Two former Royal Marine chefs were reunited as the helped to craft a magnificent cake for the Queen on behalf of the Armed Forces to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
Green berets Phil Roberts, who trains Navy chefs at HMS Raleigh, and Alan Starling who does the same for Army cooks, were part of a team of expert caterers who spent 500 hours producing the 70kg masterpiece.
Pictures: Sgt Russ Nolan, RLC
LOVINGLY applying the finishing touches to the giant cake he and a team of fellow Forces culinary masters have spent the past six weeks crafting is ex-Royal Marine chef Phil Roberts.
The 56-year-old instructor from HMS Raleigh was one of several chefs who converged on the Defence Food Services School at Worthy Down to produce a cake worthy of royalty in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
The spectacular creation weighs approximately 70kg and has taken more than 500 hours to complete and will be unveiled to Her Majesty and her guests at the Diamond Jubilee Parade and Muster at Windsor Castle on Saturday.
The cake’s been designed to reflect the themes of the Silver, Gold and Diamond Jubilees as well as the contributions of all three Services.
Fellow ex-Royal Marine Alan Starling gives the finished cake a final once-over
While the Army made the actual cake, Phil gave the creation seven coats of royal icing and painstakingly made and hand painted most of the plaques decorating the top two tiers. The cake is finished off with a replica of Saint Edward’s Crown, worn by the Queen at her coronation. All parts of the cake are edible.
Phil said: “Royal icing is a bit of dying art these days. Most chefs use regal icing which they can roll and then place over the top, but I think royal icing gives a much better finish. The skills involved are similar to that of a plasterer and the hardest part is trying to get the icing perfectly flat and smooth. The icing is my normal style with a clean sharp cut.”
While working on the cake Phil was reunited with Alan Starling, one of his comrades from his days as a Royal Marine. Alan now fulfils a similar role to Phil training Army chefs.
Phil said: “It was great working with Alan again. He painted the pictures of the Royal residences which are on the bottom of the cake and they are amazing. I was chuffed to bits to be asked to be involved. It really is the crowning moment of my career. I think the time and effort we put in has been justified. It’s a stunning cake and I think it highlights the skills of the individuals who have worked on it. I’m really proud of our achievements.”
Employed by Babcock Defence and Security Division, Phil works at the Defence Maritime Logistics School within HMS Raleigh, providing advance culinary training to Royal Navy chefs. During his 40-year association with the Naval Service, Phil has made hundreds of cakes including countless commissioning and decommissioning cakes for ships and ones for VIP occasions, including an event attended by The Duke of Edinburgh.
Phil joined the Royal Marines in 1972 and served all over the world until hanging up his uniform for the final time in 1996. He joined HMS Raleigh as a civilian instructor in 2002. Although he has now retired from competition cooking, he’s won 53 medals during his career as a chef, including 25 golds.
Phil decorates one of the numerous icing 'plaques' which adorn the cake
He said: “Cakes were never my main thing. I used to do a lot of cold buffet work for competitions, but when I came to the school my old boss, Rod Naylor, persuaded me to concentrate on cakes.”
On Saturday, some 2,500 personnel and bands from the Royal Navy, the Army and Royal Air Force will parade before HM The Queen in Windsor Castle and then through the town of Windsor to muster in an arena at Home Park. This significant event will be the main occasion for the Armed Forces to pay tribute to Her Majesty on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee.
The cake will be formally presented to Her Majesty at a reception following the event. There is a strong tradition of the Armed Forces creating special occasion cakes for the Royal Family, including those for previous Royal Weddings.
In addition to the official Diamond Jubilee Cake, Phil and the team have produced a cake for Winchester City Council’s celebrations for the Jubilee.