The traditional Italian wedding cake is a multilayered confection served after dinner with espresso and coffee. A much-awaited part of any Italian wedding reception, it uses only the finest ingredients and is carefully prepared to create a sweet, creamy, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth combination of flavours. A popular choice among bride and grooms is the mille foglie, a scrumptious cake created with sponge cake layers on a crispy puff pastry base with more puff pastry held together by vanilla pastry cream and Chantilly cream.
Traditional Italian wedding cakes come in many varieties and flavours. Some favourites are: torta mimosa alla Bavarese, a sponge cake filled with Bavarian cream and vanilla; diplomatica, a sponge cake with puff pastry base and Chantilly or vanilla cream; bignolata alla vaniglia, a cake of vanilla-flavoured Chantilly cream and cream puffs filled with whipped cream; la crostata di frutta, a classic vanilla tart; torta Chantilly, a sponge cake with Chantilly cream and white chocolate scales sprinkled all over; and the St. Honoré, a sponge cake with puff pastry, cream puffs and Chantilly cream.
The Italian wedding cake is the highlight of the celebration meal, from Tuscany to Umbria, Sicily to Amalfi and Chianti to the Lake Region. During the cake-cutting ceremony, when the bride and groom feed each other with the first piece of cake, it signifies a lifetime of sharing in one meal and the promise to support and take care of each other forever.
The first wedding cakes were not eaten. Instead, they were thrown at the bride or broken over her head to represent wishes of fertility. A long-abandoned practice originated by the Romans, many grooms still pay homage to such tradition by playfully putting a little cake smudge on their bride's cheeks.
Big Italian weddings feature a decadent dessert buffet to complement the sumptuous wedding cake. A Viennese table is set to usher in the dessert course, aptly called the Vienna Hour. The delightful, mouthwatering treat includes an assortment of tarts, pastries, sweets, fruits and free-flowing coffee for everyone to enjoy as the wedding celebration lingers on.
Some areas of Italy do not follow such traditions and, therefore, no wedding cake is served during the reception. As an alternative, guests receive cute little tulle bags or decorative boxes filled with sugar-coated almonds. This custom is said to represent the essence of a wedding, which is a "bittersweet union."