For some newlyweds, celebrating their first anniversary means eating a helping of their preserved wedding cake together. The cake-freezing ritual stems from a 19th-century convention in which partners saved the top tier for their first child’s christening (with some believing it to be an omen of good luck).
Nearly 46 percent of brides and grooms who married in 2019 saved or planned to save the top tier of their wedding cake for their one-year anniversary, according to a 2019 study based on data from the 2020 WeddingWire Newlywed Report, where more than 25,000 couples in the United States who were married in 2019 were interviewed.
Thirty-eight years ago, Cindy Rudin, 61, and her husband, Steven Rudin, 63, celebrated their first wedding anniversary by dining at the Doral Hotel in Miami Beach, which has since closed, and sharing defrosted wedding cake at home. “Leading up to it, I was so excited,” said Ms. Rudin, an educator who works with dyslexic youth in Miami.
Unfortunately, the preserved portion of their four-tier vanilla cake with vanilla icing proved inedible. “The cake was awful, it looked the same but it had that smell of bread that’s been in the freezer too long,” she said. “It went right in the garbage.”
Yet, Ms. Rudin has no regrets. Decades before, her parents observed the tradition as well. “It was fun. It brings back good memories,” she said, adding that her mother took the initiative to package, freeze and store the couple’s cake for one year. “I’m sure it wasn’t wrapped properly.”
For those looking to savor a sweet slice of their wedding cake a year later, experts offer their best tips for freezing and consumption. And, for couples yearning for a nostalgic dessert without sacrificing shelf space and taste, many bakers offer fresh replicated top tiers and other baked goods.
How to Freeze A Wedding Cake
Well before the ingredients are mixed, it’s best to alert your baker of your intentions to freeze your cake, as it may affect design elements.
“If you’ve got extraordinary fondant, décor and bows, and layers and ruffles, and things like that, more air could get in,” said Leslie Hollander, a pastry specialist at Sugar Up, Sugar! in Great Falls, Va. The most important thing is eliminating air circulation.
Ms. Hollander advises first chilling the cake in the refrigerator or freezer until it hardens. Then, wrap the cake (and its cake board, if available) in plastic wrap six times, as tight as possible. Next, place the wrapped cake within a zipped plastic bag, and take the air out of it. Last, use an inverted Tupperware container to shield the cake. Store the bundle far from the appliance door. “If your cake’s in the freezer for a year, it’s going to get moved and smooshed,” Ms. Hollander said. “The more you do to protect your cake and insulate it, the better.”
When couples are eager to dig into their frozen keepsakes a year later, there’s a little more waiting ahead. Ms. Hollander recommends withdrawing the dessert from the freezer, and removing the Tupperware and plastic wrap. Keeping the cake board, reuse the Tupperware and place the cake within the upside down container. Put the cake inside the fridge to thaw, at a distance from smelly foods like fish. After the cake has defrosted in the fridge, take away the Tupperware and move the cake to the countertop for a couple hours. Enjoy at room temperature.
“Some people said it tastes just as good after a year,” said Ms. Hollander, who is conservative about expiration dates. “I wouldn’t go past a year.”
A Shift in Saving Cake
In New York, most couples don’t ask about freezing procedures, citing small dwellings and budget, said Marc Coolrect, the chief executive of City Cakes in Manhattan who makes three to five wedding cakes each week for clients in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. “Within the city, people don’t really have the room to save the top tier of a wedding cake,” he said.
But what about saving just one slice? The effort to freeze a mere slice may work for some space-deprived couples, but it becomes increasingly complicated for newlyweds with destination weddings. In Hawaii, the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa hosts 75 to 90 weddings each year. Frances Goss, the hotel’s director of events, said that only 10 percent of those couples return home with cake.
Even couples living within driving distance of their venues aren’t married to the idea of year-old cake. When Christina Burton Babb, who goes by Christy, began planning weddings 12 years ago, she would carry a three-pound makeshift cake wrapping kit containing plastic wrap, aluminum foil, wax paper, to-go containers and tape, inside a light pink waxy square bag.
Ms. Babb, 31, the owner of Christina Burton Events, plans 35 to 40 weddings each year in Indianapolis, Lexington, Ky., and Louisville, Ky. She retired her cake freezing kit five years ago, when local vendors began offering fresh, one-layer replicas for couples to enjoy on their one year anniversaries.
The New Cake
A year-old wedding cake isn’t quite the same (even with the best wrapping protocol). For couples with limited storage space or those trying to avoid travel hurdles, ordering a replica cake is a simpler solution.
“People are getting wedding cakes from bakeries they’re fans of,” said Melanie Moss, a founder and pastry chef at Mini Melanie, a dessert shop in Brooklyn. “They’re big foodies.”
Mini Melanie makes 30 custom wedding cakes each year. As an alternative to freezing the original top tier, the bakery offers returning customers same-flavored four-inch-by-four-inch mini cakes (starting at $60) for pick up and delivery in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and bite-size cake truffles (12 for $35 to $40) that ship nationwide.
Some couples choose to celebrate their first anniversary without cake.
“I liked the tradition of cutting the cake but wanted to do things a little different,” said Jill Lydon, 34, a nurse in South Portland, Maine, who married her husband, John Lydon, 34, a practice manager at an accounting firm in Portland, Maine, on Sept. 1, 2018. The couple’s reception included a small cake for slicing, and ice cream sandwiches for their 120 guests.
To celebrate their one-year anniversary, the couple enjoyed cocktails and shared appetizers at the Garden Café, a restaurant at the Portland Regency Hotel and Spa. When their baker gladly offered to recreate their one-tier cake a year later, the couple passed. “It didn’t really cross my mind, honestly,” Ms. Lydon said. “John doesn’t even like cake.”