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Skipping the Cake

Cake seems to go with weddings like brides and grooms. But don’t be afraid to buck with tradition when it comes to dessert.


Wedding cake traditions date back at least to ancient Rome. There were mentions in the medieval era, too. Early recipes relied on barley and wheat, long before newlyweds happily smashed desserts in one another’s faces. Instead, according to Gastronomica, they’d eat just a few crumbs from these scone-like creations as one of their first acts as a couple. The British started the tradition of stacking these scones, buns or cookies as high as they could, creating a forerunner for today’s tiered cakes. Sugar became more affordable into the 18th century, bringing on the advent of white icing. Brides originally handed out the cake to wedding guests, before it became a shared activity. The cake-cutting ceremony followed.


Couples are increasingly choosing something besides cake, as intricately designed petit fours, ice cream, cake pops and sorbet move onto the menu. Cupcakes have been the fastest-growing alternative, since they boast a cake-like quality, have an advantage of being very portable and can be stacked. Cheesecakes and pies can also showcase summer’s freshest fruits — and they’ll link back to earlier wedding traditions. Back then, a ring was hidden in the wedding pie and whoever found it was thought to be the next to marry — similar to our bouquet-tossing tradition today.


Miniature items are likewise easily transported as guests mix and mingle. Match different donuts, Madeleines, cream puffs, macarons and pies — or do something more exotic like banana beignet bites or tiramisu pudding shots. Summer weddings can sometimes get steamy, so consider tiny frozen creations like sorbets or daiquiris. Setting aside the tried-and-true cake option opens up a world of new options.


Stack cinnamon rolls with cream-cheese icing for a fresh take on dessert that will delight your guests. Or stack them without icing, then place a fountain for dipping nearby. Try a pancake or waffle tower. They will resemble the traditional tiered cake, while giving you a chance to let your imagination run wild with decorative ideas like greenery or blooms. Then instead of cutting the cake, you can pour the syrup together as your first married act. The result is a symbolic sweet!

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