Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book
Cover of the 1980 edition
|Author||Maryanne Blacker, Pamela Clark|
|Series||The Australian Women's Weekly cookbooks|
The Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book (also known as The AWWCBCB) is a recipe book focused on children's-themed birthday cakes published as part of The Australian Women's Weekly magazine cookbook series by Australian Consolidated Press, written by Maryanne Blacker and Pamela Clark. First published in 1980, and re-released in 2011, it has become an "Australian cult classic" and a "publishing phenomenon". Between its launch in 1980 and its relaunch in 2011, the book sold more than 1 million copies, despite having been out of print for a significant portion of that period.
During the 70s and 80s, The Australian Women's Weekly was among the highest-selling magazines in Australia and published a wide range of cake decorating, recipe and meal idea book and magazine titles.
Themes and designs
There are 108 themed cakes appearing in the original edition, "largely composed of packet butter cake mix, Vienna cream icing and lollies". The cover illustration is of the "train cake", for which it became synonymous — the cookbook is sometimes referred to as "the book with the train on the cover". Some of the more well-known are:
Some of the cakes featured in a Children's Party Foods -themed lift-out in September 1974. This included a Cowboys and Indians cake which looked very similar to the later Farmyard, and the Hickory Dickory Clock, later named Clock.
|Pamela Clark demonstrates how to make "The train cake"|
Clark was inspired to create the cookbook after creating a tyrannosaurus-cake for a neighbour in 1978, but despite this inspiration, no dinosaur-themes cakes were included in the eventual publication. The first edition was printed in 1980 and a "vintage" edition of the book was published in 2011 — being reprinted four times in the first six months with initial sales of 100,000 copies. As of 2015, the 2011 edition is in the circulating collection of over 40 public libraries across the country while the original edition (in various reprints) remains in circulation in 27. Four of the original recipes featuring cartoon characters were removed from the 2011 edition due to the publisher no longer having a license. First editions can sell on eBay for 12 times their original price.
Australian demographer Bernard Salt has suggested that the book modernised and "grandified" children's birthday party culture in Australia. Despite the low culinary quality of the featured cakes (the recipes use cake mix) their appealing decorative effects have garnered the book a nostalgic cult following including social media fan groups and projects to reproduce each cake. In 2009, stand-up comedian Josh Earl included reference to the "train cake" in his routine. The segment was so popular he expanded it and the following year launched Josh Earl vs. the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book, a show that continued through to 2015. In 2016 all 107 cakes were baked and sold for a Canberra charity to raise money to support women with post- and ante-natal depression.
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