Australians love a good royal wedding. So when Princess Elizabeth married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, Australian organisations were falling over each other to send gifts. Both the CWA and the Girl Guides zeroed in on the royal wedding cake. The Guides sent ingredients, the CWA a finished cake. Both were accepted, the finished products being among 11 or 12 cakes to make an appearance on the big day.
Although WWII was over, rationing continued. In Britain, it was much more severe and persisted until 1954. Among the items rationed there were bacon, butter, sugar, meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, lard, milk, and canned and dried fruit. Many of the ingredients of a traditional wedding cake, in fact. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Australians offered to help out.
Princess Elizabeth had been active in the Girl Guide movement and in 1946 held the lofty office of Chief Ranger of the British Empire, so Australian Guides naturally wanted to send a wedding gift. Someone on the Federal Council suggested a wedding cake and Guides all over Australia contributed their pennies to purchase the necessary ingredients. They were prepared to give up their butter and sugar ration coupons too, but the ‘authorities’ gave special dispensation for these to be ‘off the ration’.
Seven crates of produce were procured in Melbourne and shipped aboard the Stratheden. They were delivered to McVities & Price of Edinburgh who were to bake the official royal wedding cake. The ingredients despatched on 13 August, were as follows:
56 lb. bag icing sugar; 70 lb. bag castor sugar; 50 lb. bag plain flour; 6 tins powdered milk, 6 lb.; 10 ozs. ground cinnamon; 10 ozs. mixed spice; 6 bottles essence lemon; 28 lb tin almond meal; 60 lbs. sultanas; 10 lb. lemon peel; 15 lb. seeded raisins; 10 lb. crystallised cherries; 12 lb. currants; 1 x 7 lbs. self raising flour; 1 bottle best Australian brandy; 20 lb. brown sugar; 10 lb. almond kernels; 12 dozen eggs; 30 lb. butter.
The official cake was unveiled to the press five days before the 20 November wedding. It weighed 500lbs and stood nine feet high. It was revealed that in addition to the Australian ingredients it contained flour from Canada, butter from New Zealand, rum from Jamaica, sugar from Barbados. South Africa was said to have sent a rather stingy half bottle of brandy.
Compared to this 9ft monster, the CWA contribution was merely a ‘supplementary cake’, along with around 10 more. The six-tier cake was made in Sydney and each of the six tiers carried the name of an Australian state. The RSL got involved as well, with the Renmark branch supplying the fruit. The CWA cake was sent, for some reason, via Jerusalem where the bottom tier was discovered to be damaged. Newspaper articles reported with relief that it was “being repaired by Jerusalem’s leading confectioner”.
After the wedding, some cake was returned to Australia with thanks from the happy couple. The Secretary of the NSW branch of the Overseas League received a slice. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that ‘many members inspected the cake and “touched it for luck” yesterday and it will be on view at a cocktail party to be given on February 13’.
A whole tier of the official royal wedding cake was sent to the Australian Girl Guides and was delivered to the Extension Branch, Victoria. However, there is no record of who ate it.