How to make the perfect New Orleans charm cake

Southern Kitchen
How to make the perfect New Orleans charm cake

The charm cake, a must-have component of any New Orleans-style bridesmaids tea, is a tradition that dates back to Victorian England. It was brought to the Big Easy by French and British colonizers, although they referred to the charm cake game that we know today as the “ribbon pull.” It is is one of the many European influences you can still see in the city and remains a party favorite among brides preparing for their wedding.

It’s easy to understand why the tradition endures. At a bridesmaid tea, the bride-to-be chooses the various 12-inch colorful ribbons, or pearl bracelets, that will be used in the cake pulls. These are then are arranged in a circle and hidden under the last layer of the cake (or inside if it’s a bundt cake).

Each lady in the bridal party chooses a ribbon to pull out of the cake, and each one has a charm at the end that will foretell her future.

The most popular charms and their meanings include:

  • Horseshoe: good luck
  • Anchor: future adventures
  • Heart: love will come
  • Ring: next to be engaged
  • Telephone: good news is coming
  • Money bag: financial security
  • Butterfly: eternal beauty
  • High chair: next to have a baby
  • Button: old maid or bachelorette
  • Wishbone: success

A variation of the custom includes color-coded ribbons for single, married and young girls so that they can receive a charm appropriate for their respective life stage. Over time, as trends and bridal tastes evolved, new charms have been added, including a hot sauce bottle (sizzling love), lamp post (bright future) and Mardi Gras mask (your life will be a party).

If you’d rather not wait to be invited to a tea, use this easy bundt cake recipe to bake your own charm cake and add your own personal touch to the tea tradition.

Vanilla Bundt Cake

Serves 8-10


1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

2 eggs at room temperature

3/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bundt pan.

Mix sugar, butter and eggs in stand mixer at medium speed until well blended. Change speed to low and add milk and vanilla; mix well. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat until smooth.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Gently loosen cake from pan with knife and slowly move it to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.

Glazed vanilla bundt cake