I am not 100% sure why but I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about birthday cakes, especially in the context of those people who make amazing theme cakes. My sister is one of those people. Over the years she has made my son a Spiderman cake and a Lightning McQueen cake and for her children and those of her friends there have been Dorothy the Dinosaur cakes, giraffes and most recently a Dolly Varden cake.
Not too long ago we were talking about this. When I think back over my childhood I can only really recall one cake - my aunt made me a pink Dolly Varden cake when I was quite young. Between us we also remembered that there was a farmyard scene cake which featured a chocolate log in a sea of green icing and lots of animals. We are not sure if that was for my birthday or for someone else. I think it was in summer, so not my birthday, but I am not 100% sure. What I do remember is making myself sick by gorging on the green icing that covered the cake board.
One of the most influential publications when it came to kids birthday cakes, particularly during the 1980s had to be the Australian Women's Weekly's Children's Birthday Cake book. I would go so far as to say that the whole Australian Women's Weekly series would have proved pretty influential in the kitchens of Australia as a whole at the time. I know when I first started being interested in buying cookbooks I always gravitated towards these books. As an aside, is the Australian Women's Weekly is one of the big magazines published here, but it is only published monthly!
There was the original version of this book and then there was an updated version of the book published in 2002 with all new designs. There was, however, such a degree of sentimentality associated with the first version that this year they reprinted it!
The selection of cakes in both versions of the books vary from simple to jaw-droppingly complicated! I do wonder if there are people out there who have made some of the cakes but they do look amazing! One of the simple ones that we made years ago now (from the new book) was a lamington choo-choo - pretty simple to make really, it's just about putting it all together.
One of the cakes in the new version of the book is a Merry-go round cake which the editor helpfully suggests is "not difficult - it is however time consuming". (It looks difficult to me I have to say!).
Of the recipes in the old book, one I have seen people reminisce about quite a lot is the swimming pool cake, where you make the cake and then cut out a section out of the top and fill it with jelly to make it look like a pool and add in small people and beach balls to make the scene complete. I do question the choice of green jelly for the water, but I guess we don't really have blue jelly!
There are a couple of cakes that I don't necessarily think would work for me. For example, in the older book there is a fluffy duck, complete with yellow buttercream frosting (okay so far), popcorn, and potato chips (crisps) for the beak. Not sure that the combination works for me, but it would be impressive to see it carried into the room at a birthday party.
There are many different cakes which are presented in the books with themes varying from sport to numbers, from fairy tales to ideas using cupcakes. There are always step by step pictures showing how you get the shape of the cake that you are after and there are several patterns included in each of the book to assist with getting your cake just right. Some of these look a lot like putting a puzzle together, but I am sure that seeing the excitement on the faces of the recipients makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Whilst the books are labelled as kid's birthday cake books, there are a number that could be used for adults as well. There is a party pinata cake that looks totally awesome if anyone wants to make it for me next year! You take a pre-prepared round buttercake and then put lots of Smarties/M&Ms, chocolate coins and other lollies on top of it. Then cover that with a chocolate shell that you have made by coating the inside of an appropriately sized metal bowl and then covering the outside of the chocolate "bowl" with more M&Ms and Smarties. According to the image, you need a new hammer to get into the cake, which could be lots of fun at a party!
As far as I know the AWW cookbooks are available in other countries around the world, but I am not exactly sure where!
My plan for this post was to scan in a few of the images for your enjoyment! However, it seems as though I have no idea how to use my scanner, so that might have to wait until another day!
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