Almost every day, someone asks me about the groom’s cake. What is it? Where did the tradition start, and why do today’s couples keep it going? Should the groom’s cake show up at the rehearsal dinner, or the wedding? Is it supposed to be made of chocolate?
When many people think of the groom’s cake, they picture that quirky red velvet armadillo from “Steel Magnolias.” Often, their second thought is, “why would I want that my wedding?” In reality, though, the groom’s cake is a deeply-rooted Southern custom, every bit as traditional as the explosion of wedding cookies you find at many Western Pennsylvania weddings — and it doesn’t have to be an armadillo.
According to superstition, any single woman at a wedding should go home with a slice of groom’s cake and sleep with it under her pillow. That night, according to legend, she’ll dream of her future husband. Whether or not the folklore holds true, it seems that the old Southern tradition of the groom’s cake is making a comeback — not only in the South but in metropolitan areas all over the nation, where designers are whipping up elaborate confections that reflect the groom’s interests in a dramatic and memorable way.
This Isn’t Your Mother’s Groom’s Cake
For example, I recently attended a Manhattan wedding that featured a particularly spectacular — and humorous — groom’s cake. The cake modeled the groom’s Labrador Retriever, who was lying on a cake pillow, guarding the fondant-built keys to the groom’s BMW. The detail was phenomenal, from the dog’s realistic fur down to the BMW insignia on the keyring. And by all accounts, the groom was quite impressed with this clever surprise by his bride. Of course, not all groom’s cakes are this detailed or elaborate, but in a ceremony that typically seems to be all about the bride, there’s something to be said for spotlighting the groom’s unique personality in a special cake.
At Jody’s Pantry, we’ve seen the groom honored in cake form with requests ranging from a whimsical farm, complete with cows and John Deere tractors, to an intricate scale of justice architected with marbelized fondant — for a lawyer, of course. More common requests include cakes that resemble tuxedos, complete with lapels, bow tie and a small boutonniere made of fondant. Also popular this year are realistic “gift baskets,” complete with grapevine or fondant handles, and fresh fruit or chocolate-dipped strawberries that spill out from the center. Sports themes also make a frequent showing: footballs and basketballs are popular, and so are cakes in the shape of baseball caps.
It’s All About Timing
As for when to serve this tempting tribute to the other half? There’s no right or wrong answer — the rehearsal dinner is perfectly appropriate, as is the wedding reception itself. Either way, guests and groom alike are sure to enjoy this chance to see the groom’s interests or hobbies reflected in this once-in-a-lifetime form.
Still, there are guidelines involved, based on when you serve it. If serving the groom’s cake at the rehearsal dinner, make sure the cake is whatever flavor the groom likes best — carrot cake, coconut cream, red velvet — whatever he loves.
But if you’re serving the groom’s cake at the wedding, this is a great opportunity to choose something rich and chocolate that offsets the traditional white wedding cake, such as a chocolate fudge torte with a decadent raspberry or chocolate mousse filling, or perhaps a peanut or almond creme. Seasonal factors play a role too. For example, many couples opt for a cream cheese-frosted, pecan-filled carrot cake for a fall wedding.
Delicious Dollars and Savory Cents
How much does a groom’s cake cost? Just as with any other “occasion” cake, the pricing depends on the complexity of your design, the type of cake you choose, and any flavorings or fillings you desire. Basic buttercream designs start at around $1.25 per serving, and hit $8 a serving and up for the more intricate fondant designs. This is just a general guideline, though, as pricing differs widely from city to city, not to mention the variation between home-based bakers and licensed designers with storefronts. As always, if you want to make sure the finished result is a total delight, ask ahead of time for a taste test, customer referrals, and a Department of Agriculture license.
Now you’ve got the fine print out of the way, it’s time to get creative. From beer kegs to briefcases and race cars to reptiles, a talented baker can replicate just about anything in cake that your imagination can dream up. So honor your groom — and his vocation or favorite hobby — with a cake to remember, while adding a little whimsy to your reception. Who knows? Maybe even your single friends will benefit from your creative groom’s cake, and enjoy some remarkable “sweet dreams.
Jody Wimer has been designing and creating custom wedding and celebration cakes since 1998, and is the proprietor of Jody’s Pantry at The Village Inn. Feeling passionately about taste, freshness and presentation, she’s created a scrumptious array of cake flavors and fillings, as well as an impressive portfolio of work. Complimentary tastings of cake and cookies are available by appointment. Published by special arrangement with FavorIdeas.