake of gigantic proportions. You don't want a cake to taking up attention like the Michelin Man. The rule of thumb here is to keep your cake size at normal proportions and just plan to feed a majority of the guests from a back-up cake. If the cake is sliced, rather than cut up into chunks, no one will know the difference. With small receptions the reverse applies and it's the goal of the bride and groom to make the cake appear larger than it really is (for viewing and picture purposes). How? Get a tiered cake with tall separators to stretch out the classic look. Or, if the budget allows, buy a bigger cake than necessary... you can always freeze the leftovers for your First Anniversary Party.

In days gone by, the cake-cutting ritual was so old and tired that many brides and grooms took to liven up the festivities by shoving cake in each other's faces. You really can't blame them considering they had to smile and cut while the pulsing rhythms of "Farmer In The Dell" played out in the background (the words were changed to "The Bride Cuts The Cake").

Fortunately the marriages of today are turning the cake cutting into a more sentimental and romantic moment. By actually sharing the first piece of cake, the bride and groom can make special the first moment they ate together as husband and wife. With this more sentimental set-up, the reception can easily flow into heart-felt toasts from the newlyweds to their family, friends, and each other.

And don't forget how the cutting of the cake makes a super photo op. Two families are becoming one and "breaking bread' together. Get a picture of it. Bring up the moms, dads, and siblings and say, "Cheese!" Once this is over, it's time to really party-hardy. Cue the band and get everyone out on the dance floor to cut the carpet. Have a blast. Roll your sleeves up, let your hair down and twist and turn and SHOUT! But when that slow song comes on, stop for a minute, gaze into your new spouse's eyes and hold him or her real tight. From now on you are husband and wife!