I Drove Myself Mad Trying to Recreate the Royal Wedding Cake

Claire Ptak, the East London baker chosen by Harry and Meghan to make their wedding cake, wouldn’t share the recipe so I took matters into my own hands.

May 17 2018, 2:20pm

Two months ago, a Californian baker became one of the most well known cooks in world. Kensington Palace announced that Claire Ptak, San Francisco native and owner of East London’s Violet Bakery, had been chosen to create Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding cake. It would be flavoured with lemon and elderflower, and covered in buttercream and fresh flowers “to incorporate the bright flavours of spring,” according to the Royal press office. Forget stuffy, tiered fruit cakes adorned with shit plastic brides and fondant roses—Meghan and Harry were about to fuck things up in the tamest way possible: with sponge!!

Naturally, MUNCHIES was curious about this deviation from wedding cake tradition. After killing some ideas (“Baking the Royal Wedding Cake … on Acid!”), we reach out to Ptak’s representatives to request an interview about the cake.

“Great to hear from you and apologies for the delay!” the bakery replies. “We’d love to arrange this for MUNCHIES—we’re just sorting out Claire’s availability for interviews from next week.”

I was in. I’d get to find out Exclusive!! Juicy!! Details about the cake, including how Ptak intended to merge the world of glamorous-actress-stroke-commoner Meghan with the archaic, extremely-un-Instagrammable demands of the Royal Family—and in cake form.

The following day, I receive another email from Violet Bakery. “Apologies, but we’ve just heard from the Royal press office, and I’m afraid we won’t be able to organise any interviews for Claire before the wedding.”

Wait, what? How had we gone from “love to arrange this” to “absolutely not commoner scum”? I reply asking whether this has anything to do with me leaking potential goss about Harry and Meghan, and assure the bakery that this won't happen. They ignore my pleading. I try a different approach and ask if the bakery would be willing to share Ptak’s lemon cake recipe, momentarily forgetting that there’s probably a glossy magazine somewhere willing to dish out ten-grand for such details.

The bakery, miraculously, agrees to give me the recipe. Screw you, Hello!.

But then, they send me this message: “I wanted to clarify that you didn’t mean the actual Royal Wedding cake?”, as if we haven’t just been emailing back and forth for two weeks about exactly that.

Exasperated by all the faff over a posh sponge, I decide that there must be another way to get a taste of Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake—bar sneaking into the reception and grabbing a slice from one of Kate’s kids. I would use every resource within my means to try and recreate Violet Bakery’s super-posh lemon and elderflower cake in my own kitchen. I didn’t need an official recipe. Recipes are for people who set a timer to boil pasta and download diet plan apps. I’d use this thing called “journalism” to work it out myself.

The Forums

Internet forums can be a wonderful place. I once found a post an ex-boyfriend had written about our relationship on a forum under a fake username. They’re also really good for hate-stalking MRAs—and finding foolproof cake recipes.

To begin my research for Ptak’s recipe, I turn to Mumsnet, because my god is it a treasure trove of useless information. If you ever want to learn how to clean a salad draw or read about someone being charged for breaking their in laws' wine glass, Mumsnet is your place.

I create the username “funcakemum72” because I, too, am a fun cake mum. Funcakemum72 loves a Prosecco with the girls, just wants to “put her feet up sometimes, David,” and doesn’t know the correct spelling of “Meghan.” I sprinkle my post with offensively low-res emojis.

Funcakemum72 needs to get that recipe guys!!! Screengrab via Mumsnet.

I also take my search to Reddit. The forum may be full of whiney neck-beard men, but it also attracts people who will take an hour and 15 minutes out of their day to carefully research an answer to your niche and unimportant question (or to insult you!).

The author turns to Reddit for help. Screengrab via Reddit.

Finally, I post my call for the Royal Wedding cake recipe in a forum handily named “The Royal Forums.” The website looks like it’s trapped in 2002 and frequented only by very lonely people who use Charles and Diana crockery and own a Cocker Spaniel named “Camilla.”

Wow good formatting, The Royal Forums. Screengrab via The Royal Forums.

A few hours after posting, the responses start to roll in. Although many respondents are skeptical of my mission (“You 100% are not recreating one of their recipes. You won't even get close”), and others are offended that I put “buttercream” in quotation marks, I do gain some useful advice from one Reddit user, MrsValentine.

How dare she. Screengrab via Reddit.
Ouch. Screengrab via Reddit.

MrsValentine recommends that I base my recipe on an Amalfi lemon cake Violet Bakery sells on the bespoke orders section of its website. The cake, which can cost up to £225, uses fresh lemons from the Italian coast, as well as lemon curd. “A very standard/normal process,” MrsValentine writes, “but it sounds like she just uses expensive ingredients.” Extra Special range it is!

ASDA lemon curd. All photos by the author.

Asking Someone Who Actually Knows What the Hell They’re Talking About

It has never been my job to make up recipes. I usually improvise when baking, and then cry when it doesn’t turn out exactly as it should despite adding milk, vanilla, and miso paste because it sounded cool. Luckily, MUNCHIES culinary director Farideh Sadeghin is basically paid to do this, and also my colleague so therefore can’t ignore me and say, “It’s really weird to text at 2 AM about a cake recipe, who is this?”

I send Farideh an email outlining my recipe quest, and she suggests a simple lemon sponge with elderflower syrup added into the buttercream mix. I manage to find a recipe for buttercream in Ptak’s 2015 book, The Violet Bakery Cookbook, which Farideh recommends I “decorate with lemon slices and flowers … maybe? Maybe not lemon slices, that is probably not fancy enough for these guys. Although it seems like they have strayed from tradition for this entire affair.”

A definitely not slightly burnt lemon sponge cake with elderflower buttercream.

I briefly consider cutting the wildflowers that grow on the polluted main road in front of my flat, but decide that I do not want to die. Instead, I will decorate the cake with something quite similar to what I imagine Ptak herself uses: Dr. Oetker sugar flowers.

Ethically Dubious Journalism

OK, this is one of my more questionable ideas. I figure that finding the official Royal Wedding cake recipe wouldn’t be too difficult if I were able to, er, trick someone from Violet Bakery into telling me. By which I mean, pretend to be the “Hospitality Director” of “The Households of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry,” and request allergy information from the bakery. Thus, Margaret Holmes is born.

With this name, I create a fake email address (holmes.royals.uk@mail.com) and add an official-looking signature. The final result is … not too shabby. If you look at it closely, it does kinda resemble those emails you get from “HMRC (suzki.ro@ms.co),” asking you to please enter your bank details in this link in order to receive a tax rebate of £261.98. However, in passing, it passes.

Totally, 100-percent not suspicious or illegal. Screengrab by the author.

Asking for the recipe straight-up would be way too bate, so I construct an email in a casual tone, asking the bakery to confirm the ingredients of the cake, including any allergies. Look, I was just thinking about the celiacs, I shall say in a tribunal as the company lawyer shakes her head from the back of the court. The buttercream was in public interest!!!!

“Many thanks,” Margaret would say. “Margaret.”

I reach out to some journalists I work with to see whether my fake email was a good idea.

Screengrab by the author.

Apparently, there is “absolutely zero public interest” in cake recipes, and it would be “a bit problematic” to fake an identity and potentially get someone fired.

The Final Result

After sitting down and collating my findings—the forums’ advice, Farideh’s recipe, The Violet Bakery Cookbook buttercream—I am ready to recreate Harry and Meghan’s cake. I begin by gathering my ingredients, heading first to an organic greengrocer on the high street near my flat and asking the owner if he has any “lemons from the Amalfi coast.” He looks confused and slightly offended, and gestures towards the single selection of lemons on offer.

Very Good Quality eggs, lemon, elderflower cordial, lemon curd, and butter.

After that, I head to ASDA to get the highest quality budget-range ingredients: flour, lemon curd, milk, and sugar. I also buy a special butter with sea salt flakes in. Only the best for my beloved Royals.

A Recipe, or: Ruby 1, Royals 0

Make a simple lemon sponge but with a bit of milk because the batter didn’t look liquidy enough. Bake in temperamental gas oven with extremely uneven heat distribution. Remove and place on a windowsill to cool. Watch housemate eat leftover batter from a bowl while declaring, “I do not want to be in your article.” Make buttercream as specified by The Violet Bakery Cookbook with an ABSURD amount of icing sugar. Seriously, it’s like a dangerous amount—over three times the weight of icing sugar as there is flour in this recipe. Americans, man. Then, add some elderflower cordial to the buttercream. Once sponges are cooled, apply ASDA lemon curd and buttercream to the top of one layer, and place the next layer on top. Repeat depending on how many layers you want (two, I have things to do.) Apply buttercream and beautiful twee flowers. Viola!

High-end shit.

Maybe I should have sent that email.