Guest post by Janet of DeliCake
(thank you Janet!)
The 1950s was a decade of iconic society weddings. Princess Elizabeth married in 1951, John F Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953, Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier III of Monaco in 1956 and Paul Newman married Joanne Woodward in 1958 so it was an iconic decade of society weddings.
Above – Princess Elizabeth’s 3 tier cake with pillars was copied by 1950’s brides in UK.
The Kennedy wedding cake was a stacked 4 tier cake.
Princess Grace of Monaco had a six tier wedding cake which they cut with Prince Ranier’s sword.
The Newman’s cake is stacked like most American 1950’s cakes.
And my Mum and Dad married in 1956 so I have first hand knowledge of how a traditional wedding cake was made in the UK back then.
It was the norm was to have a three tier fruit cake as this was the current fashion and copied the Royal wedding in 1951. I’m told the cake was often made by the bride or a close female relative. My Mum made her own cake from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book (see appendix for recipe). Sadly no picture of this cake remains but even the marzipan was homemade. It was a tall round cake, separated with pillars for elegance and decoratively piped with swags and swirls of royal icing. Sugar roses and silver paper horseshoes were purchased from the bakers to add to the crisp white piping and a small vase with artificial flowers stood on the top.
It’s hard for us to comprehend now but after the Second World War food was rationed and it wasn’t until February 1953 that sugar rationing ended making the possibility of large lavish and highly decorated luxury cakes a reality. So the majority of fifties brides were lavish with the icing using thick marzipan to seal the rich fruit cake and covering it all with several layers of royal icing – sugar was now available and they were going to use it. All this sugar also had the effect of preserving the fruit cake so it could be used for the first child’s christening (that’s me – and it was).
However it was still an age of waste not want not and thrift was a much prized attribute. My Mum still has the baking tin for the 8 inch middle tier of her cake, and she tells me the 10 inch base tier was baked in a biscuit tin, double wrapped with brown paper to protect the cake during its long slow cooking as she thought it too extravagant to buy a 10 inch tin that wouldn’t be used again.
When looking for photos of 50’s wedding cakes I was surprised to find many for very large round cakes, 3 tiers but stacked so they were wide and low rather than tall and elegantly separated. Further searching has identified that many American cakes were larger and flatter but the celebrities of the time went for very tall, many tiered, highly decorated confections. As now, the perfectly decorated cake provided the photo opportunity of the bride’s first duty as a married woman – cutting the cake.
Good Housekeeping Cookery Book Recipe for Three Tier Wedding Cake
- 5 ½ pounds currants
- 5 ½ pounds sultanas
- 2 pounds stoned raisins
- 1 pound sweet almonds
- 1 ½ pounds glace cherries
- 1 pound mixed peel
- 1 lemon
- 3 pounds flour
- 3 tea spoons cinnamon
- 1 ½ tea spoons mace
- Pinch salt
- 3 pounds butter
- 3 pounds sugar
- 24 large eggs
- 1/3 pint rum or brandy
- A little caramel or browning
- 1 ½ pound ground almonds
- 10 ounces caster sugar
- 10 ounces sieved icing sugar
- Juice small lemon
- 1 ½ tea spoon vanilla essence
- 1 ½ tea spoons orange flower water
- Egg white to mix
Huge thanks to Janet of Deli Cakes for writing this fascinating post for us! It’s so interesting to see how they did wedding cakes in the 50s!