Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Great Exhibition of Cake

We're going to go to a Victorian wedding today, and it's all because of the cake.

Detail of Bridal Cake Howard NYPL
Very perky!
Behold the incredible bridal cake of Lord Edward Fitzalan Howard (1818-1883) and Miss Augusta Talbot, who were married in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition. Well, and this cake certainly is a Great Exhibition in itself, so the timing was perfect. This cake is as frouffy and frilly as a satin ball gown straight out of Godey's Lady's Book. And it also has several flags and pseudo-Grecian nymphs and cherubs posing around it.
My favorite part of this creation is the little dogs (or lions, but they look more like dogs to me) in crowns sitting down at the bottom. The one in the front has quite a perky expression.

I wouldn't be surprised if this was a fruitcake because that's what a traditional English wedding cake would have been. When I got married this is what we had, fruitcake with white and lavender icing. It was really good  - even though I am iffy in general about fruitcake (partly because I am revisiting some 60s fruitcake ads for upcoming posts).

Gentleman's Table Guide 1871 p 54
Google Books
An 1871 book called The Gentleman's Table Guide tells us what would have been served at the wedding breakfast with the bridal cake - soups, hot and cold entrees and a large variety of other sweet things including pastries and ice creams. The full menu is over on the left (and has given me several future post ideas).

Can you imagine how nerve-wracking it would have been to actually cut the Howard wedding cake? How would you even begin? (If I had been Miss Talbot, I would have sent it down to the kitchen and let them worry about it). Would you have to dismantle all those columns first? Are the statues made of sugar or did they get reused for someone else's wedding cake? And if they were edible, who got the pieces with bonus nymphs and/or roses? Because we all know that the pieces with frosting decorations are the absolute best pieces of cake to get.


Bill said...

That's quite a cake, but I've become fixated on the menu.
It's probably obvious to most, but I'm stymied by the chicken do, lobster do, turkey do, lamb do, capon do, and sole do.
Do what?
Do they mean a dozen? Because I cannot possibly eat a dozen of each and still have room for cake & column.

Anonymous said...

I cant even imagine the unique beauty of this cake.....I'm sure it looked amazing! I love the menu =) Have a fabulous day! xoxoxo

Barbara said... too!!! What da do mean?

I do lobster, I do chicken...

Lidian said...

Bill - That "do" is short for "ditto" - so it is sort of a doubly lazy way of writing the menu out. I guess the authorial gentlemen got tired writing it all out ;)

Ashley - I would give a lot to see this cake in reality! Yet another stop on the time machine if we ever get to ride in one :)

Barbara - I would do lobster rolls on Cape Cod (and doesn't that sound - funny!) but not for a really long time, alas!

Kath Lockett said...

Ah yes, nothing says WEDDING quite like eels in aspic, boars head and tongue!