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

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
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.

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.

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 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.

Charles with a balloon as he arrives for a birthday tea with some of his charities. (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.

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

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.

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.