In 1894, Veryard and Son’s of the Roller Bakery in Perth baked a large Christmas cake weighing six hundredweight (over 300 kg). It was incredibly popular, and, whether they meant to or not, a Christmas tradition was born. They continued to bake cakes, and, each year, the weight increased. In 1895, the cake weighed ten hundredweight (over 500 kg), and in 1896 it weighed fifteen hundredweight (over 750 kg).
Regardless of the size of the cake, every piece sold. Many customers missed out, and, as 1897 progressed, they decided that the Christmas cake for that year had to surpass that of previous years.
On 4 December 1897, an advertisement placed in ‘The Daily News’ announced that people should “look out for Veryard and Son’s monster Xmas cake weighing one ton, and valued at £170.” They boldly declared that the cake was the largest made in Australia.
Pieces of the cake were available to purchase for one shilling and sixpence per pound. To further entice the public, each pound of cake came with a sealed envelope containing a numbered ticket. People with a winning number received a prize such as a ladies gold brooch, sovereigns, half sovereigns, or various silver coins. With 167 prizes on offer, there were plenty of chances to win.
At any moment a purchaser may find his or her mastication interfered with by a brand new Jubilee sovereign, half-sovereign, a gold brooch, or something of that kind. It is safe to prophecy that this cake, though it will weigh more than a ton, will disappear rapidly.The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950); 4 December 1897; Page 5; Advertising
The cake was on display in their Hay Street shop and was considered “a sight worth seeing.” It was seventeen feet round, nine feet tall, and weighed a ton. Of course, a giant cake required an enormous amount of ingredients. They included: 300 pounds of butter, 300 pounds of sugar, 350 pounds of flour, 400 pounds of currants, 150 pounds of lemon peel, 150 pounds of raisins, 300 pounds of icing sugar, and a staggering 3,240 eggs. While the whole cake weighed a ton, the bottom tier alone weighed 600 pounds. To create it involved baking it in 28-pound sections.
As expected, orders quickly flowed in. By mid-December, ‘The West Australian’ advised that interested persons had better place an order or risk missing out.
Although the cake of last year was so gigantic, many of the firm’s customers were disappointed in not being able to secure a piece of the cake.The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954); 14 December 1897; Page 3; Business Announcements
On Christmas Eve, Perth residents enjoyed the festivities of the season. That included eating the Christmas cake and hoping for a prize. The monster cake was still on display; however, it was “much mutilated” by customers purchasing pieces during the night.
A year later, in 1898, Veryard and Son’s aimed to bake an even larger cake, weighing one ton and one quarter. As an example of what they previously achieved, the ‘Western Mail’ printed a photo of the 1897 cake. It loomed high above the sitting bakers and appeared decorated with flags, leaves, and a veil. While it’s possible other photos exist, it’s the only one I’ve found to be publicly available.
According to later reports, one of Veryard and Son’s monster cakes took six eight-hour days to cut up. They continued their Christmas cake tradition in 1898 and 1899, making cakes weighing a ton. In the 1900s, the tradition ended, and in 1901, the elder John Veryard retired.
Pieces of Veryard and Son’s monster Christmas cakes were highly sought after in Western Australia throughout the 1890s. For several years, they claimed their creations were the largest in Australia. While that claim has not been verified, there’s no doubt that, at the time, their cakes were the largest in Western Australia.
- 1897 ‘Advertising’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 4 December, p. 5. , viewed 17 Dec 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82742351
- 1897 ‘THE TRAIL OF THE SERPENT.’, Sunday Chronicle (Perth, WA : 1897 – 1899), 12 December, p. 1. , viewed 17 Dec 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article257697186
- 1897 ‘Advertising’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 4 December, p. 5. , viewed 17 Dec 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82742348
- 1897 ‘BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 14 December, p. 3. , viewed 17 Dec 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3190163
- 1898 ‘TWO GIANT CAKES.’, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), 21 October, p. 32. , viewed 17 Dec 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33157108
- 1897 ‘CHRISTMAS 1897 IN PERTH.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 25 December, p. 7. , viewed 17 Dec 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3191081
- 1924 ‘JOHN VERYARD, J.P.’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 7 January, p. 3. (THIRD EDITION), viewed 18 Dec 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82564006