Growing up in the Midwest, I knew nothing of a Groom’s cake until I watched Steel Magnolias for the first time. In that movie, the groom had a red velvet cake decorated to look like a giant Armadillo. It made no sense to me at the time, I just figured he was odd , like the rest of the characters in the movie. In reality, it was probably one of the finer points of the movie that was missed on me because at the time I knew nothing of grooms cakes, Southern Weddings or Armadillos.
The Grooms cake traditionally was a southern custom, the Armadillo is an animal indigenous to the southern part of the United States and the red velvet cake has always been popular in the south . Add all of this together and you have a ‘bleeding’ Armadillo cake to represent the true southern spirit of the movie. That only took me 20 years to figure out.
Since that movie came to the big screen in 1989 there has been a resurgence of Grooms cakes spreading all the way to Buckingham Palace this past spring when Prince William used his groom’s cake to honor the memory of his mother, the late Princess Diana. This long overlooked tradition has made a full comeback! Once seen as an unnecessary expense, it is now a colorful expression of personality and in some cases (such as Prince William) a way to remember a loved one.
The Groom’s Cake is made for the guests to enjoy at either the rehearsal dinner or served alongside the traditional wedding cake at the reception. With today’s technology and the talents of a great baker, you may have a cake so picturesque and so artistic that no one will believe it is a cake, much less want to be the first to cut into it. Since there are no cake cutting customs associated with the groom’s cake you may want to leave it out for the guests to marvel at for as long as possible and then box the cake slices and serve them as edible take-home favors, adding another opportunity to be creative with the packaging. Legend has it that if single women sleep with a slice of it under their pillow they will dream of their future husband.
Although the bride may also have a hand in design and creation of this cake – it is up to each individual couple to decide who handles this cake and how involved each party will be . If the bride is giving the groom this cake as a gift, she may single handedly select and design the cake for him. Realistically it is best not to get too cutesy – if you are going full-out groom’s cake it should be a reflection of his own personal masculine taste. There are no restrictions on style, shape or flavor. Rich dark chocolate, red velvet and cheesecakes are the more popular choices. The groom usually selects something that represents his family, or life or hobbies. This is the one time when the groom can have complete control of something wedding-related. I say let him have at it but, just in case – you might want to have a private conversation with the groom and your pastry chef or baker outlining what you both define as unacceptable. My advice is to stay away from anything questionable. No one wants to eat a cake that looks like a dead fish no matter how much your future husband enjoys fishing, ditto for all animals portrayed as dead on a cake.
Whether he is an avid gamer, Trekkie, Wine connoisseur or Cubs (or Sox) fan, be sure that your groom has his own cake for everyone to enjoy and keep this lovely tradition alive for future generations!
-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago