The history of wedding cake in Africa can be traced back to its colonial roots. True, this particular wedding food item is not exactly traditionally African, but African wedding cakes are now some of the most unique parts of African weddings. From the different flavors to the various designs, here is yet another way to celebrate your African heritage with your wedding guests.
To begin brainstorming ideas for you African-themed wedding cake, bear in mind that there are many different ways to feature African wedding cakes at your reception, thanks to the more than 1,000 cultures born on the Plateau Continent. Each of these cultures has their own distinct customs and traditions, as well as elements that are unique to them. This makes it easy to create a completely unique cake for your own African wedding.
Just for some fun and for those who like trivia, let’s first start with a little background history of wedding cake. Wedding cakes date back to the Roman Empire, where the “cakes” were actually loaves of barley bread. Now we know in this day and age that no bride would even think of having bread as a substitute for her dream wedding cake… but I digress… These cakes were crumbled over the bride’s head following the ceremony, presumably as a display of the groom’s dominance over his new wife. Okay, at this point I know what all you 21st century brides are thinking, so I won’t even go there…
From these humble origins in the history of wedding cake, the wedding cake has grown to become not just a fixture all its own, but really an integral part of weddings around the world. In modern weddings, it is not unheard of for the cake to cost just as much, if not more, than the bridal gown – especially for specialty tiered cakes with gourmet fillings or handmade designs.
Various African Wedding Cakes Designs
African Drum Wedding Cake
|African Masks Wedding Cake|
|African Pots Wedding Cake||African Safari Wedding Cake|
|African Sunset Wedding Cake||African Calabash Wedding Cake|
|African Calabash & Mask Wedding Cake||African Coral Beads Wedding Cake|
|African Huts, Calabash, & Basket Wedding Cake||Leopard Print Wedding Cake|
|African Pots Wedding Cake||Zebra Print Wedding Cake|
Research on the history of wedding cake suggests that fruit filling became popular in medieval times, particularly in countries such as England. Fruitcakes are still considered a classic wedding cake type in England as well as many countries that were once occupied by the English. Such countries include many African nations, as well as African-inhabited islands such as Mauritius. South African wedding cakes often feature fruit filling or toppings as well thanks to the English.
Similarly, cultures with French origins are more likely to feature French-style wedding cakes and pastries, including the stack of small puff pastries known as croquembouche.
Many modern African wedding cakes feature traditional African flavors instead of relying solely on European flavors. One popular ingredient is plantain, a banana-like fruit (or is it a vegetable…?) that is a staple of many African diets. Plantains can be used to fill, top or garnish a wedding cake, or used in creating its icing. Plantain flour is now also widely available and can be used as a substitute for standard baking flour. It is also a healthier alternative to standard bleached baking flour. Check out some more plantain recipes.
Kola nuts are also a popular choice, because of the traditional exchange of these nuts as part of a lot of African cultures’ wedding ceremonies. Kola nuts do tend to have a somewhat bitter taste followed by a sweet aftertaste (depending on the color and variety you select), so it is not recommended that you use them in the actual cake. A better way to incorporate these is to have a cake shaped as a kola nut.
Another ceremonial element that finds its way into today’s African wedding cakes is the traditional pouring of libations, which finds its modern counterpart in alcohol-flavored cake fillings or icing.
Alternatively, if you’re not interested in including the unique African flavors already mentioned in your wedding cake, then another option is to focus on the cake’s design. You can choose a design that is representative of something African and this can also pay homage to your culture.
Instead of the classic white tiered cake, you can have your baker use food coloring or other additives to design your cake to match the colours of your nation’s flag. Nigerians, for example, might create a tiered cake with alternating layers of green and white, while those from Botswana may opt for a blue cake with black and white piping. Other African cake themes include landmarks such as Victoria Falls or the Serengeti, traditional African musical instruments or tribal elements. These can either be designed in the cake’s frosting or have the cake made in the shape of the object or landmark you desire.
Photos courtesy of CakeCentral, Artwork by ToniAnn, CraftsFrenzy, and SugarCraft by Soni