November 2013

Toybox Celebration Cake Fit For a Prince

Read time: approx 1 mins

UCB assistant dean Dawn Gemmell created a spectacular “toybox” celebration cake for the future king, Prince George.

The elaborate storybook cake, guarded on its four corners by toy Coldstream Guards, was presented to the prince’s father, the Duke of Cambridge, during a private visit to the university today (November 29).

Dawn, who is head of bakery at UCB’s College of Food, has now baked cakes for three generations of the Royal family – for George and his father Prince William and George’s grandfather, Prince Charles. Dawn baked a huge iced fruit cake on behalf of the Prince’s Trust for Prince Charles’ 40th birthday.

I am very proud to have made celebration cakes for three generations of royals, for Prince Charles and now Prince William and his son Prince George. It was a real honour to be asked to make the cake. Its our way of saying, Hello George. Welcome to the world. We love you.

Dawn Gemmell, UCB assistant dean and head of bakery

The toybox cake incorporates popular nursery rhymes, hand-moulded, sugar-crafted animals and colourful storybook characters such as Noddy and Sooty. The detail of the sugar work and icing is remarkable: Noddy is holding a little sign saying, “Keep calm and carry on – because we love you Daddy.”

On the top of the 8-inch tall cake, Noddy is joined by wild animals, such as an elephant and a lion, representing Prince William’s support of nature conservation. The prince is president of the United for Wildlife project and the cake’s pink elephant has a banner saying: “Save the elephant.”

Prince William’s sweet-tooth, and love of chocolate in particular, gets a visual check courtesy of The Chocolate Brownie Express, which pulls six carriages, including one laden with brownies, around the base of the cake.

Of course, no cake made in Birmingham for the son of Prince William would be complete without a reference to the Duke of Cambridge’s favourite football team – Aston Villa.

Dawn, a lifelong Villa fan, lovingly made a replica baby kit in club colours for George. A pair of football boots and a Villa bear, wearing claret and blue and a woolly hat, features on the main cake. Dawn also made George a special presentation set of a Villa baby-grow, a Villa shirt and club boots – all in edible sugar.

I am delighted to have made a mini football kit for Prince William, a fellow Villa fan, to give to his son. It would be the icing on the cake if George becomes a Villa fan as well. He will always be welcome at the Holte End, just like his dad.

Dawn Gemmell, UCB assistant dean and head of bakery

Prince William is also president of the Football Association and a mini England shirt was attached to the cake.

Dawn used Great British Bake Off star Mary Berry’s recipe for Christmas cake. She used three 6-inch square cakes, layered with marzipan, to create the central structure. To this she attached four plaques, made of pastillage, a thick sugar paste, which were used as the sides for the toy box.

The plaques feature hand-painted royal icing representing four nursery rhymes: The Grand Old Duke of York; Old King Cole; Pat a Cake; and The Queen of Hearts.

The cake took three weeks to make under a shroud of secrecy. Dawn worked on it during the early mornings and evenings so the royal commission did not disrupt her busy teaching schedule. Not even her closest colleagues knew what she was up to.

Dawn first joined UCB in 1979 and took a cake decoration and bakery course while she worked part-time as a confectioner in Birmingham.

She then joined the university as a technician before becoming a member of the teaching staff in 1985.

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