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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Wedding Cake Breaks with Centuries of Royal Tradition

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Next month, to mark the occasion of Prince Harry’s marriage to Meghan Markle, Julien’s, the L.A.-based “auction house to the stars,” will be selling five cake slices from “iconic” British royal weddings past. The lot includes a slice of brandy-infused fruitcake from the 2011 marriage of Harry’s brother, William, to Kate Middleton (estimated price $600-800), and one from the wedding of the boys’ parents, Prince Charles and Diana ($800-1200), sold with a paper doily and an envelope, addressed to its original recipients, marked with Queen Elizabeth’s royal stamp. There is a slice from Charles’s wedding to his second wife, Camilla Parker Bowles; another from the 1986 wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson; and, at a relative bargain rate of $300-500, one from the 1973 union of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips. In the years since these confections were baked, their layers of marzipan may have turned from yellow to a dingy ochre, but the cake itself, loaded with sugar and spirits and dried fruit, is otherwise impressively preserved.

Elizabeth and Philip’s 1947 wedding featured a four-tiered cake weighing five hundred pounds.

Photograph by Topical Press Agency / Getty

It was an eighteenth-century cookery writer named Elizabeth Raffald who first developed the formula to which each of these royal-wedding cakes more or less adhered. Since medieval times, all special occasions in England, from Christmas to christenings, had been celebrated with fruit cakes, which were optimally suited to an era before refrigeration. (As one modern-day food-safety specialist noted, “You are unlikely to see mould on a fruit cake for a very long time.”) Raffald’s innovation was to cover “Bride Cake,” as wedding cake was then called, in a layer of marzipan, followed by a bright white shell of the cement-like substance that came to be known as “royal” icing. This double coating made cakes that were good to look at but not necessarily to eat. Guests were left, one nineteenth-century baker remarked, with “a thick layer of white sugar which nobody cared about; a medium layer of almond paste, which everybody wished for, and did not always get; and an immense quantity of cake of which many only ate a few crumbs.”

Queen Victoria’s cake, for her wedding in 1840, was the first to become a national obsession, an extension of the public’s fascination with the young


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