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Royal wedding cake says it with flowers

The bride and groom cut the first slice of a magnificent eight-tiered wedding cake this afternoon as they celebrated their marriage with friends and family.

The confectionery masterpiece covered in cream and white icing and decorated with up to 900 delicate sugar-paste flowers was centre-stage at the Buckingham Palace reception held in the picture gallery.

The project has left cake-maker Fiona Cairns exhausted but elated after working for five weeks on the project which has tested her skills and those of her team to the limit.

The new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are fans of her fruit cakes, while Paul McCartney orders one for Christmas every year, and she has also baked creations for bands Pink Floyd and Simply Red in the past.

Ms Cairns, 56, whose confections are sold in Harrods, Selfridges and Waitrose, was contacted by St James's Palace in February and asked if she would make William and Kate's wedding cake.

Speaking at Buckingham Palace after she had put the final touches to the cake, she said: "The picture gallery has high ceilings and is an imposing room so I wanted the cake to have presence but not to be imposing and I think it worked.

"Catherine did not want it to be seven feet tall, she didn't want it to be towering and thin, and I think we succeeded.

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"We reflected some of the architectural details in the room so the garlands on the walls were reproduced loosely on the fourth tier - we've used roses, acorns, ivy leaves, apple blossom and bridal rose."

The bride wanted elements from the Joseph Lambeth technique of cake decoration, where intricate piping is used to make three dimensional scroll work, leaves, flowers and other adornments.

Kate also gave Ms Cairns detailed instructions for her to include 17 different blooms and foliage for their meaning or symbolism - known as the "language of flowers".

Ms Cairns, who lives in Leicestershire where her factory is based, started her business from her kitchen table and now employs more than 50 people.

She said: "I could not believe I finished it in time but we were all really pleased with it. I worked at the palace for two days before the wedding, setting it up with my team.

"The hardest part was transporting the cakes from Leicestershire to the palace - we were worried they would get damaged - then we had to assemble them.

"It was tough work but I really enjoyed it. It's been an extraordinary commission."

Along the cake's base ran ivy leaves, symbolising marriage, and the bottom three tiers were decorated with piped lace work and daisies, meaning innocence, sweet William - grant me one smile - and lavender.

There were infill features of cascading orange and apple blossom, honeysuckle, acorns with oak leaves - meaning strength and endurance - and bridal rose, which symbolises happiness, and myrtle.

The fourth tier featured the intricate garlands, reflecting the architectural details in the room, and above this was another cake covered with lattice work and piped leaf detail.

Lily of the valley - representing sweetness and humility - covered the sixth tier which also had an artistic interpretation of the couple's cipher - their initials intertwined below a coronet.

The four flowers of the home nations - English rose, Scottish thistle, Welsh daffodil and Irish shamrock - were featured on the penultimate tier and the top cake, around six inches in diameter, was covered with lace details with a garland of lily of the valley and heather on top.

The cakemaker would not reveal all the ingredients she used but said the cake contained a range of produce from dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas to walnuts, cherries, grated oranges and lemon, French brandy and free-range eggs and flour.

Kathryn Boyden, Buckingham Palace's royal pastry chef, and her colleague, sous chef Jane Fisher, helped make the sugar lily of the valley.

Ms Boyden said: "I was speechless, this cake made me speechless, and I think it is exactly what the bride wanted - it's just perfect."

Flowers featured on the cake:

Rose (white) - national symbol of England

Daffodil - national symbol of Wales, new beginnings

Shamrock - national symbol of Ireland

Thistle - national symbol of Scotland

Acorns, oak leaf - strength, endurance

Myrtle - love

Ivy - wedded love, marriage

Lily of the valley - sweetness, humility

Rose (bridal) - happiness, love

Sweet William - grant me one smile

Honeysuckle - the bond of love

Apple blossom - preference, good fortune

White heather - protection, wishes will come true

Jasmine (white) - amiability

Daisy - innocence, beauty, simplicity

Orange blossom - marriage, eternal love, fruitfulness

Lavender - ardent attachment, devotion, success, and luck.

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