Taking the cake: Why over £3m of wedding cake is binned every year and what to serve instead

·4 min read
The end of the traditional cake? Modern couples want something personal (Getty)
The end of the traditional cake? Modern couples want something personal (Getty)

As events glitter on the horizon once again (we hope), weddings are finally back on the agenda. 

And alongside the expense of the dress, food, venue, decor and band, there's one more traditional expectation, no matter how large or small the nuptials: Cake.

But while there's an entire industry based on multi-layered, heavily iced fruit cakes (stuffed into boxes for guests to take home and forget), the truth is, few actually enjoy the taste.

Originally, the dense, brandy-soaked dried-fruit texture was chosen so it would safely last long enough to be eaten for luck at the christening of the first child. 

But with many couples postponing having children until they can afford a home, (or not having any in favour of dogs and freedom), no wonder those old-school tiers of dry cake and sickly royal icing are falling from favour.

Read more: Royal wedding cakes throughout the years

Unfortunately, many couples still feel there's no alternative - which is perhaps why according to a new survey from jewellery makers Austen & Blake, UK couples chuck out the equivalent of a staggering 1353.7 wedding cakes every year - that's £3,292,573 worth of cakes! 

In fact, ten percent of couples throw almost the entire thing away.

Watch: Self-taught baker becomes internet hit with her woven cakes

“Weddings are the biggest day in many people's lives and it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement and planning - and get a little bit greedy, ordering more food than we actually need, ‘just in case,’" says Anthony French of Austen & Blake.

"But actually, it's about time we start thinking about the impact of the environment this might all have." 

Let alone the waste of couples' hard-earned wedding savings.

It's not surprising that post-pandemic, couples are looking for a more individual cake.

"I've found that not everyone goes for the big fat wedding cakes- mainly due to cost and also it’s a tradition that doesn’t necessarily fit with every couple!" says planner Stacey Koks of Navy Tux Events.

"Couples are starting to opt for more quirky options that are a bit closer to their hearts and work out a lot cheaper," she adds. 

"Anything from doughnut stacks to cupcakes, three-tier cheese towers, croquembouche, dessert tables and simple, pared-back single tier cakes that don’t take centre stage while guests are served a plated dessert instead."

So with the environment - and guests' tastebuds - in mind, it's time to ditch the dull old traditional tower and try one of these fabulous alternatives…

Macaron tower

a lot of colorful macaroons at a festive banquet .
Make your centrepiece perfect with a tower of tiny macarons (Getty)

If you're after a beautiful, fairy-tale centrepiece, try a macaron tower (not a macaroon tower - they're the ones with coconut and a squishy filling). Macarons are a rainbow of delicate French patisserie stacked in tiers for maximum effect. 

They come in all kinds of flavours, from raspberry to chocolate to pjna colada, and one is never quite enough. Nobody will be taking these home in squashed boxes.

Rainbow cake

Slice of colourful rainbow layered birthday cake.
Not sure how to eat this, but you'll have fun trying....(Getty)

Perfect for an LGBTQ wedding, it's the Pride flag in cake form! Rainbow cakes are made by colouring each separate layer then sandwiching them all together. 

They can be iced however you like. The cake takes time to create, but the end result is well worth the effort. Decorate with multicoloured sweets, treats and flowers for full effect.

Multi-layer 'rustic' cake

Dessert table for a wedding. Cake, cupcakes, sweetness, fruits and flowers. Close up
Choose a rustic 'home made' cake with differently flavoured tiers. (Getty)

While old style wedding cakes are all the same cake, designed to stack in a tier, plenty of couples now prefer a customised cake, with three (or more) differently flavoured layers. 

Popular choices include carrot cake, chocolate and lemon, or some will choose fruitcake for a base, to please the traditional guests, and opt for something lighter on top. You can also choose a 'naked' cake - it's un-iced and rustic, for a 'home made' feel. 

The cheese 'cake'

Wedding cake alternative
A tower of cheeses - who doesn't want a slice of this delicious action? (Getty)

A tower of cheese is becoming hugely popular, with cake-hating couples choosing more caerphilly (sorry). 

Wheels of fine cheeses are stacked, and surrounded by cheese biscuits, grapes, nuts and chutneys so guests can help themselves to their personal cheese-board selection. 

Mini cakes

White plate on the table with cupcakes ornate with sweet roses; cookies on the background
Pretty pastel cupcakes will look and taste perfect (Getty)

Cupcakes may have fallen out of favour in daily life - but at a wedding, they provide the perfect, highly decorated, bite-sized delight for guests to enjoy. Stack them high or lay them out on trays, and choose between fresh flowers, iced roses or even gold leaf decorations on top. They look beautiful together - and will taste great too. 

Watch: This Ukrainian baker makes hyper-realistic 3D cakes

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