The Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book revisited | Gourmand and Gourmet

The Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book revisited

  • Food & Booze
My mother discovered The Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book in 1980, the year it was published, and she quickly laid down a sentimental annual family food tradition. Part of our birthday gift was to flick through that book of dreams and choose ‘the one’ from the vast array on offer. Here’s a flashback to the incredible cakes that made several appearances throughout my childhood. The Barbie Doll Cake We all know this one. Marshmallow princess skirt cake with the doll carefully inserted in the middle prior to decorating. There were arguments about wanting to put Barbie in the cake or her lesser English cousin Sabrina. Sabrina always won. Must have had something to do with Sabrina being easily tossed? Didn’t matter; she did look beautiful in her gigantic pink skirt, even if my nanna wondered why there was a toilet roll holder on display. The Number Cake In this instance, my sister got a nine. This cake was a real life demonstration of renovation rescue. I remember mum icing the cake while it was still a little warm, and because the crumb was drier than expected (we were 7000ft above sea level), the whole thing fell apart while we stood back and watched in horror. Mum quickly whipped up a batch of cook’s dessert glue, AKA mock cream, and when the cake was cool, stuck it all expertly back together and covered it in whipped frosting and jelly snakes. You might ask why didn’t she just bake another? The shops were four hours away; besides it looked and tasted faaaaaantastic. The Swimming Pool Cake Where I grew up, there was no funky pool or pool toys. Just a river and tractor tyre inner tubes. The thought of a swimming pool cake felt so glamorous, so hoity toity, so ‘ABBA arrival’. I couldn’t have green jelly though, it had to be pink. Those liquorice bullet fence posts were so… passé. I needed red liquorice. Mum hunted around every shop she could find in Mount Hagen for red liquorice for my pool – she’d been gone all day. She came home laden down with musk sticks. Musk sticks AND a plan for jelly water in the perfect shade of pink AND some pool party props. I did cry. Not the tears of a demanding brat, tears of love and affection towards my mama who always went out of her way to find solutions that showed her love for me. For me, this book isn’t just pages of ideas but pages of beautiful memories. I still find myself looking through mum’s bent, dog ear stained copy, stroking it with much more affection than I care to admit. It is a book of a mother’s love for her daughter; a definite must-have in every Australian’s familial log of traditions. Go buy this book and make some memories. It’s lovely that there are so many Australian families with the same tradition. So many in fact, that in response to all the requests, often from mothers who remember fondly all the cakes from their own childhood, The Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book has been taken from the archives and reprinted. Now you can recreate the cakes of your childhood for your children and your children’s children. After all, everyone needs a jelly swimming pool. nims xx