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Winston's Spectacular Cakes at Chartwell

Old photograph of a car arriving at Downing Street with a huge model birthday cake for Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill
A car arrives at Downing Street with a huge model birthday cake for Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. | © TopFoto

2024 marks 150 years since Sir Winston Churchill was born. To kick start the celebrations, Chartwell's winter photography display will showcase some of the most spectacular birthday cakes Churchill received in his lifetime. The new display will launch with a baking competition judged by Richard Burr, finalist of The Great British Bake Off.

Winston's Spectacular Cakes

13 January–25 February 2024, 10am–4pm. Normal admission applies.

Chartwell's winter photography display, ‘Winston’s Spectacular Cakes’, will showcase Sir Winston Churchill's birthday showstoppers, 150 years after he was born.

A specially-selected series of rare archive photos will tell the little-known story of the press frenzy that surrounded the annual baking tradition. The new display will show the wonderful array of cakes inspired by Churchill's interests and achievements and kick start a year of celebrations at Chartwell.

Delivered in collaboration with TopFoto, ‘Winston’s Spectacular Cakes’ – mirroring the initials of Winston Spencer Churchill – will be on the fully accessible Terrace Lawn, overlooking Chartwell’s beautiful gardens and the Weald of Kent.

Each year on Churchill's birthday, his family and closest friends shared in his excitement and there was a great sense of anticipation for the moment the cake was unveiled.

A quote by Katherine CarterNational Trust Property Curator at Chartwell

The Great Churchill Cake Contest

Deadline for entries is 7 December 2023. Competition takes place on Saturday 13 January 2024.

A baking competition inspired by Churchill’s cakes will officially launch the new display. The Great Churchill Cake Contest will be judged by Richard Burr, former finalist of the Great British Bake Off. If you enjoy baking and would like to enter the competition, please see details below.

There are three categories to choose from:

  1. Winston’s Birthday Cake, celebrating the joy of having a birthday cake made just for you.
  2. Winston’s New Fruity Favourite, inspired one of Churchill's favourite cakes baked by his long-serving cook, Mrs Landemare.
  3. Winston’s Champion Cupcakes, for any budding young baker.

To enter, complete the Entry form and email it to by 5pm on Thursday 7 December. Alternatively, you can post it to us or drop it into the Visitor Centre at Chartwell. Those who are shortlisted to take part on the judging day will be notified by 5pm on Friday 15 December. For more information please see the FAQs and Terms & conditions.

Create a delicious tray of mini raspberry and white chocolate sponge cakes
Enter your bakes into The Great Churchill Cake Contest | © National Trust Images/William Shaw

Story behind the bakes

After the Second World War (1939 - 1945), Churchill’s birthday became a moment of great interest for both the press and the public. Photographers would descend on his home to see the cakes, each of which were designed to showcase his career, achievements and interests in sponge and icing.

From the late-1950s, interest had grown to the extent that there was a special photo opportunity for press to take snaps of the cakes at the bakery, before they were dispatched ready to take centre stage on the big day.

The press frenzy around Churchill’s cakes made a celebrity of Maria Floris, the Hungarian pastry chef who had moved from Budapest to London and opened her Soho bakery in 1937. She became the preferred baker of the Royal Family and high society, but it was always her ‘masterpieces’ for Winston Churchill of which she was most proud.

The cakes

Among the photographs is a cake covered with golden roses, to reflect the golden wedding anniversary that Winston and his wife Clementine had celebrated earlier in the year. Other baking creations include a showstopper dedicated to horses and a cake made with ingredients sent from more than 120 different countries.

Churchill’s 80th birthday cake, which weighed more than 100lbs and was decorated with 80 candles, is another highlight. It was so large that the width of Downing Street’s doors had to be checked to make sure it could go through. Many of his cakes paid homage to his love of nature and animals, with butterflies, cats and his chocolate-coloured poodle all recreated in cake form.

The most captivating photographs in the display are those showing the people behind the annual tradition. From Maria Floris beaming with pride, to the staff manoeuvring magnificent creations around Chartwell, Downing Street or their London home at Hyde Park Gate, the images bring the excitement to life.

It has been a delicious treat to research and curate this exhibition, and we look forward to our visitors joining in the celebrations at the start of this special birthday year, here at Churchill's family home.

A quote by Katherine CarterNational Trust Property Curator at Chartwell