Baking and the Great British Street Party

Baking and the Great British Street Party

Nothing brings a community together more than when a special royal jubilee is celebrated.  This will be the fourth jubilee celebration for our longest-reigning monarch, following the Silver Jubilee in 1977, the Golden Jubilee in 2002 and the Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Us Brits have used street parties to celebrate major national occasions for more than a century. The end of wars, coronations, royal weddings and jubilees have all been leapt on as excuses to get out the trestle tables and paper cups.

The events echo down the decades revealing just how much we have changed but how the simple desire to celebrate with neighbours in the middle of a street remains the same.

Street parties with their spreads of homemade, baked delights has long been our favourite way of doing it and there's something undeniably special about celebrating with your neighbours in the middle of the street with cake and a cup of something. But how did it all start and why is baking such a big part of it?

Coronation Fever

Way back in 1952, a solemn Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II following the death of her father King George VI, at age 27. A year later on June 2, her coronation took place at Westminster Abbey in London, the only British coronation to be fully televised to date.

Whilst a number of official events are set to take place over the long weekend, from the traditional Trooping the Colour parade to a Platinum Party at the Palace concert, the street parties up and down the land will be the crowning glory.  But where did it all begin?

Since medieval times, coronation feasts were held at Westminster Hall.  These were huge events and the food was at the centre of it all.  At the end of the feast, the doors were thrown open and the ordinary folk were let in to take the leftovers.  When Queen Victoria was coronated in 1838 huge outdoor dinners, paid for by wealthy landowners, were held on long rows or tables outside. At the end of WW1, celebrations included children’s ‘peace teas’ on long tables stretching down streets, laden with food for the orphaned and poor.  The street party, and the baking that went with it, had become a national tradition.

The importance of baking

Heavy rain on June 2, 1953, meant that many of the ‘street’ parties took place in village halls and gymnasiums, but that didn’t deter people from laying on magnificent spreads of sandwiches, jellies, ice creams and blancmanges. Although the latter might raise a few eyebrows, most of the menu would be greeted as rapturously today as it was all those years ago.

In 1977, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, millions gathered at street parties with bunting, flags, cakes and champagne at the ready.  Baking your own cakes and other sweet treats to share with fellow neighbours was what you did.  Union Jack cakes, fairy cakes, trifles and scones adorned trestle tables up and down the land.  If you have a party, you have to have cake; no street party, especially a Jubilee party, would be the same without it.

Platinum Jubilee

This year a national competition held by luxury London department store, Fortum & Mason, invited the public to make an original and celebratory cake, tart or pudding fit for the monarch.  It received 5000 entries and the winning recipe will go down in history and become part of the British food story, following in the footsteps of favourites such as coronation chicken and the victoria sponge cake.

And the winning cake for 2022?  A lemon Swiss roll-inspired pudding created by Jemma Melvin.  The winner was announced by the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles’ wife, on Thursday night in a nationally televised broadcast on the BBC. Organizers later posted the recipe online so anyone who wanted to try making it could have the precise directions to hand.

So, baking, bunting and union jacks will, yet again, mark this weekend’s momentous moment in history. 

We wish you a jubilant and rain-free weekend and if you still need flour, head over to our shop, where we are offering 50% off our superflour all month.