When most people picture the dessert an at American wedding, they imagine a beautiful, ornate cake covered in frosting or fondant. Of course, cakes can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and there are many other desserts out there that could easily fill its tasty role. Wedding desserts vary so much between countries and cultures. Let’s take a quick look at at some of the preferred sweets in different parts of the world:
Great Britain enjoys fruitcake for the holidays, but wedding fruitcakes are made even richer with frostings of fondant, brandy butter, or marzipan. Being a celebratory cake, it’s recipe originally consisted of rare and coveted nuts, fruits, and liqueurs. Imagine cognac-soaked currants, raisins, prunes, orange peels, and dates. The top tier of each fruit cake is called the christening cake, and it is commonly saved until the couple’s first anniversary (although it used to be saved until the birth of their first child). In medieval times, it was believed that newlyweds would have a lifetime of prosperity if they kissed over a stacked pile of spiced buns. In 1804, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s wedding cake was decorated in white “royal icing.”
In Ireland and Scotland, they enjoy the same cake as the English, but they add in lots of whiskey, bourbon, brandy, and almond paste between layers. In 17th century Scotland, the bride’s pie was commonly filled with sweat bread or mutton stew. A glass ring would be hidden within, and the lady who found it would be the next to marry.
Germans enjoys serving up a nut genoise or sponge cake laced with liquor or syrup. Fill it with jam, marzipan, or nougat. Then top it off with fondant or a ganache.
Italian cakes or desserts are regional. One is a tiered pound cake filled with vanilla and chocolate custard, rum cream, and fruit and adorned with either flower blooms or royal icing. Another serves a mille foglie, which consists of many layers of a light filo pastry and vanilla and chocolate creams and is topped with strawberries. Italian wedding guests are also typically given five (or another lucky odd number) candy coated almonds each.
Most Greeks today prefer a flourless almond cake filled with vanilla custard and fruit then covered in sliced almonds. Traditional symbolic cakes also incorporate honey, sesame seed, and quince. The Greeks are also known for their sourdough wedding bread, which itself is filled with beads and blossoms.
Hungarian weddings usually feature a three-tiered floral cake, which itself is meant to match the color scheme of the ceremony. The newlyweds serve the cake to their guests during the ceremony, and w afterwards each guest receives an additional small box of cakes.
The French celebrate around a croquembouche, which itself is decorated with ornate spun sugar. All other wedding pastries are usually cream-filled and coated in caramel. Some people even combine these more traditional designs with a modern chevron cake.
Ukrainian couples share korovai, which is a wedding bread decorated with designs depicting the joining of the two families. It’s also a sacred part of the wedding feast.
Lithuania has a particularly cool-looking “cake,” which is really a cookie shaped like a tall Christmas tree. It’s sunny yellow and decorated with fresh flowers and herbs.
Some Scandinavians have a wreath or tower cake made of 18 or more layers of rings held together by white icing. It’s used for weddings and other special occasions. Iceland has the kransakaka, which is made up of ring-shaped almond pastries stacked on top of each other to form a pyramid-esque tower. The center of this pastry is hollow and filled with candies or fine chocolates. Norwegians enjoy a wedding bread (brudlaupskling) because white flour was once rare in Norway, so bread was considered a real treat. Brudlaupskling is commonly served with cheese, cream, and syrup.
China is vast and has a range of different bridal cakes, which are always made in even numbers to emphasize the idea of pairs. Many recipes call for egg, lotus seed, mung bean pastry, yellow bean paste, and pindan walnut. Some families even send these cakes out with the wedding invitations. The country’s dowry/marriage cake traditions began all the way back around 220-280 AD.
Koreans enjoy cakes that are typically less sweet than those found in other countries, such as mujigae tteok, a cake made from ground steamed rice flour, filled with nuts, fruits, red or mung bean paste, and covered in red bean powder. Korean ceremonies can also sometimes feature a sponge cake covered with a non-dairy cream.
The Japanese have a very ornate imposter cake (rubber and fake confections iced with wax or an ornate Styrofoam model), which even has a slot for the bride and groom to insert a knife into during the cutting ceremony. After the cutting ceremony, the real sheet cake in the kitchen is served to guests.
Thai weddings traditionally serve guests a cake topped with long, sugary “silken thread” noodles, which themselves are symbolic of the couple’s eternal love.
The Vietnamese eat a dessert called Banh Xu Xe (conjugal cake), which is made from tapioca and mung beans and wrapped in a green banana leaf. This leaf represents the marital stickiness between the couple, while the golden tapioca filling characterizes the golden heart between them as they pledge devotion to each other.
Indonesia’s typical wedding cakes are massive, multilayered masterpieces called kek lapis, whose layers of chocolate and vanilla can be traced back to the Dutch colonial days. Many versions are spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.
India’s huge and vast country has many diverse cultures, religions, languages, and traditions. Indian weddings last for three or more days, a period of time that includes mehndi, sangeet, and the actual wedding. There are many sweets shared at these large gatherings, including mithai (sweets), ladoo (ball shaped sweet), burfi (condensed milk, fruits, nuts,), gulab jamun (fried milky dough balls and sweet syrup with rosewater, saffron, and cardamom), jalebi (flour mix fried into curled shapes, then sweetened), and other heavenly bites! While there are a lot of traditional sweets tied to the culture and background, there are also a few Western-inspired concept cakes, some of which are made with silver or gold, colorful handmade marzipan designs, and narratives showcasing the couple’s experiences!
Jamaica’s traditional wedding cake is called a black cake. It has fruit soaked in rum, syrup, and molasses dough. Bermuda has two cakes, a bride cake (multi-tiered fruitcake covered in silver leaves for purity), and a groom’s cake (pound cake covered in gold leaves for prosperity). Another one of Bermuda’s wedding traditions involves the planting of a cedar sapling by the couple to symbolize a growing love and life. Caribbean couples also enjoy fruitcakes filled with dried fruits and wine or rum.
The crescent-shaped Mexican wedding cookie, the polvorón, can be traced all the way back to the country’s colonization by the Spanish in the 16th century, who in turn received it from their ancestors, the Moors. Good recipes sure get around! Polvorónes are nearly identical to Russian teacakes. Mexican weddings also feature nutty fruitcakes, tres leches cakes, and chocolate chili pound cakes.