Perhaps your invite to the upcoming royal nuptials of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton was lost in the mail. Or maybe you simply haven’t the time to hop across the pond for the big event.
Not to worry. Now that palace officials have released the young couple’s wedding cake choices, you can serve yourself a fat slice of royal life without leaving the kitchen.
One of the cakes being served at the April 29 wedding is a traditional iced (which is to say, frosted) English fruit cake. But making one is a bit of an involved process and it’s already too late to have one ready in time. Plus, let’s face it, fruit cake isn’t a universal favorite here in the former colonies.
But what you can do is try the groom’s cake that Prince William has chosen, a biscuit cake.
Biscuits in Britain are, of course, cookies, so what this amounts to is an unbaked confection of crumbled cookies and chocolate – quite an unconventional touch for such a high-society affair.
“I think it’s a bit of fun, really,” said Camilla Schneideman, managing director of the Leiths School of Food and Wine in London. “It’s quite nice that this generation of the royal family has expressed their personalities; they’ve been much freer and able to lead a slightly more normal existence. I think this is an expression of that. He’s having a bit of fun with it.”
Tea and biscuits are a staple of British life, so the prince’s choice is “something that a lot of people will be able to relate to,” Schneideman said.
Having a groom’s cake is quite unusual in Britain. It’s not common on this side of the Atlantic, either, though it appears to be gaining popularity. There are numerous accounts of how this practice began, but it generally involves the serving of a second, smaller cake tailored to the groom’s tastes.
The prince’s cake will be made by bakers at the big British biscuit company, McVitie’s, who it turns out have been making royal wedding cakes since the marriage of George V in 1893.
The traditional fruit cake, meanwhile, is being made by British pastry chef Fiona Cairns and will be decorated with a floral theme.
San Francisco pastry chef Emily Luchetti, author of “The Fearless Baker,” can imagine the pressure.
“I would be absolutely thrilled and honored and I probably wouldn’t sleep until May 3,” she said with a laugh. “Everyone in the world’s going to be looking at that cake.”
Luchetti, executive pastry chef at the Waterbar and Farallon restaurants, would like to try both cakes were she among the elect going to the royal reception.
“I would be really interested to taste the chocolate one and see what it looked like,” she said. “I’d make my husband stand in one line and I’d stand in the other.”
At the Leiths school, which is taking the day off for the wedding, Schneideman also thought both cakes sound good, and gave a spirited defense of the much-maligned fruit cake.
“Fine English fruit cake is one of the best things that you can eat,” she said. “It’s a delicious cake. It’s just that it has had bad press because it’s not always well made.”
Want to try your hand at making a cake fit for a future king? Here’s our recipe for a cake similar to the one Prince William has requested.
Chocolate Biscuit Cake
The royal family prefers McVitie’s brand Rich Tea Biscuits for their chocolate biscuit cakes, but any firm butter cookie can be used in this intensely rich and chocolatey no-bake treat. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers; the cake gets better with time.
For the cake:
7-ounce package butter tea biscuits (sold in the cookie aisle)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
16 ounces (about 2-1/2 cups) bittersweet chocolate bits
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces (about 1 cup) bittersweet chocolate
Coat a 7- or 8-inch round springform pan with cooking spray.
DIRECIONS: To make the cake, with your hands break up the biscuits into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces; you want chunks, not crumbs. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the cream, honey and butter. Microwave on high for 1-1/2 minutes, or until bubbling. Add the chocolate and stir until melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla, then the crumbled biscuits. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, using the back of the spoon to smooth the top. Gently tap the pan on the counter to eliminate any air pockets. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until thoroughly chilled. Once the cake is chilled, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and cream. When the mixture reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until completely melted and smooth. Carefully remove the sides from the springform pan (you may need to slide a paring knife around the inside upper edge to ensure the sides come away cleanly from the cake). Invert the cake onto a wire rack, then remove the bottom of the pan from the cake. Set the rack over parchment paper to catch drips. Pour the glaze evenly over the cake, allowing it to drip down and completely cover the top and sides. Allow to firm up, then transfer to a serving plate. Refrigerate leftovers.
Makes 12 servings.
(Recipe by Alison Ladman)