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Anna & Wendy, the custom of saving part of the wedding cake is probably a very old one coming from a time when wedding cakes were fruitcakes. I'm not up on all the details and some of what I say may be somewhat "off," and I'll gladly be corrected by someone who is better informed on the history of wedding cakes.

Firstly, it is only recently that any but the wealthiest had catered wedding feasts. Mostly wedding celebrations were prepared by the families. (Or in the case of the wealthy, by the servents in their home). The cakes until relatively recently included dark fruitcakes called Groom's cakes. The light Bride's Cake sometimes also had spices, candied peel, and almond/orange extract/rosewater, etc. In the US, from colonial times (I believe), a bride's cake and a groom's cake were prepared, the bride's cake was the one cut first at the wedding. I believe sometimes both were served, sometimes, the groom's cake was saved. Such a cake, wrapped in fondant would keep for quite awhile.

As late as the 60/70's (& perhaps still), little slices were individually iced with almond paste and/or fondant, wrapped in individual gift boxes for the guests to take as favors. When visiting a friend at Spitfire Lake (NY) many years ago, they took us to see friends of theirs who had recently had a wedding and we were given some of the many little gift boxes of cake.

My MIL's very tattered copies of Boston Ckg Sch. Ckbk and Settlement each give as Wedding cakes ONLY fruitcakes. (date back to early 20th century, but title page is missing). I have in my files a couple recipes for Groom's Cake (below) as I love fruitcakes. At the time I added them, I neglected to note the source, but I believe it was Gourmet Mag. I can't find any titled Bride's cake in my file, but there is one in the 2 Vol Gourmet Ckbk.


GROOM'S CAKE
2 sticks butter softened
2 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour combined with 2 tsp cinnamon,
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice combined with 1/2 cup unsweetened bottled grape juice
1 Tbs grated lemon rind
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cup finely chopped glaceed citron
1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped blanched almonds
1/3 cup sieved apricot jam

8" round straight sided baking dish with 3" deep sides lined with buttered wax paper.

In mixer cream butter til light and fluffy; add 2 cups confectioners' sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating and beat til smooth. Add eggs,1 x 1, beating after each addition. Add flour mixture and the juice mixture alternately a third at a time; stir in rind, fruits, almonds. Turn batter into dish; cover batter with a buttered round of wax paper; cover with double layer of foil secured with kitchen string. Set on rack in kettle with tight fitting lid; add enough simmering water to kettle to reach halfway up sides of dish; steam cake. Adjust heat as necessary to keep water at a simmer and adding more water as necessary for 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours or til cake tester inserted through foil into center of cake comes out clean.

Remove dish carefully from kettle, remove foil and wax paper. Let cake stand on rack 30 minutes. Run thin knife around inside edge of dish; invert rack over cake and invert cake onto it. Let cake cool completely. May be stored in airtight container for 1 week or frozen, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for several weeks. Transfer to platter. Sift 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar over top and brush sides with apricot jam, heated. Yields 24 very thin slices.


GROOM'S CAKE (II)
4 cup sifted all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp each of ground cloves, cinnamon, mace
2 cup butter or margarine
2 1/4 cup (1 #) firmly packed brown sugar
10 eggs, well beaten
1/2 lb each candied cherries and pineapple
1 lb dates, seeded and sliced
1 lb each seedless raisins and currants
1/2 lb citron, thinly sliced
1/4 lb each of candied orange and lemon peel
2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup each honey and molasses
1/2 cup cider

Sift flour, baking powder, spices together 3 times. Cream butter. Gradually add sugar; cream til light and fluffy. Add eggs, fruits, peels, nuts, honey, molasses, and cider. Gradually add sifted dry ingredients, beating after each addition til blended. Spoon into 3 loaf pans (10 x 5 x 3" each), greased, lined with heavy paper, and greased again. Bake in preheated very slow oven (250°f) for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Makes 80 servings.

Half cake served at reception; remainder put in gift boxes.
 
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