Tiers of happiness: The coolest couples are ditching fruit cake for chocolate, red velvet or Madeira wedding cake

Who will make the dress is still shrouded in mystery – as is the much speculated upon guest list – but finally we can amuse ourselves with one small detail of the impending Royal nuptials: the wedding cake.

Not ones to stray from tradition, Kate and William, we have been informed, have chosen a classic iced fruit cake for the big day. But this most conventional of choices belies a much wider trend in wedding cakes: the rise of the non-fruit cake. Whether it's chocolate, Madeira, cupcakes or cheesecake, it seems anything goes at weddings these days and couples are much more likely to opt for something contemporary and original to serve their guests.

One high-street company to realise that the iced fruit cake has fallen out of favour is Marks & Spencer, which next month is relaunching its entire range of wedding cakes. There are traditional fruit cakes available, of course, but it will also offer dramatic chocolate tiers, modern designs, individually served cakes and stylish colour trends, all of which are representative of the changes going on in the industry.

"People are looking for different, quirky or more modern alternatives to the traditional wedding cake," says Ali Rodham, cake developer for Marks & Spencer. "The whole formality has changed, and we've seen a real switch in how people operate. The market has changed incredibly quickly, and it's really only been in the last few years that we've seen the popularity surge in things like chocolate wedding cakes."

Now just about every wedding-cake manufacturer offers some sort of chocolate option. Many couples are also opting to mix up the tiers, perhaps having chocolate on one, fruit on another and a regular sponge on the third – the fruit tier always taking its position at the bottom because it's the heaviest.

Having introduced its first chocolate version only last year, Marks & Spencer admits it was a little bit slow on the uptake. However, it is now making every effort to stay one step ahead of the competition.

Another trend that experts have seen is the demand for small, individual cakes rather than a single large one, which is actually a fairly sensible choice. Not only does it spare the messy and tricky cutting and divvying up for guests, the cakes can also be used as a dessert.

"We've seen a real trend for people wanting a wedding cake that can be combined as a dessert," says Rodham. Sure enough, Marks & Spencer is offering Chocolate Cups, small individual chocolate cubes, as a way of tapping into this new demand.

Eric Lanlard, the Royal wedding cake correspondent for the Food Network agrees. "More and more couples want to do what they do in France, Italy, all over Europe really, which is have the wedding cake served as the dessert. And that means you're seeing more fresh fruit, berries and chocolate on the menu."

While you might be saving money, it's also worth noting that after three courses and plenty of booze, the last thing most people want is a hunk of cake. Therefore, by having a cake that doubles as a dessert, you can save money as well as offer your guests something contemporary and different.

There's a similar idea behind the rise of people having cupcakes instead of a wedding cake. After they made several high-profile public appearances, such as on Sex and the City and in various magazine shoots, they were brought over from America in their droves and their popularity subsequently exploded. Cupcakes remain one of the most fashionable cakes around, meaning that plenty are choosing to have them on their wedding day.

Cake trends are often exported from America and it's not uncommon for experts to travel over there to make sure they are up to date on all the latest information and crazes. Rodham spent last summer in Los Angeles and San Francisco exploring the latest bakery fads. "We often see cake trends move over from the States," she explains. "The explosion of cup cakes and whoopie pies both obviously came from there."

Likewise, Rodham and others in her field keep a close watch on big celebrity weddings, knowing how much coverage they get and how influential they can be. "If a star does something unusual then it always gets written about. And lots of these people want to stand out. If the cake isn't mentioned, it's probably something quite traditional. We'll certainly be watching the Royal wedding closely; just as we've seen copycat engagement rings and dresses, they are bound to start a trend with whatever design they have on the big day."

Rodham also points to Robbie Williams deciding on a red velvet cake for his recent nuptials to Ayda Field as an example of this fixation with all things celebrity. Inquiries about red velvet cake, sure enough, rose immediately after his wedding photos appeared in Hello! and Williams declared it his "favourite" in the accompanying interview.

Red velvet cake, another dessert enjoying a fashionable moment, is something Marks & Spencer is looking at adding to its range. However, the use of artificial colouring is against the company's brand values (red food dye is needed to obtain its rich red shade) so they're looking into alternatives. Carrot cake and cheesecake are other variations that are featuring in more weddings and ones that the Marks & Spencer range is hoping to include in future.

When it comes to decorating the wedding cakes, pillars separating the tiers and figurines on top of the cake are out, while fresh fruit and flowers are in. "I suspect the Royal wedding cake will get a modern twist thanks to things like flowers and fruits," says Lanlard. "I imagine they will use sugar flowers that will be replicas of ones from different parts of Britain."

Fashion often informs cake trends and details such as buttons and stencilling have recently made a comeback. "People don't tend to want loads of details on their cakes but the smaller things can make all the difference," Rodham explains.

Most suppliers also stock some rather plain white cakes as many people like to decorate their own to fit in with their colour theme for the day. With this in mind, Rodham has filmed some online clips demonstrating how to personalise your cake, and offering helpful tips, such as how to use ribbon to dress it up.

One popular colour theme for a cake is black and white and you'll find many suppliers stock a monochrome cake, purely because black and white is a very popular colour theme for weddings presently.

"We're seeing a lot of brides wear white dresses with a black belt or sash," Rodham notes. "And lots of brides put their bridesmaids in black dresses, which used to be a bit of a no-no. It's something we wouldn't have done a few years ago but weddings are much more personalised and stylish now."

When it comes to wedding cakes there is still a large gulf between what the younger and older generations want and Rodham points to the rise in people also buying a simple, modest fruit cake with white icing to have alongside their more modern offering, in order to appease grandparents and older family friends.

"We're seeing that with a lot of women organising weddings, when they say that they're getting a chocolate cake, their mothers are horrified and say things like 'But what about saving the top tier for the christening?', to which many brides roll their eyes. So they end up buying a big, fancy, modern cake which is the centrepiece and then also making sure they get a little fruit cake as well, so they can give a slice to the oldies. A lot of people are opting for both." Cutting bars of iced fruit cakes is also popular so guests can take the customary slice home with them.

The royal couple are also indulging in this two-cake trend, as we've been told they will also be serving a "fridge cake", made from McVities biscuits and lashings of chocolate that was a favourite of the young Prince William, except in this case the traditional iced fruit cake will be the centrepiece. "I like the idea of having a chocolate fridge cake on the side," says Lanlard. "It will be the fun and updated side of things. Something a bit more relaxed."

Just as attitudes towards the institute of marriage has relaxed in recent years, so it seems have the wedding cakes. "People used to order wedding cakes almost assuming that it was not going to be eaten," says Lanlard. "These iced fruit cakes would be served later on in the evening and it was expected that everyone would be too drunk or too busy dancing and that nobody would really remember what the cake looked like or what it tasted like. I like to call those traditional iced fruit cakes 'handbag cakes', because guests wrap a slice up in a napkin, put it in their handbag and then find it months later when they get it out again for the next wedding. Things have changed now. Young couples think that if they're going to spend hundreds of pounds on a wedding cake then they want something that people will really enjoy."

Bridal bakes

During the Roman Empire, wedding cakes were made by baking wheat or barley (symbols of prosperity and fertility) into small cakes, not unlike bread rolls. Guests would throw them at the bride to bestow good wishes on her.

In medieval times the bride and groom would share a piece of a barley bread loaf, after which the groom would break the rest over the head of the bride. The breaking of the bread was a symbol of the groom's dominance over her.

Later, it was customary to stack buns in piles as high as possible and the newlyweds were encouraged to kiss over the top. If they were able to, it symbolised a lifetime of prosperity.

At weddings during the 17th century, Bride's Pie became popular. It could be a pie filled with sweet breads, a mince pie, or a mutton pie and a glass ring was hidden inside, whoever found it being the next to wed.

White is the traditional colour of the wedding cake, denoting purity. White icing first appeared in Victorian times and because the ingredients were very difficult to come by, it was thought the whiter the cake, the more affluent the family.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
arts + entsJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

Life and Style
tech

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
football

Striker's four-month ban for biting an opponent expires on Friday

News
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married in Venice yesterday
peopleAmal and George Clooney 'planning third celebration in England'
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker