"I had the xxxx cake. "
In different offices of colleagues from very varied background, in other countries, among my older brother's friends and younger friends' siblings, the Australian Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Cookbook is a unifying factor. The tie that binds us, no matter how unlikely.
By the way, if you attempted to fill in the blank with "rocket ship", then you are clearly lying. No one's mum made the rocket ship. You are done here*
The vintage edition of the Birthday Cake Cookbook, from a time when popcorn (rubber ducky, page 38), potato chips (rubber ducky again... no one I know ever had the rubber ducky), lime jelly crystals (the swimming pool, page 23), and a small piece of coloured cardboard (crawly caterpillar, page 46), were normal cake ingredients, has sold more than half a million copies since it was published in 1980.
Just so we're clear, the 1980 version is the only version worth mentioning here. The updated "Kid's Birthday Cakes" is a pathetic imitation of the original.
I definitely recall having the following cakes, many of which were made by my grandmother (with whom I share my birthday and my affinity for cake decorating:
- Piano - 1991. I remember being so embarrassed that the party bags contained things like pens and paper clips rather than lollies.
- Swimming pool (mum definitely made that one, because I remember it testing her patience greatly...) - I don't recall the year, but I know that my birthday party was at the Pine Forest and the jelly didn't set properly.
- Little piggy - possibly 1990. All I remember is mum making the marshmallow flowers, which, incidentally, are super easy to make but look as though you put in a lot of effort.
- Lucy ladybird - we camped in the back yard and my little friends were mean to me. So, you know, a normal day.
- Maypole - my grandmother made this one, and we were at our now-defunct beach house. She used little tiny people and wrapped them in ribbon for clothes. I don't think my cake was covered in green-dyed coconut grass though.
- Dolly Varden - could have been 1992. My party was in the garage. The cake was piped all over, like the icecream version and dancing girl, and came complete with dismembered doll. The doll body must have been covered in fondant or royal icing, because I remember gnawing the hard icing off after the fact.
Hilariously, my brother thought that it would be possible to ice the thing with a sort of foodie ganache which was liquid, because they wanted to avoid "that sickly-sweet butter cream". Hah. Hahahaha. The structural integrity of these things depends on butter cream.
Yup. Nailed it.
*Originally I asserted that no one's mum made the castle, but my over-achieving colleague informed me that in fact, her mum made the castle and that "it's not that hard". It is, after all, made of a square cake with some upturned ice-cream cones.... to my 10-year-old self, the magic seemed much greater...