Today’s guest post comes to us from Lien Sanchez, the Owner and principal Cake Artist at the Crazy Cake Company, a specialty cake boutique in Davis, California. She creates custom wedding cakes and sculpted celebration cakes, including Mrs. Penguin‘s and Mrs. Cherry Blossom‘s wedding and groom’s cakes for their weddings.
Why, where, how, when, and who came up with the idea to save a perishable product, namely the top tier of your wedding cake, to eat on a couple’s one-year anniversary? Was it custom, a secret initiation, or perhaps a practical joke? More importantly, since cakes are best enjoyed fresh, how can you partake in this tradition without putting your stomach at risk? Read on…
This tradition, like most others, is an evolution of a practice that was actually quite simple and practical. In earlier times when it was expected that a baby would soon follow a couple’s wedding, the wedding celebration and a christening were often less than a year apart. Cakes were originally made to celebrate both occasions; however these cakes were usually simple single-tiered creations.
When more elaborate three-tiered wedding cakes became popular in the late 19th century, the bottom tier was served during the reception, the middle tier was sent home with guests to place under their pillows (to promote fertility), and the top tier was often left over. This gave rise to the idea of saving the top tier to be served at the inevitable christening. Over time however, the association between weddings and babies waned and the tradition evolved to what we know today, a sweet remembrance to be enjoyed on a couple’s one-year anniversary.
If you’re like me, you may be wondering how folks were able to keep their cakes from spoiling when refrigeration units weren’t even available for the masses ”˜til the 20th century.
Wedding cakes back then were not the light fluffy masses we enjoy today – they were actually made of dense fruitcake that had (and still have) a shelf life that rivals Twinkies. But unless you also plan to have fruitcake at your wedding, I recommend that you follow this easy 5-step guide to correctly freeze your cake so that you too can safely enjoy this fun tradition.
Step 1: Chill. Place the cake in the refrigerator without any wrappings for 1- to 2-hours or until the icing is firm to the touch and able to withstand some handling. Keep in mind that butter absorbs odors like a sponge so unless you find onion-flavored buttercream appetizing, don’t place it next to your leftovers.
Step 2: Freezer burn protection. Wrap the cake in two layers of plastic wrap, keeping the wrap close to the body of the cake and making sure that there are no gaps/tears that will allow air in or out. Freezer burn is caused by water molecules migrating from the cake’s core to its surface to form ice crystals. The less air available, the less room there is for ice crystals to form. So a snug, airtight wrap is key (this concept applies to your frozen meats and veggies as well).
Step 3: Encasement. Place your cake in a box and again wrap with plastic wrap. The box serves two purposes. First, it physically protects your cake from tears, dents, and smells from neighboring items; secondly, the layer of cool air inside the box acts as extra insulation against the self-defrosting functions in most freezers. Partially defrosting and re-freezing anything will deteriorate its quality over time.
Step 4: Deep freeze. Wrap the entire box in foil for extra protection and place in your freezer in a well-ventilated section. Let sit undisturbed for 363 days. If you are planning to move within the year, leave the cake in the freezer of a friend or family member to avoid the defrosting and re-freezing process. Also note that cakes with little fat (e.g. angel food) and cakes with cream, custard, or pudding fillings don’t freeze well for long periods so avoid those flavors for the top tier if possible, or simply enjoy this “tradition” on your one-month anniversary instead.
Step 5: Thaw. On day 364, remove the cake box from the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator (with box, plastic wrap, and foil intact) for 24 hours. Just before serving, unwrap all layers and place at room temperature for about one hour. Then slice and enjoy!
It may not taste exactly the same as on your wedding day, ”˜cause let’s face it, it’s year-old cake, but it’ll come pretty close. So there you have it: history, tradition, and food safety all in five simple steps. A piece of cake.
Check out Crazy Cake Company’s awesome blog for more tips and awesome cake designs!