Posts tagged #Fortnum and Mason

How a Great Fire and an Innovative Architect Inspired the Tiered Royal Wedding Cakes of Kate Middleton and Prince William

The latest royal wedding news from Windsor is that the famed English Queen of Cakes, Fiona Cairns, will be creating the sure to be grand cakes (yes, cakes, as in plural plus) for Kate and William’s Upcoming April 29th princey wedding.

No one could be a better creative choice for what will surely be a towering culinary masterpiece of sugar spun and sweet rich cake. Though Fiona Cairns started her business 25 years ago on her kitchen table¸ today her famed firm supplies such legendary merchants of styles as the Conran Shop, Liberty, the Ritz Hotel, Harrods, Selfridges, and Fortnum and Mason, to name only a few.

Key to her success is the business skills of her husband, Kishore Patel, as well as her training as a pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Hambleton Hall and her background as a graphic designer. Her first major innovation, elegant small cakes, launched a major culinary wave and has landed her such clients as Bono, Pink Floyd, Simply Red, Sinead O'Connor and Sir Paul McCartney. Not a bad client list.

Yet in the rush of all things royal weddings, few know that the high tiered flower decorated cake she will create for Kate and William claims its origins from a historic fire, an inspired architect and a humble baker in love.

In 1666 a great fire swept through wooden London, destroying 70,000 homes in a city of only 80,000 families. When the ashes cooled, great sections of the once crowded medieval city were open, available for a newer better London to be built, this time of safer stone.

The amazing architect selected for this great urban renewal was Sir Christopher Wren. Under his direction, stunning building after stunning building rose, rebuilding the London skyline into a place of beauty. Among his most charming of structures was St. Bride’s Church of Fleet Street with its soaring steeple.

Named after St Bridget of Kildare in Ireland, this beloved church is known in London simply as St Bride’s Church. Close to Fleet Street, the center of London’s historic print and media area, endless numbers of world famous writers and reporters call this their home church – and that includes many culinary writers.  

And who can blame them for loving this dear Celtic saint and her church when she wrote such prayers as this for her fellow nuns in 515:

"I long for a great lake of ale
I long for the meats of belief and pure piety
I long for plails of penance at my house
I long for them to have barrels full of peace
I long to give away jars full of love
I long for them to have cellars full or mercy
I long for cheerfulness to be in their drinking"

It was in the spirit of that joy of life that a local baker in the shadow of St Bride’s created the very first tiered wedding cake. Wondering what rare and special gift a humble baker could give his new bride, he chose to reproduce in soaring pastry the towering steeple of the nearby church where they would soon to be married. 

His novel high cake was so stunning it launched a tradition that has lasted three centuries – right down to this the newest royal wedding.

So all the best William and Kate.  May their path be strewn with flowers and may their cake and Love be as beautiful and as noble as St Bride's soaring steeple and last as long!

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2011