Marie Antoinette has nothing on the wealthy Arab clients who commissioned a cake commemorating their daughter’s combo birthday and engagement party. The confection whipped up by a British dress designer cost a whopping $74 million USD. That’s a lot of bread for a cake.
Granted it’s big. It’s six feet long and weighs nearly 1,000 pounds. A quarter of that is fondant (edible sheets of colored icing) and another hundred pounds is sculpting chocolate, both used to trick up the cake to look like a fashion show runway. But how did a dressmaker land a cake commission?
Debbie Wingham is best known for a dress she made in 2013 – billed as “the world’s most expensive” – when she plastered red and black diamonds valued at $17.7 million USD on a traditional black abaya. A visit to Dubai inspired the design and she borrowed precious gems from well-heeled clients to embellish the garment. The one-of-a-kind dress put her on the radar of a select strata of Emirati shoppers interested in blinged-up traditional Arab wear.
Recently, a wealthy UAE client visited Wingham’s UK studio to collect a frock, and they got to talking about the designer’s obsession with sculpting chocolate. One thing led to the next, and soon Wingham was crafting dozens of tiny fashionistas in candy couture (her own designs, of course) with handbags and hats, smartphones and tablets. She estimates she spent 1,100 hours on the project.
But the “icing on the cake” is in the icing on the cake. Thousands of precious gems are tucked into the frosting. There’s a 5.2 carat pink diamond, a 6.4 carat yellow diamond and 15 individual five carat white diamonds. The runway boasts 400 one carat and 73 three carat white diamonds and 75 three carat black diamonds. And the sweet ladies sport diamond belts and buttons, and tiny jewels in their handbags and hair.
Did I mention the cake-embedded sound-activated LED lighting Bose music system with digital LCD mini TV? (Remember when cake was edible, and not audible?)
If the cake cost this much, imagine what the birthday, engagement and wedding parties tally.
Everything is relative. Parents indulge their children. The cost of this cake against the buyer’s net worth might be a drop in the bundt pan. And people can spend their time and their money however they choose. But considered against the backdrop of extreme need in this region, this carb-loaded jewelry box leaves a terrible aftertaste.
Context is sobering, so frame it like this: Collateral Repair Project is a grassroots NGO based in Amman, Jordan. We’ve written about some of their work. One project raises money to send urban refugee children to local schools. They estimate that $100 USD can cover books, uniforms, and ancillary costs to cover a student for a year.
This cake could be sliced to send 740,000 kids to school. Chew on that for a moment. I bet those stellar Turkish newlyweds (who served up 4,000 Syrian refugees at their wedding party) would vote this as the better use of a bakery budget. Food for thought.