Cake

The Most Popular Wedding Cake Flavors by Decade

And other fun nuptial facts.

by:
April  3, 2019
Photo by James Ransom

Over the last century, weddings in America have gone through plenty of changes. Just look at the shift in: wedding dress styles (I know of one bridal party that wore cowboy hats ... it was the '80s); engagement and wedding bands (rings for men weren't mainstream until World War II, when soldiers began wearing them to remind themselves of family back home); and even vows (according to a recent survey, 67 percent of Americans believe brides should drop the word “obey” from her vows).

But when it comes to their wedding cakes, American couples have been pretty steadfast in their commitment to a classic formula: three-tiered and vanilla.

In a survey of couples who married between 1960 and 2019 conducted by Black Tux, a men’s suit and tuxedo rental company, the top three wedding cake flavors for each decade have been vanilla, followed by yellow and chocolate.

1960s

Starting in the 1960s, the go-to cake was vanilla (37.5 percent), locally made (94 percent), three-tiered (65 percent), and less than $100 (56 percent). Interestingly, the '60s looks like the decade with the tallest cakes—more than 23 percent of couples had four tiers or more, including 3 percent who had a whopping seven tiers. Plus, a trailblazing 2 percent of couples bucked tradition to go with funfetti as their cake flavor.

1970s

In the 1970s, vanilla was even more popular (45 percent), followed by yellow (18 percent), though by then, approximately 60 percent of couples paid more than $100 for their cakes, including nearly 2 percent who paid $1,000 (that’s about $6,500 in today's value). More than 77 percent went with a tiered wedding cake, of which 72 percent went with the classic three. Only 36 percent of weddings offered desserts besides cake at this point, but cookies were the most popular choice, and would remain the favorite non-cake dessert until at least 2009, the year of the cupcake.

1980s

By the 1980s, though nearly half of all couples went for vanilla (48 percent), followed by yellow (15 percent) and chocolate (13 percent), more than a third (35 percent) began incorporating multiple flavors into their cakes. 81 percent went for a tiered cake, including more than 10 percent who got four tiers or more.

1990s

Though you can guess the top three flavors for the next decade (hi, still vanilla, yellow, and chocolate), it was in the '90s that the needle began moving, if just the tiniest bit, toward unconventional cake flavors like spice, angel food, and banana (all one percent), strawberry (two percent), and red velvet (three percent). By then, more than a quarter (26 percent) of couples had a single-tiered wedding cake.

2000s

Finally, by the 2000s, there was a shift in the cake trinity when chocolate moved to second place (17 percent) after vanilla (a stable 40 percent); red velvet took third at 11 percent, relegating yellow cake to fourth place (9 percent). Elsewhere on the dessert table, cookies (44 percent) and cupcakes (31 percent) supplemented the dessert menu for the 40 percent of couples who offered something beyond cake.

2010s

That leads us to the current decade, in which the top three flavors are still vanilla (26 percent), chocolate (20 percent), and red velvet (14 percent). In the modern wedding landscape, yellow cake, once a reliable third-place pick, is requested as much as strawberry (5 percent), while 3 percent went with coconut or “a different fruit flavor.”

While more than half of couples still chose a single cake flavor, 45 percent went with more than one. The 2010s also became the tipping point for desserts besides cake, as more than half of weddings (52 percent) in this decade included cupcakes (53 percent), cookies (36 percent), ice cream (26 percent), and more.

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What else? Based on this data, if you happen to be planning or attending a wedding before the decade is up, there’s about a 2 percent chance the cake will cost upwards of $1,000, and about a 1 percent chance that you’ll be biting into a flavor like banana, hummingbird, or lemon.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“At our small Palm Beach wedding in 1995, my husband and I served a really yummy three tiered Italian Rum cake with cannoli filling. We also had a small assortment of Italian cookies on each table. And no, neither of us are of Italian descent.😝”
— Lorain S.
Comment

What flavor was your wedding cake? Tell, tell in the comments below.

14 Comments

Sauertea April 13, 2019
My brother had an apple spice cake in the 80s
 
Amy April 13, 2019
So glad to read the comments and see so many others that didn't go for the very boring usual flavors. So boring and repetitive are the statistics from each decade that, as I read, I was surprised it was considered sufficiently interesting to write an article about! My wedding in 1991 was simple, and non-traditional, with a three-tiered carrot cake from the now very old Martha Stewart Wedding book. It included walnuts around the sides, real red and white carnations, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse Disneykins on top.
 
Cait April 8, 2019
We got married in August 2012 and had a small two-tiered carrot cake and a large assortment of pies for our guests to enjoy. It was perfection.
 
Kirsten S. April 7, 2019
Married in 2011. 3 tiers, mix of chocolate and carrot with cream cheese icing (I hate fondant). I think it was $250? Local woman who does them on the side.
 
Sauertea April 6, 2019
Three tier red velvet and a chocolate raspberry. We also had linzer heart shaped cookies!!!
 
Stephanie B. April 4, 2019
I skipped a formal cake and just did cupcakes. A couple of friends made the cupcakes for us, and they were apple cupcakes with caramel icing - absolutely delicious.
 
someonewhobakes April 4, 2019
At our wedding, we had masses of delicious cookies for everyone, since I find the cake is usually fairly unpopular at most weddings I go to (also $$). For cutting/photos, we had a local bakery make their signature coconut cake with pineapple filling, as just a 10" round cake with our adorable vintage bride-and-groom cake topper. It was delicious!

Also, just to point out, the terms used in this article are a bit confusing. Yellow cake IS a vanilla cake. When you say "vanilla cake," I think you mean "white cake," which would be a better distinction.
 
Andi C. April 4, 2019
For my 2009 wedding, we had 3 tiers in different flavors. Strawberry, bourbon chocolate (OMG so good!), and some fancy variation of vanilla.
I think it cost around $400.
 
Abubakar M. April 4, 2019
Wow
 
Lorain S. April 3, 2019
At our small Palm Beach wedding in 1995, my husband and I served a really yummy three tiered Italian Rum cake with cannoli filling. We also had a small assortment of Italian cookies on each table. And no, neither of us are of Italian descent.😝
 
Corj April 3, 2019
We got married in the fall and chose banana bread cake with a chocolate ganache. Not only was it delicious and different but I'm able to make a version every year on our anniversary for us to stuff our faces.
 
Megan G. April 3, 2019
For our wedding, we ended up doing a bunch of different cheesecake flavors (it's my favorite dessert!) and it was a big hit!!

About 2 weeks before the wedding (of course), we decided to add a small/simple 2 tier wedding cake for a center piece and cake cutting, also for people who didn't want to have cheesecake. We chose a Guinness Chocolate cake for one tier (my husband LOVES chocolate, and we met in Ireland so this was perfect!), and a Spice cake with cream cheese filling for the other tier (cake flavors I love!).
 
Gammy April 4, 2019
I have to smile.... when our son got married about 25 years ago, we weren't aware of the details of the wedding dinner. I was handed a piece of beautifully iced wedding cake, and in the dimly lit banquet room took my first bite. My immediate thought was the cake was horribly undercooked.... my second thought was how unique and wonderful to have 3 different layers of cheesecake!
 
HalfPint April 3, 2019
I had a three-tiered wedding cake, so a different flavor for each tier: 1. strawberry 2. chocolate 3. chocolate/vanilla swirl (the largest tier). We also had a groom's cake which was chocolate (my husband's favorite flavor). The cakes were made and decorated by a local woman who makes cakes as a side job. Since it was a side job, she charged a low rate ($2/head) for her cakes which is a screaming deal. No fancy gum paste or fondant, though she did a terrific job drawing (free-hand!) a motorcycle for the groom's cake. Cakes were delicious and she gave us a free anniversary cake the following year.