The groom’s cake is one of those southern traditions that, like zydeco bands and sweet tea, should be adopted by everyone, everywhere, immediately.
Most people are only familiar with groom’s cakes – if they’ve heard of them at all – from the movie Steel Magnolias, in which the groom’s cake is a red velvet cake in the shape of an armadillo. Please don’t let that put you off. I’m still mad at that movie for giving both groom’s cakes and red velvet cakes a bad name.
(A properly made red velvet cake, by the way, is the closest you can get to slicing and eating the clouds in Unicornland. Were you to eat a slice and then happily sit down and expire with a smile on your face, knowing in your heart that you truly had savored one of life’s greatest pleasures, no one within range of said cake could possibly blame you. They are that good. I should warn you that not everyone understands this because there are a lot of impostor red velvet cake recipes out there. Once you’ve had the real thing, a bad red velvet cake will make you want to throw things. So if you see circle of pissed-off southerners around an alleged red velvet cake, keep your distance. Have I said enough in defense of red velvet cakes? Several sentences ago? Oh, all right.)
Anyway, the groom’s cake is like your wedding cake’s hilarious but equally tasty best friend. Some say that it’s traditionally a fruit cake, but I’ve much more often just seen it as a way to get a different flavor of regular cake in – sometimes a chocolate counterpoint to the traditional white wedding cake, sometimes a bolder or weirder flavor, or sometimes just what the couple felt like having.
And that “just what the couple felt like” spirit is why groom’s cakes are such a treat. While your main cake does traditional upstanding duty, the groom’s cake gets to play. Groom’s cakes are often made into fun shapes to reflect an interest or hobby of the groom or of the couple. I like the idea of making it about your groom – so much of the ceremony is bride-focused that it’s nice to remind everyone that he’s a part of this too. And a crafty bride can even keep the groom’s cake as a secret surprise for the reception – a literally sweet tribute to your new husband.
It’s fine to either serve the groom’s cake as a part of your reception dessert (away from the wedding cake, which gets top billing and prime placement) or to serve it on its own as dessert for the rehearsal dinner. Either way: more cake.
If there are single-and-looking women at your wedding, they should each take a bit of the groom’s cake home. Tradition says that sleeping with a slice under your pillow will give you dreams of your future husband’s face, which seems like fun, if a trifle unsportsmanlike.
Tradition does not address whether it’s acceptable to wrap the cake slice in something, or what to do about ants, but that’s your friends’ problem, not yours.
If you do decide to have a groom’s cake, don’t be afraid to go nuts with it. Talk to your baker – you’ll be surprised at the creative effects that they can achieve when they put their floury minds to it.
Be playful, celebrate that great guy of yours, and don’t let anyone talk you out of an armadillo if that’s what he really loves.