40-Year-Old Slice of Diana and Charles' Wedding Cake is Set for Auction

A literal slice of history will be up for auction next month—albeit at a hefty price tag.

According to BBC News, a piece of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer's official royal wedding cake, having been preserved over the last several decades, will be auctioned by its owner.

The large slice of cake originally belonged to Moyra Smith, "a member of the Queen Mother's household," according to BBC News. At the time, she reportedly protected the cake's ornate decoration—featuring the royal coat of arms—by covering it with plastic cling wrap.

In Smith's possession, the dessert was kept in an "old floral cake tin" that had a handmade label taped to it. "Handle with Care - Prince Charles & Princess Diane's [sic] Wedding Cake," read the label, which was signed and dated July 27, 1981 (the wedding was on July 29).

Princess Diana and Prince Charles
A piece of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer's official royal wedding cake, having been preserved for 40 years, will be auctioned by its owner. Above, Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day in July 29, 1981. Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Royal wedding cakes are no casual matter. Steeped in tradition, they "will often be large enough to serve over 2,000 people, with slices packaged up and sent to charities and [organizations] close to them as well as served up to the guests in attendance," says the official website of the royal family. They also note that "royal wedding cakes throughout history have weighed anything from 300lbs to over 500lbs" and are often intricately decorated.

Royals tend to use fruitcake in their nuptials—a choice that may seem odd with respect to modern tastes. However, it's a tradition with surprisingly practical roots. As explained by Food & Wine, fruitcake is made with alcohol, typically rum or brandy, which naturally preserves the cake for years—meaning that it was the perfect choice in the pre-refrigerator era. Even today, the long-lasting attributes of fruitcake can be an asset for bakers who need weeks, if not months, to decorate the highly complex royal confections.

While certainly bizarre, the auction of Charles and Diana's wedding cake slice is far from unusual—and it's fruitcake's longevity that allows for these slices to become collector's items, even years after the fact. Pieces of Prince William and Kate's cake have been put up for auction in recent years, and in 2016, a piece of Queen Victoria's 19th-century wedding cake reportedly sold for £1,500.

This will be the second time the slice from Diana and Charles' wedding cake will have changed possession: Smith's family sold the cake to a collector in 2008, reported BBC News. It came from one of 23 official wedding cakes featured in their nuptials.

Chris Albury of Gloucestershire's Dominic Winter Auctioneers told the BBC that he believes the cake will sell for between £300 and £500. "It appears to be in exactly the same good condition, but we advise against eating it," he said.