Everything to Know About Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Wedding Cake

The royal couple hired East London baker Claire Ptak to create their untraditional cake.
joyce chen wedding news expert the knot
by Joyce Chen
joyce chen wedding news expert the knot
Joyce Chen
Wedding News Contributor
  • Joyce writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in celebrity wedding features and pieces on wedding trends and etiquette
  • Joyce conducts interviews with real couples about how they’ve adapted to the challenges of wedding planning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
  • In addition to The Knot Worldwide, Joyce also regularly contributes writing to Architectural Digest, Paste magazine, Refinery29, and TODAY.com
Updated Jan 14, 2022

On May 19, 2018, all eyes were on Meghan Markle and her stunning Givenchy wedding dress. The former actress and Prince Harry exchanged vows at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle before 600 guests in a broadcast that reached more than 29 million viewers worldwide. After all the royal fanfare surrounding their wedding day, the Duchess of Sussex and her husband, Prince Harry, were just as excited to continue celebrating their nuptials at a lavish, star-studded wedding reception that featured one very unexpectedly talked-about element: their unique lemon and elderflower-flavored royal wedding cake.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding cake wasn't only stunning but also broke tradition in ways that felt unique to the royal couple. The royal cake was created by Claire Ptak, the owner of East London-based bakery Violet Cakes. Much like everything else about Harry and Meghan's wedding, it included several subtle nods to the royal family. Read on for six fun facts about the tradition-bucking dessert, and to learn more about why the pair passed on fruit cake for their big day.

1. Meghan knew Claire Ptak for years prior to the wedding.

Long before she was the Duchess of Sussex, and before she and Prince Harry made headlines for their sweet courtship, Meghan Markle was just like any other aspiring lifestyle enthusiast: she ran a blog called The Tig. On it, she interviewed the likes of Serena Williams and Priyanka Chopra, as well as female entrepreneurs like pastry chef Claire Ptak. The California native now runs a bakery-café located in East London called Violet Cakes, and works as a food and prop stylist and a food writer. What likely caught Markle's interest most, however, was Ptak's dedication to all organic ingredients and low-intervention baking.

Years later, the former Suits actress reconnected with Ptak in a different capacity, asking her to design and make her royal wedding cake. "I can't tell you how delighted I am to be chosen to make Prince Harry and Ms. Markle's wedding cake," Ptak said at the time, in a statement released by Kensington Palace. "Knowing that they really share the same values as I do about food provenance, sustainability, seasonality, and most importantly flavor, makes this the most exciting event to be a part of."

2. The elderflower flavor was a sweet nod to Queen Elizabeth II.

While most royal wedding cakes have historically been fruit cakes (a simple batter filled with dried fruits and nuts and juice or liquor), Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding cake went in a slightly different direction. Inspired by their spring wedding date, the couple worked with Ptak to dream up a more modern, lighter cake that was still packed with taste, settling on a lemon and elderflower flavor for their royal wedding cake.

To create the fresh, fragrant batter, Ptak used 200 Amalfi lemons, 500 organic eggs from Suffolk, and tons of butter, flour, and sugar. She also incorporated 10 bottles of Sandringham Elderflower Cordial, an ingredient that directly paid homage to the Queen, as the liqueur is made from fermenting elderflowers that come from one of her private homes. The elderflower cordial was used in both the lemon elderflower cake itself and in the swiss meringue buttercream frosting.

3. The cake was aesthetically beautiful but modest in size.

Another subtle way Meghan Markle and Prince Harry bucked tradition was by having Ptak make a relatively more modest creation as compared to other royal wedding cakes of years' past. Theirs consisted of three separate pieces: one two-tier wedding cake and two single-tier cakes, all laden with 150 fresh flowers (mostly British peonies and roses). By contrast, Prince William and Kate Middleton's 2011 wedding cake featured eight tiers and stood three feet tall, and the princes' parents Princess Diana and Prince Charles celebrated their 1981 nuptials with a five-foot-tall cake. (Queen Elizabeth's wedding cake likely takes, well, the cake, however: she and Prince Philipp treated their guests to a cake that stood a whopping nine feet tall.) Additionally, Prince William had what was known as a groom's cake made of chocolate biscuits while Prince Harry opted not to have a separate cake.

4. The cost of the cake was more than most weddings cost overall

Given the fact that the royal wedding cake featured some seriously top-end ingredients (not to mention shipping costs for getting Amalfi lemons from the Italian coast to London), it should come as no surprise that the finished product cost a small fortune. Still, the numbers are staggering: experts place the total cost for the cake at around $70,000, or what some would consider a generous budget for an entire wedding. And besides, guests at the Duke and Duchess's royal wedding included everyone from Oprah Winfrey to James Corden, so everything had to be top-notch.

5. The actual cakes on display weren't eaten by guests at all.

For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the gorgeous lemon elderflower cakes on display, no guests at the royal wedding actually had a bite of them. Ptak told Town & Country that in actuality, she and her team created several other tiers that were just sliced in the back, and those were what Meghan and Harry's A-list guests enjoyed at the reception. "There [are] 750 people to serve and you wouldn't have time to cut it," she said. "The cakes that were actually on display were donated to a charity the next morning."

6. There was a near-disaster with the cake on the morning of the royal wedding.

Perhaps one of the least-known facts about the cake, however, was that it very nearly couldn't be served at all. About a year after Meghan and Harry's big day, Ptak revealed to Town & Country that she and her team narrowly avoided an embarrassing blunder that could have completely ruined the cake. According to the pastry chef, she had to create several tiers that were just made for cutting in order to have enough to serve the 750 guests at the reception. As such, she asked her team to cut the slices while they were still nice and cold, and to let them sit out for a while to reach room temperature. "But there was a miscommunication," she said, "and they were all put back into the fridge." What resulted was hundreds of slices of ice-cold cake.

Thankfully, the team's quick thinking saved the day. "We got them all on to these trolleys and took them into a different kitchen — one of the most beautiful kitchens in Windsor that's all copper, an original, restored kitchen," she said. "Here they had a special heating area so we were able to put it in a really warm spot and, in the end, they were perfect. But there was a panic. It didn't seem like a big deal to anyone else but to me, if they had to bite into a cold cake I would have been mortified."

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