Once upon a time, I’d avoid wedding cake if there were other desserts available or poke at it unenthusiastically – I have a sweet tooth, okay? – if it was the only sugary treat on offer. Maybe it was simply the caliber of weddings I attended as a child and teen, but I seem to remember that wedding cake back in the day was almost always a plain sponge cake, maybe half vanilla and half chocolate, with chocolate pudding or strawberry goo inside, blanketed by “buttercream” that was mostly shortening.
It looked pretty, but tasted… meh.
Does anyone else remember those? It would seem you can still buy that sort of thing, if the office birthday cakes I suffered through at employers past, but I’d be very, very surprised to see one at a wedding. An article sent to be by the lovely Omnibus Driver posits that the fancification of wedding cakes has a lot to do with the bajillion cooking-themed and wedding reality shows now on television. That’d be the “It’s on TV so I must really need it” phenomenon.
The wedding cake at one time was something of an afterthought, sliced and set out in little baggies for guests to pick up on their way out at the end of the evening. And not particularly tasty. Then came the bridal industry boom in the ’90s, the magazines and wedding planners, the Knot and the blogs and, most recently — naturally — the reality shows.
And thank goodness for them, say wedding cake designers, whose industry, however sugary its focus, hasn’t come through these tough economic times completely unscathed. “Without those shows, we would not be making it,” says Naomi Levine, pastry chef and proprietor of Tipsycake, a three-year-old bake shop at 1043 N. California.
Bridal industry boom, yes. But really now, reality television? I’d credit bridal bloggers more than anyone else for making me want a wedding cake that went beyond your basic vanilla sponge and silver dragees. Yes, that’s right, shout out to us! And as much as the wedding cake is now hailed as a centerpiece of the wedding, it’s still just food. Very beautiful food that may have cost $3,000, but it’s going to get eaten in the end. I tend to see the whole cake-in-the-spotlight trend as a way to upsell on the cake more than anything else. After all, you can have a beautiful, delicious cake without busting your budget or making it the guest of honor at your wedding reception.
(That beautiful wedding cake up there came from Lovin Sullivan Cakes in NYC)