Is Saving the Top of Your Wedding Cake Still a Thing?

We break down everything you need to know.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated May 27, 2022

The wedding cake is hands-down the most delicious wedding symbol. It has centuries worth of history and cultural impact baked in its layers. One wedding cake tradition you might already know about is saving the top of a wedding cake. This custom may leave you wondering two things: Is that really a thing anymore, and why do you save the top tier of the wedding cake? Answers to these questions can be important if you and your partner want to know how to incorporate this tradition into your wedding. Below, learn about the history of this wedding ritual and what you need to do so you can have your cake and eat it too.

The History of Saving the Wedding Cake Tradition

This tradition dates back to 19th-century England when newlyweds would save the top tier of their wedding cake for their first child's christening. Typically, wedding cakes were dense fruit cakes, which allowed couples to preserve them for long periods and use the preserved cake for their child's christening (since married couples were expected to have a child within one year). Some historians believe this tradition was done as a prophecy of good luck. Over the years, there have been a few changes to the tradition. Not many people have fruit cake as their main wedding cake anymore, but instead have cakes with elaborate flavors, frostings and decorations. This makes it more complicated to preserve the cake and determine its shelf life. Also, unlike in the past, saving the cake is done to celebrate the newlyweds' first anniversary rather than their baby's christening. In fact, The Knot 2021 Trends and Traditions Study found that 48% of couples did or were planning to save the top tier of their wedding cake for their first anniversary.

Tips For Saving the Top Tier of a Wedding Cake

If you want to participate in this sentimental and sweet tradition, ask your cake baker if they have any recommended preservation methods for your specific cake. If your baker isn't sure how to go about it, here's everything you need to know before you start the process.

Be careful about where you cut.

If you're having a cake-cutting ceremony and want to save the top tier of your wedding cake, you'll have to be mindful of how and where you cut the cake. There are two simple guidelines to remember. Number one, don't cut the cake in a sawing motion because it will cause the cake to shake and possibly fall over. Number two, only slice pieces from the bottom tier so the top tier of the cake goes untouched. As long as you keep those things in mind while cutting the cake, you will be well on your way to nailing this wedding cake tradition.

Prepare ahead of time.

Want one less thing to worry about on your wedding day? Before the big day, ask your catering staff to take off the top tier of the cake immediately following the cutting ceremony so they can box it and make sure it's good to go for transportation. If you're going on your honeymoon right after your wedding or planning to move in with your spouse soon after the wedding, appoint a family member or a friend to take your cake home with them and prepare it for preservation. Our tip: Before the wedding, speak with your wedding planner about the best way to get the cake to your trusted loved one.

Avoid mess and freezer burn.

Once you're ready to freeze your wedding cake, remove any decor (like sugar flowers and cake toppers) so the cake is clean and unadorned—this way, it's easier to wrap up. Then, chill the cake so the icing hardens to prevent making a mess. Most importantly, wrap the cake in several layers of plastic wrap, not aluminum foil, which can cause freezer burn. Finally, seal the wrapped cake in an airtight bag, label it and store it safely on a freezer shelf where it will be out of the way. (While your cake is in storage, don't let your freezer defrost because it will stop the preservation process.)

Consider an alternative option.

You may love the idea of saving the wedding cake, but if you don't think you'll have enough time or energy pre and postwedding to complete the process, don't worry! It's definitely not bad luck to skip this tradition. An easy alternative we recommend is asking your cake baker to recreate your original wedding cake on a smaller scale for your first anniversary. Now, all you have to do is get the cake from the bakery and dig in.

How Long Can You Save the Top Tier of a Wedding Cake?

We know this tradition stems from the desire to enjoy your cake on your anniversary and relive the happiness of your wedding day. Realistically though, any cake will be a little stale by the time one year rolls around, even if it's frozen. Most bakers will recommend storing it for no longer than six months, depending on the type of cake you have. You can choose to celebrate a six-month anniversary, eat the cake for your first newlywed date night or wait it out for the one-year mark. (By the way: Digging into the cake on your first anniversary won't make you sick and the nostalgia factor will still be there, but there's a chance it won't taste as fresh as it did on your wedding day.)

The good news is that you can strategically choose a cake that has a longer shelf life if you have your heart set on saving it. The more dense and hearty a cake is, the longer it will last in the freezer—think chocolate, hazelnut, almond and carrot cake. Cakes with more delicate ingredients, like white cake, fresh fruit cake and whipped cream fillings, will dry out in the freezer faster, so pick your cake accordingly (and always ask your baker for their professional recs).

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