Discovery of family recipe allows RAF Museum to recreate fighter ace's favourite plum cake

By Culture24 Reporter Published: 16 April 2015

RAF Museum pays tribute to Albert Ball by recreating First World War Flying Ace's favourite cake

a photo of a woman dressed in First World War gear offering a piece of cake to a man in a cockpit
© RAF Museum
The legendary English fighter pilot Albert Ball was one of the most iconic heroes of the sky during the First World War. His bravery saw him awarded the Victoria Cross (posthumously), the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross. By the time of his death in May 1917, the young man from Nottingham was the country’s leading flying ace, with 44 victories to his name.

Ball has since become one of the most famous names from the air war of the First World War. But one little known fact was that he always flew with his mother’s home-made plum cake on board his aircraft and he requested it many times in his letters home.

To his mother he wrote: “You make me a cake, and I would like it all the more. I so love to have a huge piece of cake to go flying with in the morning. It is fine, and if made by you would be better still.“

To his sister he wrote: “I was so pleased to get your ripping cake, but I have nearly finished it. I love to take a huge piece with me when I fly.”

Now the Royal Air Force Museum has teamed up with students from Barnet and Southgate College to re-develop the age-old Ball family recipe for plum cake, recently discovered by Albert Ball’s great niece while clearing out her grandmother’s house in Nottingham.

a black and white photo of a man in uniform in front of a plane
Albert Ball pictured in front of Gaudron G3 training aircraft© IWM Q 69593
The cake will go on sale at the museum restaurant from April 20, packaged as if being sent as a parcel to Albert.

A panel of 18 judges from the college catering staff and the RAF Museum sampled five versions of the cake, all created by college catering students. Each judge marked the cakes out of ten.

The winning cake, created by A-Level student David Ellingham, will go on sale as Albert’s ‘Ripping’ Plum Cake.

David and his fellow students have been working on various versions of the cake for the past few months. “All the Barnet and Southgate College catering students have taken on the challenge with real gusto,” he said. “I’m really proud to have been chosen as the overall winner."

In between slices, visitors can find out more about aviation during the First World war in the First World War in the Air gallery – the RAF Museum’s new permanent exhibition exploring the unique and often overlooked role of air power between 1914 and 1918.

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