Queen was 'charming' and 'complimentary' recalls royal wedding cake maker

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·Royal Correspondent
·8-min read
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Watch: William and Kate's wedding cake maker says Queen was 'charming'

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were highly involved in their 2011 royal wedding plans, according to the baker who made their cake.

Fiona Cairns made the eight-tiered, metre-tall wedding cake for Prince William and Kate, his wife-to-be, and revealed she had a memorable encounter with the Queen while nervously setting up at Buckingham Palace.

As the couple mark their 10th wedding anniversary, Cairns told Yahoo UK how she came to be the royal wedding baker.

She said: "It was a bit of a process, we received the call to ask us to make the wedding cake for William and Kate in February 2011, so it was not long before the wedding – about two months.

"We had been to Clarence House to meet Kate and her PA and discuss the possibility of making the wedding cake, and we received the call a few days later. I remember saying at that meeting, 'if you do decide to ask us, would you mind asking us sooner rather than later because there isn't much time?'"

Her first meeting with Kate was so close to the wedding, Cairns did not think she was going to be asked to make the cake.

Fiona Cairns stands proudly next to the Royal Wedding cake that she and her team made for Prince William and Kate Middleton, in the Picture Gallery of Buckingham Palace in central London, today.   (Photo by John Stillwell/PA Images via Getty Images)
Fiona Cairns next to the Royal Wedding cake that she and her team made for Prince William and Kate Middleton, in the Picture Gallery of Buckingham Palace. (John Stillwell/PA Images via Getty Images)
Fiona Cairns and her team pose for a photograph with the Royal Wedding cake that was made for Prince William and Kate Middleton   (Photo by John Stillwell/PA Images via Getty Images)
Fiona Cairns and her team with the Royal Wedding cake that was made for Prince William and Kate Middleton. (John Stillwell/PA Images via Getty Images)

Read more: A decade as Duchess of Cambridge: How Kate is preparing to be Queen

She added: "We all thought that by February, there was no doubt the cake would be sorted out. It's quite a key part of the wedding and we all assumed it would have been organised earlier in the year. 

"We were thrilled to be asked, but it was very, very daunting and stressful. It's lovely to look back now but at the time, it was mixed emotions."

Cairns said she remembered every moment of the meeting with Kate, and explained: "There were three of us – myself, my husband and someone we work closely with, Rachel Eardley. We kept pinching ourselves, we really did, we couldn't quite believe we were there. 

"I remember every moment of that meeting, we were made to feel relaxed - I can't say we were but we were made to feel it.

"[Kate] wasn't nervous, it was pre-wedding, it was a different time, we all didn't know very much about her. I remember every detail of what she said, what she wore and she was as charming as we all know."

But the relaxed bride-to-be didn't give too much away to her cake makers, as Cairns said: "We were [given] pointers as to how the wedding should all work together so that the flowers, the cake, the dress and the abbey would come together. We knew a bit about how the wedding might be because of the brief that they gave us, it was quite specific. 

"It was perfect, it was a dream project for us, because they asked for fruit cake specifically, which is the traditional royal wedding cake choice, which Queen Victoria started and we make delicious fruit cake so that's a tick.

"We have quite a traditional style but with a contemporary feel, our cakes are lovely, delicious to eat but they have a certain style which is quite British and very floral. The brief was for a relaxed, romantic feel. 

"We could not guess exactly but we could get an idea of what the wedding would be (like). It was very much the couple who planned it. It was beautiful."

Watch: William and Kate's wedding anniversary: 10 years in 10 photos

Read more: The perfect match: William and Kate's 10th wedding anniversary gallery

Cairns had to keep the project a secret in the months leading up to the day, and despite the size of it, it wasn't until the day before the wedding that they had any idea how the cake would look when it was all completed.

She said: "We worked in Buckingham Palace for two and a half days and I have many many memories of that time, and the whole process. It's very sharp actually, I hope that stays. 

"It was quite dreamlike, we kept pinching ourselves... the Queen coming to visit, I thought, 'I can't take this in'.

"My husband and I actually went to the wedding on the day so that was very moving. I was concentrating but my mind did sometimes go back to 'this afternoon, the cake is going to be cut by William and Kate... we are a part of this'. It was almost surreal.

"My favourite moment is when I received a phone call from the Queen's pastry chef Kathryn Cuthbertson in Buckingham Palace. She rang me on the afternoon of the wedding day to say the couple had seen the wedding cake and it was beyond their expectations. 

"It was only then that we could relax, it didn't matter what we thought or what anyone else thought, it mattered what they thought because it was their cake.

"We already had been celebrating, but that made us very happy."

The team led by Fiona Cairns (not in picture) that made the Royal wedding cake, put on the finishing touches for Prince William and Kate Middleton, in the Picture Gallery of Buckingham Palace in central London, today.   (Photo by John Stillwell/PA Images via Getty Images)
Fiona Cairns's team making the royal wedding cake in the Picture Gallery of Buckingham Palace before the wedding. (John Stillwell/PA Images via Getty Images)
FLECKNEY, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 24: Cake designer Fiona Cairns (C),  Mary Doody (R) and Diane Pallet make decorations for the royal wedding cake, on March 24, 2011 in Fleckney, Leicestershire, England. The wedding will take place on April 29, 2011. (Photo by Rui Vieira - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Cake designer Fiona Cairns (C), with Mary Doody (R) and Diane Pallet making decorations for the royal wedding cake, on 24 March 2011 in Fleckney, Leicestershire. (Rui Vieira - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Read more: Prince William and Kate mirror engagement photos as they celebrate 10th anniversary with two new portraits

She added: "We worked so closely together as a team and it was quite a stressful time because nothing could go wrong – it wasn't just the baking of the cake, it was the logistics, it was getting it there.

"We never saw it built until the day before in the picture gallery. We had made prototypes and we had built parts of it, but not the whole cake constructed.

"It was fine, nothing went wrong, because we had a good few people in charge of the logistics as well as the baking."

Recalling her interaction with the Queen, she said: "She was very charming. She knew we had to take a door off downstairs from the room we had been working in to move the cake on its trolley out of its room up to the picture gallery where the reception was to be.

"She knew William was going to cut the cake with his sword – she was commenting on the cake asking details about it, how we had made it, how many flowers there were.

"She was very complimentary. We weren't expecting to meet her – we said 'maybe we will' but we didn't expect it."

Cake designer Fiona Cairns, who has been commissioned by Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton to create a traditional fruit cake for their wedding, mixes ingredients in Fleckney, Leicestershire, on March 24, 2011. The cake will be decorated with William and Kate's new cipher and will be lavishly decorated with a floral theme. Britain's Prince William, the second in line to the throne, and Kate Middleton announced their engagement in November 2010 after a seven-year romance that began at university. The wedding, at Westminster Abbey on April 29 in London, is set to be Britain's biggest royal wedding since William's parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, married in 1981. April 29 has been made a public holiday throughout the kingdom. AFP PHOTO / RUI VIEIRA / WPA POOL (Photo credit should read RUI VIEIRA/AFP via Getty Images)
Cairns mixing ingredients in Fleckney, Leicestershire, for the cake. (Rui Vieira/AFP via Getty Images)
Cake designer Fiona Cairns, who has been commissioned by Britain's Prince William and fiancee Kate Middleton to create a traditional fruit cake for their wedding, holds a tray of decorations for the cake in Fleckney, Leicestershire, on March 24, 2011. The cake will be decorated with William and Kate's new cipher and will be lavishly decorated with a floral theme. Britain's Prince William, the second in line to the throne, and Kate Middleton announced their engagement in November 2010 after a seven-year romance that began at university. The wedding, at Westminster Abbey on April 29 in London, is set to be Britain's biggest royal wedding since William's parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, married in 1981. April 29 has been made a public holiday throughout the kingdom. AFP PHOTO / RUI VIEIRA / WPA POOL (Photo credit should read RUI VIEIRA/AFP via Getty Images)
Cairns made icing flowers for the cake decoration, which had a classic and romantic theme. (Rui Vieira/AFP via Getty Images)

Asked how William and Kate might have heard about her cakes, Cairns said: "The couple were familiar with our cakes already, we had been making cakes for the Middleton family for many years, for [their business] Party Pieces and my husband knows James [Kate's brother] in particular, and so we knew the family and the business. 

"We had been selling to Fortnum and Masons for many years and maybe they were familiar with our cakes that way, as it's close to Clarence House and they are the royal grocer.

"For whatever reason they selected us."

Cairns and her team have gone on to make another royal wedding cake, as they were asked to make the cake for Lady Gabriella Windsor and her husband Tom Kingston in May 2019.

On that occasion, they made an eight tier cake, featuring fruit cake, Limoncello cake and a classic Victoria sponge.

Cairns said while they had been successful before the 2011 Cambridge wedding, they were propelled to a new level when they became the royal wedding cake makers.

She said: "We were quite well known because we sell within Waitrose and Fortnums, Selfridges, and Harrods, but we became internationally known and there was huge media interest worldwide.

"We were not prepared for that at all – it was like an avalanche the day the news was released, on the 27th of March, it was released because it was about to get leaked actually.

Ten years on, she adds: "We just carry on doing what we do – but it has changed things for the better!"

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