UK: Magnificent Character-Filled Cake Marks HMS Dragon’s Commissioning

Magnificent Character-Filled Cake Marks HMS Dragon's Commissioning

Cutting-edge destroyer HMS Dragon was presented with a magnificent character-filled cake to mark her commissioning into the Fleet. The elaborate piece of confectionary was produced by the RN’s ‘cake-meister’ WO1 Jon Boreham, who’s produced such masterpieces for more than two dozen years.

Welcoming a brand new warship into the bosom of the Royal Navy is a moment of pride and wonder for all concerned.

And so it was when HMS Dragon was formally commissioned into the Fleet a few days ago.

Exciting as 8,500 tonnes of stealthy grey messenger of death, guns, Mach 3 missiles and all that are, the eyes of family and friends were rather drawn to the magnificent commissioning cake.

No, not because it was cake… but because of its wonderful tableau of icing.

It seemed almost criminal for ET Mark Soldiew, the youngest sailor aboard the Type 45 destroyer, to thrust a knife into the thick regal and royal icing, aided by Liesl Houston, the wife of Dragon’s Commanding Officer Cdr Darren Houston.

But plunge the knife they did in the finest traditions of the Senior Service.

Thankfully, before this ‘cake vandalism’ occurred, LA(Phot) Jason Ballard took a few shots of it – so you can admire it.

The cake is the work of WO1 Jon Boreham, an assistant cook when he joined the RN back in 1984, later chef, and now working in a non-catering role in the Operational Stress Management and Trauma Risk Management team at Navy HQ on Whale Island.

Jon’s been baking and decorating cakes for 26 years – google ‘HMS Ark Royal cake’ and you’ll find images of his masterpiece for the Queen’s visit to the great carrier in 2010 – which means he’s quite well known when important events are looming in a ship’s calendar, especially as it seems to be a dying trade in the Service.

When Dragon asked for Jon’s help, he popped aboard the Portsmouth-based ship to chat with the ship’s company who had ideas of a square cake, ship’s badge, battle honours. All, says Jon, “a little bit standard, so to speak. So took the design a step forward. Somewhere had to be a Dragon…”

Sixteen hours baking one fruit cake and 30 hours decorating it later (with the odd break for the day job, Easter holiday) and hey presto: one magnificent commissioning cake.

So what’s going on in it? Well, the dragon has escaped from its lair (top right) and burst forth on to the cake, to the despair of one matelot.

Some people might have been content with that, but not Jon.

“There needed to be a bit more going on, so that people can see a story,” he explains.

So, top left… Three sailors proudly hold the (graffiti-strewn) name board aloft made by the ship’s chippy, there are a couple of stokers messing around with hoses, and a medic’s at the ready at the back just in case things turn a bit messy…

The main cake, with chefs all over it adding the finishing touches and the captain saluting, completes the story.

The rich fruit cake itself – the 190-strong ship’s company are still working their way through it now, and yes, it does taste as good as it looks… – weighed in at 40kg (88lb or more than six stone!).

It’s covered in regal (roll-out) and royal icing and everything, including the little characters, is edible.

I’m glad the ceremony went well for the ship and that I could play a small part in that process,” says the senior rating. “My next challenge: HMS Queen Elizabeth. Bring it on!”

Naval Today Staff, May 03, 2012; Image: royalnavy