Don’t pull down that tree just yet. Twelfth Night (also known as Epiphany) is the last burst of festive decadence before the end of the Christmas period. And in the West End, it’s a chance to remember a Cockney confectioner who found sweet success on the stage of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
Each year on January 6, the performers at Theatre Royal Drury Lane gather after the evening’s performance to share a very special cake, made in honour of baker-turned-actor Robert Baddeley, who died in 1794. Baddeley was quite the character. He started life baking cakes for legendary actor Samuel Foote. After seeing Foote in action, Baddeley begged for a turn on stage, but his employer replied: “You are a good cook, why do you want to be a bad actor?”. Baddeley didn’t listen, and ended up becoming a theatre star best known for originating the role of moneylender Moses in 1777 play ‘The School for Scandal’ (and for his column inch-filling love life). He left £100 in his will (that’s over £11,600 in today’s moolah) so that successive generations of actors could have a slice of cake on him, in a nod to the unlikely start to his acting career.
This year, it’s the turn of the cast of ‘42nd Street’ to raise a slice to Robert Baddeley. They’ll tuck into a specially-designed cake that, in more recent years, has come to reflect the themes of the evening’s show: last year, bakers from Squires Kitchen recreated a giant chocolate bar from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, and this year, their efforts will include an edible model tap-dancer and a portrait of the Cockney cake maestro himself. Baddeley would’ve been proud.
Read more about ‘42nd Street’, and plenty of other toe-tapping West End treats, in our guide to Musicals in London