A Cake Fit For Royalty

Fiona Cairns

Some love stories are penned in eternal ink while a few others have their sweet romance soaked in a generous dollop of butter, a good slathering of marmalade, a liberal sprinkling of gold dragees coupled with the best Madagascan Vanilla extract and chocolate curls to give you a confectionery masterpiece fit for a royal occasion that has the language of love writ large over it. Privileged to be asked to create the Royal Wedding cake for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last year (the ultimate project for any master baker and designer), Fiona Cairns shares her experience of whipping up a Royal chef-d’oeuvre.

The job, which she calls pinnacle of her baking career, Fiona recounts how the ‘chocolate biscuit Royal Wedding cake’, a favourite of Prince William since childhood, was created over two months in a private room in her factory. It was a call from Clarence House that had landed her the prestigious assignment, asking if Fiona and her husband would like to come and meet the Duchess of Cambridge. The couple were already ardent admirers of her fruit cakes.

In a long briefing session wih the Duchess, Fiona was asked to weave the beautiful architectural elements of the Abbey and details of her bridal ensemble as the adornment on the cake. After drawing her inspirational board, Fiona churned out a few tasting samples and the particular recipe was selected. The royal cake had to symbolize romance taking an understated, elegant approach, steering clear of embellishments

Seventeen flowers, that tied in with the Duchess’s bouquet, each with a meaning that carried forward the Victorian tradition of the ‘Language of Flowers’, were used as trappings on the cake. The four national flowers also featured on the cake: the Rose to symbolise England, the Daffodil for Wales, the Thistle for Scotland and the Shamrock for Ireland.

The designing of the cake was nothing less than an architectural feat. Over a metre tall and weighing about 100 kilogrammes, the cake embodied twelve stunning compositions into one and took more than 5 weeks of constant labour.

The Picture Gallery in Buckingham Palace, where the cake was displayed, turned into its muse for the design canvas as Fiona had to match it’s imposing demeanor and high ceilings with her sugary confection. The swag and garland details from the cornicing on the ceiling of the Picture Gallery were woven in the design and appeared as the garlands on the cake

The bottom three tiers provided the stable base for the cake. The garlands were reproduced loosely on the fourth tier of the cake using roses, acorns, ivy leaves, apple blossom and bridal rose. Above this was another cake covered with lattice work and piped leaf detail. Lily of the valley covered the sixth tier, which also had an artistic interpretation of the couple’s cipher, their initials intertwined below a coronet. The four flowers of the home nations were featured on the penultimate tier. The top layer, around six inches in diameter, was covered with lace details and crowned with a garland of lily of the valley and heather.

For the embellishment, Fiona loosely interpreted the Joseph Lambeth technique (which the Duchess had requested)- a very intricate method of piping which creates three-dimensional structured details. The technique was used to achieve the scroll, lattice and shell details. The bottom and top tiers were decorated with piped lacework, taken from the Duchess’ dress.

The process of designing and baking the cake started in February as the cake had to be well matured by the day of the wedding. Three days before the wedding, the cake was delivered to Buckingham Palace in London transported in a van, driven very carefully down the M1 from her bakery in Leicestershire.

A room was dedicated above the kitchens in the Palace to assemble the cake, a task which took a team of seven people three days to accomplish.

After the cake was finished on the evening of April 28, it was left in the Picture Gallery, where it was displayed on a delicate mirrored plinth.

The wedding was a spectacular affair but Fiona could only heave a sigh of relief once she heard that the couple had seen the cake and had said it was beyond expectations. The sweet romance was sealed with a perfect ending.

Master baker Fiona Cairns, at the state of the art bakery in Leicester, have dished out favourites old and new to some of the most celebrated people across the world. Fiona has been baking professionally for 25 years, ever since her husband persuaded her to turn her weekend cakemaking hobby into a thriving business. Her cakes are sold at Harrods, Selfridges and Waitrose, and she famously makes a Christmas cake for Sir Paul McCartney every year. She has also for bands like Pink Floyd and Simply Red. Fiona can further be reached at emma.joyce@fionacairns.com or through www.fionacairns.com

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