Saturday 30 January 2010

Novelty Cakes from the Archives II

Many posts ago I shared some of the novelty cakes from my photo archives from the days before I began blogging. Those were digital photos I had on the computer. One ongoing project is to get some of the older film photos onto the computer. In doing some I have unearthed some more old novelty cake photos and thought it would be fun to dig back even deeper into my past to tell you about my history with these cakes (despite the dubious quality of the photos).

My love of novelty cakes began when I was a child. Above is the cover of a 'book' I made when I was at primary school. It was a compilation of pages from magazines, mainly the Australian Women's Weekly. As I have told you before, presentation wasn't my strongest attribute, though my handwriting has got worse since then. A bit of string and sticky tape held the book together. I crossed out any mistakes, as I was taught to do at school. I do like to believe that my spelling has always been quite good, but seeing this cheesy line makes me wonder. I did like a bit of organisation though and gave each page and number to correspond to my index.

What I love about my old magazine clippings is not only the cakes I dreamt of making when sitting in my nan's sewing room reading her magazines as a child. I also delight in a little taste of the times that comes in seeing old advertisements and stories accidentally kept on the back of a page.

My mum always made sponge cakes for our birthday cakes but she did like to decorate the Christmas cake each year. So my first experience of decorating cakes at home was doing the Christmas cake after I learned a few techniques in Home Economics class at school. The only photo I have of one of these fruit cakes iced with royal icing and marzipan is my 21st birthday cake.

I can't remember the exact drama but events conspired against my mum in getting my birthday cake decorated, in a time when everyone seemed to have fruit cake at their 21st birrhday party. She asked me to do it and so I did. Now that I look at the photo I can't remember doing any of it but I do remember the horror that I would have to make my own birthday cake. How things have changed! I quite enjoy making my own birthday cake these days.

Soon after my 21st I moved into a student house with a friend and her friend Yarrow. Yarrow had a mum who would make them novelty cakes for birthdays. So he thought nothing of doing a novelty cake for an occasion. He made me a marketing garden birthday cake one year and another year I helped him make one for a St Patrick's Day dinner.

Again, I look at the cake and wonder how we made it. I suspect we must have used marzipan or royal icing to mould the figure of St Pat standing on the cake waving his staff at the snakes that he is driving into the sea surrounding the cake. The little dots of red are the mouths of the snakes as they cry out in agony at their demise. These things amused us as students, just as drinking green beer and inviting our friend called Paddy seemed part of the fun.

I have long been a lover of all things green and St Pat's day is a great excuse to eat lots of green food. This cake is another St Patrick's Day cake I made. It was a much simpler exercise in decoration. I bought packets of lollies (ie candy or sweets if you don't live in Australia) and picked out all the green ones - smarties, jelly beans, m&ms. I also tossed coconut and slivered almonds in green food dye. However, I didn't really want to eat green cake - I have my limits - so the actual cake was a mud cake. In the middle is a plastic turtle I had at the time.

When I had nieces, I saw the opportunity to try out some novelty cakes. The first one I made was a teddy bear for Maddy's first birthday. I found the idea on the internet. It was a round cake with muffin sized cakes for the ears and a ramekin sized one for the nose. It's not a bad job for a novice.

Next I made a picnic cake for Quin who was having a picnic-themed birthday party. I suspect this is her 7th or 8th birthday but am not quite sure. I had to search to find tea sets and trees. The trees were actually palm trees made of pipe cleaners so I bent them to be more regular trees. I found a little tea set but couldn't find any little dolls so we used caramello koalas. Marshmallow flowers, mint leaf lollies and green coconut grass on chocolate dirt completed the picture.

For Maddy's second birthday I made a clock cake out of the Australian Women's Weekly book of children's party cakes. I think it was just a 20cm cake tin I used and the roman numerals in liquorice were a bit crowded. These days I usually check how these things look before the icing goes on the cake. I did like having the hands of the cake telling the time as 2 o'clock to represent Maddy's age.

The last cake I found in my archives is one I made a few years back for my sister-in-law, Erica's 21st birthday. She wanted a butterfly cake so I came up with this one. I think I copied a picture I found somewhere, possibly on the web. I liked the outline of liquorice and silver cachous with overlapping m&ms filling the butterfly, but the icing is too light coloured for the chocolate icing.

So I hope you enjoyed this nostalgic cake display. Please excuse the quality of these photos, which were taken before I learnt a few tricks (close up button, no flash, natural light etc) through blogging, and from a time when we expected less of our cameras. I am sure you will agree I have come a lot way with my camera and my cakes since then.


  1. Gorgeous round up of novelty cakes! And I can see you were a keen cook from young! I was too busy putting together a Princess Diana scrapbook. This sounds much more practical!

  2. Thanks Lorraine - I tore our lady di pictures too - but I confess I probably did more gazing at recipes than cooking

  3. Fun selection of cakes - my faves are Maddy's cake and the teddy bear's picnic cake (hmmm .... it looks suspiciously like I have a weakness for teddy bears ...).

  4. Loved the backstory--you are clearly gifted in this area! I thought your 21st b-day cake was gorgeous. And the teddy bear is too cute! Not sure I could force myself to eat agonized snake mouths, though, even if there were chocolate underneath (but then again, I hear that you folks are more accustomed to seeing snakes than we are in Toronto)! ;)

  5. oops lorraine - I meant tore 'out' not 'our'

    Thanks Cakelaw - nothing wrong with loving teddies - you would love our house

    Thanks Ricki - I am not usually a fan of agonised snake mouths but these tasted delicious - better than being bitten by one :-)

  6. What an excellent collection of cakes! I love the green one.

  7. It is great to read some of the information and feedback, here. I hope to read more ideas in the future!!!


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