June continues to be the most popular month for weddings, and Janet Brown Interiors loves helping brides and grooms register for items that will help them start a new life together. Planning a wedding is fun and exciting, but it can be overwhelming, so it is important to work with an experienced professional who can guide engaged couples through the process. Graham Haddock is the award-winning owner of Cakes by Graham. He has a passion for meeting clients and designing extraordinary cakes for life’s celebrations. Janet Brown Interiors recently spoke with Graham to discuss wedding cakes and tradition.
Janet Brown Interiors: How would you describe a “traditional” wedding cake?
Graham: “Traditional” means different things to different people. The term refers to styles or designs that people have used in the past. However, some brides say they want a “traditional” wedding cake, but what they really mean is they want a round cake. The key to creating the cake you want is communication.
Graham typically spends an hour and a half talking with the engaged couple and asking questions to find out what they like. They look at pictures and taste cakes. Graham offers fifty different flavors of cake, along with eight frosting choices and a variety of fillings. The most popular cake flavor is French vanilla, followed by golden butter pound cake. A bride can have real flowers on her cake – roses are a “traditional” choice, and hydrangeas are popular, or she can have flowers made of sugar frosting.
White is a symbol of purity, and Queen Victoria popularized the tradition of using white icing on a wedding cake [hence the term “royal icing”] when she married Prince Albert in 1840. However, not all cakes are white. If a bride is wearing off-white or ivory, the frosting can match the shade of her gown. Graham has made cakes that are pink, as well as confections that incorporate details of the bride’s or bridesmaids’ dresses such as a blue sash, buttons, or dotted Swiss fabric.
Janet Brown Interiors asked Graham if anything about wedding cakes has changed over the years. “Techniques have changed,” he said. “And there is more use of color now.”
Another change is social media, which provides access to so many ideas. Images are helpful, but couples often feel overloaded. “Some brides come in with their tablets and their Pinterest boards, and they have so many pictures they can’t find the right photos. Other people take what they see too literally. You sometimes have to change a cake that you see in a photo to fit the size of your wedding, your reception space, your budget. The images can provide inspiration, but you have to guide the couple through the process of creating the cake that is right for them.”
“I treat each bride as an individual,’ says Graham. “And the key to creating the right cake [for her] is information and communication.”
Graham noted that the wedding is typically “all about the bride,” but one special way to honor the groom is through a groom’s cake. The tradition of the groom’s cake began in England as an unfrosted fruit cake, and the idea traveled to the United States. “Everyone in Texas has a groom’s cake,” Graham said. “It’s about 50-50 in the south.’
The groom’s cake is a fun way to celebrate the groom by depicting his hobby, his school, his occupation – anything that highlights his personality. Graham has made groom’s cakes shaped like a guitar, a pizza, a record player, a fish tank, an airplane runway, and a Virginia Tech beverage cooler. The possibilities are endless.
The groom’s cake can be served at the rehearsal dinner, or it can be sliced and boxed to be given away as favors at the wedding reception. Tradition states that a woman who sleeps with a slice of groom’s cake under her pillow will dream of her future husband.
Although the tradition of groom’s cakes has fallen out of favor in England, Prince William asked for a chocolate biscuit cake when he married Catherine Middleton in 2011. Biscuit is the British term for cookie, and McVitie’s, the baker that made Queen Elizabeth’s wedding cake in 1947, recreated William’s favorite teatime treat for his nuptial celebration.
Catherine his bride chose traditional English fruit cake for the official wedding cake, which featured edible flowers depicting the English rose, the Scottish thistle, the Welsh daffodil, and the Irish shamrock.
Many Americans make jokes about fruit cakes, but they are the traditional choice for English wedding cakes. According to Carol Wilson (author of “Wedding Cake: A Slice of History,” Gastronomica), fruited cakes were symbols of fertility and prosperity in seventeenth-centuryEngland.
“I certainly do love the beautiful history and lovely customs of my country, England,” Graham wrote on one of his blog posts. He explained to Janet Brown Interiors that the bottom tier of a wedding cake in England is cut and shared with guests at the reception, and the middle tier is sliced and boxed to be delivered to people who were unable to attend.
The top tier of an English wedding cake is called the “christening cake,” and it is saved to be eaten at the baptism of the couple’s first child. Prince William and Kate Middleton followed this tradition and saved wedding cake to celebrate Prince George’s christening last fall. Since the English wedding cake traditionally is a fruit cake, it is easier to preserve than other cakes, and Fiona Cairns, the baker who created William and Kate’s wedding cake told Hello Magazine that, “after 30 months, it’s even more delicious.” In the United States, the top tier traditionally is saved to be eaten on the couple’s first wedding anniversary.
If you are planning a wedding or other life celebration, we invite you to visit Graham Haddock, owner of Cakes by Graham. Graham Haddock has been a member of the International Cake Decorating and Exploration Societe (I.C.E.S.) and Virginia I.C.E.S. since 1991, when he completed a 15 year career in the British Army Catering Corps. After serving in England, Northern Ireland, Norway, Germany and the United States, his final assignment was as Senior Technical Instructor on the culinary exchange program at Fort Lee, Virginia. In January 1994, he formed his own business, Richmond’s only Custom Cakery, Cakes by Graham. The cakery’s mission is to provide clients with high quality, uniquely designed cakes for life’s celebrations. Cakes by Graham’s many awards include The Knot’s Best of Weddings, 2014 and 2013 Pick, and Virginia Weddings – Top Wedding Vendor 2013.
Janet Brown Interiors offers wedding registry, along with beautiful cake stands by Vietri and Juliska. Our serving pieces make beautiful shower and anniversary gifts, and we offer linens, personalized cocktail napkins and fun Mr. and Mrs. items. Let us help you plan your wedding celebrations . . .
Something borrowed, something blue . . . Perhaps a Vietri cake knife will do . . .
Post by Kathleen Sams Flippen for Janet Brown Interiors.