Chocolate cake and gun salutes: How the Royal Family celebrates birthdays

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·7-min read
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II cuts into a cake made by Nadiya Hussein (L), winner of the Great British Bake Off during a 'walkabout' on her 90th birthday in Windsor, west of London, on April 21, 2016.  Britain celebrates Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday on Thursday, with her eldest son Prince Charles paying tribute in a special radio broadcast and Prime Minister David Cameron leading a parliamentary homage. / AFP / POOL / John Stillwell        (Photo credit should read JOHN STILLWELL/AFP via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth with a cake for her 90th birthday. (Getty Images)

Birthdays are always special occasions and it is no different if you’re royalty.

From their favourite chocolate cake, to a special stamp or coin, there are lots of ways the Royal Family mark their birthdays.

Yahoo UK looks at how the Royal Family marks birthdays at different ages.

The Queen gets two

It’s been tradition for hundreds of years for the monarch to have two birthdays, and the Queen is no different.

Not only does she celebrate her real birthday, usually quite privately, but she has an official birthday each year too.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 08: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Louis of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth II watch a flypast from the balcony of Buckingham Palace during Trooping The Colour, the Queen's annual birthday parade, on June 8, 2019 in London, England. The annual ceremony involving over 1400 guardsmen and cavalry, is believed to have first been performed during the reign of King Charles II. The parade marks the official birthday of the Sovereign, although the Queen's actual birthday is on April 21st. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Trooping the Colour marks the Queen's official birthday. (Getty Images)

Read more: Coronavirus: Queen cancels birthday gun salutes for first time amid COVID-19 pandemic

The tradition was started about 260 years ago, when King George II decided to have the annual Trooping the Colour mark his birthday because he was fed up of bad weather on his own November day.

The June military parade still marks the monarch’s ‘official’ birthday.

On the Queen’s real birthday, gun salutes are usually fired in Windsor Great Park, Hyde Park and at the Tower of London.

But those won’t take place in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Queen’s birthday cake

We all love a slice of cake (or two!) on our birthdays and the Queen is no different.

Former royal pastry chef Darren McGrady has revealed that the Queen has a very special chocolate cake on her birthday every year.

Read more: Why does the Queen have two birthdays?

She loves a chocolate genoise sponge with a ganache topping. McGrady said it is the same cake which every Royal Family member has on their birthday and dates back to Queen Victoria’s reign.

He told Delish: “For the 11 years I was in the kitchen there it would be the same chocolate cake, 22 times!”

He added: “There are two favourite chocolate cakes at the palace, the ganache and the chocolate biscuit cake.

“Prince William chose the biscuit cake as his groom’s cake when he got married. That is one of the Queen’s favourite cakes which she enjoys all through the year.”

McGrady added: “Most of the time the Queen celebrates on her own, or with Prince Philip or a lady-in-waiting or a friend.”

He also said the Queen loves chocolate, while Philip is more of a fan of cheese rather than a sweet dessert.

Charles prefers lighter flavours, he said, like lemon and figs, and for William and Harry, they loved caramel banana cake.

Kate is said to love sticky toffee pudding according to McGrady.

McGrady also told Hello! magazine that to mark Prince William’s 13th birthday, Princess Diana ordered him a cake shaped like “the biggest pair of boobs” he’d ever seen.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 21:  Queen Elizabeth II receives a birthday cake from Nadiya Hussain, winner of the Great British Bake Off, during her 90th Birthday Walkabout on April 21, 2016 in Windsor, England. Today is Queen Elizabeth II's 90th Birthday. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will be carrying out engagements in Windsor.  (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II receives a birthday cake from Nadiya Hussain, winner of the Great British Bake Off. (Getty Images)

Great British Bake Off’s Nadiya Hussain baked the Queen a cake for her 90th birthday which was cut by her majesty during a walkabout in Windsor. She made an orange flavour cake and decorated it in purple and gold.

New images released

It’s common for those in the younger generations of the Royal Family to release a new image to mark birthdays.

A photograph taken in London on Wednesday July 2, 2014, to mark Britain's Prince George's first birthday, shows Prince William (R) and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (L) with Prince George during a visit to the Sensational Butterflies exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London. Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine on Monday thanked well-wishers around the world as they prepared to celebrate their son Prince George's first birthday. AFP PHOTO/John Stillwell/POOL EDITORIAL USE ONLY        (Photo credit should read JOHN STILLWELL/AFP via Getty Images)
A photograph taken in London in July 2014, to mark Prince George's first birthday. (Getty Images)

For the Cambridges, it’s often keen photographer Kate who has been behind the camera for some of the best loved pictures of the youngest royals.

She has taken pictures of all three of her children, George, Charlotte and Louis which have then been released by Kensington Palace the night before their birthdays.

Ahead of George’s sixth birthday a picture of him in an England football top was released, which was taken by his mother.

Photographs of Charlotte, taken by Kate in Norfolk and at Kensington Palace, were released for her fourth birthday. For her third birthday, they released pictures of Charlotte holding new baby brother Louis.

For Kate’s 38th birthday, a new picture of her was released too.

Read more: Prince Charles is unrecognisable in the ultimate throwback Thursday picture

For Charles’s 70th birthday, two images of him with his wife, his sons, their wives and William and Kate’s children were released.

A big birthday bash

It’s rare for the Royal Family to mark their birthdays publicly, but they do get a bigger celebration for milestone occasions.

Prince Charles hosted a garden party in Buckingham Palace for his 70th birthday, as well as a gala concert.

As the longest serving heir apparent, the celebrations marked not only his milestone birthday, but his long term commitment to the arts and to his charitable patronages.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 14: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall looks on as Prince Charles, Prince of Wales receives a birthday present and helium balloon as they attends an Age UK Tea, celebrating 70 inspirational people marking their 70th birthday this year at Spencer House on November 14, 2018 in London, England. The Prince of Wales celebrates his 70th birthday today, he was born on November 14 1948 at Buckingham Palace. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Charles with a balloon as he arrives for a birthday tea with some of his charities. (Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 22:  Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend The Prince of Wales' 70th Birthday Patronage Celebration held at Buckingham Palace on May 22, 2018 in London, England.  (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend The Prince of Wales' 70th Birthday Patronage Celebration. (Getty Images)

For the Queen’s 92nd birthday, a special concert was held at the Royal Albert Hall, and featured performances from Tom Jones, Sting, Kylie Minogue and even Shaggy.

While 92 might seem like a strange age for such a big occasion, her birthday that year also fell at the end of the Commonwealth Summit in London, which brought together the 53 countries she has pledged her life and service to.

The artists were chosen to represent the nations in the Commonwealth and to mark in part her dedication to the network.

Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (R) and his mother Britain's Queen Elizabeth II join the performers on stage during The Queen's Birthday Party concert on the occassion of Her Majesty's 92nd birthday at the Royal Albert Hall in London on April 21, 2018. (Photo by Andrew Parsons / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANDREW PARSONS/AFP via Getty Images)
The Queen marked her 92nd birthday with a concert. (Getty Images)

A quiet tea party

Most account of royal birthdays indicate they are pretty quiet and low-key events, no matter your age.

According to the Express, Prince George and Princess Charlotte have both had small tea parties at home in Anmer Hall for their birthdays before.

The paper reports that often they’ll be attended by wider family, like Prince William’s cousin Zara and her husband Mike Tindall.

Older royals often celebrate quietly or privately too. They get the day off often, though Meghan has worked on her birthday in the past, when she was still a senior royal.

A special coin or stamp

The Royal Mint has released special coins for lots of royal occasions, including Prince Charles’s 70th birthday.

Prince George also got his own special coin when he turned five.

The coin featured a new interpretation of St George and the Dragon, designed by Jody Clark, and would set royal fans back £82.50.

Royal Mail has also issued special stamp sets for royal birthdays before, including a set for Charles’s 70th birthday.

Read more: Duchess of Cambridge continued homeschooling George and Charlotte over the Easter holidays

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - UNDATED:  This Handout image released by the Royal Mail on April 20, 2016, shows six stamps issued to mark the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II including images of Queen Elizabeth II: with her father; attending the State Opening of Parliament in 2012; with Princess Anne and Prince Charles in 1952; visiting New Zealand in 1977; with The Duke of Edinburgh in 1957; and with Nelson Mandela in 1996. (Photo by Royal Mail/Getty Images)
Six stamps issued to mark the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. (Getty Images)

An extensive collection was released for the Queen’s 90th birthday, showing her as a child, a young woman and in her older age.

Gun salutes

A regular feature of birthday for royals including the Queen and Prince Charles is a series of gun salutes.

They’re held in Hyde Park, Windsor Great Park and at the Tower of London for the Queen’s real birthday and her official birthday, for Prince Philip’s birthday and for Prince Charles’s birthday.

They’re also fired to mark a royal birth, for example when Prince Louis was born, but not for the younger royals’ birthdays after that.

Members of the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) fire a 62-round gun salute from the wharf at the Tower of London, to mark the 68th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne in 1952. (Photo by Luciana Guerra/PA Images via Getty Images)
Birthdays usually include a gun salute. (Getty Images)

According to the Royal Family website: “The basic salute is 21 rounds, fired at ten second intervals, but in Hyde Park an extra 20 are fired because it is a Royal Park. At the Tower [of London] an extra 20 are also fired, because the Tower is a Royal Palace, and a further 21 are fired because it is located in the City of London, meaning a total of 62 rounds and a total firing time of around 10 minutes.”

The younger royals can look forward to their own salutes as they grow up.