| Modern * London |
Hidden between the buildings of Fleet Street is the ultimate expression of love. A giant brick wedding cake. The steeple of St Bride’s church was built in 1703, and it became the second tallest church in London (after St Pauls). The tiers of the church look so much like the familiar tiered wedding cake that they are rumoured to be the cake's inspiration. But did the church's steeple actually have anything to do with the big white wedding cake? Or was it just a romantic coincidence?
Wedding cakes have been part of the ceremony of love since Ancient Roman times, when barley-cakes were broken over the head of the bride for good luck (perhaps this is why the divorce rate is so high now - bring back the cake-sprinkling). In the Medieval period, pies became the flavour of the times, and this is where the real fun begins. For a wedding, the local baker would bake as many pies as possible, then at the ceremony the guests would tower these tough pastries up as high as they could go: if the bride and groom could kiss over the pie-tower, then they would be happy forever after (again, where have all these tried and tested methods gone?!). It was in the 17th century that cakes came back into fashion, and the white icing became a staple, made possible because of the increasing number of sugar mills appearing in England in the 1600s. The white wedding became an ongoing theme through the Victorian times, symbolising virginity, purity, and all those other dull stereotypes the women’s movement has managed to get rid of, exemplified by Victoria’s white wedding dress. But the classic wedding cake, according to historians, was brought to life in 1882 with the marriage of Prince Leopold. From then on it was an ongoing experiment with just HOW BIG CAN WE MAKE IT. Our Queen managed to get her cake to the towering hight of 9 feet, weighing 500 pounds. So, which came first - the cake or the steeple? Maybe Prince Leopold was so taken with the church of St Bride’s that he demanded his cake be made up exactly like it. But then again, maybe it’s just one of those wonderful coincidences. Happy Valentine’s Day!
For anyone getting married this year, here are a number of Medieval superstitions you may want to take note of…
The bride who bakes her own cake will make trouble in the marriage.
A taste of the cake before the wedding means the husband will lose his love.
A taste of the cake after the big day means he will be faithful.
The newlyweds must cut and eat the first slice together.
Every guest must eat a piece of the cake to ensure children.
Fleet St, London EC4Y 8AU