You'd Have Loved A Slice Of Queen Victoria's 1840 Wedding Cake
Image Credit: Scene from Victoria and Albert's wedding in 1840

When she married her beloved Prince Albert in February of 1840, Queen Victoria set several trends. Her choice of colour for her bridal dress, for instance. Before Victoria donned her iconic white gown, it was the norm for brides to wear red, pink, blue, brown or even black, at their wedding ceremonies. Coloured or patterned fabrics continued to be in use until the mid-19th century — despite a keen interest in emulating royal fashions as these were more practical and affordable than white. Victoria also included 12 bridesmaids in her wedding procession, tasked with carrying her 18-foot train — another trend that successive royal brides would follow.

But for those with an avid curiosity about matters culinary, what would be far more interesting, is the royal tea table and what graced it during Victoria and Albert's wedding.

Writing in The Conversation, Rebecca Earle, professor of History at the University of Warwick, notes that the "Queen-Empress laid down something of a standard for the royal tea table at her wedding to Albert in 1840". As Earle narrates it, the royal wedding cake weighed nearly 300 pounds, had a circumference of 36 inches and was about 14 inches in depth or thickness. 

The all-white (courtesy pure sugar), single-storey confection was bedecked with iced garlands and a smattering of orange blossoms all around its circumference, and rested on an ornate gilt stand.  

It consisted, "of the most exquisite compounds of all the rich things with which the most expensive cakes can be composed, mingled and mixed together into delightful harmony by the most elaborate science of the confectioner”. Which we suppose means that no expense was spared in procuring the best quality ingredients for preparing the cake, and certainly with no stinting in quantity. It took pride of place at the newlyweds' breakfast table after the marriage rites were concluded.

"Ornately decorated with foot-high scale models of the happy couple and myriad dogs, doves and cherubim, the cake is reported to have cost £100 (more than £7,000 in today’s money)," Earle observes, adding, "(But) clearly time and royal history has given this particular confection added value: a slice of the cake sold in September 2016 for £15,000 at auction along with a presentation box and the Queen’s signature". 

In contrast, the two cakes served at Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton reportedly had a combined cost of $65,000. "A slice of their elaborate eight-layer gateau sold for US$7,500 (£6,000) at an auction in Beverly Hills," notes Earle.