Meghan and Harry Chose American-born Pastry Chef Claire Ptak to Make Their Wedding Cake

The Wedding Cake

Daniela Galarza wrote . . . . . . .

When, on April 18, 1956, American actress Grace Kelly wed Monaco’s Prince Rainier, no extravagance was spared. Sixty seamstresses worked on the bride’s ornate lace dress for six weeks. Guests — including Cary Grant, Ava Gardner, Aristotle Onassis, and Conrad Hilton — feasted on caviar, lobster, and plenty of champagne (all paid for by MGM studios). The centerpiece of the reception was a 200-pound, six-tiered wedding cake, the base of which was a sugared replica of Monaco’s pink palace. Some sources say that crowning the top was a sugar cage that held two live turtledoves; the birds were released when the couple sliced into the cake with the Prince’s sword.

It’s safe to say that when humanitarian and former American actress Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry at St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle — about an hour by car west of London — there will be just as much excitement and a decent helping of Hollywood’s own royalty. But the cake won’t be nearly as ornate — and represents a shift in British royal wedding cake style.

American-born baker Claire Ptak of East London’s Violet Bakery is making this royal cake. (Markle has known Ptak for some time; the future duchess interviewed the pastry chef for her now-defunct lifestyle site in 2015.) It will be flavored with organic Amalfi lemons and elderflower — a small sprightly bundle of white blooms in the honeysuckle family — in a nod to what Kensington Palace calls the “bright flavors of spring.” Though Ptak can’t speak with the press until after the wedding, she’s well-known in and around London for her floral and fruit-forward cake flavors. Ptak’s cakes range in price from about $40 (for a 6-inch cake) to over $1,000 (for a cake that serves 150). This royal wedding cake will need to serve at least 600 guests.

Cakes of Chef Claire’s Violet Bakery

Bea Vo, a London-based pastry chef and founder of Bea’s of Bloomsbury as well as the Feed Your Soul restaurant group, says Ptak “is a refreshing and modern choice” for this wedding cake. “Lemon and elderflower is definitely a unique flavor combination… even though elderflower is a thoroughly British ingredient, it’s not often used in cakes.” Though “chocolate or Victoria sponge cakes” (vanilla cake with jam and cream) are also becoming popular celebration cake flavors in the U.K., “most British wedding cakes are still fruitcakes,” Vo says.

The fruitcake wedding cake tradition has a long history. Wedding parties in medieval England featured a pile of unsweetened buns, symbolizing prosperity in all forms. That evolved into a single dish called “Bride’s Pye” or “Bride Cake.” Before sugar hit the British Isles in the mid-1500s, these celebration dishes often combined seafood and offal in a bread-type crust — with plenty of spices to offset the off flavors.

Once greater quantities of sugar came to England from the Americas, along with fruit shipped in from across the commonwealth, a cake made from grain, sugar, eggs, and dried or candied fruit, became the de facto celebration cake in Britain — at least among the wealthy. (All of that fruit and sugar was prohibitively expensive for most English bakers to procure.) Fruitcake’s sugar and high alcohol content — the fruits or cake itself are soaked in a high-proof spirit — also mean it had literal staying power, or built-in preservatives. It was thus a popular sweet before home refrigeration.

Still, these celebration cakes, while practical, weren’t pretty to look at; they were dense brown square or round lumps. For over a century, only the ruling class could afford the most refined (read: whitest) sugar, which became synonymous with purity. In Wedding Cake: A Slice of History, historian Carol Wilson notes that Queen Victoria’s was the first royal wedding cake to be white, as it was covered in a thick layer of fine white sugar blended with egg whites, or what’s now called royal icing. “One of the great advantages to having fruitcake is that it gives the pastry chef a lot of time to do some really elaborate and intricate royal icing piping,” Vo says. Sometimes, marzipan made its way into the mix too, adding a nutty note.

As their exteriors changed, fruitcake remained a tradition in English royal weddings. Despite wartime rationing, the 1947 wedding of Queen Elizabeth to Prince Phillip featured a 500-pound, four-tiered fruitcake — said to contain donated fruit from Australia as well as 80 oranges and lemons, 660 eggs, and more than three gallons of Navy Rum — covered in royal icing and sugar paste, which was molded into scenes from the couple’s travels as well as lacy arches and trellises. In 2011, British pastry chef and cake designer Fiona Cairns made a rather Victorian-style multi-layered fruitcake for Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s wedding. (There was also a simple no-bake chocolate and biscuit Groom’s cake.)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s cake won’t look anything like the cakes of English royal weddings past: In addition to not being a fruitcake, Ptak doesn’t decorate her cakes with royal icing, sugar paste, ornate piping, or candied pearls. Trained in part in California under Alice Waters, Ptak’s become known in the U.K. for making deeply flavored cakes that are neither dry nor overly soaked. She decorates them with soft swirls of pillowy Swiss buttercream and fresh flowers. Ptak’s goal with this royal wedding cake is to focus on “food provenance, sustainability, seasonality and most importantly flavor,” as she said in an official palace press release.

As British food writer and historian Bee Wilson notes in the The New Yorker, this royal couple’s choice of Ptak as their cake maker demonstrates “the transformation of British attitudes toward baking… [t]hanks in large part to the massive popularity of The Great British Baking Show,” it seems the British public has taken home baking on as a hobby in droves. So it only makes sense that for this rather modern wedding, the sweet centerpiece will be one that doesn’t just look good, but that tastes good, too, with neither a soggy bottom nor a messy top.

Still, rumor has it that there may also be a fruitcake, but that might be just for tradition — or at the behest of the Queen herself.

Source: Eater

Pan-fried Salmon with Thai Green Curry Sauce


3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
6 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 (14 fl oz) cans coconut milk
1-2/3 cups vegetable stock or water
3 kaffir lime leaves
6 oz small broccoli florets
3 oz snow peas
2 zucchini, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus extra to garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
freshly ground sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb salmon fillet, cut into medallions
cooked rice for serving


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saute pan until smoking, then add the sliced onion and red pepper. Cook over a high heat until the onion is just beginning to catch and go brown around the edges.
  2. Stir in the curry paste, cook for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, stock and lime leaves. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the broccoli and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the snow peas and zucchini and simmer for a further 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the sauce slightly thickened.
  5. Stir in the basil and coriander and season to taste.
  6. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium non-stick frying pan and add the salmon medallions. Cook for 1-2 minutes on one side. Once the raw side starts to change color, flip over the fish and cook for 30 to 40 seconds. Remove the pan from heat.
  7. Divide the curry among four warmed deep soup bowls, placing three or four medallions of salmon on top of each. Serve with cooked rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Top 100 Salmon Recipes

Classic English Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason in London, U.K.

The Menu

Finger sandwiches

Coronation Chicken
Fortnum’s Smoked Salmon
Cucumber with Mint & Cream Cheese
Monarch glazed ham with marmalade dressing
Rare Breed Hen’s Egg Mayonnaise with English Cress


Plain & Fruit Scones
Presented with Somerset Clotted Cream & a choice of Fortnum & Mason Preserve or Lemon Curd

Afternoon Tea cakes

Individual Patisserie
Selection from the Cake Carriage

* * * * * *

The price is £49.00 per person.

3D Images of Cancer Cells in the Body

Medical physicists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have developed a new method that can generate detailed three-dimensional images of the body’s interior. This can be used to more closely investigate the development of cancer cells in the body. The research group presents its findings in “Communication Physics”, a journal published by the Nature Publishing Group.

Clinicians and scientists are in need of a better understanding of cancer cells and their properties in order to provide targeted cancer treatment. Individual cancer cells are often examined in test tubes before the findings are tested in living organisms. “Our aim is to visualise cancer cells inside the living body to find out how they function, how they spread and how they react to new therapies,” says medical physicist Professor Jan Laufer from MLU. He specialises in the field of photoacoustic imaging, a process that uses ultrasound waves generated by laser beams to produce high-resolution, three-dimensional images of the body’s interior.

“The problem is that tumour cells are transparent. This makes it difficult to use optical methods to examine tumours in the body,” explains Laufer whose research group has developed a new method to solve this problem: First the scientists introduce a specific gene into the genome of the cancer cells. “Once inside the cells, the gene produces a phytochrome protein, which originates from plants and bacteria. There it serves as a light sensor,” Laufer continues. In the next step, the researchers illuminate the tissue with short pulses of light at two different wavelengths using a laser. Inside the body, the light pulses are absorbed and converted into ultrasonic waves. These waves can then be measured outside the organism and two images of the body’s interior can be reconstructed based on this data. “The special feature of phytochrome proteins is that they alter their structure and thus also their absorption properties depending on the wavelength of the laser beams. This results in changes to the amplitude of the ultrasound waves that are generated in the tumour cells. None of the other tissue components, for example blood vessels, have this property – their signal remains constant,” Laufer says. By calculating the difference between the two images, a high-resolution, three-dimensional image of the tumour cells is created, which is free of the otherwise overwhelming background contrast.

The development of Halle’s medical physicists can be applied to a wide range of applications in the preclinical research and the life sciences. In addition to cancer research, the method can be used to observe cellular and genetic processes in living organisms.

Source: Martin-Luther-University

Study Shows Targeted Biopsy for Prostate Cancer More Effective

Researchers at University of Cincinnati have found that MRI fusion biopsy—coupling MRI and ultrasound to visualize suspicious lesions in the prostate gland and targeting the biopsy to that particular area—outperformed standard prostate biopsy in patients with a prior negative prostate biopsy.

This data, published in the advance online edition of the journal Urologic Oncology, could provide a new standard of care when screening men for prostate cancer and could lead to more efficient practices, saving time and money and improving diagnosis times for patients.

“In this study, we used a large multi-institutional sample size,” says Abhinav Sidana, MD, director of urologic oncology and assistant professor in the Division of Urology at the UC College of Medicine and the corresponding author on this study. “In men with suspicion of having prostate cancer, standard (collecting 12 samples from the prostate), or saturation (collecting 20-40 samples from the prostate), biopsy, a more randomized approach, has traditionally been a principal method for diagnosis. However, this can lead to overdiagnosis of clinically insignificant cancer, meaning prostate cancer where treatment is not needed, underdiagnosis of clinically significant cancer, meaning prostate cancer where treatment is needed, and has a high false-negative rate, meaning tests that read negative for cancer when it is truly malignant.

“Patients with continued suspicion of prostate cancer and negative prior prostate biopsy are a diagnostic challenge, and around 38 percent will undergo repeat standard or saturation biopsy over five years in order to obtain a diagnosis. Unfortunately, repeating this has little efficacy in identifying cancerous lesions with only a 10 to 25 percent cancer detection rate even after the fourth repeat biopsy. These multiple re-biopsies also lead to increased cost, delayed diagnosis and could contribute to progression of a patient’s disease.”

Sidana, who is also a UC Health urologist and a member of the UC Cancer Institute, says that MRI fusion biopsy has emerged as a promising alternative because of its ability to help physicians identify clinically significant cancers and that several single-institution studies have found the benefit of this method in detecting prostate cancer in patients with prior negative prostate biopsies. However, the analysis in relation to the number of prior negative biopsies a patient had was limited.

“We wanted to investigate the efficacy of fusion biopsy in comparison to systematic biopsy in the detection of clinically significant prostate cancer and to determine the effect the number of prior negative biopsies had on cancer detection with each method,” he says.

The cases of 779 patients—each with a history of one or more negative biopsies who also underwent MRI biopsy fusion—from four institutions were analyzed making it one of the largest studies in this population, says Sidana. Institutions included the National Cancer Institute in Maryland; Northwell Health in New York; University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine; and State University of New York Upstate Medical University.

The average age of patients was 63. Of the 779 patients, cancer was detected in 346 patients (44 percent), and the clinically significant cancer detection rate was 30.7 percent with fusion biopsy detecting 26.3 percent (205 cases) and systematic biopsy detecting only 4.4 percent (34 cases).

“Of all cancers detected by each method, fusion biopsy detected a higher proportion of clinically significant cancer when compared to standard biopsy,” Sidana adds. “Fusion biopsy also outperformed standard biopsy in finding high-risk prostate cancer. While patients with a higher number of prior prostate biopsies had a poorer cancer detection rate on standard prostate biopsy, detection on fusion biopsy stayed constant and did not decrease in patients with a higher number of prior prostate biopsies, thus proving it to be more accurate in finding cancers.”

Sidana says these results show that the fusion biopsy technique should be used in patients with suspicion of prostate cancer.

“These findings may work to change or improve standard of care and could help in avoiding unnecessary biopsies, saving patients and health care systems money, as well as helping to diagnose cancers earlier, improving patient care and quality of life,” he says.

Source: University of Cincinnati

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