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The Baddeley Cake

One of the original Directors of the Fund was Mr Robert Baddeley who died in 1794. In his Will he left a bequest to provide a Twelfth Night Cake and Punch to be enjoyed by the company in residence at Drury Lane every year on January 6th. The Fund took over the administration of this fascinating bequest in December 1821, when Baddeley's Executor transferred the £100 of 3% stock to the names of the Trustees of the Fund "for the purchase of a Twelfth Cake and Wine for ever."

The first Baddeley Cake was cut on Tuesday 6th January 1795, making the ceremony perhaps the oldest theatrical tradition still observed.


The Sun   Issue 1026,   Saturday,  9 January 1796

On Wednesday evening, the bequest of the veteran BADDELEY was carried into effect, with all due ceremony, in the Green-room of Drury-lane Theatre.  A Cake prepared by Mr. BIRCH, of Cornhill, who is well known as a man of taste, was the feast provided for the occasion.  This Cake, which no doubt, Mr.BIRCH made con amore, as he is an admirer of the Drama, and has given tolerable proofs of dramatic ability, was graced with a variety of appropriate decorations.  The Head of SHAKESPEARE appeared on the side in several places ; and, to shew a spirit of loyalty, as well as of mirth, a splendid Crown was fixed upon the top.  There was a suitable quantity of wine and punch; and the Performers who attended, conducted themselves with proper decorum, when they drank to the Memory of the Donor, whose good humour had supplied them with such a whimsical reason for holding him in friendly recollection.  Mr. MOODY, in customary suit of solemn black, presided over the whole, and did the honours of the table, dividing the Cake with the most equitable impartiality.  Mr. SHERIDAN, and the other Proprietors of the Theatre, were present; and the whole terminated in unalloyed merriment.  The way in which the toast was given was To the Skull of the Donor, but why, we know not, unless it was in imitation of Indians, when they celebrate departed heroes.

The Secretary of the Fund, Mr William Terriss, cuts the cake in 1883


The Master, Mr Harry Nicholls, cuts the cake for the pantomime "Babes in the Wood", 1908

The Master, Mr Frank Collins, addresses the cast of Oklahoma in 1948

In the 18th century, Twelfth Night was a festival which was much celebrated as the end of the Christmas season. There have only been thirteen known occasions when it has not been possible to carry out the bequest because of the Theatre being closed or the ingredients for the Cake not being available during war time rationing.

In the beginning, the Manager of the Theatre was responsible for the arrangements but since 1822, Drury Lane Theatrical Fund have organised the Ceremony every year LW Theatres, the current Management, very kindly provide the Punch which is dispensed from a beautiful silver bowl given to the Theatre by the original 'My Fair Lady' company.

Dora Bryan & Bernard Spear in Hello Dolly 1966

Screen Shot 2020-07-16 at Hello Dolly.PN

 Baddeley cakes through the years

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