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It’s been ten years since Kate Middleton and Prince William, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, tied the knot in Westminster Abbey. And while the couple recently celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary on April 29, 2021, we’re definitely still reeling from the incredible details of the big day.
Kate’s Alexander McQueen dress? Incredible. The carriage procession after saying “I do”? Forever considered a Cinderella moment! But one of the main features of the royal wedding we’re still dreaming of today is the magnificent wedding cake that sat on display in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace.
And while every couple’s wedding cake is truly special, from single-tier cakes for intimate affairs to show-stopping cakes with buttercream palette detailing, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s cake is definitely considered one of the most incredible cake designs to date.
From the astonishing size of the cake and the number of handcrafted details it featured to the story behind who actually baked the cake, here’s every sweet piece of information we know about Kate Middleton and Prince William's wedding cake.
First thing’s first, there would be no elaborate wedding cake on display for Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding if it weren’t for the incredibly talented baker who pulled it off. Fiona Cairns was approached to bake the royal wedding cake just a few months before the big day. But luckily, Cairns had years of experience putting together incredible sweets to give her plenty of confidence in the task.
Cairns made her first fruit cakes in 1985, which were gifted to friends as Christmas gifts. In 1986, Cairns’ husband, Kishore Patel, proposed the idea of starting a cake business, and Fiona Cairns Ltd. was officially established. Fast-forward 25 years and Cairns was perfectly poised to create the wedding cake of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s dreams.
There’s a longstanding tradition of fruit cakes being given as gifts around the holidays, but there’s also a royal wedding tradition of celebrating with fruit cake. And no, we’re not referring to the drab, dry fruit cakes we all love to throw away.
Traditionally, a fruit cake is baked with plenty of dried fruit, chopped walnuts, and chopped dates to produce a hearty cake. The dried fruits are reconstituted by being soaked in alcohol or fruit juices to add moisture before being incorporated into a batter made up of sugar, spices, butter, and flour. Then, the cake is typically covered in marzipan and finished with royal icing, which is a harder frosting that produces a beautifully smooth texture.
The Duke and Duchess certainly followed tradition with their cake flavor, but the frosting was switched up a bit. Cairns told People that there was a specific request for a softer icing, rather than royal icing, so it was made with a sugar paste base instead.
Past royal weddings have certainly featured elaborate cakes. And for many, the grandeur was all about height. An astonishing nine-foot-tall cake stood on display at Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s wedding in 1947. The wedding of Charles and Diana featured a five-foot stunning cake. But the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose to keep things a bit more modest.
The total size of their wedding cake ended up being three feet tall, but it was certainly very wide, creating a stately display. The magnificent cake stood tall with eight tiers, weighing a whopping 220 pounds.
The multi-tiered cake featured the couple’s monogram front and center in beautiful detailing. But the décor went much further than that. Each tier of the cake featured different floral designs, and each of the 900-plus details were crafted by hand out of sugar.
Cairns told People that 17 different flowers and leaves were incorporated into the design, ultimately displaying a mixture of blooms including lily of the valley, Irish shamrock, English rose, Scottish thistle, and Welsh daffodil. The incorporation of such flowers was meant to represent the national flowers of the four United Kingdom nations, bringing them together on one beautiful display.
The incredible architectural beauty of the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace also came into play with the design. After all, that’s where the confection would stand tall on display, and it had to be worthy of the space. Cairns told People that the Duchess requested that the cake reflect the architecture and detailing of the Picture Gallery, along with the inclusion of the flowers, leaves, and other details such as hanging ribbons and bows. However, it was noted that the cake wasn’t to have any color on it whatsoever. And Cairns certainly pulled that off flawlessly with a stunning pure white design.
It’s hard to put a price on a perfect wedding confection. Of course, a smaller, single-tier cake with a single bold bloom won’t quite hit the budget the way a five-tier elaborately decorated cake might.
Either way, it’s nothing compared to the cake bill of $80,000 for the royal wedding cake. But of course, with the incredible amount of work that goes into handcrafted sugar detailing and the careful assembly of such a tall cake, it’s all about paying appropriately for the dedicated labor that's required for making such a beautiful treat.
The Groom's Cake
While Cairns’ incredible cake was certainly the show-stopper of the day, we’d be remiss if Prince William’s cake wasn’t recognized as well. Prince William grew up enjoying a chocolate biscuit cake known as the classic Tiffin cake, and that’s exactly what was enjoyed on his wedding day. Master chocolatier Barry Colenso, in partnership with The McVitie's Cake Company, worked to put together the square, three-tier chocolate biscuit cake adorned with chocolate leaves and white chocolate dahlias. That way, guests were invited for a bit of chocolate indulgence on the big day as well.
While plenty of cake was certainly consumed on the royal wedding day, several of the eight incredible tiers were reserved for another purpose. Following tradition, the top tiers from the celebratory confection were preserved so the cake could be served for the christening of the Duke and Duchess’s first child. And it was indeed. Both Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s christenings featured a tier from the royal wedding cake.
A piece of the couple's elaborate confection was also auctioned off during a 2018 Julien’s Auction in California, alongside pieces of cake from Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding.