Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Princess Bride


After her eldest grandson's royal church wedding, Queen Elizabeth II hosted a reception for 650 guests consisting of friends and family. Guests snacked on British-themed specialities such as *takes a deep breath* pressed duck terrine with fruit chutney, roulade of goat's cheese with caramelised walnuts, quails eggs with celery salt, bubble and squeak with confit shoulder of lamb, grain mustard and honey-glazed chipolatas and miniature Yorkshire pudding with roast fillet of beef, horseradish mousse and 10,000 canapes *phew*gasps*

For dessert, apart from the cake there was blood orange pate de fruit, rhubarb creme brulee tartlet, passionfruit praline and dark chocolate ganache truffle.

But it was the magnificent 8 tiered wedding cake that took centre stage as Prince William and Kate Middleton celebrated their marriage at Buckingham Palace.

Fiona Cairns was selected to make the wedding cake for the royal couple. Her company supplies more than 750,000 cakes (mostly fairy cakes) a year to shops including Fortnum & Mason, and Waitrose.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney orders one of Cairn's cakes for Christmas every year, and she has made creations for U2's Bono, Pink Floyd and Simply Red. How awesome is that?

Cairns, who started baking from her kitchen table for neighbours 25 years ago, says that the royal wedding cake took five weeks to complete and has 8 tiers made from 17 fruit cakes - twelve of these form the base! There are 900 individually iced flowers and 17 varieties of leaves.

Mixing the ingredients for her traditional English fruitcake.

The cake is decorated with cream and white icing using the Joseph Lambeth technique, a popular English style that relies on intricate piping and three dimensional scrollwork to create leaves, flowers and other decorative elements. The middle of the cake has a garland design matching the architectural garlands that decorate the top of the Picture Gallery in Buckingham Palace, the room in which the cake was displayed.

While adding the finishing touches to the cake Cairns said, "The picture gallery has high ceilings and is an imposing room so I wanted the cake to have presence but not to be imposing and I think it worked. Catherine did not want it to be seven feet tall, she didn't want it to be towering and thin, and I think we succeeded.".

Cairns, who lives in Leicestershire (about 110 miles/180 kilometers north of London) where her factory is based, had to set up the ensemble for two days at the palace. She has said that the hardest part was transporting the cakes from Leicestershire to the palace (worrying that the cakes would get damaged) and upon arrival she and her team still had to assemble the cakes. "It was tough work but I really enjoyed it. It's been an extraordinary commission", she said. Uh-huh, I can only imagine!

Along the cake's base ran ivy leaves (symbolising marriage) and the bottom three tiers are decorated with piped lace work and daisies (meaning innocence) sweet William - grant me one smile - and lavender.


There are infill features of cascading orange and apple blossom, honeysuckle, acorns with oak leaves (meaning strength and endurance) - bridal rose, which symbolises happiness, and myrtle.

The fourth tier reflected the architectural details in the room so the garlands on the walls were reproduced loosely on the fourth tier with roses, acorns, ivy leaves, apple blossom and bridal rose. Above this was the fifth tier that was covered with lattice work and piped leaf detail.

Lily of the valley (representing sweetness and humility) decorated 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 - English rose, Scottish thistle, Welsh daffodil and Irish shamrock - were featured on the penultimate tier. The 6" diameter top tier was covered with lace details with a garland of lily of the valley and heather to top if all off.

When questioned on the recipe, Cairns would only say that the traditional English fruitcake was made with dried fruits, raisins and sultanas, walnuts, cherries, grated oranges and lemon, French brandy, free-range eggs and flour. The cakes were baked a month in advance since Cairn's secret recipe required four weeks for the cakes to mature.

I totally agree with Cairns when she says that it makes the process of cake designing much easier when a bride knows what she wants compared to a bride who has absolutely no idea whatsoever. Kate so knew what she wanted that she brought mood boards and informed her cake designer of the influences she would like to use on the cake. Heck, with a ceiling-less budget, she can have all the influences she can dream up. I like her already.

In 2008, at the request of environmentally-friendly Charles, this Aston Martin 
Volante DB6 MKII was converted to run on E85 Bio-ethanol which 
is made from English wine wastage.

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