A discussion is circulating among our daughter’s friends regarding the tradition of the groom’s cake. Questions arose because of the armadillo-shaped cake featured in the movie, Steel Magnolias. Since I’m the research Queen, I was asked to look into the custom of the groom’s cake.
After a bit of googling, it seems most bride’s cakes were of the heavier fruit cake variety, and in England this is still common. I have a recipe for a wedding cake in an English cookbook called “rich fruit cake” that is draped in marzipan and decorated with royal icing. Although this seems odd from an American point of view, I admit the English variety would keep better and transport more easily. This cake can even be made several days ahead of time. In fact, they recommend that the cake be “painted” with apricot preserves and allowed to dry for two days before draping it in the marzipan. That’s one recipe I would have to test…
In this country, the bride’s cake evolved from the fruit cake to pound cake and then the lighter, whiter cake we traditionally think of in present-day. I have in my possession, A book of famous old New Orleans Recipes. The Bride’s cake recipe calls for the whites of 17 eggs, and almond extract flavoring, by the way.
Speculation is that the groom’s cake originated about 1900 in the South because many missed the richer fruit cake. The groom’s cake, also called “second cake” according to Emily Post, was introduced to revive the fruit cake tradition and was offered as a second, not alternative, dessert and served at a separate table from the bride’s cake. It was also the cake that was sliced and sent home with the guests as a favor, often in white boxes tied with ribbon. Sleeping with the cake under their pillow, it was believed, would cause single ladies to have sweet dreams of their future mate.
Groom’s cakes are still a must-have in the south and are no longer limited to fruit cakes. They are usually the groom’s favorite flavor, often chocolate; and their shape may reflect his hobby or interests. [The armadillo apparently had some significance for the groom in the movie, above.] Some couples serve the groom’s cake at the wedding rehearsal dinner as the groom’s parents host this event. The groom’s cake is regaining popularity, not just in the South, as a charming tradition.