The Great British Wedding Cake
Following the success of BBC2’s culinary competition The Great British Bake Off comes The Great British Wedding Cake. This one-off special explores the history of wedding cakes in Britain while the three finalists from last year’s Bake Off, Edd, Miranda and Ruth, take on a seemingly impossible challenge: to make and bake two spectacular wedding cakes in just 16 hours.
Renowned baking writer Mary Berry and professional baker Paul Hollywood look at how the British wedding cake has changed dramatically through the different eras – from Tudor and Victorian times to wartime Britain, the affluent 80s and present day. Mary and Paul also follow the progress of Edd, Miranda and Ruth as they go against the clock to create the ultimate wedding cakes which they will judge at the end of the challenge.
Paul and food historian Ivan Day marvel at the earliest wedding cake – a huge Tudor creation measuring 30” x 16”. Ivan bakes a version of this ‘bride cake’ in a wood-fired oven and explains how the giant, bready bun eventually developed into the first fruit wedding cake.
From humble beginnings to the extravagant Victorian era: Mary and historian Kate Williams take a stroll through London and discover how the Industrial Revolution, the growth of the British Empire and even Queen Victoria herself helped establish the wedding cake we recognise today. They also analyse a London church steeple, which is said to have inspired the wedding cake’s tiers.
Legendary home economist, 95-year-old Marguerite Patten, relates her memories of wartime Britain, when food shortages and sugar rationing forced newlyweds to be creative with their cakes. Cash-strapped couples were often resigned to substituting important wedding cake ingredients for strange alternatives. Absurd stories emerge of marzipan being replaced by dried haricot beans and there is even evidence of wedding cakes being fashioned from cardboard boxes with plaster of Paris ‘icing’!
And finally from the swinging 60s – when everything but the cake was rock ‘n roll – to the present day. Food historian Tim Hayward looks at how the major changes in British society – the affluent yuppies of the 80s, rocketing divorce rates and the increasing rejection of tradition – gave carte blanche to a new generation of wedding cake makers. Key interviewees include pioneering cake designer Peggy Porschen, award-winning chocolatier Paul Young and Dame Vera Lynn talking about her own wedding cake.
The wedding cake bake-off culminates as our bakers come to the end of their challenge. Have they managed to make two incredible cakes in the allotted time? Are these cakes genuinely fit for a wedding? …And who has got the edge in capturing the spirit of the Great British Wedding Cake?
Find out on Wednesday 20th April by tuning in to BBC2 at 8pm.