Why do we cut a wedding cake?

History of cake cutting – A symbol of unity
While wedding cakes have been present at wedding celebrations for centuries, they have not always been a focal point, and they have also not always been cake! At one time it was a Roman wedding tradition to break a piece of barley bread over the bride’s head to symbolize the breaking of her virginity as well as the groom’s dominance over her. Luckily the feminist movement has helped us get rid of too much enthusiasm over that idea!

The tradition of the bride cutting the wedding cake has continued over centuries until Victorian times, when she needed the increased strength of her husband to assist. During the Victorian era the icing on wedding cakes was thickened and hardened to support the (at that time) new concept of having a tiered cake. The wedding cake tiers needed a stronger base to support the pillars and the genteel Victorian bride found that a great deal of strength was needed to penetrate the hard icing to be able to cut the cake – hence the groom’s involvement in cutting the cake, making it a joint responsibility in more recent history.

A modern twist
Along with the first dance and bouquet toss, this charming tradition is one of those photo opportunities that graces every wedding album. The cake cutting represents the first activity done as husband and wife although historically the bride did this act alone to symbolize the loss of her virginity.

In African culture the cutting of the cake is done at what is called a “white” wedding. The “white” wedding is what Africans adapted from the Victorian era or western society. Before African brides would cut the shoulder of a goats skin but times have changed and traditions have fallen aside and adapted to the more popular trends.

Nowadays your cake can be pretty much any design you can imagine. From a beautifully ornate cake with handmade sugar flowers, to cupcakes piled high, to a ‘naked’ cake decorated with fruit and petals, your favourite style and flavour of cake can be made. If you don’t have a sweet tooth then you can go down the route of a ‘cheese’ cake with rounds of your favourite cheeses. Common ones to use include Cheddar, Stilton and Goats Cheese.

The Appropriate Way To Cut A Wedding Cake
The correct way for the couple to cut the wedding cake is for the groom to place his right hand over the bride’s hand for them to slide the knife into and through a section of the bottom layer of the cake. This is seen as the first task that the couple will have performed together and signifies unity for their forthcoming married life. (After this first cut, either the caterer will assist to cut a slice of cake for the couple, or they will continue to cut a slice themselves.)

The first slice of the wedding cake is placed onto a plate and the knife is again used to cut this slice into two smaller pieces. First the groom feeds a piece to the bride, and then she reciprocates by feeding a piece to him. The significance of this is the couple’s public declaration of a mutual commitment to always provide for one another.

After the traditional cutting of the first slice of wedding cake by the newly married couple, the caterer will arrange for the rest of the base of the cake to be cut into slices and distributed to the rest of the guests. Other tiers of the cake may be used for later distribution to other people who could not be present at the wedding reception.

Traditionally, the top tier of the cake is preserved for a later special occasion, such as the christening of the first child or to celebrate the first wedding anniversary. Often, the top tier is made of fruitcake (where the couple may have chosen a different filling for the other tiers) this will assist with storage or freezing for a longer period of time.

Wedding cakes are symbolic from the time they were created until now that they were made even more special. Brides and their grooms may even become emotional as they cut their cake. After all, this would also mark the ending of the wedding, and the beginning of a new life as husband and wife.