In light of my second wedding anniversary I am including this awesome blog post by JSTOR’s Daily Blog, “England’s Obsession with Queen Victoria’s Wedding Cake” by Erin Blakemore, it’s an awesome blog if you are into random intellectual stuff!). Personally, I dislike cake so at our wedding, we had pie, 6 different types of pie and it was perfect and delicious. If you are getting married soon, don’t be afraid to think outside the [cake] box! 🙂
At the time [of Queen Victoria], wedding cakes were usually single-layer fruitcakes covered in stiff white icing—the stuff of years of English tradition. But in the nineteenth century, a French invasion of sorts swept the nation’s kitchens. It became chic to eat Frenchified foods as a way of showing off wealth and good taste. What better way to display that taste than at your own wedding?
Victoria’s wedding cake, though a thoroughly English plum-cake on the inside, had some French decorative flair on the outside. It weighed 300 pounds, and was fourteen inches tall and ten feet in circumference, “was ornamented by sculptures of Britannia, the royal pair in Roman costume, and one of Victoria’s ubiquitous canines, to suggest fidelity,” Allen writes.
Before being eaten, the cake drew quite a crowd. The “distinctly ruly mob” queued up outside of the store where it was created, waited in line for a glimpse, then trotted into the store two by two to get a peek.
It was spectacular—and, Allen writes, it created a media frenzy. Significantly, Allen notes that this was the start of a British tradition: instead of eating the cake or even seeing it in person, much of British society learned about it by looking at lavish illustrations and reading first-hand accounts published in newspapers.
These “strategies of looking” turned Britain into a “nation of spectators” who came together to look at something that was for them but not for them—a wedding and a cake that was primed for public “consumption,” but made for the inaccessible upper class only. Queen Victoria’s wedding was a glorious, unifying performance acted out on a national stage. Accordingly, her cake a delicious-seeming confection that was to be seen, but not necessarily eaten.
For Allen, the people who obsessed over Victoria’s cake became part of the queen’s wedding performance. “In the act of consuming the page she not only participated in but also performed the wedding ceremony, espousing its ideological assumptions,” she writes. “However passive, looking thus became a performative act.”
And now for some photos from our decidedly untraditional wedding pies. Yum!