It’s like my entire life has been leading up to this royal wedding. Oh wait, that’s what I said about the last one. I love the royals! And the corgis, the fascinator hats, the gossip columns, the big houses, the Range Rovers, the sold-out dresses, the ancient and outdated traditions, all of it! So I couldn’t be more elated to share this definitely unofficial royal wedding cake, three tiers and 12 layers of lemon-elderflower cake with raspberry filling, made for the occasion of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding by Bon Appétit’s own Claire Saffitz.
We only knew a few things about the real cake, which is in the hands of Violet Bakery’s Claire Ptak. Per Kensington Palace: “Prince Harry and Ms. Markle have asked Claire to create a lemon elderflower cake that will incorporate the bright flavours of spring. It will be covered with buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers.”
BA’s Claire took cues from Ptak’s style, a natural-edged buttercream frosting that has a homemade but woke-up-like- this beauty (the trick: use a bench scraper to apply). The sponge inside is soaked with St.-Germain elderflower liqueur and lemon juice, which gives it a fragrant, bright taste. All in all, the St.-Germain is very subtle (it doesn’t taste “boozy”). We recommend using the leftover liqueur in a Champagne cocktail.
We have instructions for a dramatic tiered version, if you’re going full Mrs. Patmore for this royal wedding. (If so, see you bright and early Saturday morning!) You can make the cake layers ahead and freeze them, and then assemble and frost it later. The base recipe makes two 10” cakes, which is more manageable than building a tiered cake, but still 4 total layers, because we’re not messing around, this is CAKE. Either way, you should probably eat it for breakfast, wearing something feathery on your head, while bidding furiously online for a commemorative mug—something, anything!—to remember this special moment. And it will be a special moment, if the cake signifies anything.
In the history of royal wedding cakes, as with royal everything, things have been stiff. The cake, per British custom dating back to pre-refrigeration days, is usually a dense, brick fruitcake that can be made months ahead. The frosting and decorations (royal seals and family insignia in marzipan) budge as little as the Queen’s Guard. They do. Not. Budge.
Exhibit A, the towering cake from Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana’s 1981 wedding:
Exhibit B, the 8-tiered fruitcake from Prince William and Kate Middleton’s 2011 wedding:
Fun fact: Per the cake’s baker, Fiona Cairns, they cut the cake and served it for breakfast before the wedding, which is why we don’t get to revel in wedding photos of royals awkwardly slicing cake together. And, uh, it “matured” for two months before the wedding. Again: fruitcake. The top tier of the cake was saved and served to lucky guests at Prince George’s christening in 2013.
Which is why we’re more excited than usual for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s cake—an actual cake cake! Something fresh, actually delicious, and perishable. A reminder that some occasions are best celebrated in the moment, not decades later by the highest bidder. I still hope, however, that they eat it for breakfast.