Is it really how the cake crumbles?
June fades to a close, and our daughter’s wedding day zooms closer. I am using the time to contemplate my mental list, fixate on inane things, and try to figure out the next to-do item. The truth is, I don’t really have anything to do. Our daughter has everything under control, but still, I like to think my, Did you’s? and What about’s? help her focus. Now that the #MOB dress is scratched off my list, I’m finding other things to occupy my consciousness, a whole new set of tasks that I can put off to the last minute. This week, it’s #weddingcake and the whole #cakecutting tradition.
My daughter has opted out of the formal cake cutting ceremony in favour of a dessert table. She’d rather skip the awkward moment of standing in front of everyone flourishing a carving knife. Okay, I admit, I had a moment of Gack! No cake? but then, I started to think about it. Why is having a multi-tiered cake extravaganza at the wedding such a big deal? Why do I, as the mother of the bride, feel a mental pang when our bride says, let’s skip the cake? It’s not as if wedding cake is a big slab of yummy dessert that everyone gets a piece of. Cake for 100 people is a lot of cake. In fact, most of those beautiful designer pastry works of art are simply giant Rice Krispie squares, or Styrofoam.
I remember our wedding cake. It was a delicate box of iced Styrofoam with a special slot to stick the knife in. After the cake cutting, my new husband and I wandered the crowd with a basket of individually wrapped fingers of fruit cake, meeting, greeting, and handing out the pieces.
So where did the idea of fruit cake for weddings come from? Did someone wake up one morning and say, “Look, there’s that fruitcake Aunt Martha made two years ago. Why don’t we slap on a coat of marzipan, slice it up, wrap it in plastic, and put a pretty paper on it. There. Two problems solved — more room in the freezer and dessert for the wedding.
Ah . . . traditions. Cue the mental image of Tevia in #FiddlerontheRoof leaping around the room, fist pumping, and bellowing out “#Tradition!” or —we’re talking weddings here — “#IfIwereaRichMan.” It doesn’t matter, what does is, I’m thinking of traditions, and where they come from.
It turns out, we have the ancient Romans to thank for the ceremonial cutting of the cake. Picture the scene — the vows are said, the guests well fed, and the big moment has arrived. The bride and groom stare tenderly into each other's eyes as the groom carefully lifts the cake. He takes a bite, raises the cake, and . . . breaks it over the bride’s head. The guests rush forward to do battle over the crumbs, picking them off the bride’s hair and gown, gobbling them down. The cake, or oat cake, in Roman times, symbolized fertility. The Romans believed that by sharing in the cake, you would share in the luck and prosperity of the new couple. Only children born to parents married under this custom would be guaranteed a place as a Roman citizen.
Now, to me, eating crumbs off the bride’s hair and gown make me imagine a possible wedding scene from a Planet of the Apes movie.
So that’s it then, no cake. I nod and agree as I tick another mental box and move to the next one. Maybe it’s time to focus on ways to wrangle a three-year-old flower girl.
Here’s a toast to cake, weddings, and futures. May your glass always be full.