Southern Charms

Wedding Cake Pulls

My Rouses Everyday, July & August 2018

Make no mistake about it, Southerners love to find as many ways as possible to turn their baked goods into ornate exhibitions. In the Gulf South, that often means the addition of trinkets: little pieces of delight that add interactive whimsy to a dessert (looking at you, king cake babies) but aren’t necessarily

A ritual dating back to the Victorian era, cake pulls are small metal charms that are attached to pieces of ribbon, then baked into a wedding cake — ribbon-side out. Prior to the ceremonial cutting of the cake, the (typically, single) female members of the wedding party gather around the cake, pick a ribbon and pull out a charm that will — surprise! — reveal their destiny. End up with a boot-shaped favor? Tradition dictates you’ll be off on a grand adventure soon. Pull out a charm with a button on it? Looks like you’ll be having a child sometime soon! The pulls often become much-treasured bridesmaid gifts, with New Orleans-area jewelers like Adler’s and Mignon Faget crafting their own versions of the pulls that are then easily fashioned into bracelets.

“Years ago, cake pulls were very common. People would bring in their charms; we would put them into the cake; and they would pull them out at the wedding. Way back then when we did that, everyone would be wondering which charm they would get: Who would be the old maid? Who would be the next one married?” explains Michelle Knight, bakery director for Rouses. “These days, we don’t really get many people asking us to put them in, or they decide to put the charms in themselves.”

And while the tradition may be experiencing a bit of a lull, its inherent uniqueness ensures that there’s still plenty of room for interpretations that will appeal to modern brides. What about a crawfish-shaped cake charm to represent all the future boils you’ll have with friends? Or a hot sauce-shaped one to prophesize a “spicy” life? With a little creativity, the possibilities — and legacy — for such a singular tradition seem endless.