The Women’s Institute is whipping up a storm after two members chosen to bake fruit cake for the annual conference were BANNED from serving them at the Albert Hall.
WI stalwarts Anne Harrison and Pat Tulip spent hours making 5,000 individual slices of cake for the big event which this year marks the society’s 100th birthday.
The organisation had decided to serve only the ‘finest’ cakes to delegates and so ran a competition to find the best fruitcake recipe.
After lengthy tasting and deliberation the winner was Julie Clark from North Yorkshire – and senior WI members Anne and Pat were chosen to bake the cakes.
They spent 11 days making 44 cakes – each 12 inch by 12 inch – which were later cut up into 5,000 individual portions.
Each member attending the annual conference at the Albert Hall in June was going to have a piece left on their chair in a box.
But because the boxes featured a list companies which sponsored the baking or who donated ingredients – the venue said they broke rules surrounding sponsorship.
Officials said they either had to pay £2,500 – or leave the cakes outside.
Now instead of dishing up the boxes in the hall it is believed they will be handed out outside instead for members to take home with them.
One member of the WI said: “It seems rather petty. The WI is a charity and I would have thought the Albert Hall could have come to an amicable arrangement.”
The row began when the WI were planning their centenary celebrations four months ahead of the event.
Julie’s recipe was the winner and the cakes were then made by Anne from Wensleydale and Pat, WI treasurer in Howick, Northumberland.
The two bakers, both trustees on the National Federation of Women’s Institutes board, started the big bake off in their own kitchens.
Due to the enormous amount of ingredients outside help had been sought and the WI had accepted donated ingredients from local companies.
Firms such as Dairy Crest and Whitworth donated goods and were rewarded by having the names of their businesses’ printed on the boxes.
The tasty treats were due to be served up in commemorative boxes during the WI’s huge century celebrations at the iconic London venue.
But because the boxes – to be left on the seats of the 5,000 members attending – had sponsors’ names on, the Hall is understood to have asked the WI to pay #2,500.
They said the boxes were a breach of its rules on the promotion of commercial products within the building.
They decided to avoid the #2,500 fine, or 50p per cake, and instead opted to serve the cake after the event – outside the main building.
A spokesperson for the Royal Albert Hall said: “The Royal Albert Hall charges a fee for sponsors’ commercial products to be promoted within the building.
“The Hall’s team understood that it was on this basis that the Women’s Institute made their request.
“Recently, the Women’s Institute informed us that their requirements had changed and the product will no longer be consumed on the premises.
“Therefore no fee will apply. The Royal Albert Hall is a charity and gives substantial discounts to other charities such as the WI who host events here.
“The WI has a long association with the Hall and we are delighted to welcome them back for their centenary celebrations.”
Speaking earlier this year, Anne said: “The winning recipe has an excellent flavour – it’s nice and moist, bakes well and it cuts nicely, which is really important when you’re making 5,000 pieces.
“My kitchen is completely upside down right now – my husband thinks I’m crackers to have taken this on, but I’ve not regretted it yet.”
Patricia, from Bilton, near Alnmouth, added: “Although this has been a daunting task, we all work better with a challenge.
“It all boils down to being organised – I’ll be making two cakes a day for 11 days.”
The centenary fruit cake competition was a nod to the WI’s well-renowned home-baking heritage.
WI members have been creating and sharing recipes since the organisation’s inception back in 1915.
The winning recipe was written by Julie, of the North Yorkshire West Federation.
The sponsors were Whitworths for dried fruit, Whitworths (Napier Brown) for sugar, Diageo for spiced rum and DairyCrest for butter.
A spokeswoman for the WI said it did not wish to comment.