Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Prince William's Wedding Cake and the Royal Chef

News that Prince William chose a Chocolate Biscuit Cake for his groom’s cake was probably no surprise to the chef who cooked for the Royal Family for many years, Darren McGrady. 

In fact, McGrady has a recipe for Chocolate Biscuit Cake in his cookbook, “Eating Royally” and mentions that it is also Queen Elizabeth’s favorite tea cake. In British terminology, “biscuits” are the American version of cookies. The cake is made with broken-up McVities Rich Tea Biscuits, butter, sugar, dark chocolate, and an egg.
 “Eating Royally” offers a peek into the palaces where McGrady spent 11 years cooking for Queen Elizabeth II and four years as Princess Diana’s personal chef. 
When the book came out several years ago, I took the opportunity to do a telephone interview with McGrady. He referred fondly to the princess as “The Boss,” and said that after she died, he turned down a job offer from Prince Charles and Camilla. "I think I would have forever felt Princess Diana looking down on me saying,'You are not going to cook for that woman, are you?"'
As Will and Kate tie the knot, many of us remember the last fairy tale wedding and the princess who didn’t end up living “happily ever after” with her handsome prince. 
McGrady was hired as a junior cook at Buckingham Palace shortly after Prince Charles and Diana married. When they separated, Diana offered him the job to cook for her and her sons at Kensington Palace. He found Diana's kitchen more relaxed, where William and Harry could wander in for ice cream and eat it out of the container while sitting in the windowsill.
"You didn't get that at Buckingham Palace. If the boys wanted ice cream, the Queen would call her page, who in turn would call the head chef. The head chef would call the pastry kitchen and the pastry chef would in turn call the silver pantry for some silver dishes to present it on. The ice cream would be formed into decorated quenelle shapes and placed in the silver dessert dish. Then it was off to the linen room to get the proper napkin."
The books is sprinkled with anecdotes about the young princes — their sneaky water gun attacks on the unsuspecting chefs, their attempt to make "Mummy's" her favorite stuffed eggplant, and Prince Harry’s forged note requesting pizza for dinner (his eight-year-old handwriting gave him away).
Diana's favorite dessert was Bread and Butter Pudding. "It's a cross between a pudding and creme brulee, a real nursery comfort food," McGrady said. "She couldn't resist going for seconds." A favorite savory dish was eggplant stuffed with zucchini, bell pepper, celery, onion, mushrooms, bacon and mozzarella.
He said he walked away from an earlier book deal because he wouldn't divulge "juicy gossip" of Diana's love life. "I didn't want to go that route -- never have, never will."
Indeed.  Any "juicy" references are saved for Windsor Castle's hothouse peaches or Balmoral's raspberries.
After Diana's death, McGrady decided to move "across the Pond," and became a chef for a Dallas socialite family. He also teaches cooking classes and maintains a Web site, www.theroyalchef.com.
 Profits from his book went to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. "I wanted it to be something that would make money for the causes she cared about,” he told me. “It was never about cashing in."

Prep: 25 minutes
3 hours
This recipe from Darren McGrady's "Eating Royally" cookbook calls for McVitie's Rich Tea Biscuits. They can be bought at specialty food shops or ordered through Amazon.com
8 ounces tea biscuits or cookies
 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
 1/2 cup granulated sugar
12 ounces dark chocolate
1 egg, beaten
1 ounce white chocolate
Lightly grease a small (6-inch) cake ring or springform pan with butter. Place on a parchment-lined tray. Break each of the biscuits into almond-size pieces; set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until a light lemon color.
Melt 4 ounces of the dark chocolate in a double boiler. Off the heat, add the butter and sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Add the egg; continue stirring. Fold in the biscuit pieces until they are all coated with the chocolate mixture.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake ring. Try to fill all the gaps on the bottom of the ring, because this will be the top when it is unmolded. Refrigerate, at least 3 hours.
Remove the cake from the refrigerator; let it stand while you melt the remaining 8 ounces of dark chocolate in a double boiler. Slide the ring off the cake; turn the cake upside-down onto a cooling rack. Pour the melted chocolate over the cake, smoothing the top and sides using a butter knife or offset spatula. Allow the icing to set at room temperature. Carefully run a knife around the bottom of the cake where it has stuck to the cooling rack, transfer the cake to a cake dish. Melt the white chocolate; drizzle on top of the cake in a decorative pattern. — "Eating Royally," by Darren McGrady 

This was Diana's all-time favorite, so much so that she once had a royal reporter write that "Darren makes the best bread and butter pudding in the world."
3 ounces raisins
1/4 cup Amaretto liqueur (or 1 teaspoon almond extract plus enough water to equal 1/4 cup)
12 slices white bread, crusts removed
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
9 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar to dust top of pudding
3 ounces sliced almonds, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Soak raisins in Amaretto, leave covered with plastic wrap at room temperature 6-8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut four slices of the bread into 1/ 2-inch dice, and spread diced bread on the bottom of a casserole dish. Sprinkle the raisins on top of the bread cubes and pour any remaining liquid over the bread.
Cut the remaining eight slices of bread in half diagonally, and then cut each half slice in half diagonally to create 4 even triangles per slice. Dip triangles into the butter and arrange on top of the raisins, overlapping triangles slightly. Pour any remaining butter over the top of the bread.
Whisk yolks, vanilla paste and sugar in a large bowl until combined. Bring the milk and cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan over high heat, and pour the hot mix onto the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the warm egg mixture over the bread, making sure all of the bread is coated, and set aside for 20 minutes to allow the egg mixture to soak into the bread.
Place the casserole dish in a roasting tray filled with hot water halfway up the sides of the casserole dish, and bake on the middle rack in the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown on top with the filling just set.
Remove the dish from the oven and roasting tray, and sprinkle with the extra sugar. Broil or use a creme brulee torch to caramelize the sugar. Sprinkle with the toasted sliced almonds, and dust with powdered sugar. Cool slightly and serve warm with a jug of cream and some fresh berries. -- "Eating Royally," by Darren McGrady


Ann said...

Thanks for this.

I watched wedding stuff all night, all day. I'm obsessed.

Sweetie said...

I wish I had a royal chef!