Former palace chef, Darren McGrady, says they first made the cheery cake for the Queen and her family after a difficult year

By Simon Perry
Updated December 17, 2015 12:05 PM
Courtesy Darren McGrady

With its model marzipan Santa Claus and white frosting, this festive (and slightly kitsch!) royal Christmas cake is fit for a queen.

Prepared for Queen Elizabeth in 1992, the sweet creation was something of an antidote to a troubling year for the royal family, former palace chef, Darren McGrady, says.

“It had to be a fun one after what the Queen called the annus horribilis of that year,” he tells PEOPLE.

That was the year Prince Charles and Princess Diana and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson split, and a fire tore through Windsor Castle.

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The rich fruitcake with fondant frosting – along with other sweet confections – will be presented to the royal family for afternoon tea on Christmas Day and then throughout the holiday festivities at Sandringham House, McGrady says.

McGrady, who now runs Eating Royally Catering in Dallas, worked for the Windsors for 15 years – the last four of which (until 1997) were with the late Princess Diana and her sons Princes William and Harry.

He says the royal chefs (among the staff of 100 working behind the scenes at the palace in the run-up to the holidays) will make a similar cake for New Year’s Day as well. “It’s the same recipe and the same frosting, but it has Happy New Year and the date – and it might have a picture of Sandringham in the snow or a winter scene on the top.”

It all looks and sounds delicious, but don t expect young Prince George to nibble on one. “We’d make one for the nursery,” McGrady says. “But they don’t eat the cake – kids don’t like fruitcake!”

To read more about plans for Princess Charlotte’s first Christmas, pick up this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.