Traditional, fanciful, or romantic: A wedding cake provides pleasure and pride for the bride and groom, the guests - and the baker. For years the cake was a symbol rather than a delicacy. It was a multi-tiered fantasy, large enough to be impressive - but also large enough to give each guest a small slice. In the past there were pieces in decorated boxes for absent friends and relatives.

Traditionally, it was a dark fruitcake. Then, some years ago, the favorite cake became yellow or white. Only recently have brides requested cakes that are not only beautiful in decoration, but also in taste! Today's favorites include lemon, chocolate, orange, hazelnut, carrot cake, and even cheesecake.

Today, too, cakes are constructed in a multitude of shapes. A variety of whimsies have replaced the small figures of bride and groom perched on the very top. Almost any decorative memento is preferred - it might be anything from a tiny sailboat to crossed tennis rackets to fresh flowers.

If there is much for the bride to do before the wedding, it is a wonderful help to have someone else do the cake. But if you to make it yourself, it can be a happy experience if you choose a cake that's easy and simple.

The following recipe is called a summer fruitcake or a white fruitcake. It's from the cookbook of Henry Haller, executive chef at the White House over many years. He supervised several White House family weddings.

The cake can be frosted with either of two icings, depending on personal preference and how it will be decorated.

White House Wedding Cake 1/2 cup seedless white raisins 1 3/4 cups cake flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup butter 3/4 cup sugar 5 egg whites 3/4 cup chopped candied pineapple 1 cup chopped walnuts 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cover raisins with water, and let stand in refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line two 8-inch cake pans with greased paper, and grease sides.

Mix together flour with baking powder and salt; sift. In large mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually add sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Beat in egg whites one at a time.

Drain raisins. Add to batter with pineapple, walnuts, and flavorings. Add dry ingredients to batter a little at a time, beating after each addition. Blend until smooth.

Pour cake batter into prepared pans and bake in preheated oven for 11/4 hours, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks before frosting with Seven-Minute Icing.

Seven-Minute Icing 1 1/2 cups sugar 5 tablespoons cold water 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 2 egg whites 1 teaspoon lemon extract

In top of double boiler, mix together all ingredients except lemon extract. Cook over rapidly boiling water, beating constantly at high speed with electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes.

Remove from heat, add lemon extract, and beat another minute. Let cool slightly before icing cake (not too long, or icing will harden). Makes 2 cups.

Royal Icing 4 egg whites, at room temperature Juice of 2 lemons 2 teaspoons light corn syrup 7 cups confectioners' sugar

In large mixing bowl, blend egg whites with lemon juice and corn syrup. Beat with wire whisk until stiff.

Gradually add confectioners' sugar, beating constantly until smooth. Use icing at once, or cover with damp cloth and keep cool to prevent premature hardening. Makes 4 cups.

Phyllis Hanes is the Monitor's food editor.

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