Researchers with the University of Warwick, and the university’s Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), have been called on to offer their 3D scanning and 3D printing services before, with mysterious Renaissance bronze sculptures, the university’s own Godiva 2 submarine, and even a murder investigation. But now, 3D scanning and WMG’s research have been used to bring an iconic piece of British history back to life again. WMG’s Professor Mark Williams has teamed up with the British Sugarcraft Guild (BSG) to recreate a full-sized replica of the wedding cake that was presented to then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The cake replica was nearly destroyed by vandalism in 2015, and 3D technologies have helped to make it whole again.The original wedding cake was created in 1947 by Peek Frean, a former biscuit-making company located in London; it’s now a global biscuit brand and owned by several different food businesses. The cake weighed six hundred pounds, stood six feet tall with six tiers, and had a silver model of St. George and the Dragon at the top. The silver model was gifted to the royal couple after the wedding. The wedding cake had to delivered to Buckingham Palace in a modified car, driven very slowly so the cake would not be damaged. Queen Elizabeth II once wrote about the cake, and said that she and Prince Philip “admired the beauty of its design and the excellence of its quality.”
Later, Peek Frean made a full-sized replica of the intricate wedding cake, which was displayed in the reception area of the company’s factory until it closed in 1989. A museum in southeast London opened a permanent exhibition about Peek Frean, and the replica cake was a part of it. Unfortunately, before arrangements could be made to transport the delicate replica during a change in the museum’s premises, squatters broke into the vacant building one night in July 2015, broke the display casing, and dismantled most of the cake. The vandals put it back together again upside down, splattered with red paint.
The replica was almost destroyed completely, but thanks to WMG and its 3D scanning capabilities, it will soon be restored. Judging by photos from WMG, it appears that among the technology the team used was a handheld Metris ModelMaker MMDx scanner from Nikon Metrology, a company whose technology we’ve seen come in handy before, to scan the damaged cake replica. After analyzing what remained of the original replica, Professor Williams was able to determine exactly how the cake was formed, and how to restore it. The cake replica was scanned to an accuracy of 0.1mm, in order to produce a high-resolution 3D model, which will be used to digitally repair the cake replica, in time for the Queen and Prince Philip’s 70th wedding anniversary this November.
“It was fantastic to apply our technology to such an exciting project and help restore such an iconic cake to its former glory, especially in the year of the Queen’s Golden Anniversary,” said Professor Williams. “Usually we are working on engineering-related challenges, so to be able to take our expertise and transfer that to something totally different and so historically significant was a really interesting opportunity.”
But the job isn’t done yet. The BSG was approached to help recreate the replica of the wedding cake, and according to the Guild’s project page for the cake, many members have a love and appreciation for royal icing. So, the Guild asked that any members who wanted to participate be allowed to do so, and the six tiers of the cake were distributed to the seven BSG regions this past summer, along with templates, materials, and plans for each region’s specific tier.
“The British Sugarcraft Guild was honoured to be invited to recreate the replica of the Queen’s wedding cake for the Peek Frean Museum. Our members have shown enormous enthusiasm for the project and the generosity of our sponsors has been amazing,” said Judith Lynn, BSG National Vice Chairman. “The experience of working with WMG at the University of Warwick in creating the 3D models to enable the moulded elements of the cake to be reproduced has been very rewarding. It illustrates perfectly how modern technology and traditional crafts can work in harmony to recreate such an important historic piece of sugar art.”
The 3D scans of the cake have been turned into a 3D model, which in turn was 3D printed by FPC Sugarcraft, a company known for creating silicone molds. The 3D model was 3D printed in resin and converted to a silicone mold to ensure perfection in the new cake’s Pastillage panels.
The initial coating for the cake tiers is complete, and now the BSG members are getting ready for the detailed decoration of the cake. Over the coming spring months, BSG Members’ Workshops will be held in several of the regions, including Chiltern Hills and East Anglia, South East, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and Central England. During these workshops, BSG members will produce detailed cake decorations like molded side panels, and piped trellis and flowers. The final assembly of the cake late this summer will be completed by a small BSG team at the Museum. To follow along with BSG’s progress, you can check the Facebook event for continuing updates. Discuss in the Wedding Cake forum at 3DPB.com.[Sources: WMG News, British Sugarcraft Guild]