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In addition to our recaps, we are pleased to bring you a series on the dining styles and other habits of the Downton Abbey era, written and researched by guest blogger Tara Austen Weaver. As with other posts, there are at least mild spoilers, and so we make every effort to post them as appropriate to the US broadcasts and warn you liberally so you may avoid “those” moments.
And now, on with the show!
Cue the relieved cheers: Matthew and Mary are getting married! (Nobody liked that Richard Carlisle anyway). The invitations have been sent out, the town is decorated with white bunting, and Mrs. Patmore and Daisy are responsible—not only for the wedding luncheon, but also for baking the cakes.
That would be two cakes: one for the bride and one for the groom.
Modern viewers may be distressed to discover that English wedding cakes closely resemble that most unloved baked good: the Christmas fruitcake. Full of raisins, almonds, candied peel, and doused with brandy, the fruit and nuts served as symbols of fertility. Why be subtle, especially when there’s the future of Downton to secure?
The top layer of the cake was called the christening cake. It was to be removed and saved—not for the first wedding anniversary, but for baptism of the first child. No pressure, Mary.
Lady Edith and other unmarried guests might save their cake as well. Sleeping with a slice under the pillow was said to bring dreams of your future husband.
Sir Anthony Strallan, it might be time to step up. As Edith says, “You’re almost family.”
Fiona Cairns (FionaCairns.com) is the baker selected by Prince William and Kate Middleton to craft the wedding cake for their April 2011 nuptials. She’s also author of Bake and Decorate and The Birthday Cake Book. This recipe is her take on the traditional wedding fruitcake, brightened up with a bit of tamarind. Plan on inviting a crowd, the recipe serves 120-150 people.
Thank you to Fiona Cairns and photographer Liam Jones for supplying images for this post.