How do you get a 9 ft tall and 500 lb cake to stand?
A team composed of Le Cordon Bleu London's Master Chefs and pastry diploma students recreated the 1947 Royal Wedding cake for the ITV documentary “A Very Royal Wedding”.
Head Pâtisserie Chef Julie Walsh reveals the interesting process that was involved in the architecture of the cake.
What kind of research did you do?
We did a lot of research into the Queen’s wedding and this unique cake. While we searched lots of archive newspapers, printed pictures and magazine articles, one of the most helpful was from a book titled “A Fell Fine Baker Service with Distinction”. This book contained a lot of detail about how Mr Fredrick Schur, the chief confectioner of McVities & Price had his idea chosen from 11 others, as well as pictures and details of the actual design he used.
We also learned that the Princess Elizabeth had personally written to McVities & Price thanking them for their efforts in creating such a beautiful cake.
How did you distinguish factual information about the cake from the counterfeit?
As we had more and more information sent from the production team and McVities & Price we knew we were on the right track. The media footage of the time confirmed this to be the case. Of course, actually being able to speak to someone who had been involved in making the original cake or having the original plans is the only way to ensure you have exactly the right design details. But, using modern computerised images we were able to enlarge the archive pictures and diagrams enough to get good images to work from.
How many trial runs did you and the team have to make?
We made one “dummy” cake out of polystyrene which enabled us to check the scale of the cake and that its decorations were correct. There was no reliable information regarding the size and scale of the wedding cake apart from the fact that it was 9ft tall and the bottom tier was 40” in diameter. The remaining information we had to work out from those two details.
The cake is 9ft tall and weighs 500lb, can you please describe how you got the cake to stand and the architecture of the cake?
Due to the sheer amount of weight of cake in each tier we decided to use an armature (which is an internal structure to support each layer of cake). The armature is made of food grade acrylic, it is designed to prevent any movement either vertically or horizontally within each tier once it is decorated. Traditionally, wood would have been used for this internal structure to keep the cake in place during icing. This armature stabilised the cake to enable it to stand tall despite the heavy weight from the next tier on top.
You had to do a lot of extensive research, however, were there any adaptations you had to make? If so, how did you achieve this?
As there was very limited information regarding the recipe they used we had to adapt a recipe that we knew worked well. We wanted to produce the best fruit cake we could using the finest ingredients while still honouring the original ingredients we knew they had used in the original such as Australian Brandy, Navy rum and milk powder.
Next in the series: How did Le Cordon Bleu Patisserie Team manage to recreate with precision the intricate decorations on the 9ft tall Royal Wedding cake?