A little slice of Royal Wedding history for McVitie’s workers

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WHETHER or not Marie Antoinette said “let them eat cake”, it is still a good maxim.

And even more appropriate if you happen to be getting married.

So it comes as no surprise to learn that soon-to-be newlyweds Prince William and his bride Kate Middleton have opted for not one, but two cakes at their forthcoming nuptials.

There is extra cause for excitement locally with news that staff from the Halifax factory of the McVitie’s Cake Company will be part of the team making a huge chocolate biscuit cake - a favourite treat of William’s.

The secrecy surrounding many of the events extends to McVitie’s being unable to confirm how many Halifax staff are involved and even at which site the cake will be created, though it will not be in Calderdale.

The company, with headquarters in Hopwood Lane, Halifax, has a long history of making celebration cakes for weddings and christenings for the Royal Family - in 2007 McVitie’s made the anniversary cake for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s 60th wedding anniversary.

Although staff are keeping tight-lipped about the details and the recipe, the latest wedding cake is bound to be a winner, not just with the Royal couple but with their guests.

They will also be able to tuck into a traditional, multi-layered fruit cake, being badged as the official cake, which is to be made by Fiona Cairns, a business woman who has gone from kitchen table baking to selling her creations to the country’s best-known stores.

Kate Middleton has produced detailed plans for it and it has been revealed that it will feature the couple’s new cipher (thought to include their entwined initials, the design will be revealed on their wedding day.)

It will also have as its theme the four flowers of the home nations - the English rose, the Scottish thistle, the Welsh daffodil and the Irish shamrock.

Other flowers will also feature as Kate has made a special request for designer Cairns of Leicestershire, to incorporate flowers according to their meaning.

As a result there is the bridal rose which symbolises happiness, the oak and the acorn, architectural details taken from the room where the cake will be displayed but also meaning strength and endurance, lily of the valley for sweetness and humility and ivy leaves which symbolise marriage.

Not surprisingly, also on the list of flowers, which will be made from sugar paste, will be sweet William - meaning perfection and gallantry.

The cake will, as Royal cakes often are, be multi-tiered and the ingredients will include dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas, walnuts, cherries, grated oranges and lemon, French brandy, free range eggs and flour.

One problem Fiona Cairns won’t have is a problem which faced McVitie’s and Price Ltd, makers of the Queen’s wedding cake.

When the then Princess Elizabeth tied the knot with the dashing Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey back in 1947, many commodities and food stuffs in Britain were still being rationed.

But thanks to the generosity and quick-thinking of Australian girl guides, who sent ingredients as a wedding gift, the cake, in all its six-tiered glory was able to be baked and shared among guests.

When Prince Charles married the young Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, reports say at their wedding breakfast, held at Buckingham Palace, that they had as many as 27 wedding cakes (presumably shared out among thousands of guests, friends, staff, charity members etc).

The official one with five tiers, was supplied by the Naval Armed Forces. David Avery, the head baker at the Royal Naval cooking school, in Chatham Kent, made it and it took 14 weeks, with the bottom tier alone taking 12 hours to bake.

Two identical cakes were made, just in case one was damaged in transit.

When the original survived, the stand-by cake was distributed amongst the naval cookery trainees with each receiving two pieces - one for the trainee and one for their mother.

Avery himself never ate a final slice of cake, although he did sample as he was making it. Amongst the other suppliers of the cake was Classic Celebration Cakes in Cheshire who have also been involved in supplying wedding cakes for the last five official Royal weddings.

Details of the wedding breakfast for William and Kate have so far been kept secret but no doubt it will be a lavish affair in accordance with Royal tradition.

When The Duke and Duchess of York , aka George IV and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, were married in 1923 guests feasted on supremes de saumon Reine Mary (salmon fillets), cotelettes d’agneau Prince Albert (lamb cutlets) and fraises Duchesse Elizabeth (strawberries).

The menu for The Queen and Prince Philip featured filet de sole Mountbatten, perdreau en casserole (partridge) and bombe glacee Elizabeth, while guests at the wedding of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips in 1973 tucked into lobster, partridge, fresh peas, peppermint ice cream and a wedding cake that stood at 5ft and 6ins tall - exactly the height of the bride.

Charles and Diana chose quenelle of brill in lobster sauce, Princess of Wales chicken (chicken breast stuffed with lamb mousse) and strawberries with Cornish cream.

Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson were married in 1986 and their wedding breakfast consisted of eggs drumkilbo (hard-boiled egg moulded with lobster, prawns and mayonnaise - the Queen Mother’s favourite) - lamb with mint sauce and strawberries and cream.

However Prince Charles broke with tradition in 2005 when he finally married Camilla Parker Bowles. The couple chose a lavish traditional afternoon tea which include egg and cress sandwiches, mini Cornish pasties and boiled fruit cake.

l Tate & Lyle Royal Icing Sugar are sponsoring an exhibition of Royal wedding cakes through the ages, which runs at Wellington Arch, London, from April 22 to 25. Recipes for the cakes will be on display and visitors will also be have the chance to have some tasters.