Will and Kate’s wedding cake – what’s the secret?

Unless you’ve been on a protracted trip to the Arctic (along with Prince Harry), you probably know by now that Wills and Kate are getting married on April 29.

And, if you don’t know who Wills and Kate are – I can’t help you. I suggest People magazine as the best way to get current with the popular media’s favorite subject these days.

And why not? Between devastating meteorological disasters (to say nothing of national disasters – how about that federal debt limit?), it’s time for something a bit less… well, serious.

News Lite.

Google “Wills and Kate wedding,” and you’ll see what I mean.

The first result trumpets this headline: “UFOs expected at Wills and Kate’s wedding.”

Then there’s “Will & Kate Pez packs near £8,000 mark in eBay auction.” (Yes, THOSE Pez.)

Equally compelling stories around the Royal Wedding of the Century fill pages and pages and PAGES of search results. You want to know what hair spray Kate uses? Check online; one of the four stylists working on the soon-to-be-royal locks probably knows the secret.

Speaking of secrets, one thing I haven’t been able to find is a recipe for the Royal Wedding Cakes.

Yes, cakes. It seems the couple will have a traditional English fruitcake as the main attraction. But the Groom’s Cake is said to be a childhood favorite of Wills, a “secret” recipe revealed by Buckingham Palace to the bakers at McVitie’s biscuit company, makers of Rich Tea Biscuits – the cookie that’s a key ingredient in the cake.

“The recipe was given to us by the Palace and we’ve been sworn to secrecy. I’d love to be able to tell you, I really would. But, it’s a royal secret,” said McVitie’s baker Paul Courtney.

Still, Courtney did reveal that the cake includes 1,700 crushed Rich Tea biscuits, and 40 pounds of dark chocolate.

Well, who can resist trying to figure out a secret recipe? Not I. More Googling found a picture of Mr. Courtney and, more important, a photo of the cake itself – BIG clue.

Next, I found the ingredient statement for Rich Tea Biscuits:

“Wheat flour, Sugar, Vegetable Oil (palm), partially inverted Sugar Syrup, Malt extract, Salt. Raising agents are (Sodium Bicarbonate & Amonium Bicarbonate).”

Hmmm, sounds like a plain, mass-produced sugar cookie.

‘Nilla Wafer? No; ‘Nilla Wafers have eggs, this cookie doesn’t.

How about our Vanilla Dreams? A light, plain sugar cookie, no eggs. They even use baker’s ammonia (ammonium carbonate), similar to the leavening in the Rich Tea Biscuits.

OK, we’ve got the cookies. How about that 40 pounds of chocolate?

I’m thinking something simple. Something that’ll enfold the cookies, soften them up a bit, yet not overwhelm them.

Something like a double recipe of Pots de Crème, a rich, decadent, “adult” version of chocolate pudding.

Let’s see how this all comes together.

I’ll assume you have the cookies made; you’ll need about 3 1/2 dozen. Let’s make the Pots de Crème.

First, process 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor.

Add 2 large eggs, and process until thoroughly combined.

It won’t be smooth; that’s OK.

Next, heat 2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream, in the microwave or on the stovetop, until it’s very hot, and small bubbles form around the edges. Turn on the processor, and slowly add the cream.

Add 1 to 2 tablespoons liqueur, if desired. I desired Kahlua, though I imagine Wills’ childhood nanny might have vetoed that.

Lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan, and line with parchment. Grease the parchment.

Next, you really should put a thin layer of the chocolate in the bottom of the pan; you’ll see why later. Live and learn.

Line the bottom of the pan with cookies; McVitie’s says they’ll crush the cookies; I skipped that step.

Pour chocolate over the cookies.

Repeat the process twice more.

Finish with a layer of cookies. I believe the pan held four layers of cookies, about 42 cookies.

Cover the pan, and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours.

Just before serving, loosen the edges of the “cake,” and turn the pan over onto a serving plate.

Carefully lift off the pan.

This is why I should have put a layer of chocolate in the bottom of the pan first – it’s kinda ugly, and definitely not fit for a Royal Wedding.

Some judicious work with a spatula helped.

As did a garnish of cocoa. My fellow test-kitchen bakers suggested chocolate curls, confectioners’ sugar… I figured simple cocoa would be easiest, and plenty attractive.

I think I figured right, don’t you?

Layers of rich, thick pudding and light, crunchy cookie. This cake almost certainly isn’t the “secret recipe” that’ll be served at the Royal Reception, but it certainly got a great reception by our taste-testers here at King Arthur!

From the current King (Arthur), to the once-and-future King:

May your palace be filled with light, laughter, and love; and its kitchen with chocolate and McVitie’s Rich Tea Biscuits.

So, how would YOU make a cake out of 1,700 Rich Tea Biscuits and 40 pounds of chocolate? Share your best educated guess below.

Note: This recipe uses raw eggs, an ingredient in classic Pots de Crème. Substitute 7 tablespoons refrigerated pasteurized egg substitute if you wish to avoid raw eggs.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Chris

    The recipe for “Chocolate Biscuit Cake” was published in Toronto Star newspaper recently. Google it to see if the recipe shows up. Ingredients 4T unsalted butter @ rm temp, 1/2 c sugar, 4 oz dark choc, chopped, 1 lge egg, 8ozMcVitie’s Rich Tea biscuits, and icing is 8oz dk choc. chopped. Btw, the egg gets cooked. Plan to make this later!

  2. Irene in TO

    Marguerite Patten published the recipe in her cake decorating books in 1968/69 with useful bits of information.
    #1 The cookies are a “short” type which mean Lorna Doones or a clone from your grocery store. Peak Freans Rich Tea are another good kind if you can find them.
    #2 The cookies are broken into pieces (quarters to keep them square for easy packing).
    #3 The ganache that forms the chocolate mixture is hot cream and baking grade chocolate and butter and vanilla. No raw eggs, eh
    #4 Candied cherries may be added betweek cookie pieces. Candied orange peel for those who like it is good too.

    1. Roturier

      For those intimidated by the double boiler and fiddly directions of classic ganache recipes, there’s a ganache that’s not only foolproof, it’s d*mnfoolproof: microwave a tin of Borden’s Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk, with a small sack of chocolate chips (CRITICAL: make certain your chips list cocoa butter in the ingredients. Otherwise return to store shelf and keep looking. No cocoa butter? Recipe no worky and it’s NOT CHOCOLATE.) Microwave and stir until smooth, then continue with whatever you intended to do with it. Makes a spectacular fudge as well as a decadent and lovely icing when thinned a little.

  3. "Paul from Ohio"

    What could be more a slice of heaven than my all time favorite Vanilla Dreams along with a huge proportion of CHOCOLATE – think Cocoa Rouge! No wedding over here, but rather a decadant welcome to Spring………ah Lilacs should bloom by the weekend……….and Chocolate Biscuit Cake! Maybe a celebration for a special occasion soon!!!!!!!! LOVE IT!

  4. fran16250

    This reminds me of something my mother used to make years ago with instant pudding and graham crackers.
    Do the cookies remain crisp at all? I think I’d serve this with a bit of whipped cream.

    Yes, the cookies were still crisp in the center. It was quite nice, really; wasn’t unpleasantly mushy at all. I like the whipped cream option… PJH

  5. ms.lauralou

    I so appreciated this post! I am REALLY tired of the angry and depressing news stories on the web. KA has become a safe haven for me, lol. Reading your attempts to riddle out the groom’s cake is a most welcome distraction. Thank you!

    We aim to please… 🙂 PJH

  6. SewLindaAnn

    This is similar to the “very scaled down” version of my family’s fave birthday cake growing up. Boxed chocolate pudding layered inbetween Social Tea crackers (still sold). Refrigerated. I’m going to try your recipe (much more decadent) and look for the commenter Chris’ suggestion on Google. LOVE your site, am a KArthur enthusiast.

    Forgot about those Social Teas – bet they’d be a good match. Thanks! PJH

  7. "Becky in GSO"

    If I was concerned about raw eggs, I might just make a stovetop custard out of the cream and eggs, then add the chocolate mixture when the eggs are cooked through. I know the texture would be different, but I wouldn’t worry about bacteria. Do you think they’d go together smoothly?

    Becky, why not just use the pasteurized egg substitute, as suggested at the end of the post? It would be a lot easier. Custard would work too, though. Enjoy – PJH

  8. Hazel Edmunds

    I think you will find that trying to make your own equivalent of Rich Tea Biscuits, the staple of English “tea and biscuits”, will not create the same outcome as using the real thing. And I’ve certainly seen a recipe somewhere in my mother’s archives (so probably 80+ years old) where crushed biscuits are used not whole ones. Don’t crush into crumbs but into large pea-sized pieces. Proper biscuits are very crisp and quite dry and your cookies don’t look like that in the picture.

    Hazel, the cookies I used are VERY VERY crisp, light, and crunchy – not moist at all. But I wouldn’t term them dry, either – thank you for the information from someone who obviously knows what they’re talking about! 🙂 PJH

  9. "sandra Alicante"

    Your biscuits look much nicer than Rich Tea biscuits anyway! Rich Tea biscuits are really only dry discs for dunking in tea, not sure why they are so popular in the UK. The only time I used to eat them is after a tummy upset when I couldn’t keep anything down.

  10. Jill

    NOW if you search “Wills and Kate’s wedding” you get this blog post near the top of the list. 🙂

    That cake looks amazing!!

  11. cklos

    This looks decadent and lovely! Here’s a quote from the Guardian UK newspaper about the ingredients in the Royal version:

    “A royal wedding cake made of biscuits? Really? Yes indeed, broken up and mixed with dark chocolate, condensed milk, a bit of butter, some nuts, raisins and some optional glace cherries and then bunged in the freezer rather than baked in the oven.”

    Huh – I was closer than I thought, then, minus the cherries, nuts, and raisins…. Thanks! PJH

  12. argentyne

    Is there no link to the written out recipe? I want to be able to save and print the recipe to take home with me! (I’m pouting now, just so you can imagine the face. 😉

    Sorry, there’s no written recipe for the whole cake. But here are the recipes for the Vanilla Dream Cookies, and the Pots de Creme. So put a smile on your face! 🙂 PJH

  13. Margy

    I remember making something like this years from a chocolate cookbook (can’t remember the name). It was made as a terrine with chocolate ganache and Pepperidge Farm chessman cookies, poured into a loaf pan to firm in the fridge, then turned out and sliced thin with whipped cream. Rich but delicious.

  14. 2darnhot2

    This was in our newspaper in Guelph, Ontario: http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5he8Df8XetFouMPzQ-_0q-vkVyP4Q?docId=6422564


    The royal family prefers McVitie’s brand Rich Tea Biscuits for their chocolate biscuit cakes, but any firm butter cookie can be used in this intensely rich and chocolatey no-bake treat. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers; the cake gets better with time.

    Start to finish: 3 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)

    Servings: 12

    For the cake:

    190 g (7-ounce) package butter tea biscuits (sold in the cookie aisle)

    250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream

    30 ml (2 tbsp) honey

    60 ml (4 tbsp or 1/2 stick) butter

    625 ml (16 ounces or about 2 1/2 cups) bittersweet chocolate bits

    5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

    For the glaze:

    30 ml (2 tbsp) butter

    60 ml (1/4 cup) heavy cream

    165 g (6 ounces or about 1 cup) bittersweet chocolate

    Coat an 18- or 20-cm (7- or 8-inch) round springform pan with cooking spray.

    To make the cake, with your hands break up the biscuits into 5 mm to 1 cm (1/4- to 1/2-inch) pieces; you want chunks, not crumbs.

    In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the cream, honey and butter. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes, or until bubbling. Add the chocolate and stir until melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla, then the crumbled biscuits. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, using the back of the spoon to smooth the top. Gently tap the pan on the counter to eliminate any air pockets.

    Refrigerate for 3 hours or until thoroughly chilled.

    Once the cake is chilled, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and cream. When the mixture reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until completely melted and smooth.

    Carefully remove the sides from the springform pan (you may need to slide a paring knife around the inside upper edge to ensure the sides come away cleanly from the cake). Invert the cake onto a wire rack, then remove the bottom of the pan from the cake. Set the rack over parchment paper to catch drips.

    Pour the glaze evenly over the cake, allowing it to drip down and completely cover the top and sides. Allow to firm up, then transfer to a serving plate. Refrigerate leftovers.

    (Recipe by Alison Ladman)

    Thanks for sharing – sounds deluxe! PJH

  15. julie

    this recipe is for what we used to call “fridge cake” when we were kids in the uk. think its similar to will and kates cake:

    Chocolate fridge cake
    Chocolate fridge cake

    250g/8oz digestive biscuits

    150g/5oz milk chocolate

    150g/5oz dark chocolate

    100g/3½oz unsalted butter

    150g/5oz golden syrup

    100g/3½oz dried apricots, chopped

    75g/2½oz raisins

    60g/2oz pecans, chopped (optional)

    Preparation method

    Use cling film to line a 20cm (8in) shallow, square-shaped tin. Leave extra cling film hanging over the sides.

    Bash the biscuits into pieces using a rolling pin. (Put them in a plastic bag first so they don’t go everywhere!)

    Melt chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally.

    Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the broken biscuits, apricots, raisins and pecans (optional).

    Spoon the mixture into the tin. Level the surface by pressing it down with a potato masher.

    Leave to cool, then put the chocolate mixture in the fridge for 1-2 hours to set.

    Turn out the cake and peel off the cling film. Cut the cake into 12 squares and enjoy!

    This sounds more like the version I’ve since read about, with the dried fruit. Thanks, Julie- PJH

    1. Renate Callahan

      We had a similar chocolate no-bake chocolate cake in Germany when growing up and it uses Leipniz Butter cookies. They’re nice and square and ideally suited for use in a loaf pan, hence an ideal ‘baking’ recipe to do with children. Many ex-pats still reminisce about this childhood treat.

  16. lauried

    Could something along these lines be turned in to a Passover dessert? Plain matzo seems a bit too dry. Any ideas?

    Well, I’d assume there’s such a thing as Passover-friendly cookies at the grocery store, maybe? If not, I’m sorry, we don’t have any vanilla Passover cookies here on the site… And matzo might not be too dry, if you let the dessert sit for awhile. Give it a try? PJH

  17. arl18

    Matzo won’t have the slight sweetness of tea biscuits, but there are recipes for Passover cookies. I’d probably use a recipe with more potato starch than cake meal so they’ll be crispier. You could also use macaroons, though you’d have to dry out the store-bought ones in the oven. Homemade macaroons or Italian amaretti can be made less sweet as well as baked longer to be drier.

  18. auntfoosue

    Sounds like a great “no-bake” recipe perfect for a hot summer treat. I am always looking for a yummy treat that isn’t going to heat up the house in the summer. I would love it if the recipe was available to print. Thanks.

    You can certainly print the recipes for cookies and filling; then all you need to do is layer them together… PJH

  19. Here's the real recipe

    Darren McGrady was the royal chef for years and this is his recipe from his cookbook Eating Royally. He used to have it posted on his blog, but the publisher recently had the recipe removed. It does have egg, but no cream and no nuts or dried fruit. I think the instructions leave a little to be desired, but after some research, I think the dark chocolate is eating chocolate, not bakers chocolate. I’m making it for my book group tomorrow, and I’m making the recipe from Baker’s Banter for Easter. I’ll let you know which I prefer!


  20. flutterbycook

    I should NEVER read this first thing in the morning! Now my day will be spent searching “royal” recipes and making this delicious sounding cake 🙂 Well, I guess that’s not a bad thing, is it? Thanks for posting this, it sounds divine. I can’t wait to try it out!

  21. Lin W

    I’m disappointed. Where’s the pin button? 🙂
    The pin button for the blog is right above the comments section. Pin away! ~ MJ

  22. Elizabeth D.

    Do not use palm oil. It destroys the environment where it is harvested, and it is also high in cholesterol, worse than butter. There are better ways to handle chocolate.

  23. Caroline

    Those cookies look delicious. I’d use macaroons like Almond ones. I’ll have to attempt this recipe as well. Thanks KAF!

    Luckily, this recipe can be made with most any kind of cookie, Caroline. Have fun experimenting! Kim@KAF

  24. Sue E. Conrad

    Our oldest grandson shares the same birthdate (June 21st), just a few years younger than Prince William!


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