Sophie at the Stove: A Royal Wedding

The Washingtonian's resident Brit shares her home-cooking adventures—and proves that there's more to English food than bangers and mash.

By: Sophie Gilbert

Sophie's version of Prince William's favorite childhood dessert. Photograph by John Wilwol.
It seems absurd for a British-themed blog not to acknowledge that a significant event is happening across the pond next week. However, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not really that excited about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. They seem like a lovely, grounded couple, but after eight months of dress speculation and Dukan Diet stories and absurd marketing ploys, I’m feeling more than a few pangs of tedium. English Mummy doesn’t share my feelings, however: She has taken next Friday off work in preparation, and we had an unbelievably long discussion yesterday about whether Kate is unhealthy-anorexic skinny (my view) or just bride-to-be skinny (Mummy’s). I lost after it was decided that Kate probably didn’t care what I thought anyway.

There is, however, one element of the royal wedding of which I thoroughly approve, and that’s the groom’s choice of cake. In addition to having a traditional English fruitcake at the reception, Prince William has requested a chocolate biscuit cake, which is apparently a favorite of his from childhood. Bear in mind that “biscuit” is British English for “cookie,” which I hope will make this sound a lot more appealing than a floury cake made from fried-chicken side orders. Chocolate biscuit cake is a nursery favorite, combining cookies, chocolate, syrup, butter, and raisins in a refrigerated slab of sugary goodness; the final product is dark and fudgy, with crunch from the cookies and chewiness from the fruit. You can also add brandy if desired, but because it’s uncooked, be careful whom you serve it to. (There’s nothing tackier than drunk toddlers at a formal event, and this isn’t the Olive Garden.)

In answer to the inevitable question: No, I’ve never met Prince William, even though my brother went to high school with him and claims (I emphasize the “claims” part because we’ve long doubted the story’s veracity) to have kicked him into a swimming pool once. I did, however, serve Kate Middleton when I was waitressing, and she was very polite and charming. So good luck to them both, and here’s hoping that once all the tea towels and replica ceramic dolls and souvenir shot glasses have disappeared into the ether or ended up at a dollar store, they’ll still have biscuit cake to remind them of their happy day.

Note: In an ideal world, I’d use McVitie’s digestive biscuits in this recipe, but graham crackers substitute pretty well, even though they’re slightly drier.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake
Makes 16 pieces

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup (this is a weird English product made by Lyle’s—you can usually find it in the international section of Harris Teeter or Whole Foods)
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 ounces graham crackers (around 16 double cookies), crushed (preferably with a few lumps remaining)
½ cup raisins

Grease an 8-inch-square pan with butter.

In a large saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter with the sugar, golden syrup, and milk. Once combined, whisk in the cocoa powder, followed by half of the crushed graham crackers. Then, whisk in the remaining graham crackers and raisins until combined. Pour into the greased pan and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve immediately, or keep in a sealed Tupperware in the fridge for up to a week.

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