All elements of a royal wedding are dictated by tradition — and perhaps none more so than the cake: A centerpiece often so ornamental that it is not served to guests. Is an organic elderflower cake a sign of change?
In the lead-up to what may be the world's most anticipated wedding, even the finer details of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's nuptials have captivated royalists, romantics and cynics alike.
Perhaps none more so than the symphonic sounding "bright flavors of spring" lemon elderflower wedding cake. The couple commissioned Californian pastry chef Claire Ptak, whom Meghan knew through an interview for her now-shut down website for young women, The Tig.
Much more than a dessert, a wedding cake serves as a symbolic centerpiece of the ceremony. The pastries can be so ornamental that they are not even served to the guests on the day of the wedding.
Since Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840, elaborate fruitcakes have not only been served at royal weddings, but have also become cultural norm. The fruitcake's composition serves a religious purpose as well; it is made to keep until the christening of the couple's first child.
Being a half-African-American divorcee, Markle has already surmounted some of the most deep-seated conventions of the British royal establishment. Therefore she could have been forgiven for capitulating to every requirement linked to their sensibilities and tradition. But she hasn't, and behind that, she does not give an impression of a future wife willing to defer to the preference of her royal family.
Doing things Meghan's way: A shift of gears in the monarchy?
While Elderflower, a traditional Victorian flavor, may not seem like an especially radical choice of flavor for a British royal wedding, taken as a whole the boldness of the gesture shows that Markle will do the wedding her own way.
Markle has already sacrificed her acting career just as it was taking off, her large online communities and social media accounts to toe the line of royal protocol.
Therefore, choosing fellow California native Claire Ptak, who is connected to the elements of a past Markle was asked to erase — at least digitally — shows that while she may be willing to wipe her personality from social media, she is not about to fully abandon her past identity.
It is a taste of the ways in which Markle’s socially conscious background will inform her choices as a royal.
Claire Ptak, who runs the Violet bakery in hip East London, is "committed to using seasonal, organic and low intervention produce"
Kensington Palace announced that Harry and Meghan will be serving their cake to guests on the day. That may sound normal, but it isn't — at least not for a royal wedding.
In 2011, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had two cakes made for their wedding. The biscuit cake — Prince William's childhood favorite — was eaten that day, while the main piece, an eight-tiered traditional fruitcake with hundreds of intricate sugar flowers, went on display after the wedding before being sliced to be sold at auction.
The top tier of it was kept almost three years and served as the christening cake to their first born, Prince George. Whether Harry and Meghan include a consolatory fruitcake for a future christening remains to be seen.
While Markle may have lost much of her immediate autonomy marrying into the royal family with all its protocols, her profile and efforts as a gloves-off social commentator live on.
It is not that she has just gotten behind recent campaigns like the #MeToo movement; her feminist efforts far pre-date her royal profile. At age 11 she wrote letters to ad executives and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton about sexist advertising that peddled a woman's place as in the kitchen. The advertisement for dishwashing liquid was changed after receiving her complaint. Markle's co-stars are rumored to have nicknamed her "MSH" Markle (for "Make Shit Happen") on set.
The internet will not forget that she recommended her almost two million Instagram followers that they read the work of prominent US academic Noam Chomsky, who famously espouses anarchist theories.
Chomsky also counts with those who are in eager anticipation of Markle's entry into the most privileged of institutions, telling The Guardian late 2017 that it "Sounds as though she may, for many reasons, shake up the royal family."
On one level the lemon elderflower cake and its "low intervention" ingredients could be taken as a mere reflection of contemporary socially conscious food preferences. But the fact that this cake is made to be eaten by guests on the day rather than tucked away to serve at the next religious ritual or auctioned off as a gaudy souvenir in a continuing of the wedding spectacle chimes to the warm humanity that people have come to love about Meghan Markle, her joyous defiance.