CakeSpy Note: Cake Gumshoe Megan thought she’d seen it all when it came to wedding desserts, but recently she was pleasantly surprised by what can only be described as a sugar smorgasbord.
The backstory: Over the weekend I attended my college roommate’s wedding. With seven bridesmaids, she was peppered with questions all throughout the rehearsal dinner, and most of mine revolved around the food. I’ve been to weddings with good, bad and no food, so I’m always curious what lies ahead.
I needn’t have worried. Beyond the endless finger foods the bridal party ate all day, the cocktail hour - which served more food than some people’s receptions - and then her actual reception, I should have been stuffed to the gills by the time dessert (literally) rolled around. And I actually was, but when the wait staff raced the loaded-down tables onto the dance floor, I had to make room.
Discovering the Venetian Hour: Whether you call it a Viennese or Venetian Hour, the point is decadence. Wikipedia defines a Venetian Hour as a Sicilian tradition in which the bride and groom display “a dazzling array of pastries, fruits, coffees, cakes, presented in great quantity with much celebration.” That’s a big ten-four. The dessert table at my friend’s wedding was a large oval made up of at least eight tables (I was too stunned to count) and involved pyrotechnics (see above photo).
We had our choice between fresh fruit kabobs and a chocolate fountain, an ice cream sundae bar featuring our choice of ice cream flavors as well as five different toppings and whipped cream and/or hot fudge, and then there were the cakes and cookies – tiramisu, diner-style strawberry shortcake, Black Forest, Napoleon, sfogliatelle, zeppole, Italian cookies…I could go on, but the liqueur shots taken out of edible (and yummy) chocolate thimbles made my memory a little fuzzy. I am absolutely not ashamed to admit my groomsman and I circled the tables twice!
Coming to America: While researching this delightful and heretofore unknown tradition, I realized it existed in small pockets of the US in another form. Brought to America by Italians and Eastern Europeans immigrants who settled into the industrial areas of northeastern Ohio and the coalmines of western Pennsylvania, it morphed into the cookie table, a common feature at weddings, showers, birthdays and graduations there.
For the wedding cookie table, the cookies are traditionally prepared by the bride’s female relatives. Each woman can be responsible for up to seven dozen cookies, depending on how many people participate. Communal baking also serves as a time for the women to catch up on each others’ lives.
In a very pleasant turn of events, researching this custom opened my eyes to the presence of it in my own childhood. I have relatives in central Pennsylvania, and every wedding I attended with that part of the family involved a cookie table. I thought it was just my aunt over-baking! I made so many trips to that table, hiding the cookies in my hand so my parents wouldn’t see how much I ate. And my aunt was always sending relatives home after the receptions with napkin-covered plates heaped with cookies of all flavors and types.
The final word: I’ve reached an age where my friends are starting to get married, so I’m going to do my part to bring this tradition to the mainstream. As far as I’m concerned, the more dessert, the better!