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Events | Lore & Legend | Rather Interesting | Cultural Britain

Baddeley Cake, London

The British theatre has some excellent general customs - being forced to swear foully if caught whistling on stage, referring to Macbeth as The Scottish Play, sleeping with the director and telling fellow cast members "darling you were wonderful". But a more specific custom has greater charm than all these. The Baddeley Cake.
Every year on twelfth night the cast members performing at Drury Lane are treated to a twelfth night cake thanks to the bequest of comic actor Robert Baddeley. Baddeley was at one time a cook (possibly even a pastry cook) before his talents came to the notice of his employer Samuel Foote, an actor-manager and dramatist. After making his stage debut at the rather mature age of 27 in 1760, Baddeley went on to make a name for himself in roles demanding comic mimicry, cod accents, and general low humour. His greatest claim to fame was as the first Moses in School for Scandal, a role he played more than 200 times. It was while preparing for this role at Drury Lane that he was taken ill, dying shortly afterwards on November 19 1794.
In his will Baddeley bequeathed 650 towards the maintenance of decrepit actors (it is such a temptation to list a few who might qualify now, but libel laws being what they are...). He also left 100, invested at 3% per annum, to provide for a twelfth night cake - which traditionally should have a pea and a bean baked inside - to be supplied to the Drury Lane cast in his memory. The sum also covered the provision of a good quantity of 'lamb's wool', wine with baked apple dissolving in it to give a woolly texture, but that part of the tradition seems to have gone by the wayside.
So every year the Drury Lane green room sees the cake devoured and a toast drunk in honour of cook turned thespian Robert Baddeley. It is to be hoped those present have the good manners to tell Baddeley's shade "darling you were wonderful".

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From Karren Baddeley on 6th April 2011

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