Today, November 20th …
When Princess Elizabeth married Prince Phillip on this day in 1947, Britain was still under rationing, and rationing applied to the royal family too. The problem of where to get sufficient ingredients for what had to be a Very Big Day was solved by the rest of the world, who came to the rescue with donations of food parcels.
There were in fact ten cakes made for the occasion, but the official one – the one cut by the couple on the day – was made from ingredients donated by Australian Girl Guides, and made by the firm of McVitie and Price. The cake was nine feet high, had four tiers, and weighed about 500lb. It was decorated with Scottish heather and “emblems of cricket, tennis, and racing” (what, no corgis?). What we don’t know is the exact recipe. We do know, thanks to McVitie and Price that the ingredients were:
Butter, caster sugar, moist Tate & Lyle pieces, flour (Clark & Butcher), frozen whole egg, honey, salt, spice, cassia, nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves, ground almonds, cherries, currants, sultanas, mixed peel, caramel powder, glycerine, egg colour, oil of lemon, oil of orange, brandy, sherry, rum.
The wedding cake has come a long way since its ancient beginnings as simple cake of grain broken over the head of the happy couple, as a symbol and wish for fertility. Between then and now, the grain offering went through a stage of being a pie (TOF opinion: all good things were once pie). These ‘Bride Pies’ were no less elaborate for the lack of layers of icing and sugar sculpting, and could even be part of the entertainment if they contained live birds or snakes. This recipe from Robert May’s ‘Accomplish’t Cook” (1660) shows how to do it:
To make an extraordinary Pie, or a Bride Pie, of severall Compounds, being several distinct Pies on one bottom.
Provide cock-stones and combs, or lamb-stones and sweet-breads of veal, a little set in hot water and cut to pieces; also two or three oxe pallets blanched and slic’t, a pint of oysters, sliced dates, a handful of pine kernels, a little quantity of broom-buds pickled, some fine interlarded bacon sliced, nine or ten chestnuts roasted and blanched, season them with the salt, nutmeg, and some large mace, and close it up with some butter. For the caudle, beat up some butter, with three yolks of eggs, some white wine or claret wine, the juyce of a lemon or two, cut up the lid, and pour on the lear, shaking it well together, then lay on the meat, slic’t lemon, and pickled barberries, and cover it again, let these Ingredients be put into the middle or scollops of the Pie.
Several other Pies belong to the first form, but you must be sure to make the three fashions proportionably answering one the other; you may set them on one bottom of paste, which will be more convenient; or if you set them several you may bake the middle one of flour, it being baked and cold, take out the flour in the bottom, and put in live birds, or a snake, which will seem strange to the beholders, which cut up the Pie at the table. This is onely for a Wedding to pass away time.
Now for the other Pies you may fill them with several Ingredients, as in one you may put oysters, being parboild and bearded, season them with large mace, pepper, some beaten ginger, and salt, season them lightly, and fill the Pie, then lay on marrow and some good butter, close it up and bake it. Then make a lear for it with white wine, the oyster liquor, three or four oysters bruised in pieces to make it stronger, but take out the pieces, and an onion, or rub the bottom of the dish with a clove of garlick; it being boild, put in a piece of butter, with a lemon, sweet hearbs will be good boild in it, bound up fast together; cut up the lid, or make a hole to let the lear in, &C.Another you may make of Prawns and Cockles, being seasoned as the first, but no marrow: a few pickled mushrooms (if you have them) it being baked, beat up a piece of butter, a little vinegar, a slic’d nutmeg, and the juyce of two or three oranges thick, and pour it into the Pie.
A third you may make a Bird Pie; take young Birds, as larks, pulled and drawn, and a force meat to put in the bellies made of grated bread, sweet herbs minced very small, beef suet, or marrow minced, almonds beat with a little cream to keep them from oyling, a little parmisan (or none) or old cheese; season this meat with nutmeg, ginger, and salt; then mix them together with cream and eggs like a pudding, stuff the larks with it, then season the larks with nutmeg, pepper, and salt, and lay them in the Pie, put in some butter, and scatter between them pine-kernels, yolks of eggs, and sweet herbs, the eggs and herbs being minced very small; being baked make a lear with the juice of oranges and butter beat up thick, and shaken well together.For another of the Pies, you may boil artichocks, and take onely the bottoms for the Pie, cut them into quarters or less, and season them with nutmeg. Thus with several Ingredients you may fill up the other Pies.
On this Topic …
“The Elaborate Science of the Confectioner”, a story about Queen Victoria’s wedding cake, which included recipes for wedding cake icing from 1769, was posted on February 10th 2006.
Tomorrow’s Story …
A better Soda Cracker.
Quotation for the Day …
The Bride Cake
This day my Julia thou must make
For mistresse Bride, the wedding Cake:
knead but the Dow and it will be
To paste of Almonds turn’d by thee:
Or kisse it thou, but once, or twice,
And for the Bride-Cake ther’l be Spice
Robert Herrick, ‘ Hesperides’ (1648)